Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes, Crab Cakes and Low Country Ghosts

Fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, collard greens, ghosts and thunder storms, a Low country Spring time vacation in Charleston, SC scores big. 
Meeting Street

Jestine’s Kitchen,  down-home fried green tomatoes, Hyman’s, hush-puppies and stuffed grouper, Sticky Fingers, simmering peach cobbler, The Swamp Fox, pure elegant dining to Palmetto Charleston beer,  chocolate-covered pecansSavannah Bee Sourwood honey, and Super-duper Extra triple-Strength cat nip for my feline souvenir, it’s a wonder I don’t waddle down the street.  
Southwest Oakland to Charleston, I land on a Monday afternoon on a connecting flight out of Houston. A simple, convenient transport by the Charleston Airport Shuttle not only is inexpensive it provides a scenic tour and comfortable chatter between my new-found travel mates. Price range $12.50/one-way shared ride; $30/one-way single passenger. A best travel tip. 
Not so fresh from the airport, I arrive at the Jasmine House Inn. Rated #10 of 49 Bed and Breakfast Inns in Charleston, it ranks high on my top five list.
Jasmine House Inn Courtyard

Nestled behind the main house, my room is in the carriage house. Carriage house number two. With a lace canopy bed, loveseat and rose-floral wallpaper, I step back into a slower time; a Southern Charm. The second-story room provides a door that opens to the veranda. In my pajamas, I savor my light breakfast – hot-biscuits, fresh fruit, cereal, orange juice and hot coffee – the menu varies daily. Just below in the courtyard, guests dine at the patio tables. A Cardinal perches on the veranda rail in wait of morning crumbs.
Vibrant colors dot the greenery, the humidity level is just under the sweat radar and the night-blooming jasmine perfumes the air. Twelve bites and counting the mosquitoes dine on the bare skin so insect repellant is a must in your side pocket.
Charleston is an awesome City. Deep in history, pride and personality. I feel guilty having Yankee-blood. I'm humbled as I step onto Fort Sumter and reel in the realities.
Tuesday, I’m off and running to my morning tour. The Magnolia Plantation. 24 people on a shuttle, I meet Jan and Dave from BeniciaCA – a mere 45 minute drive from my home – and I recall something about the six degrees of separation.
Magnolia Plantation

Relaxed, we arrive at the gorgeous plantation. With Allen, a ten-year veteran tour guide, we wander the gardens, explore the swamp and are escorted through the magnificent home. A peace wraps around your soul and for a moment you understand the tranquility that surpasses a top Billboard tune.
Much like visiting the home of Jack London, a writer feels the power of nature, and I want for the creative energy that sings in the birds, that whistles in the oaks and that powers the smallest alligator across the marsh to ignite my senses. I’m soaked in the unlimited possibilities of serenity in harmony.
A slower pace than California the early-afternoon settles in for Low country quiet time. Guests of the Jasmine House Inn sip on wine, sweet tea, lemonade and cheese, crackers, fresh fruit and pasta.
Nancy, Care and Me

An added perk, I meet two online writer friends. Care, a new friend from Massachusetts, and NancyBookfoolery and Babble, a longtime online friend.
For over ten years a voice in print but never a real-talk-time word between us, Nancy and I have a layered-friendship built on years of conversations, accomplishments, family triumphs and heartaches. For us, it isn't a social topping of "How are you?" and "What do you do?" Instead, it is an instant embrace and a step into gentle banter and a knowing rhythm.   
Girl’s Night Out, we brave the graveyard for our Ghost Tour. Thunder rumbles in the not-so-far distance as we listen to the Charleston tales of those that lie beneath our feet or not. We snap multiple photos of gravestone rows in hope of capturing an *orb* on print. No ghosts visit my lens but for Nancy, I’m open to what I saw on her shot and we’ll leave it at that.
Intrigued, I note the inscriptions on several headstones that beckon me. I revisit graveyards over the next few days and find some reach out with curled finger and say, “Me. Come visit with me.”
I snap a picture and answer, “I will.”
During my Walking tour with Ed Grimball – hi Benicia Jan and Dave again - we visit the Circular Church cemetery and over Ed’s shoulder yet another grave speaks out to me. I headstone wander later in the day until I find this spot again. General Mordecai Gist.
What’s with these restless souls?
General Mordecai Gist born February 22, 1742 – August 2, 1792 is a third cousin to President George Washington. An officer in the American Revolution, I’m humbled that he chose to sit with me for awhile. A warrior for independence, I’m not surprised his two sons were named States and Independent.
An Internet search quickly adds a photo to the name. Spirited. What do you know? Just proves you can’t keep a good man down; not even in death. 
My new haunts
I pull up another photo from my haunting. I’m face-to-face with the Reverend Reuben Post and his wife Harriott and daughter Frances. Post was not only the U.S. Senate Chaplain he was the pastor of Charleston’s Circular Church. In 1858, the Reverend died from an outbreak of yellow fever but his humor lives on. The three grave markers are chess pieces: the king, queen and the rook. Not exactly scriptural but he guaranteed a top spot on the tourist route for eternity. I think I would have liked the Reverend.  
In a City where ghosts are welcome as sweet tea in the afternoon a nudge or awareness is commonplace. I encounter my first ghost in my room. Either a playful or warped spirit, I awaken to the snap of my window blind. The yellow shade careens taunt to the top window edge. I fly to the window to see what's the matter and I'm trapped between The Night Before Christmas and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
I can see why a ghost would linger
 I tiptoe back to my canopy bed, curl under the cover and decide it is a playful ghost and wish it good night.
As I wait to cross Meeting St. two men idle in front of me. A wisp of a breeze picks up Old Spice cologne and I’m bathed in the scent. One whiff and I know. I’m not alone on the sidewalk. My dad alive in spirit is on vacation with me. Together, we cross the street: the two strangers, me and my personal ghost. I bid hello to the two men as I walk by and say, “I love Old Spice.” 
Every body stand up and crow

Beyond the Market, I discover priceless treasures. Braided horses and roosters.   
Blues and Barbecue Sunset Cruise

The Blues and Barbecue sunset cruise highlights the week. I love the harmonica player and Shrimp City SlimFiery Ron’s Home Team barbecue buffet and the serene sunset over the shoreline. Blues to perfection. Scrumptious macaroni and cheese. A ten for my favorite tour.
Ghosts of the four-legged variety

        Friday, I’m off to Poogan’s Porch for lunch for the best crab cakes, hot honey-buttered biscuits and Poogan’s Punch. No canine ghosts tickle my backbone. Not a wisp of a wagging tale against my leg. No matter. I have my own circle of newfound ghosts.
Yes, I'm really in Charleston

I wander the streets and walk every Southern calorie off and then some. It is a great way to end my stay in Charleston


1 comment:

Bookfool said...

Lovely summary of your stay in Charleston, Cindi! The photos are awesome. :)