By Pam Kamphuis
Since you all seemed to like the photos of the Piedmont from a couple weeks ago, I thought you might enjoy a little “travel blog” from my family’s recent trip to Charleston. We stayed with friends on Daniel Island, a very beautiful place, but also made our way into the city a couple of times.
You can see all the photos on our Facebook album here
The colors on these photos won’t be particularly brilliant because the day I walked around the historic part of the city it was overcast and raining. Which was a GOOD thing because if the sun had been beating down on us in addition to the humidity, the only photos you’d be looking at would be blurry ones taken from the inside of a moving car with the air conditioning on!
The topography is very different from our area…they call it the “Low Country” for a reason. It seems like everywhere you go the sea is threatening to encroach civilization. Completely flat, only about 120 feet above sea level, lots of low marshes and salt grasses.
I hope you all like old historical houses and architecture, since that’s what I like so that is mostly what I take photos of.. And gardens, Charlestonians are really into their window boxes, flowers, and wrought iron gates.
If you ever go, I would highly recommend taking one of the horse drawn carriage rides through the city. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and it doesn’t matter how many times you take the tour, it is always different and very interesting.
Here are a couple of interesting stories I picked up over the years:
The term “Hush Puppies” originated, if not in Charleston itself, then the surrounding low country. In those days, the kitchens were separate buildings to the rear of the main houses to avoid the spread of fire, should one occur. So the servants/slaves had to bring prepared food through the yard to the main house to serve it. Predictably, all the local dogs would throng around, smelling the food and likely making the process difficult. So they would carry balls of fried cornmeal to distract them, tossing them to the dogs and saying “hush, puppy.” Now, of course, it has developed into not only a southern comfort food, but a gourmet treasure that I think I would have a hard time living without.
There is a particular bright blue that you will see on doors and porches in old Charleston; it is called “haint blue.” In the Gullah culture, it was believed that it offered protection from “haints” (or haunts, as in ghosts). It is most often found on front doors, and, for some reason, porch ceilings. You actually see it quite a lot in houses that surround graveyards, or that are very near known haunted locations, such as the insane asylums/jails.
The word “Snob” originated directly in Charleston. Back in the day, the “quality” people, as in the old money and high society, lived at the bottom of the Charleston peninsula, and all the nice, expensive houses were south of Broad Street. Those that could not afford to live in that area bought houses as close as they possibly could, right across the “boundary” of Broad Street, and when asked, they answered that they lived only “Slightly North Of Broad”, hence the word snob.
The “Market” in Charleston, which is now a tourist destination with shops and vendors, was never a Slave Market where slaves were bought and sold. It was sometimes referred to as the slave market, because it was staffed and frequented by slaves; slaves selling their plantation’s products, and slaves shopping at the market for their household’s supplies.
At the market today, you can see women, descendants of Gulla ancestors, practicing the timeless (and very difficult) craft of weaving the salt grasses into beautiful baskets. Their skill is exceptional, and the baskets valuable.
And, of course, the food! There are so many restaurants in Charleston and most we have been to are excellent. The Farm-to-table movement is as strong there as it is here, and the best farm-to-table restaurant is “Husk”. www.huskrestaurant.com. If you can’t get to the restaurant, I would recommend visiting the website anyway …fun all in itself. The food was simply amazing, and I loved the blackboard they had in their entryway, listing the source of every ingredient they use….down to the eggs and the salt.
Most things were local, but some things as far away as Virginia. But clearly all fresh and meticulously selected. But here in Virginia we are lucky….the land down there is too flat for growing grapes, so they don’t have any local vineyards or wine like we do in the Piedmont.
Pam Kamphuis is a transplant from New England who has come to appreciate and love the Piedmont area of Virginia in the 25 years she’s been living here, largely through working for the Piedmont Virginian. She is the Production Manager and an editor for the magazine. She lives in Warrenton with her husband Jan, daughter Sarah, two dogs and a cat while also keeping an eye on two grown stepsons and a daughter-in-law at the beach in NC.