Paris of the Low Country

I have not written in a while because we went on vacation at the end of March.  I think it took a week or two to get ready to go and a week or two to recover when we came back. Maybe it was a slow process due to doddering and seasonal craziness.

Charleston, South Carolina was in FULL summer mode at the end of March with temperatures in the mid-80s range every day, so I had to drag out beach clothes and gear before we left.  We rented a condo in the Wild Dunes community on the Isle of Palms where it smelled, looked and felt like July at the beach.  Azaleas, tulips and daffodils were at peak performance two weeks before we got there which was a bummer for the opening of Garden Week in the city.

I like a cool, late winter or early spring week at the beach with sitting and walking in clothes rather than summer’s lack of clothes.  I guess we picked the wrong year to return to Charleston after 26 years because it was so HOT.  I think warm weather was everywhere this year so I was kind of doomed from the start.  Having paid a high price for tanning in my youth, I avoid the sun at all costs now due to removed melanoma.  I still like early morning coffee on the balcony and early evening walks if the temperature is conducive for these activities.  One day the wind was blowing so hard, walking was nearly impossible.  I saw a little dog nearly blown away!  Others days it was just plain SUNNY and HOT.  It was too warm for regular clothes, and many people who were certainly not ready for the unsightly nudity of beach togs in March seemed blissfully unaware of this fact.

Charleston, the old town, is still charming and welcoming.  Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms and Wild Dunes have exploded with development since 1985.  “It’s not your mother’s Piggly Wiggly anymore,” said my husband.  I think this statement about the iconic grocery store is a good metaphor for the entire Charleston region.  Piggly Wiggly has a smart new billboard campaign that is just greenery with the familiar swine logo that says “Local Since Forever.”  The PigWig stores are huge, modern and upscale.  There are no more bright red pigs feet (my favorite “eew” item of yesteryear) in the meat case, and the produce is no longer sad and limp.  Charleston has the spectacular, new (2005) Ravenel bridge over the Cooper River connecting Mount Pleasant with downtown Charleston. There is no more quaint waiting on the old Highway 17 bridge for ships to pass. Tremendous growth in the area since 1985 sparkles with the look of got rocks opulence. The swine is not trampling the pearls cast before her.  She’s wearing them.

I found foodie delight in a meal at FIG.  The waitress was perfect in every way, and the sorghum cake with house-made walnut ice cream is now on my personal top 10 food list. For dinner at FIG, I had a triggerfish filet with a minty spring bean soupy base and a coddled Sea Island farm egg appetizer with stone crab, english peas and sweet onion soubise.  Amen Street was kind of good but not a foodie haven.  Since Amen’s coffee machine was broken, our waitress there steered us to another spot for dessert and coffee – Kaminsky’s Baking Company.  It was packed, but I got an excellent cappuccino to go and will make sure to go there for anything sweet in the future.  The Texas A&M golf team was at the Boat House the night we ate there, so there was good cross table talk about a big college golf tournament in the area.  I made stuffed poblanos at the condo one night to change-up the fresh fish routine. On our last night I sinned by eating deep fried shrimp and oysters with hushpuppies and happiness.

It was a nice vacation week, and I know a lot of other boomers were finishing up a similar month since EVERYONE was headed back on I-95 north on March 31.  No doddering on the road.  I am still a mountain and snow girl at heart, but is it wonderful to visit a beach and an historical southern city once in a while.

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