After a particularly luscious day spent in the land of hospitality, Mr. M & I had a mere slice of weekend left to enjoy in Charleston, South Carolina.
Day #11,242: With only my stretchiest of stretchy-waisted leggings up to the task, I quickly decided that Mr. M & I needed to do some walking- or, at the very least, some Southern Strolling- before we could sit down to any more low-country food. (Please Note: ‘Southern Strolling’ differs from Yankee Walking in that it occurs at 25% the pace and involves cane twirling and an ole-timey top hat. FACT.)
As Mr. M & I spent our Sunday morning parading arm-in-arm around the South of Broad residential neighborhood, I was starting to feel like a real Southern belle. I mused to Mr. M that I wanted a parasol and a bustle. I added “I do declare” an addition onto the end of every sentence out of my mouth. And of course, I began craving something artery-clogging and delicious.
Mr. M & I ambled on over to Magnolia (185 E Bay St), which was supposed to have one of the best brunches in town. After a day stuffed with edible decadence, I had resolved to play it cool. Oatmeal, perhaps. Or a sensible fruit plate. Unfortunately, a menu touting “Peanut Butter-Stuffed Banana Caramel French Toast” has a way of breaking a girl’s resolve.
Fried green tomatoes, blue crab benedict, and a diabeetus later, we and our straining waistbands were ready for more walking. Or waddling, to be more precise. We Sunday-strolled ourselves to Charleston’s City Market, a long continuum of buildings housing artisan booths and shops of all sorts.
Some of the most famous wares on display were Charleston’s legendary sweetgrass baskets. The baskets were originally woven by slaves from West Africa, and the art of sweetgrass weaving is passed down from generation to generation today.
Near to the Market is Charleston’s Old Slave Mart Museum (6 Chalmers St). The building stands where slave auctions were once held before the end of the Civil War. After a 70-yr appointment as a tenement building, the Old Slave Mart was turned into a museum in 1938 to celebrate African American history and culture. I was honestly surprised that such a classically Southern city was forward-thinking enough to have an African American museum in the 1930s!
I was so interested to learn more about the history of the building and the slave trade as it related to the plantation economy, but unfortunately, Sunday museum-going didn’t seem to be kosher in the south, and the Old Slave Mart Museum was closed for a day of rest.
There was just one more Essential Stop to make before returning to the Yankee North: Magnolia Cemetery.
Only a slim sliver of the Venn Diagram seems to represent us folk who both love cemeteries and avoid black lipstick & perma-scowling. In a decidedly non-Goth way, I find cemeteries to be some of the loveliest spots for peaceful introspection and hand-in-hand strolling. Cemeteries lend a certain celebratory permanence to a life whose flame has long since been extinguished… besides, many of them are simply gorgeous.
Mr. M pulled our car off the dirt road, and we spent the better part of an hour reading tombstones and wandering through the speckled shade of mossy magnolia trees.
Founded in 1849, Magnolia is the oldest public cemetery in Charleston and is currently home to many, many fallen Confederate soldiers and Southern public figures.
As Mr. M & I lazily returned to the car hand-in-hand for our flight home to Manhattan, we mused about how thorough a vacation our weekend south of the Mason-Dixon Line had become.
There’s much to be said for the Southern way of life: a celebration of tradition, of food, and- most interestingly to me- of time.
Time is revered in the South- an afternoon’s time is savored on a rocking chair, the span of a lifetime is celebrated in the grandeur of a tombstone. It’s a lesson for us Yanks, who move at the speed of buzzing neon through our own concrete jungle.
Chaaahleston says: slow down… and stroll.
Twirling cane optional.
Details of the Day:
The Fulton Lane Inn (202 King St) was a wonderful place to rest our heads whilst posing as Charlestonians. We had a cozy fireplace, a jacuzzi tub, and a pretty sweet breakfast basket delivered daily. The verrry friendly concierge also set out nightly sherry, which seemed très civilized until I downed a rather full glass of said sherry (Mr. M believes in a hearty pour) and subsequently stumbled around the mansion-esque inn trying to find my way back to our room.
I will say that we found all of Charleston to be a bit pricey in the accommodation department- discounted parking through the hotel cost us $12 a day!- so book early.