Tag Archives: Charleston

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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