“We do things differently down here, you’re gonna have to learn to slow down.”
This was said to me on a fuel dock in North Carolina a few weeks ago as I paced the dock wondering what was taking Tim so long to pay for our fuel? We needed to move our boat STAT so this gentleman could move his into position for services. Where was he? (more pacing…)
The man went on to say, in his very slow, rhythmic, southern accent, that he was in no hurry and had no where to be, so I didn’t need to worry, we could… Slow. Down. I’ve been told this a couple of times now since entering the south, (once at an ATM in the Walmart parking lot) by various, lovely, southerners – people that said they had no place to be and I didn’t need to hurry.
This has been one of the challenges for us since we left Toronto. We are used to routines, schedules and achieving things! We have lists and like to check things off (ok I have lists and like to check things off) . While some things on our lists are time sensitive and need to get done now, most things, including the pace of our travels south don’t have to get done NOW or FAST.
After our visit back to Canada, we returned to the boat and decided to slow things down a bit. Since then we’ve traveled no more than 7 hours in a day (most days are less then 5) and we tend to stop for a whole day or more every three days. This allowed us to spend three whole days in Charleston, SC without the self-inflicted pressure that we needed to keep the boat moving south. The Bahamas would be there whenever we got there.
We anchored out across from the Charleston City Marina in the Ashley River. The marina has a dinghy dock for those at anchor for a mere $5 a day. It allowed us a place to drop garbage and recycling, securely tie up the tender and easily walk into the historic district, where we were transported back in time.
We’ve been pretty careful with our spending since heading out on this adventure, but Charleston was a place we decided to spend some cash and see the sights. We splashed out on a walking tour as well as entrance fees to two historic homes. I know, crazy spending!
On our first day we simply walked around and admired the quiet residential streets and started to notice a distinct pattern to many of the houses here. We later learned they are called “Charleston Single Houses”. These homes are built a single room wide (narrow bit facing the street) and front door on the long face of the home. Most have very small gardens on the one long side and two porches locally known as piazzas. (I thought a piazza was a town square in Italy!) The long face and the porches were built to take advance of the prevailing winds in summer and faced into the breeze.
As we wandered through the streets, I pictured hot, sultry, summer afternoons with porch fans lazily turning as Charlestonians, swaying in the porch swing, drank tall cold glasses of lemonade. Sigh. As we wound our way back to the boat one evening we stumbled upon a child’s lemonade stand, only $.25 a glass. While we drank ours out of a red plastic cup on a cool November evening standing in the street, I still treasured my glass of Charleston lemonade.
The civil war began in the Charleston Harbour and from the old part of the city you can see Fort Sumter where the first battle took place. This is where the Confederates bombarded the Union forces on April 12, 1861. The citizens of Charleston watched as the Confederates used heated shot to set the wooden structures within the fort on fire. Today the waterfront is a magnate for locals and tourists.
While we were staying in Charleston, I was chatting to a friend back home and ruing the fact that she wasn’t here. “You and Meredith would love the gardens!” She pointed out that talking about gardens in November when they had woken to snow a day before was cruel. Sorry. But you really would love the gardens!
On our second day, as we embraced the slow pace of Charleston, we noticed a strange phenomenon – people were driving golf carts on city streets. We started to see them parked in driveways and parking lots. What’s up with that? It turns out that South Carolina law allows golf carts to be driven on public roads, with a few conditions… you can’t take your golf cart more than 4 miles from the home it’s registered to and you can’t drive on roads where the speed limit is more than 35 miles per hour; oh yeah and daylight driving only. In Charleston people use them to take the kids to school, pick up groceries and even to drive to church!
As part of our relaxed purse strings attitude, we also ate out in Charleston – TWICE! The first time we went for a very nice lunch in a bistro which advertised “low country cooking”. Tim had a seafood main and I chose a smoked turkey sandwich with homemade chips. it was fantastic. On our second lunch outing we sampled a pulled pork sandwich at the market stall with a side of mac & cheese. We split the sandwich and the mac – a total cost of $8 and we were FULL.
The Old Charleston walking tour was the last thing we did in Charleston and it was the perfect finish to three lovely days. Our guide was an ex-US Air Force pilot and military diplomat. He’s traveled and lived all over the globe. He chose Charleston as his permanent home after 30 years in the service. That speaks volumes to the charms of Charleston. I can’t wait to return and do one of their ghost walking tours as well as their civil war tour.