Feel free to skip this one. I'll admit it's more for me than for you.
When we travel, we usually find little adventures to entertain ourselves - even when we're supposed to be relaxing. Those adventures have tiny little enjoyable details that sometimes get lost in the fading memory of my brain. I always take my sketchbook and try to log some basic information at the end of each day, but things like the voice of the Starbucks drive-through person may not make it into the sketchbook. And that might have been an important memory. I find that if I upload some photos and try to type out some of the details when we return, the little memories have a better chance of sticking around. So if you're really bored, grab a coffee. If not, I'll see you in the next post.
Way back in the years before we had kids, G and I took a spur of the moment overnight trip to Charleston, SC. It was Valentine's weekend and pretty chilly as we walked through the market and the waterfront. We ate well and found our hotel just across the old Cooper River Bridge in Mount Pleasant. That night we had trouble sleeping because our neighbors kept bumping the wall and making loud thumping noises. It sounded like they were wrestling. We were not impressed. The next morning as we headed out to breakfast we were greeted in the hallway by the neighbors and their luggage. Their luggage consisted of two large aluminum cages, each with a full grown bengal tiger inside. That explained that.
That's when we realized that there was some sort of animal festival going on. We later found out it was the South Eastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE). We remembered it and checked it out a few years later and it seemed like it was mostly hunting and camouflage related things. Not really our cup of tea. Then we forgot about it and decided to escape the kids a couple of years ago for a weekend trip to Charleston. We walked up King Street to Marion Square and there was a big thing going on. We walked through and realized it was SEWE. We were still unimpressed until we found the Birds of Prey tent. I love birds and really love drawing them and walking inside this tent filled with all sorts of huge, beautiful birds was nothing short of amazing. This was reason enough to drive to Charleston.
Who am I kidding? The food in Charleston is reason enough to drive to Charleston. These days it's barely a 3 hour drive for us and I'm not embarrassed to say we've made the drive just to eat lunch. So this year, more or less at the last minute, we decided to throw the kids in the car and let them see the animals. We were able to get everyone free for Friday and we slept in a little and still made it to Jim 'N Nicks for lunch.
Marion Square was our next stop and since we weren't trying to adopt a cool looking hound dog, or join an organization, we quickly made our way to the bird tent and marveled at the cool birds. I love seeing the birds in their little stress hats. When they get too freaked out by the crowds and noises, they put the little hats over their heads and eyes.
We got little lessons on the birds and learned why owls fly silently, why opreys can carry fish and how these interesting animals can kill their prey with just their claws.
Some of the birds are back a few feet on a perch resting while others are held up just inches away from you.
There was a family in front of us in line moving through the exhibit standing in front of a very, very large Eurasian owl. The owl was very still and one of the children in that family thought it was fake so she reached out and poked it with her finger. Of course the owl jumped and gave her a death stare and the child and her mother both jumped out of their skin and screamed. All the bird people laughed in a way that suggested this was not an accident. Good move, bird people.
There was also a serpentarium tent next door so we walked through there too. This seemed like a good idea until we got to the rattlesnakes and copperheads in little boxes on top of shakey tables. And little unruly children leaning on the shakey tables. But we did get to watch that rattlesnake poop and it was highly disgusting. Violet and I laughed hysterically.
After the tents we took up our spots at the temporary fence to watch the Birds of Prey Demonstration. This is one of our favorite parts. They usually have a couple of birds fly off the roofs of nearby buildings and swoop down into the fence to land on the arm of a trainer. These birds are untethered and can go wherever they want. The trainers almost always convince them to fly back into the fence. Almost. No good photos of this but the kite above was pretty impressive with it's ability to catch treats in the air and it's always fun to watch the guy talk a small child into running through the grass pulling a fake rabbit on a string and then watching the kid freak out as a falcon zooms down from a tree an takes the rabbit.
If you are adept at not making eye contact with vendors, it can be cool to walk through the other tents just to see the skulls and other exhibit items. That's a turtle skull.
And there was a cow. We don't know why and we don't care because we got to pet it and it was awesome.
Photo opp as we left the square.
The expo brings a ton of money to Charleston and Charleston responds by making everyone welcome. It's such a weird mix of people from all sorts of monetary backgrounds. There are hunters from the county we live in there, there are English fox hunters from across the Atlantic and there are people who go on African safaris. And there was us, a weird little family from SC laughing at the snake pooping.
The weather was pretty gray and a little damp but it didn't actually rain on us. It was cool but not cold. By the time we made it back to the car we had slipped into the busiest time for every restaurant in town. SEWE had emptied out and everyone was eating. We knew we were in for a wait, but we really wanted Page's Okra Grill in Mount Pleasant so we parked and waited a good bit less than we expected. We watched the tipsy guy beside us flirt with his lady friend and I had some really good spicy chicken and waffles.
We found our hotel and our room and just when we started to relax and get comfortable with our desserts we ordered to go....we noticed a disturbing stain on the carpet and the bed skirt. The nurse among us identified it as potential vomit so we packed up again and got a cleaner room. Kinda gross.
