I have been a tourist today, camera in hand, peering into gardens and up at aged buildings, finding souvenirs and taking tours. I wore my comfortable shoes. I pulled out the map and referenced it on the street. It’s okay. That’s who I am this trip.
On Thursday I reacquainted myself with parts of the city I hadn’t seen in years. One of my favorites will always be White Point Gardens on The Battery. I love the trees. I watched a pair of herons building a nest in one of them. I shopped the Market and bought t-shirts for myself and the Princesses. I took a carriage tour with a very entertaining guide and a horse with personality.
I also did things I hadn’t done before. I toured the Edmonston-Alston House and there I sat on a joggling bench. I want a joggling bench. There was a beautiful pianoforte there, and an impressive library. The family had quite an interest in natural history and wildlife, judging by a portion of the collection; in fact, I learned that they sponsored John Audobon for a time. Something humorous – the (modern) powder room was tucked away up some tiny narrow stairs. It was like ascending a throne. I had a great lunch at the Charleston Crab House; I ate some fabulous shrimp and grits on the roof patio overlooking the market. I took a photography tour of the historic district. Not only did the guide show us how to get some (hopefully) great shots, but she shared a lot about the history of the city. I had a delicious lemonade Italian ice. I sat on the waterfront and watched the birds and watercraft. I took a guided walking tour of some of Charleston’s haunted spots. I never felt much of a chill from beyond the grave, but some of the stories were compelling.
I was the “party of one” and I enjoyed it. Though I sometimes felt the lack of someone to share all this with, I relished the alone time. For now, I am enjoying being selfish and doing exactly what I want to do.
I love Charleston. I love the history (though I never cease to be amazed at just how little I retain). I love the piazzas on the Single Houses. I love the fragrance of the sweetgrass baskets being woven by the women at the Market. I love the way wrought iron or wooden gates allow glimpses into beautiful gardens behind the homes. There is something about a gate, or a doorway, that potentially leads to something astonishing. It is the mystery, the enticement that I try to capture in my pictures; I haven’t succeeded yet.
By the time the ghost tour ended Thursday night at 9:30ish, I was ready to call it a day. Judging from the music and crowd noise coming from restaurants and bars, there was still plenty of action. Call me a wimp if you like; I was beat, and I have a pretty spectacular farmer tan (or, rather, scorch – I forgot sunscreen). I also didn’t feel like being a party of one any more today, and definitely not in a crowded bar. Friday night at 10 PM I was propped up on the stately bed in my hotel room, resisting sleep just long enough to get these thoughts down.
Friday started with a return to the Market and some of the points of interest I’d seen during the walking tours the previous evening. I also walked down to City Hall where Spoleto festivities were about to begin; I was too early, and didn’t feel like waiting. I checked out of the hotel and wandered a bit until the Fleet Landing restaurant opened for lunch. I had a great grilled mahi-mahi sandwich with a draft Blue Moon while I watched the birds, dolphins, and people from the cruise ship that was docked.
I spent a couple of hours at Middleton Place after lunch. It was beautiful. Having seen the Edmonson-Alston House in Charleston, I wanted to see the family’s other property. It was impressive in so many ways. So much had been preserved making the history seem more accessible, and the grounds were beautiful. There were formal gardens, secret gardens, classical statuary, a flooded rice field, reflection pools and a cypress swamp. The first path I took led me toward the swamp, and as I drew closer to the water my steps slowed almost involuntarily. I simply did not want to go any further – I had a bad feeling. I snapped a few pictures and went back. A few minutes later I ended up approaching the swamp again via a different path and saw a pretty sizable alligator in the water near the shore where the path would have taken me. Not that I flatter myself that Mr. Alligator would have instantly found me irresistibly tempting, but really, I simply would have preferred not to make his acquaintance at all. There were smaller alligators in the flooded rice field, and turtles and birds everywhere. It was a very interesting visit and I would not mind returning sometime in the future.
I set out for home, making a stop in Augusta to visit Grandma Craig’s grave. All was in order there, and it was peaceful. As I sat on a bench near the grave, a pair of bluebirds flew into view and perched on a couple of headstones a few rows away. I remembered how much Grandma Craig liked her bluebirds when she lived in Harlem, and it made me smile. The rest of the drive was pleasant and passed quickly.
I was glad to get home. In fact, I woke up on Friday morning in Charleston looking forward to going home. I think that’s kind of odd considering how eager I was to get away. While I had a great time and didn’t mind being alone most of the time, after a certain amount of time (and perhaps that is different for everyone) maybe one kind of wants someone to talk to about all the things you’ve seen.
I’ll definitely do it again, though – the trip by myself. It may not be anytime very soon, but I will do it.
I must be some kind of idiot for not being able to figure out how to get photos up here. So in the meantime, here is the public link to my Facebook album of Charleston pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=61414&id=1104202426&l=def2933a98
Joggling bench: http://www.oldcharlestonjogglingboard.com/history.htm
Charleston Crab House: http://www.charlestoncrabhouse.com/locations.php
Edmonston-Alston House (Middleton Place): http://www.middletonplace.org/content.asp?catID=16882
Charleston History and Photo Tours: http://charlestonphototours.com
Classic Carriage: http://www.classiccarriage.com/ (This same business ran the ghost tour.)
Susan Howard, St. Philip’s Church – The Photo: http://www.tourcharleston.com/Ghost%20of%20Sue%20Howard%20Hardy.jpg
Charleston Single House: http://www.locountry.com/charleston_sc_architecture.html