We had less than 24 hours in Charleston, which seemed to fit the profile for our travels this week. So how could we get the most out of every moment we had there? On our way I had no idea how to accomplish that, I was solely focused on one thing: Get to the Angel Oak in time. The gates to see the tree up-close close at 5 so we had to make a beeline down there from Columbia when we left at 2:30.
The Angel Oak is an enormous tree that is estimated to be 400-500 years old. I had seen a similar tree (the Friendship Oak) in Gulfport, Mississippi and decided that we should see the Angel Oak just in case we don't make it to Gulfport. It is enormous and being around such a big and ancient tree is akin to a spiritual experience for me.
I think Sam may have felt the same way and spent most of our 30 short minutes there taking photos.
I'm getting just a wee bit ahead of myself here. The first picture Sam took when we got out of the car was not of the gargantuan oak tree, but of a red-headed woodpecker and this started Sam's hot, hot, hot streak in photographing the animals of Charleston.
The woodpecker was standing just ten feet from us, hopping around until he heard the shutter. Obviously there are more animal photos to come.
Because it was five, we got stuck in "rush hour traffic" on the way into Charleston from John's Island where the tree is. The quotes are only fair to use for drivers in NYC, LA, and DC as far as I can tell (this list may grow longer as we travel).
We arrived at our room for the night and immediately started to work on finishing our blog posts for Nashville and Memphis. This blog stuff really eats time, I'm tellin' you. We were in a private room at the Not So Hostel and it was a very cute place divided over three buildings with porches and pretty flower motifs painted on the fence.
We didn't finish the blog work until it was near dusk but I still really wanted to head downtown for dinner and to walk around. I wanted our one dinner in Charleston to be seafood since it's possible to get something really fresh (you know, being next to the ocean and all). And boy, we sure did. After a bit of searching, I found Pearlz down on Bay Street where Sam and I split a very fresh scallop ceviche and 3 tacos (he took the tuna and mahi mahi, I took the shrimp). When Sam asked the waitress what ceviche was (Sam says: "Look it up!"), but he didn't hear her say the scallops were raw (probably the most important thing to know about ceviche and I was pretty surprised to hear Sam agree to order raw shellfish!), so it was his turn to be surprised when the dish came out. Luckily, both he and I thought it was excellent.
After that we followed some signs to a rooftop bar that wasn't anything to write home about (so ignore this). I was feeling really sad that we would have such a short amount of time in Charleston and that we weren't going to have enough time to really learn about the city's rich history. So you know what Sam did? The moment we got home he started reading up on it so that he could play tour guide for me the next day, a role that fit him well. What an amazing guy.
We got up around 7 so we could get as much out of our time as possible. As we walked, we chatted and took pictures. There are so many gorgeous houses in Charleston so Sam took tons of pictures of the gardens, architectural details, and very cared-for homes.
Oh yeah, Sam also got this awesome picture of a squirrel. He did this before having even one sip of coffee! Can you believe it?
We walked through city market, though it was hardly open, and then found a spot for a quick breakfast. While we ate we assembled a list of sights we wanted to see before we needed to leave town.
1. The oldest house in Charleston. Check.
2. Rainbow Row. (We don't have pictures of it because it seemed like everyone else does.) Check.
3. What is left of the wall that once fortified Charleston. (Still no pictures) Check.
4. A few old churches in "the holy city". Check.
Circular Congregational Church
Cathedral of St John the Baptist
5. Wade in the fountains at Waterfront Park.
That is a lot to accomplish in 4 hours or so. After that we went to have a spectacular lunch at the Five Loaves Cafe. On the way there, Sam added to his wildlife photo collection.
And then we took turns trying to nap on our short drive down to Savannah.
Random statistics and facts from Charleston:
• Number of cop cars we saw in one place: 6. When we walked to dinner on Wednesday night, Sam and I both remarked on how safe Charleston seemed to be. We had walked a mile and a half without seeing a cop car and normally paranoid debutantes were walking their tiny poodles after dark. On the way home however, we were nearly run over by two police speeding to an emergency that was clearly very important. A block later we saw at least six cruisers parked at a gas station with the glass door to the store shattered. We were afraid there might be a confrontation. No way I wanted to get shot as a bystander (Sam didn't care for it either). But it became clear that we missed the crime by just a few minutes and watched unmarked cars drive past us, searching, the rest of the way home.
• Amount of money wanted for ownership of the oldest house in Charleston: $799,000 (we looked it up on the spot, but the house was taken off the market in the time it took us to put up this post).
• Coolest headstone we read:
"In loving memory of my dear Grandmother Mrs Martha Milner Phillips Relict of Eleazer Phillips, a Soldier of the Revolution. In those trying scenes she was herself a witness and heroic Sufferer... bearing to her grave the scar of a wound received in a bayonet thrust when only 14 years old while defending her child brother from the violence of a tory in the company of Capt. Lundy a British officer. Born 10th May 1765, Died 17th Dec 1856. At peace . . . [illegible] . . . and in charity with the world."