Easter with Family – Charleston, SC

Me with the boys: Tommy (5), Zeph and Charlie (2.5)

Me with the boys: Tommy (5), Zeph and Charlie (2.5)

We were driving out of Charleston as I typed this. I was sitting in the passenger seat of the Moho, while Zephyr watched “Alvin and the Chipmunks” on the iPad and Chris drove and ate wasabi almonds. We were planning on staying in Charleston through Easter Sunday, departing Monday to make our way toward the Great Smoky Mountains and Nashville after that, but we needed to get a replacement Dish Network cable box so we had to wait for it to arrive at our campground. So we left Wednesday instead, heading west. The major benefit of being delayed in Charleston was getting to spend extra time with my cousin Michele and her family. Michele and her hubby Andy moved out here about seven or eight years ago (I’m guesstimating on that), and I can see why.

Downtown Charleston Historic City Market

Downtown Charleston Historic City Market

Charleston and its surrounding communities are steeped in American history and beauty. Our first full day in town, we hopped on a small tour bus to get acquainted with the city. We saw the City Market, which predates the Civil War. And speaking of the “Un” Civil War, Fort Sumter is off the coast of Charleston. For those of you non-history nerds, Fort Sumter is where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. We didn’t make it out to the island the fort is on, but we got some great stories and tales of things that have happened in the city over all these some 400 years it’s been settled. John C Calhoun, the only man to ever be Vice President of the United States TWICE (under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson), is buried at St Philips Church in the city. Funny story about that: the “church garden” (which is what they call a cemetery around here) that he’s buried in has two sides divided by a street that runs through it. One side is where the native Charlestonians are buried, one side is where the “visitors” are buried. John C Calhoun is not a native Charlestonian, although he was born in South Carolina, so he’s buried on the visitors’ side of the cemetery. Even though he’s got a street named after him and a monument built dedicated to him in downtown Charleston and he’s, as I mentioned before, the only man EVER to be the VP of the USA two times, he’s not prominent enough to be buried on the Charlestonian side of the cemetery. He was Secretary of State, Secretary of War, a Senator and a Congress Rep of South Carolina… you can’t get much more remarkable than this guy. But he’s still on the visitors’ side of the cemetery. They take their visitor’s policy quite serious in this city. During the Civil War the locals actually dug him up and moved his grave over to the native’s side because they were worried about the Union soldiers messing with his gravestone. As soon as the Civil War was over, they dug him up again and put him BACK on the visitor’s side! His wife, who was born in Charleston, is buried on the other side of the street. Charlestonians don’t mess around!

Beautiful wisteria in bloom everywhere

Beautiful wisteria in bloom everywhere

We walked around downtown a couple days. We went to the aquarium, which was great. Did you know in South Carolina it’s illegal to keep a marine mammal in captivity? I was impressed that they’ve made that part of state legislation. As fun as it is to see dolphins and whales up close, they do not thrive in captivity. So I was happy not to see any at this aquarium. That didn’t make the aquarium any less interesting. They had a rescued bald eagle, so many beautiful fish, one two story tank with a bunch of large fish and small sharks, a large albino alligator and even cute lemurs! We walked through the City Market and saw, among other things, beautiful sweet grass baskets handcrafted by local women. We went to the USS Yorktown, commissioned in WWII, and walked through the ship for a couple hours. Did I mention the time we went on the downtown trolley and Zeph puked on me? It had been raining, so we hopped on the free trolley to get back to our car. The trolley was humid from the rain and body heat, and Zeph started laughing hysterically (can’t remember why). He was eating something, fruit snacks or something, and laughed so hard he puked up his food all over his shirt and my hands. And then we were stuck on the trolley. The humid trolley. With baby puke. And people kept getting on. It kept getting hotter. And smellier. Oh. Yuck. When we were finally at our stop and got off, I’d never been so happy for a breath of fresh air. Fun times. Don’t worry, we didn’t capture any pictures of this wonderful event.

