Monday, May 13, 2013

SOUTH CAROLINA: CHARLESTON, Part 1

In March, Bob and I used up one last free companion fare ticket and spent a long weekend in North and South Carolina and Georgia, states we had little experience with other than through stopovers in the Atlanta Airport.

Because of flight availability and cost, we flew into Charlotte, North Carolina, but then we picked up a rental car and drove straight to Charleston, South Carolina, to begin our trip.

One thing we learned really fast is that Southerners know how to eat.

We were trying to stay on a mostly vegan diet, and so we began at The Hominy Grill in Charleston, a restaurant that looked like it would have a lot of healthy options:

It's typical Southern dishes were outstanding, but not all that healthy:
I discovered that grits are not just for breakfast, and they are delicious when prepared with other ingredients:


We also dined at FIG (Food Is Good) in Charleston, another restaurant with a lot of slightly healthier and even more delicious vegetarian options:



 My favorite dish was the chocolate-hazelnut budino, a rich, creamy custard:

We spent a good part of our first day at Cypress Gardens, which may have been our favorite part of the entire trip:
It's a good place to have an "accident" with your spouse if you aren't getting along:
 . . . and it's a GREAT place to go with your spouse to have a fun rowboat experience in the cypress groves:


 Can you see the alligator hiding out in the reeds and lily pads below?

 In addition to the alligators, there were turtles everywhere:
It was so tranquil, and the weather was absolutely perfect:
 Another alligator trying to blend in:


Cypress Gardens also has a well-stocked butterfly house:
 Who wouldn't love a man who gets excited about butterflies?
 Every now and then we ran across a butterfly-themed poem that enhanced our experience:





That evening, after checking in to our hotel, we took a night walking tour of the city led by an unusual guide:
 . . . and the next morning we hopped on a carriage for a look at some of the more distant parts of the city:
 These beautiful horses have very interesting shoes, required by city ordinance:
By this time we had completely fallen in love with Charleston, a city of about 124,000 people.  It is big enough to be full of history and small enough to still be quaint and a bit back-woodsy. It felt a lot like the Southern version of Boston, only on a smaller, kinder, gentler scale:

However, we did encounter an unusual traffic jam while on our buggy tour:
It turns out that as it was Saturday and the day before St. Patrick's Day, there was a huge parade going on. The Charlestonians were really into the green:
The celebrating meant we had to take a few detours, but I enjoyed seeing the various neighborhoods.  This house is very typical--a large two or three story home laid out perpendicular to the street with a nice front yard:
More of the same:
And a more modern version:
There were a few rather unusual styles of architecture that dated to an earlier period. I was particularly taken with this set-up:
 
 
Next time when we to to Charleston, I want THIS buggy, okay, Bob?
Charleston is known for these pricey sweetgrass baskets woven by locals. The average price I saw was between $150 and $200 for an average-sized bread basket.  While they are beautiful and obviously take a lot of time and skill to make, that's too much for my pocketbook.
I was happy to enjoy the living plants instead:





NEXT: Fort Sumter and the churches of Charleston

2 comments:

  1. I think Charleston probably rivals New Orleans as the food capital of the South and I found their Southern style of cooking more enjoyable than the New Orleans version.

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  2. Downtown Riverside has Cinderella carriages like the one you want to ride, but it just goes around local sights, instead of unusual and interesting Charleston. You don't convince me on the grits being all-meal worthy, but it looks like you and Bob had some unusual fare.

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