Early May took us to Charleston, South Carolina. It was our first visit to this city of refined southern charm and beauty. We traveled there to celebrate in a small family reunion, of sorts – ten of us gathered from around the country. My husband’s great-grandfather once lived in this city, and his great-great granddaughter now attends college there.
My sister-in-law found our large shared house on one of our favorite sites – Vacation Rental by Owner. The site is well-categorized with sortable searches by location, size, and price. We’ve used vrbo.com on several occasions for vacation rentals and have always been pleased with the results. This particular house was magnificent, well-furnished, and professionally decorated with an ocean theme throughout.
Located in Folly Beach, the beach house sat on a hill the second row in from the ocean. An upstairs porch ran the width of the house. Each morning and night we saw, heard, and smelled the awesome salty breezes of the Atlantic Ocean.
Early morning we took a harbor cruise out to see Fort Sumter where, 150 years ago, the shots were fired that started the Civil War. The War, as true southerners still call it, was to be over in a few months time, or so people thought. As we know it lasted four bloody years. I walked the battlements, picturing the scene as it must have been in April 1861 before the bombardment. Even in the late spring heat, my forearms prickled with an eerie chill.
Back in Charleston we rode on a guided tour in a mule-drawn carriage through the city’s historic district and passed by stately old homes. The day was warm, in the low 80′s, but clear and pleasant. As we rode near Battery Park, we observed a solemn celebration of Confederate Memorial Day celebrated each year on May 10th, the day Stonewall Jackson died.
In an awesome marketplace, we watched artisans weave exceptionally crafted Charleston Sweetgrass Baskets and others string stone beads for necklaces.
Later a pretty young student (thanks, Abby!) guided us through the grounds of the beautiful College of Charleston.
On another day, we toured Middleton Place, a rice plantation set on the banks of the Ashley River. The plantation was burned by the Yankees in 1864. Much of what didn’t burn was toppled several years later by the earthquake of 1886. In recent years, a painting was discovered in an Italian villa. It seems that a Middleton bride was an Italian Contessa. On a visit to Middleton Plantation in the 1840′s she had painted a scene of the buildings. You can imagine the joy at its discovery and upon its return to the plantation.
Dining was fun and down home – at Bowen’s Island Restaurant with its all-you-can-eat Oysters, at Justine’s for southern soul, and fresh seafood at the Crab Shack and at our beach house. Why is it that food tastes so much better when eaten in a place far from home?
At the Public Library and Charleston’s old Court House, I scrolled through spools of old microfilm to copy family history. We took pictures of the house where my husband’s great-grandfather once lived, and then said a prayer at the church he once attended. At Magnolia Cemetery we found his grave, and said another prayer. Near his grave lay the dead of the sunken Hunley, yet another reminder of The War.
Back at Folly Beach, the ocean called one last time. We strolled barefoot over smooth sand letting the warm waters of the Atlantic wash over our feet.
Reluctantly, we said goodbye. We knew we’d return.