Zeph trying to steer the giant USS Yorktown

Zeph trying to steer the giant USS Yorktown

Just like Savannah, spring is starting to show up in Charleston. We saw all sorts of lovely flowers in bloom, including the lavender wisteria, which I’m told only blooms about two weeks out of the year. Guess we have good timing! We saw old houses, big and small, that predate the Civil War and are still inhabited. Some of these houses have been through earthquakes and have these weird steel braces around the houses that attaches to a crank in the floor somewhere inside the house. They use the crank after an earthquake to straighten the house up and make sure it doesn’t start to fall over. And so far it’s working. There are houses with “privacy” porches where back in the day the ladies could sit and raise their skirts and crenolin and not have to worry if passers by would catch sight of their ankles. If any man saw a woman’s ankles it was considered a major scandal and he’d have to propose to her on the spot. The ceilings of these privacy porches are all painted a light pastel blue-green color. They say it keeps away the ghosts (because it’s the color of heaven) and the bugs (because it’s the color of the sky), and they call it “haint” blue because it hain’t blue and it hain’t green.

A Charleston house with a privacy porch - the ceiling of the porch upstairs is haint blue

A Charleston house with a privacy porch – the ceiling of the porch upstairs is haint blue

We happened upon a wonderful and unique restaurant called “The Green Door.” From the outside it didn’t look like much – a very small sign above the double glass doors. However, it looked like a fun, brightly colored little place when we peaked our heads in. One of the patrons heading out the door as we were looking in told us the food, in particular the grilled cheese, was excellent and that was all it took for us to commit to lunch there. The menu was a mix of hippy food with a touch of Korean… the grilled cheese was made with thai chili pimento cheese and green tomatoes. It was like no grilled cheese I’ve ever tasted. You could add kimchi or bacon to it. The server recommended adding bacon, so we did. But the kitchen forgot to put it in the sandwich so the server brought it on the side. OH MY GOSH IT WAS THE BEST BACON I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. I like bacon, but I’m not one of those “I want to sleep in bacon at night because I love it so much” people. But seriously this bacon was as good as any dessert I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot coming from me. It tasted like it was soaked in maple syrup, and was chewy but crispy, and not fatty. It was, in a word, perfection. I will be dreaming about that bacon for a long time.  We also had the chickpea burger with arugula, goat cheese and a fried egg, which I could eat once a week or more if I had the option. Their fries with the sriacha-ranch sauce were also great and they even had tater tots. Can’t remember the last time I saw those on a menu.  All this to say, if you are ever lucky enough to eat in Charleston make The Green Door your first stop.

The Green Door restaurant

The Green Door restaurant

 

Charleston is a major tourist destination, and a fun city to explore whether you like food or history, but I do have to say the highlight was getting to spend time with family. Michele (my dad’s brother Dusty’s youngest daughter) and Andy and their three awesome kids had us over for Easter Sunday. We went to Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church with them, then rode their golf cart back to their house, where Michele (although she told me she was just gonna order pizza) had smoked a chicken, grilled salmon, made a yummy strawberry pecan salad, grilled asparagus and procured a delicious locally made coconut cake. And they have a saltwater pool so you can guess where most of the hanging out happened that day. They made us feel right at home, and Zephyr loved having kids to play with. We felt so blessed to be able to be with family on a holiday, and it was fun to spend time with Michele and Andy and catch up on their lives. We hadn’t seen them in probably ten years or so – that was pre-kids and pre-marriage for both of us. We went over there Tuesday night for pizza, more swimming and time together, and they let us do our laundry over there too.  Andy and Michele: Thank you for your Southern Hospitality, we can’t wait to see you and the kids again soon (when we’re neighbors, perhaps). I wish I had more pictures of us all together – we’ll just have to take some next time!

Chris and Andy and the kids - sorry about the weird eyes

Chris and Andy and the kids – sorry about the weird eyes


  • Granny

    you made me very very hungry for that grilled cheese sandwich and bacon….yummmmmm