Category Archives: South Carolina

Hunting Island State Park, Penn Center, Gullah-Geechee Gallery, Foolish Frog – St Helena/Dataw Island

Amazing weather again! Perfect for walking along the pristine beach at Hunting island State Park, looking for shells in the surf, watching the fishermen with their poles stuck into the sand and the pelicans dive bombing into the water. Dirck found a perfect sand dollar! Behind the long expanse of soft tan sand, there’s a dense forest of sea pines.

Lunch was on the back deck of the Foolish Frog overlooking a marsh — shrimp poboy, fried oysters, seafood bisque, bottomless lemonade. The country road to the beach is dotted with farm stands and seafood markets. We stopped at one to buy shrimp for dinner.

We went to Penn Center, part of the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, in Saint Helena Island’s Corners Community where we learned about the struggles of former slaves after the Civil War and the work of two white women from Pennsylvania (hence the name) who came to the Sea Islands in 1862 to provide education to the children of “formerly enslaved people” (the correct terminology these days) at what was called the Penn School. The school survived the Jim Crow-years, when the advances of the reconstruction stalled, and became an organizing spot during the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 60s. Today, it’s a quiet place, with huge live oaks scattered on a long lawn on either side of a country road and old white buildings in various states of repair/disrepair. Martin Luther King Jr. liked to visit and reportedly wrote several of his most stirring speeches here and hoped to retire in this peaceful place.

A young tour guide showed us around the property and talked about life during reconstruction and the Gullah-Geechee community, who are descendants of African people who were enslaved, with a distinct language, culture, cuisine and folk art, which we saw at a nearby gallery with colorful flat folk art paintings. The community remains along the coast from Wilmington, N.C. To St. Augustine, Fla.

In Beaufort, we went to another history center that shared the story of Robert Smalls, a local civil war hero for the Union side. In 1862 Smalls, a black man, piloted a ship out to Charleston harbor and delivered it to the US military. He used his cash reward to buy a house in Beaufort (the first to hold a secession meeting). He later became a 5-term US Congressman.

At Penn Center

In the late afternoon, our host Laurie zipped me over to the gorgeous pool in her golf cart (dirck rode in the car with our other host Brian) for a brief swim and soak in the sun. in the evening we rode the golf cart to a perfect spot to watch the sun set and watch dolphins frolicking in the distance.

Penn Center

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Beautiful houses, Sams plantation ruins, oak island, pat Conroy literary center, Hemingway’s bistro, old bull tavern – Dataw Island and Beaufort S,C.

Our friends gave us a tour of their new island home, a gated community on the lowcountry sea island of Dataw that has 800 homes, two golf courses, a marina, restaurant, pub, health club, indoor and outdoor pools, croquet lawns, tennis courts and residents zipping along on golf carts. Alligators glide through the ponds. A copper head Snake slithered across the road. Herons and egrets slink through the marshes. Dolphins rise up in the river water.


The island also includes the ruins of the old Sams plantation, with walls made of tabby (a mixture of cement and shell) plus a small history center and old cemetery and a wooded nature preserve that leads to a bridge to the marsh called Oak Island.

Nearby, in the pretty old town of Beaufort, we walked down quiet residential streets lined with old white mansions with long porches and live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The writer Pat Conroy lived and wrote here. He left behind a literary center, which Serves as a shrine him but also supports other local writers, which we learned during a short tour. We also passed the lovely mansion where the movie The Big Chill was filmed. We stopped for drinks at Hemingways Bistro near the waterfront and had dinner at the Old Bull Tavern.

Oak island


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Middleton Place, Ashley’s Sack – Charleston

The word plantation no longer remains in the name of this spectacular estate north of Charleston, home of the first landscaped garden in the US or some such. But slavery is much mentioned during the tour and discussed in apologetic terms. We easily spent 3 hours roaming around the meticulously landscaped grounds, with some of the thickest longest horizontal-limbed live oaks ever! The garden was the main event, with huge expanses of manicured lawns and carefully symmetrical landscaping, overlooking flooded rice fields and the winding Ashley River. We didn’t see as many flowers as there are during other months.

Dwarfed by a live oak
Sunset on James Island

We also took a tour of the house where to my surprise we encountered the famous Ashley’s sack, a poignant artifact from slavery, that I happen to be reading a book about. An enslaved woman gave the humble sack to her 9-year-old daughter when the daughter was sold to another plantation, to carry what few belongings she had. Mother and daughter never saw each other again. The sack was handed down to subsequent generations, one of whom embroidered a brief description of the sack’s origins onto the cloth. It inspired the award-winning 2021 nonfiction history book “All that she carried.” Apparently the sack was recently returned to the Middleton after being on loan to the African American museum in DC and eventually will go in Charleston’s new slavery museum. I had no idea of its connection to this particular plantation and was stunned to see it – no photos allowed.

