Sassy Southern Cooking with a French Twist

Seeing Charleston with New Eyes

A Fresh Take on an Old Friend

No matter how wonderful, perfect, or beautiful a person, place (i.e. Charleston), job, relationship, or just about anything starts out, it’s easy to take any of these for granted and fail to really see or recognize why you fell in love with them in the first place. Stress, rushing, bad attitude and plain old not stopping to smell the roses can take its toll on perspective.  As wonderful as the last two years have been in my life, they have been very busy. So busy, I was starting to feel grumpy and rushed about too many things, including the city I fell in love with at first sight and have called home for nearly twenty years. Recognizing this, I made a personal vow to take some time to recharge my spirit, mind, soul, take better care of my health, and more time with family, friends and my pets.

Nearly two months into my self-prescribed recharge initiative,  I’ve lost seven pounds, am sleeping better than ever, feeling extra creative and productive, and enjoying life and Charleston with renewed vigor. The other day, while walking down East Bay Street near Broad, the morning sun lovingly cast upon the mostly 19th-century roof lines, it seemed as if I had never seen them, really seen them, in their purest and most tangible form as I did at that moment. Later that same week, a friend I haven’t seen in thirty years came to town for a visit.  Turns out, Deb and I are in the same place; re-assessing our lives and priorities. She’s looking for potential new places to live (at least part time), so thought she’d give Charleston a whirl. Naturally, I found myself wanting to show Charleston off, and in a most unexpected and delicious turn of events,  ended up with a renewed appreciation for my hometown.

Friday morning began with a brisk walk on the beach with my dog Rocky and a spin by Bowen’s Island restaurant to show Deb the tumbledown seafood shack that embodies Charleston and especially Folly Beach with mollusk and hush puppy aplomb. She spied something I never had before, Charleston Outdoor Adventures and kayak tours. I’d never been on a kayak and had never even known about this location for taking them So, we signed up! I felt as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.  Next stop, was a walking tour downtown, and lunch at one of my personal favorites, Little Jack’s Tavern. I felt compelled to introduce Deb to the justifiably famous Little Jack’s Tavern Burger and the cool vibes of this neat little cosmopolitan spot with cheerful Charleston charm.  All juicy and packed with flavor and glazed with its signature, secret sauce, it somehow seemed to taste better than ever as we laughed our way through thirty years of memories, some shared and some lived individually and shared over the meal and throughout the weekend.

Little Jack’s Tavern Burger, petite but packs a powerful flavor and texture punch.

A warm summer Friday night for two baseball fans seemed like a fitting way to wrap the afternoon at Joe Riley Baseball Park for some all American fun and (as Deb was hoping) a possible Bill Murray sighting.  Well, the latter didn’t happen, but a magnificent pink and purple and blue cotton candy sunset did over the marshes at the rear of the park and we watched the likes of players with names like Gage Cunning (fodder for my novel’s lead character’s name) smash the ball around the park and mascots bumping into each other and acting silly. Beer and brisket sandwiches provided sustenance for our bellies, while the charming little park, feel-good sports fans, a rocking fireworks display, and witty banter fed our souls.

Good times at The Joe.

Saturday arrived in a flash and I was up before dawn preparing the our kayak tour with Charleston Outdoor Adventures.  A quick tutorial with our handsome guide Josh and we were in the saltwater estuary waters behind Folly Beach. A rocky glide across open water went fairly well until our group of five kayak pros and kayak virgin me tried to negotiate our way through a narrow, serpentine slip of water. I felt like I was leaving an aorta and entering a capillary as my poor boat lined itself up horizontally in the flow, nose and tail firmly plugged into the marsh grasses. I was motionless, breathless, and slightly scared.  None the less, I was not too proud to flail my oar in the air and meekly cry “help” to the group three turns farther down the path.  Josh arrived like the kayak savior he was, pulling out a large hook and line to attach to the tip of my kayak.  “Oh my God, you’re not my own personal kayak tugboat are you, Josh?” Yes, was the response, but don’t worry it wasn’t the first time.

Seriously humbled and blushed with shame and exertion, eventually I was able to figure out how to negotiate the rudder pedals and re-joined the group in the open waters, just in time to catch a grounded old shrimping boat and a pod of dolphins.   Josh explained that female dolphins (what we were witnessing) typically live sixty years, while males live only fifty. The pristine world where we were watching them play was custom made for their lifestyle and playground, largely created and protected by the barrier islands that surround Charleston. It was a morning I’ll not soon forget and my arm and shoulder muscles, three days later, still possess significant recall.

Charleston Outdoor Charleston Outdoor Adventures is an eco-friendly outdoor activities resource center located on Folly Beach.

Later that day, we headed back into town for a ride with Ross of Palmetto Carriage through the French Quarter and lower peninsula.  Probably my 20th carriage tour, I learned some things I didn’t know, such as how a boat had smashed into two houses on East Bay during the hurricane of 1911, completely destroying them, and reminded myself again how beautiful the old mansions look in the ebbing light of day, cool afternoon breezes refreshing our spirits anew. There was more on our robust to-do list that got done, such as a “sip and stroll” to The Pavilion Bar, Anson, and The Blind Tiger, and breakfast at The Hominy Grill Sunday morning, enjoying what surely must be the best shrimp and grits and she crab soup in town, if not the entire world.

After eating Hominy Grill’s exquisitely simple and pure shrimp and grits, Deb declared she’s never eating farm raised shrimp again.

Three nights, two and a half days, several great meals, a massive lightning storm, Thursday night book club with delicious food and great gals, even more great adventures, and I don’t know how many laughs later,  I’d re-found two friends. A Charleston I had partly forgotten and a friendship of thirty years refreshed.  And, Deb made a new friend in my little puppy, Rocky Rocken Roll, who practically would not let her go home.

Rocky giving hugs to his new best friend.

 

Lesson learned – remember to savor life and take no moments, no place, or no one for granted. And, when  you come to or visit Charleston, savor all she has to offer.

Bon appetit!

Holly

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Seeing Charleston with New Eyes

  • Beautiful description for an amazing weekend! Don’t forget the book club dinner:) All lovely women! I will return!

    • Thank you, Deb, and for a wonderful time. I found a few errors that I’ve since fixed. But, the basic theme remains the same. A great time! The book club loved you, too, but too much for this space. I will tell them. So glad you enjoyed as much as I did.

  • Thank you for sharing. I have made Charleston home for a little over 20 years and will renew looking at the city I fell in love with long ago! Always enjoy reading your comments.

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