I love the light in Charleston. There's something about it. I also love the proximity to water. All the cool places seem to have water in the background. We know I love the food there too. But another favorite thing is running in Charleston. If we stay downtown I get to run along the waterfront and down King Street. If we stay in Mount Pleasant I get to run the Ravenel Bridge. I got up and went out into the light rain and steady wind over the Cooper River. Everything about it is wonderful. The air, the light, the view, it's all great except the steep incline. It was a great run and pretty fast.
I had invited everyone to go with me and of course, when I got back and everyone was awake, they wanted to go back. So I gladly went back. We had a good walk in the wind that had increased since my run but it was dry and we saw a few spots of blue sky above us.
I was still wet from my run and this wind was steady. But the kids wanted to go out on the pier. I was really cold by this point. We walked, we looked, we took photos and saw pelicans. Then we warmed up in the car and headed to Starbucks. When the car in front of us ordered, we could hear the spunky order taker. G gave me one of those looks that said "it's too early for that kind of happiness". It actually wasn't early at all anymore but I still had not had my coffee so it was a touchy situation. I'll come at you if I haven't had my coffee. I pulled up to the speaker and the spunky guy started talking. G and I were both immediately at ease. This wasn't the fake happy talk you get sometimes. This was a dude who was actually really happy. You could hear him smiling through his voice. We decided to let him live and I got the best white chocolate mocha I've had in months. The day was off to a great start.
We looked at the clearing sky and decided to drive to Sullivan's Island to walk on the beach. The sky looked great and the temperature was not bad but when you walked out onto the beach the wind felt pretty icy. We enjoyed the beach quickly and headed back to the less windy car to talk about lunch.
Poe's Tavern was close and we made it just in time to beat a huge crowd of people who had to wait. If you're not a Poe person, Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie for a year or so around 1827. That's enough for Charleston to claim him as a resident. Poe's Tavern has a ton of Poe stuff and some of the best burgers you'll ever taste. Mine had a crabby patty on top and was exceptional.
We had no real plans, so after we ate, we drove along the shore looking at houses and decided to get a closer look at the lighthouse.
It's not an aesthetically pleasing lighthouse, but a cool structure nonetheless.
Violet and I got out and explored near the Coast Guard Station and found this old bunker used for guiding launched weapons.
We passed the Poe Library and remembered we had walked around Fort Moultrie several years ago and thought the kids might enjoy it. We were correct.
The unassuming fort from the ocean side.
A stranger took our photo and accidentally turned on live photos while trying to figure out how to work the camera. I learned this about 20 live photos later.
The kids thought the fort was cool until they realized they could go inside and explore on their own. Then they thought it was extremely cool.
They kept finding new tunnels and rooms to explore and saying "This is lit!", "This is amaaaaaazing!" They were happy and it was free, so I'm calling this a parenting win.
The sun was pretty warm by this point and we had spent most of the day outside. We had promised some of our group we'd go shopping so we found a few cool places to do that and soon it was time to think about eating again.
Again we had waited until prime eating time and all the restaurants were hopping. We drove by Shem Creek and briefly thought about going to RB's but the parking lot was ridiculous and there were bodies everywhere. We were out of ideas when we remembered a place we had wanted to try for years, The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene. What a name for a restaurant, right? We found it and figured we were in for a wait but our luck continued and we walked right in to sit down. The sun was setting so I left G to figure out kid menus and slipped out the back door to get some photos of the boats on the creek.
I loved the food, even though we didn't get anything fried. From the smells in the kitchen, fried was the way to go. G wasn't as impressed. But the hot boiled peanuts kept Violet happy. They were so good.
It was a perfect day.
The next morning the rain had returned along with the wind. I realize the wind was pretty much only a factor on the bridge, but since that's where I was, I get to complain about it. When I arrived in the parking area I was greeted by a few hundred US Soldiers training in their gear. They were divided up into groups and were walking with their packs over the bridge. This made passing them difficult but the rain kept the cyclists off the bridge so it worked out. There was a serious runner lady who made me feel really slow. She passed me on the incline and stopped to talk to a friend. Then she passed me again. Then she stopped for a running watch issue and then passed me again. It was like I was sitting still.
After breakfast we drove back across the bridge to walk through the market and see some Charleston things. This is a Gullah New Testament that was pretty cool.
Violet loves horses and she loved seeing these guys up close. We didn't discuss how we felt about the treatment of the horses, we just appreciated their beauty.
The only other part of SEWE that we had never tried was the dog demonstrations at Brittlebank Park. We love us a dog for sure, so we paid the entry fee to see the dock diving dogs and the sheep and duck herding dogs.
It was like a strange K9 version of Sea World. We got splashed a little and enjoyed the acrobatic dogs. There were some crazy hunting vehicles to see and lots of things for sale but for us, that was about it at the park. We saw what was there and moved on in search of food again. We eased back downtown for lunch at The Kickin' Chicken. After being around so many humans for the weekend, by the end of the meal, we were all ready for some alone time. We had somehow not been able to have ice cream all weekend so we stopped at Cookout for milkshakes on the way home. The drive-through lady called me "baby" about 16 times. I wasn't mad.