What a surprise South Carolina was to us this time. What with the unflattering (to put it mildly) politicians and history of often deplorable politics, we were not sure what we were in for. But we had heard over and over that Charleston was not to be missed. All we can say now is that we must come back. Two days is just not enough. We've got to go to Fort Sumter, Middleton Plantation, and more of the house museums.
What a gorgeous city. We also found such parallels with our recent South African trip that it was downright eerie. The history of slavery and oppression, mixed with the contemporary scenery and lively guides--not to mention the French Huguenots that both places took in during the 1600s--kept ringing bells for us.
Without further adieu, here is the Holy City (so named for its abundance of church steeples towering over this low-rise city).
And you have to love the "progressive and inclusive since 1681" motto!
A very small sampling of the gorgeous architecture:
My favorite new architectural feature is the doorway onto the "piazza" (what they call the "porch" here):
When we came around the corner to see this view, I immediately snapped a picture and then burst out laughing.
The entire parking lot facing this view was crammed with plein air painters. I guess I didn't discover the angle, eh?
I have soooo many doorway and window box photos. I shan't bore you with them all here, but I am thinking of doing a collage of some sort for our home decor ;-)
We loved the way that the shopping street (King St.) forced national retailers to adapt to the Charleston architecture, rather than the usual vice versa.
The fun of walking is in discovering the little details. In front of this store:
was this sidewalk:
Back in the day, this was a model home. It's not in use, but it's a hoot....
We capped off our visit with a Gullah Tour, which is really where we were reminded how similar the U.S. and South Africa are in terms of racial history. The tour guide was marvelous--very entertaining, funny, and up on his historical facts.
He had a particular emphasis on Philip Simmons, a Charleston folk artist with whom we were not familiar until today, but whose work is found all over the world, including in the Smithsonian. He showed us many of the wrought iron masterpieces Mr. Simmons (who died last year at age 97) has installed all over Charleston, and then we visited his home and forge:
Photos of Mr. Simmons gorgeous gates. The care he took is evidenced by the tight, tight curls he made in his iron plus the fact that he even handmade each of his tools. Sometimes it took him longer to make the tool than the work of art. But, as we all know, the right tool for the job makes all of the difference.
Now, for artistry of another kind: the unbelievable food. This reminded me, especially of our South Africa trip, because after just a few days of such amazing victuals, I had to have plain crackers for dinner. Too rich! But boy, it was all tasty. Here's a quick tour:
The take-out bag from Hyman's; we ate less food than we took home!
But we were glad we visited. So many famous folks have eaten here that there is a brass plaque on each place setting honoring the many famous visitors--politicians, sports stars, actors, musicians.
Shrimp and grits, which Lisa says is perhaps her new favorite Southern dish:
Fried green tomatoes (of course, given that movie's great significance to us):
The best place of all the restaurants we've been to so far: The Hominy Grill (also a NYT and famous folk hangout).
Lisa had eggs and grits (which she said were wonderful), along with the day's special, homemade duck sausage with fried apples. I had to have the dish called "The Big Nasty," well, because..... Here it is.
The most tender biscuit surrounding a small piece of fried chicken smothered in cheddar sausage gravy. Out of this world. And not such a big portion as to make you want to crawl into a corner to sleep it off, either. This fortified us for over 5 hours (and many, many miles) of walking. Good thing, too....
And finally today we had less than an hour before our campground shuttle was to pick us up, so we ducked into a French bistro for some moules (nothing fried!) and a glass of wine to soothe our sore feet, after two days of walking:
Now, on the WAY to Charleston, it was cruddy weather. We had nothing to do, really, except drive AND find some 'que. We decided to have 2 lunches--one dish at each. That turned into splitting one lunch at B's but having to order 2 meals at Wilber's...just to cover the bases. Lots of leftovers.
B's was our favorite for BBQ chicken in the most heavenly eastern NC mopping sauce--just vinegar, black pepper, and red chile pepper flakes. And Lisa did a heroic job pulling a U-turn on a tiny country road to get us a shoulder parking spot for this gem of a place:
Now, Wilber's was very good for its mac and cheese side dish and its vinegar-y BBQ pork. But really...the sweet potato pie, which we split, was the crown jewel. We had been driving all day past cotton and sweet potato fields, so it just seemed apropos....
Yup, those are collard greens. Yum!
And Lisa really liked the Brunswick stew, which we learned can be made with all kinds of different meat, including squirrel. (My dad was even moved to tell me that he used to hunt squirrel for the dinner table as a child. I had no idea!)
Then there's the pie.
This is one slice that was halved by the cute waitress, whom we apparently intimidated when we ordered the pie "a la mode." She came back and shyly said, "Now, y'all want that pie with vanilla ice cream, right?" Yes, ma'am, we do. So she brought two plates, with the slice split. (One 1/2 slice would've been enough to share!)
Also on the way to Charleston we did the 2.4-mile boardwalk trail through the swamp at
where it was raining steadily. That kept the mosquitos down, thank goodness.
In the below-normal temps (low 39, high barely 60) I still got bites. I'd hate to be here when it's a 4 or higher!
Off we go to Florida....