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Two sisters walking tour; sandwiches from goat.Sheep.cow., Charleston shoes; artwork, folly beach, FIG – Charleston

Dirck reports that we walked almost 20,000 steps today, up from my perhaps 5,000 usual steps. I believe it! Being in this part of the world makes you wish you could walk a lot longer, comfortably. We met up with a vivacious woman who runs a walking tour outfit (two sisters tours) for a 2 1/4 hour ramble around the most charming and historic bits of the peninsula that is old Charleston. Wandering by ourselves the day earlier was fine but this time we had a curated view, with bits of history, gossip and intrigue provided by a local who seemed to know everyone in town, chatting with policeman and residents. At one house, she chatted with a friend who insisted the tour (about 20 of us) come through the gate to take a peak at her private garden.

Two sisters tours, Tiffany window

“Those look like Tiffany windows!” I said as we walked into the imposing 1750’s-era Saint Michael’s Church, with its massive white steeple which George Washington visited in the 1760s. “They are!” I was told. On the corner of Meeting and Broad streets, she pointed to massive buildings on all four corners that locals joke refers to four different types of law: federal law (post office), city law (city hall), state law (court house) and god’s law (the aforementioned church). (The sister guides are former lawyers.)

She also offered some invaluable tourist info (sparkling clean public bathrooms on the ground floor of city hall), the best historic homes to visit (and the ones to skip), the good local artist. She spoke frequently and frankly about Charleston’s history of slavery, addressed the confederate monument issue (Charleston opted not to remove most of its statues because they weren’t installed during Jim Crow, when the statues glorified the southern cause) and noted the relatively new plaques dotting the city that highlight slavery-related history. (Reminded me of signs dotting Berlin about the Holocaust. I called them mea culpa signs.) anyway a far cry from our tour here 33 years ago when the guy driving us around in a horse and buggy referred to “ the war of northern aggression.” (“The recent unpleasantness” is another local euphemism.)

“Olde slave mart”

We got an excellent roast beef and cheese baguette sandwich from a little gourmet food shop called Goat.sheep.cow and picnicked in Lovely Washington Park, the on to King street to visit the international textile shop IBu but I actually scored at Charleston shoes where I found some great looking and comfortable sandals. We had key lime pie at Carmella’s, a little dessert bar my sister Jill recommended,. Next stop Folly Beach which was a rowdier beach town than expected. But the weather was surprisingly warm and there were good shells. Dinner was at Fig, the much coveted reservation, which I think was worth the hassle. Excellent corn dusted grouper with creamed spinach, salad with chicken confit and a poached egg, chicken liver pate and lime/blue sorbet. My entree needed more salt but then was good, a buttery fish stew with butter beans, shrimp and mussels.

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James Island Airbnb, historic French district/ church street/ sea wall walk/ hannibal’s soul kitchen, butcher & bee kitchen-side dinner – Charleston SC

We are staying on a tropical-feeling island about 15 minutes drive from downtown Charleston called James Island, in an Airbnb above a garage of a spotless contemporary house on a road lined with huge live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss. Across the road are old mansions barely seen amidst all the dense greenery and a little clearing overlooking a tidal pool and river, great place to sit at sunset and in the morning when we drink our morning coffee. Lovely.

On day one, we drove into the northern part of town for delicious shrimp and crab rice at Hannibal’s Soul Kitchen, complete with photos of the owner with celebrities from Pharrell Williams to Hillary Clinton..

Our street on James Island

Then we found a six hour parking spot (word to the wise!!) along the sea wall fronting beautiful White point Park. (Most parking spots in the old town are 1 to 2 hours and residential permits required otherwise. The parking lots cost $18 a day.) . We walked up and down narrow streets, some brick, some with huge cobblestones, past lovely painstakingly preserved wood and brick homes, many known as “a single house” that fit sideways into the lot so the front door is on the side along with a long two story porch, all to catch the breeze. Another word to the wise, there are sparkling clean and modern public toilets in the City hall building (ground floor) on Broad and Meeting streets!

Sweetgrass basket vendor at city market

Dinner was at Butcher and Bee, a hip happening restaurant in North Charleston with Middle eastern inspired fare. We sat at a counter in front of the open kitchen, watching and occasionally chatting with the guy who made our excellent chicken and lamb kebabs, served with potatoes, grilled and marinated yellow pepper and huge pieces of fluffy homemade pita. Another standout was the whipped feta dip sprinkled with some sort of orange honey concoction. and for some unknown reason, they gave us dessert on the house.

Our little clearing by the river

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