The Low Country
Updated: Nov 26, 2018
November 14 and 15, 2018
While the northeast coast was bombarded with a sudden heavy snowfall, the weather in Charleston was cold, nasty and windy. The marina provided a shuttle across the Ravenel Bridge to downtown, which dropped us off on King Street. From there we walked through the Historic Charleston City Market, first established in the 1790's, where vendors sell food, clothing, crafts, including beautiful handwoven sawgrass baskets, handmade dolls, and all manner of souvenirs and trinkets. We meandered along Meeting and King Streets, and wandered down many side streets, window shopping and admiring the mix of architectural styles. There many gracious and inviting porches, but this was not the weather to enjoy them.
After a few hours, we needed to revive ourselves with food and drink, and found 157 Raw on Bay Street. We liked the hipster ambience of the raw bar and the great jam band music. We all love oysters, and were bowled over by the unique flavors of 4 different kinds of briny oysters. We warmed ourselves with rich and creamy clam chowder; then continued our sampling of shrimp and pulled pork tacos, and Scottish salmon salad , all of which we washed down with a crisp Alberino, for an excellent early supper.
In spite of the gusting wind, we all wanted to take a soak in the hot tub. We put on swimsuits beneath our clothes and walked past the stately blue heron, down the dock to the pool. We shed our outer layers and slipped into the 104 degree water. Our muscles relaxed in the bubbling warmth, which we followed with steaming showers at the marina bathhouse. Christoph and I had a nightcap at the dockside bar. Relaxed from the soak, the cognac put me straight to sleep.
That night the wind whipped up the water and shrieked all night long. We awoke to a gray sky and howling winds. We piled on our layers, and headed for the resort shuttle. It wasn’t a day for leisurely walking, so we took the free city bus to the Charleston Museum, which has excellent exhibits on the history of Charleston’s successive settlement by native tribes, Spanish, French, and English. By the 1700’s the low country was dominated by the English, and for several years the pirate Blackbeard held his reign of terror on the seas surrounding the coastal town. Eventually, he and his crew were hanged here. The Europeans traded their goods with the many native tribes that fished, hunted and grew crops, but they brought disease and division, disrupting the Native way of life.
The coastal land was especially favorable for the cultivation of rice, and as the slave trade flourished in Charleston, the low country became the world’s leading rice exporter. The beautiful baskets of palmetto and oak woven by the Gullah, and now fetching hundreds of dollars in the downtown Charleston market, were first used in West Africa for winnowing. Imported West African methods of rice cultivation were adopted by the plantation owners. The entire rice industry, which made Charleston the world’s leading rice exporter, was made possible by slave labor. The same was true for cotton.
We wandered for hours through informative exhibits showcasing South Carolina’s major role in the American Revolution, as resentment against taxation by the Crown put Charleston at the forefront of the colonies’ desire for liberty; how ironic that the first battle of the Civil War was fought at nearby Fort Sumpter, in an effort to maintain the institution that represented its ultimate deprivation. We learned about the technology of the fortresses and bridges, originally built with cypress, as well armaments, ships and railroads. Once we entered the museum’s excellent natural history wing, with comprehensive exhibits on geological and life forms of the lowland area, we quickened our pace; our energy for processing information was fading.
We had made an early dinner reservation for Coogan’s Smokehouse on Bay Street, and stopped for hot drinks at Carmella’s dessert café along the way. Dinner was the real southern deal: Stuffed with grits, greens, pork belly and ribs, we took an Uber back to the marina. We made our way down the docks, with wind still gusting over 30 kts. Once on board, we cozied up in the salon under a blanket to watch a movie on the Ipad. With excellent marina wifi, we were able to stream Black Panther. In spite of its fabulous visuals, compelling story and great music, I fell asleep way before it ended.