Friday, January 24, 2014

Visiting Charleston, South Carolina and the Magnolia Plantations

In early January we were driving the South for support raising. I'd never actually been in the deep South. It's the only area of the US (other than Alaska) that I hadn't been to. In the midst of it, Isaac asked me what I wanted to do while I was in the South. I knew our time was limited so I picked between my top two (Charleston and Savannah), and off to Charleston, South Carolina we went.  

People. Charleston is SO great. We spent one evening wandering the city. There's an old old French Hugenot church that was once mentioned in a paper Isaac wrote, so we visited that one, as well as a few of the other beautiful old churches on or near Church street. I was walking around squealing with joy because... cobblestone! beautiful old buildings! quaint historic neighborhoods! palm trees and gorgeous balmy evening breeze!

Yeah. We were in the old French Quarter, and it really is right next to the ocean, very historic, and beautifully kept up. Utterly charming. Seriously. We walked around, found a little cafe to eat in, wandered to the old (and still in use) market (blocks long, right in the middle of town, like an American version of a pasar). It felt a bit like it was probably sort of the Charleston version of Chicago's Near North side, and then we found the swanky shopping street (King Street). I didn't get photos of the city but you can browse some other beautiful photos here and here and here

We got a hotel steal of a deal and then wandered through town the next morning via car, stunned at the amazing neighborhoods literally right on the water and the way the city has been kept up so well. It's super cute. 

And then, because I really wanted to get a feel for the Southern greenery that is so intriguing to me, we went to Magnolia Plantation, which has been in the same family name for 300 years, and is now a stunning garden and tourist spot. It totally lived up to my expectations. We spent hours wandering around the trails. 

See this? Spanish moss on the left, palmetto on the bottom left, leaves changing color in the middle, and green on the right. In January. It was just such an intriguing mix of things, like nothing I've ever experienced before. At this particular plantation they've allowed it all to grow and be tended to naturally, not in a planned boxy garden. It feels wild, but it is accessible and gorgeous. 

I am in love with Spanish Moss. It covers the trees all over the area and is so hauntingly beautiful.

These big Live Oaks were planted 300 years ago when the land was bought and a home built for the first family. I think Live Oaks are all over the US, but in Charleston they're so much more twisty... not sure why. And of course the Spanish Moss... wow. 

It's all swamp land, which is why it was originally a rice plantation. So fascinating to think of this area originally covered in plantations. Most of them were burned to the ground when the North beat the South in the Civil War.

A lot of the swampy areas were covered in algae and beautiful green...

The locals were complaining about the cold, because while we were there it was dropped down to like... the 40's. Apparently it never gets that cold. Well, it was Arctic Vortex everywhere else, and the 40's were practically balmy compared to what we had been feeling! There were leaves changing color, trees with spring blooms, and summer palms, soo... I have no idea where to pin the seasons.

Elly slept most of the trip in the sling I picked up at a thrift store that has been saving my life (she is an incredibly peaceful baby.... as long as you do not put her down). 

So the conclusion of the matter is... if you are ever wondering where to visit in the South... visit Charleston. And if you ever visit Charleston, visit the Magnolia Plantation. My recommendation is to go in the Spring.