Out of the many things to do in Charleston I chose to go to the South Carolina Aquarium and Boone Hall Plantation, and I wish I could go back in time and not see either one. They were expensive - at $18 a piece - and that wouldn’t have been a problem if either one of them had been worth it, but they weren’t. The aquarium was advertised to make you think that it was much bigger than it was. They did have a giant sea turtle and penguins, but that was about it. So I left after less than an hour and drove on to Boone Hall Plantation. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably recognize the iconic drive lined with ancient oaks. And while you need to pay the entry fee in order to see that scene, nothing else is worth seeing on the plantation. I probably would have regretted it if I hadn't gone, but I wish I would have picked a different plantation.
So after those two disappointments I felt so ripped off by Charleston that I wanted to keep driving and leave everything behind me and just move on. But I swerved off the freeway and drove downtown. As I drive south on the peninsula that is Charleston, the scenery and architecture just keep getting better and better and I park my car and I start to walk. I ended up walking around for hours. Just strolling and taking pictures and wandering in a semi-dazed beauty induced trance. It reminded me of walking through Venice. Every corner I turned around revealed a view more beautiful than the one before. And I just seemed to know what streets to turn down and what paths to follow.
There were so many uniquely southern details. The street lamps were lit with gas, hissing and flickering flames that wafted a soothing kerosene scent through the air. Every house had a long side porch with ceiling fans and rocking chairs. And behind wrought iron gates lush manicured gardens flourished even in winter.
Then that night I caved in and decided to return to The Hominy Grill. This time I ordered the sesame-crusted catfish with sautéed okra, deep fried cheese grits & geechee peanut sauce. I figured I couldn’t possibly find anything that sounded more Southern. It was beautifully presented and tasty, but the flavor was more reserved and smoother than I expected. Strange, it actually reminded me of chicken parmesan. But I’ve realized, these days you can get just about every type of food in grocery stores and restaurants in the smallest of towns, but it’s easier to find an Indian restaurant or a lamb gyro than it is to find real Southern food in anywhere else but the South. So I've got to take it all in an enjoy it while I’m here because I won’t be able to experience this back home.