24 Hours in Charleston

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In June of 2018, I headed back to Charleston, South Carolina for the first time in over 20 years. It was one of those places that stuck with me. The taste of fresh Southern Brewed Tea never escaped my memory nor did the colorful homes on rainbow row, the cobbled streets, or the markets where the enslaved were auctioned off.

Year after year, Charleston has ranked high on the top cities in the world.  I can’t exactly put my finger on why, but I would have to agree.

My return to Charleston was just three years after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Although it’s been three years, the thoughts of that day loomed in the back of my mind as I stepped out of the airport.

Once I arrived, it was hard to imagine that this beautiful city could be the breeding ground for such hate.  During my 24 hours, Charleston was a place where strangers wasted no time cozying up to me at the bar making conversations.  This was also the place where strangers eating at a table next to me invited me to join their conversation (on their birthday) and then drive me to my next destination. This was the place where everyone greeted me with a smile.

But underneath those smiles, there is a storied past – one that many don’t want to talk about or openly acknowledge, but one that exists.  This was the place, well Ft. Sumter to be exact, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. There are reminders all across the city of its past from the Slave Marts, former plantations, and mansions built by the exploited labor of the enslaved Africans. With those reminders, there are quiet signs of erasure. The Gullah Geechee population is vanishing and touristic places like Hilton Head seem to ignore the African American presence/population who have lived on that land for years.

 

Certainly 24 hours is not enough time to explore a city such as Charleston and I hope to return again. But this was Charleston in 24 hours:

1) Ate at some highly recommended places including:

  • Hominy Grill

https://hominygrill.com/

Southern COoking

  • Poogan’s Porch

https://www.poogansporch.com/

  • Charleston grill

https://www.belmond.com/hotels/north-america/usa/sc/charleston/belmond-charleston-place/dining

2) Took in some sites with a carriage ride through town

https://palmettocarriage.com

3) Visited the McLeod Plantation Historic Site

https://ccprc.com/1447/McLeod-Plantation-Historic-Site

Plantation

4) Went to the Old Slave Mart museum

http://www.oldslavemartmuseum.com/

 

slave mart

Lastly, I stayed at the Frances Marion Hotel which was a good base to either walk to places or take a short Uber ride to most places.

https://www.francismarionhotel.com/

Whereto next? Miami and hopefully someplace else in between.

 

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

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So I embarked on another transatlantic journey with my child who is now three. The last time I took that voyage with her, she was one, not walking or talking. I thought at this age it would be much easier. I was wrong. She constantly wanted to be carried and I left the tram at home (thank god for my friend who indulged her during our weekend in Valencia) and her father in Morocco as I didn’t have the strength to carry that big girl around.

Due to a busy and stressful work schedule prior to our departure, I was not able to plan the way I normally do with a trip, but I still made some plans that included Flamenco of some sort, Museums, Bus Tours, train rides, etc. Alas, the day of our trip arrived and I realized that even the best laid plans are not toddler proof (or ex husband proof). Change of accommodations by others, jet lag, bank card not working, and temper tantrums put a little damper and added stress on the vacation.

However, in the end, I was reminded that it’s alright to break plans. We don’t have to be held hostage to plans.  What I thought would be the most enjoyable parts of the trip (visiting castles and seeing musical performances in Spain) were actually trumped by our three short days in Morocco.  I have been to Morocco several times and for my daughter, this was her second time (although she has no memory of her previous trip).

For some reason, I thought that this would be her least favorite part of the trip as the parts we were visiting were nothing like what she is used to.  However, kids have a way of reminding us of the most simple and basic things in life. At the end of the day, she didn’t care about seeing the Sagrada Familia.  What she cared about the most was playing in the playground across the street from the Sagrada Familia. She didn’t care about our bus tour or even seeing any Flamenco (although she did con me into buying her a Flamenco outfit). What she cared most about was roaming free at her family’s house in Morocco with no shoes on, following her aunts/uncles around the house, eating oranges straight from the tree, and feeding the chickens with her grandmother and father.

Aaliya in Morocco with no shoes

Lessons learned from a toddler (lesson 1 million and 1 as I am always learning from this little person) – be flexible. It’s also not about the sites or the material things. Rather it’s about the experiences. As long as I am able to, I will continue to inject new experiences in her routine be it in our own backyard or someplace else. Now I need a vacation from the vacation free from children. Where to next?