I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking when I decided to spend two weekends in a row away from home but I wanted to head down to Charleston this year for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition and it was a good excuse to see my sister and catch up with some friends. My friend Lillie was nice enough to let me crash at her place even though she had to work on Saturday! I left work a little early on Friday night and drove into downtown Charleston. I hate driving at night so I was grateful I only had to suffer for about an hour.
The hardest part about visiting Charleston has to be deciding where to eat. I was on a really limited budget this weekend and my sister is in college so she was in the same boat. That's all further complicated by the fact that I'm still doing really good on my vegetarian diet! We settled on Verde at Lillie's suggestion. It was actually only my second time eating there. The portions were huge! We definitely could have shared because neither of us finished. I had the Grainiac bowl with Warm Farro + Kale and Baby Spinach, Grape Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Red Onion, Olives, Feta Cheese and Fresh Basil with Balsamic Vinaigrette. It was amazing!!! I'm going to steal their recipe and recreate it at home. After dinner we met up with Garrett and I got to see some of Alex's old co-workers.
Saturday morning Corey and I got up and went to Panera for breakfast (thank you, Terrie, for the gift cards). It was my first time going to the new Panera on Calhoun Street. Afterwards we headed across the street to Marion Square for SEWE. After walking through some of the vendor tents and the Center for Birds of Prey tent to look at all their birds, we grabbed a spot to scope out the flight demonstration. Just before the demo was set to start a few fighter jets flew overhead! It was so loud. I just remember being really glad that the didn't get any of the birds out of their crates yet. I absolutely love watching the birds of prey flight demo so I was excited to share the experience with Corey this year... AND the falcon didn't fly away! They had a new spectacled owl but she wasn't the most cooperative with the tricks. I have high hopes for seeing her progress next year.
After spending a little time at SEWE we decided to take a walk down to the Battery. Naturally, I stopped every few minutes to snap a picture. I took Corey along the old route Alex and I used to bike and walk during college. If you're looking for a nice walk with lots of gorgeous buildings along the route, here's what I suggest:
Saint Philip's Street to Archdale
Stop inside the Unitarian Church to look at the breathtaking fan vaulted ceiling and walk around in the cemetery (walk all the way through to King Street, past the Charleston Library Society and to the Gibbes Museum if you're feeling extra adventurous).
From Archdale take a little jog around Queen Street to Legare Street
Make a pit stop at Broad Street to admire the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. If you take a peek inside, they have some really incredible stained glass!
Keep walking down Legare until you get to the Battery.
Some of my favorites are the Spanish Colonial Revival house at the corner of Tradd Street, the gardens of the Simmons-Edwards House aka the Pineapple Gates House at 14 Legare Street and the red door at the late governor and senator Burnet R. Maybank's Italianate house, No. 8. We looked at the boats at the Battery for a while. We didn't come across any dolphins but we did see a duck fishing! We made our way back up East Bay Street towards Broad so I could see the freshly painted purple house on Rainbow Row. She certainly is bright! I was pleased to see so much work happening on Broad Street. I can't wait to see who moves in. King Street was a different story, though. Right now there are so many empty buildings. It's a shame that rent is pushing out Charleston staples. I wish we could get building owners to stop price gouging because generally I love supporting local people (I realize this weekend wasn't a great example of that principle)!
After eating the most amazing grilled vegetable gyro (that I'm recreating tonight) at Taziki's, we headed over to Corey's dorm for a quick nap. My friend Maura was in Charleston with UGA's MHP program so we met up to do a little bit of shopping on King Street. I picked up the perfume I've been wanting since last weekend in Asheville, some sea salt hair spray, and the Lower Dens album on sale for Alex. I also ran into my friend Kelsey and mentor Alesya with her family on King Street! I feel really lucky to know so many incredible people and it was serendipitous to see everyone during my quick, mostly unannounced trip!
Corey mentioned that she wanted to go eat dinner on the water somewhere. Everyone immediately thought of California Dreamin'. Unfortunately, the wait there was going to be about two hours. Lillie knew of an Italian place called Mondo's Delite on James Island so we drove over that way. The outside of Mondo's is really unassuming. It's located in a strip mall set back from the road. There's the cutest little outdoor bar area with string lights and dining tables. Inside was candlelit and cozy. It smelled so amazing when we stepped through the door! Our waitress was so friendly and guided us through the menu. My favorite thing about the menu was that the pasta dishes were divided by sauces. Everyone has their favorite type of sauces and mine tend to be rosas. It's the best of both worlds. You then had the option to add onto the pasta dishes. I ended up with penne in vodka sauce with asparagus and tomatoes and added a marinated portobello on top. It was so incredible. You know when you go out for Italian and you pay $25 a plate for something you could have made better at home? Yeah, that wasn't this kind of plate. My mouth was salivating. I can't wait to go back and take Alex.
After staying up way too late re-watching episodes of Hunted, I got up early and got ready to help Corey through her housing selection process. It was really traumatic. CofC doesn't always have their stuff together and their servers are frequently overloaded anytime they open registration at a certain time. Once she was able to register we grabbed bagels at Einstein's before driving over to Mt. Pleasant to do some shopping. It was probably the nicest day I can ever remember in Charleston. Sunny and barely 70 with no clouds in the sky. We drove down the road to Isle of Palms to walk around on the beach and catch a few rays. I was surprised to find that parking was free (I guess because it's the off season) and that there weren't more people out. We walked past the boardwalk at the public park entrance and down a bit. There were tons of families out letting their kids play in the water and build sandcastles. A few guys were playing football, hanging around in their ENOS, and someone was even stand up paddleboarding! The best part was that everyone was clearly out because it was such a nice day. Pretty much everyone had on their street clothes. No pressure to swim or tan... just enjoying the springlike weather together.
I rounded out my trip to Charleston with a stop at Ye Old Fashioned restaurant. Sunday was an even busier day downtown than Saturday somehow. After circling the blocks a few times I gave up on trying to find parking and decided to pull into the loading zone to grab my things and head out the door. It was a really emotional trip for me. I was happy to be with my sister celebrating little life victories but sad for her housing situation, missing Alex and all our friends there, and nostalgic for living in a really great city again. Charleston will always feel like home. I'm glad it's a place I can come back to time and time again and still feel comfortable.