Ryan and I had never been to Charleston before, so it’s always exciting to go to place where everything is new. As a general rule, we try to spend as little money as possible since we are trying to extend this trip as long as possible, and Charleston was a delight even on a budget. The first thing we did was head to the City Market. It made me think of the inside stalls at Pike Place in Seattle. We saw this print by a local Gullah artist and had to get it. It reminded us so much of our time in the Low Country, and we were happy to support a local Gullah artist and business. Little did we know we would see that very tree later on in our day.
We walked to the waterfront where we encountered two dolphins having fun in the shallows and an abandoned boat too askew for its own good. I wondered how it got there, and I could feel a good story stuck in its sail. I took this photo of Ryan that we will place on the back cover of his first novel.
We walked around downtown and took in the beautiful colors and architecture of Charleston. It was such a lovely, sunny day (after a bit of a “cold snap” by Southern standards), so everyone around town seemed in an extra good mood.
We needed to refuel, so we looked for a place to eat. We found a place nearby with Southern food and great reviews, and decided to check it out. Sometimes it feels like you’re in the right place at the right time.
If you have a chance to check out Jestine’s Kitchen in Charleston, please do. The rich history alone is worth the trip.
But the food was also delicious. I was excited to finally have fried okra, as my cousin has been raving about it for years. It was crunchy and seedy with a mild and pleasant flavor (I am a food blogger now). We asked for something to dip them in and I think that was a cultural faux pas. The lady looked at us with confusion. I stand by the idea of fried okra and ranch, even though we’ve never tried it. I will say that Tina Barker’s fried green tomatoes could stand up next to these. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my mom and because they’re my grown tomatoes. The diced vinegar peppers reminded me of pricoprac, a dish from my grandparents’ region in Bari, Italy. It was a delightful little taste of nostalgia and reminded me that good food is cross-cultural.
We wanted to walk off our lunch, so we found a little walk called the Garden Path. The city created this path connecting yards and gardens of local buildings, and visitors get a sense of the history of the city in a quieter, more intimate setting. It is such a fantastic way to connect people and institutions in a city. I hope to see more of this community connection in other cities we visit. We started at the Unitarian Church and took a walk through their gardens and graveyard. The caretaker had to close the gates for the day, but seems to feel a bit guilty about it, so he unlocked the church and gave us a tour. Again, sometimes you just feel like you’re in the right place at the right time.
He told us that underneath the ceiling paint were details of gold. They repainted the ceilings when Sherman was marching and burning his way South. The congregation at the time thought they should cover the gold to protect the church. It makes you wonder what other things are hidden when looking at spaces and things steeped in rich history.
We decided to drive outside of Charleston to head to America’s only tea plantation.
We toured the factory, had a lot of free samples (winner: sweet mint), and walked the lovely grounds.
It was empty and peaceful and we enjoyed it so much that we looked at each other and said, “isn’t this nice.”
After our tea experience, we went to see the famed Angel Oak tree.
I wish you could see how grand it really it. Stepping beneath its winding branches covered in resurrection fern, you are transported to an otherworldly place.
It’s said to be over 400 years old, but information online says that perhaps it’s a lot older than that.
Sometimes you don’t like seeing people when you visit a place because you want it all for yourself, or for your photos. But I was happy to see people travel far and wide to visit this tree. A tree. It reminds me that we are rooted ourselves. Maybe making a pilgrimage to a tree helps us remember that. Their arms are our arms. They give us what we need, in more ways than one.