“Walking the streets of Charleston in the late afternoons
of August was like walking through gauze or
inhaling damaged silk.”
― Pat Conroy
My recent week in South Carolina was my first visit to that state. How was it different from other places I have been? This is what I found.
New cuisine is always fun to “research.” My sister-in-law, the Foodie, prepared a Low Country Shrimp Boil for us. Starting with a large kettle of boiling water she added a vital collection of spices, potatoes, then corn on the cob, and finally local shrimp on the top. Dining requires time to peel the shrimp – without burning your fingers. The corn and potatoes picked up just enough of the spices to be interesting. Very nice! Throughout the week we enjoyed more shrimp, scallops, cheesy grits and a variety of pies.
Regional architecture fascinates me too. The island we stayed on had lots of homes I associate with the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Most were up on stilts with room for cars and boats underneath. The main floor was one storey up, and bedrooms were above that. The plan makes sense in a location likely to get hurricane storm surges. It must be a durable, reliable plan perfected over decades, or it would not be replicated so many times.
A guided tour of Charleston taught us about the typical city homes. The Charleston Single house is situated with the narrow end facing the street that runs to the waterfront; this way the ocean breezes blow onto the longest part of the house, ventilating
more rooms than if it were turned ninety degrees. We also saw examples of the typical Welcoming Arms staircases. We were told that these allowed ladies to go up one side and gentlemen the other side so that the gentlemen would not see the ladies ankles under their hooped skirts! They also lend a formal balance to the façade.
Flora and Fauna vary regionally too, of course. Live Oaks (which are evergreen) dripping with Spanish moss are just as atmospheric in person as they look in movies. Crape Myrtles were in bloom in many colors. We saw two deer on our island but no alligators.
The geography of the Low Country and Sea Islands was interesting to learn about. From the sky it certainly looks low and flat! A sunset cruise through the rivers and inlets around our island proved that there is a considerable maze of what I would call swamp. Where New England would have salt marsh hay, South Carolina has sweet grass. The grassy marshes are an invaluable buffer against storm damage, and provide the raw material for the local art of hand-woven sweet grass baskets.
I saw only Charleston and a few of the Sea Islands, but found all of that to be beguiling. It was not as breezy as I had hoped but mornings on the shady, screened porch with coffee and family made for a very relaxing getaway.
Boundaries divide. Travel unites.
14 August 2014