Charleston, SC 2013: Sweetest Goodbye

The last day of a vacation is almost always bittersweet. You’ve just become acclimated to your temporarily adopted city or country. There are the places you wanted to visited, but didn’t have time or the places that you didn’t know existed, but you wanted to visit. For me, I mostly obsess about the meals not eaten, the museums or shops not visited, or the interesting nooks and crannies not explored.

On this last day of my first trip to Charleston, SC, my mom and I decided to spend the day visiting a new bakery for breakfast, going on a tour we didn’t know about to learn about Gullah culture, going to a new slightly off-the-beaten path lunch spot, and revisiting some shops and our favorite restaurant before catching our plane home.

Our first stop was Brown Court Bakery. When researching this trip, I came across mentions of praise for the scones sold here. Although not located on a main street, this charming bakery on the first floor of a traditional Charleston single house is a must visit. The ambience of this bakery makes you want to purchase a baked good and coffee, and then enjoy them on the porch.

Upon entry, there were so many baked goods that were calling my name, but one stood out because of the ingredients: the cheddar bacon scone. Cheese (the fat girl’s candy), bacon (“nature’s” perfect meat), and buttery flaky bread. When the staff ask you if you want it warmed up, do it! How could I go wrong? I DIDN’T!!! And, you won’t either if you swing by for a treat!

The next stop on my last day in Charleston falls into the category of a thing I didn’t know existed, but wanted to experience.

On one of my mom and I’s many trips through the Charleston City Market, we stopped in a stall that sold framed and unframed art by African American artists. We were obsessed with a John A. Jones piece called, “Female Buffalo Soldier.” As we poured over other pieces of art, we had a lovely conversation with the stall keeper and we asked him about how we could learn more about the geechee/Gullah culture. We had a pamphlet for another tour that would take around the city showing us locations relevant to African American lives in city, but the stall keeper told us the best tour to take was Alphonso Brown‘s Gullah Tour and he gave us contact information to call to confirm that the tour would happen before we departed.

This is how my mom and I wound up on this wonderfully unexpected and engaging tour. The tour takes place on a “25 passenger, air conditioned bus” that shuttles you around the city while Alphonso Brown weaves “true stories [that] focus on the Gullah language, culture, and music.” One of the best parts of this tour is Alphonso’s personable and entertaining way of engaging the people on tour.

As part of the Alponso Brown’s Gullah Tour, we got to visit Philip Simmons Workshop, which is still located in its original location behind his house on Blake Street.

Philip Simmons was a beloved master blacksmith whose works can be seen all around Charleston and the surrounding low country. He began his career as a blacksmith apprentice at the tender age of 13 under the tutelage of Peter Simmons (no relation), a former slave who ran a smithy in Charleston. After a five-year apprenticeship, Philip became a full blacksmith and in 1938, he opened his own blacksmith shop.

Philip’s first commissioned piece was created in the early 1940s for a businessman. In 1982 Philip Simmons was honored by the National Endowment for the ArtsNational Heritage Fellowship. During this event, Philip remarked, “My instrument is an anvil. I guess some of you have heard me play … a tune on the anvil, the old blacksmith tune. … I’m proud of that anvil, really proud. … That anvil fed me when I was hungry and that anvil clothed me when I was naked. That anvil put shoes on my feet.” Over the span of his 70 year career, he would go on to create well over 500 pieces.

Walking through Philip Simmons’ Workshop and learning about him was seeing history with my own eyes. I wish I knew about him while he was still alive. This was my favorite part of my last day in Charleston.

The next stop on our last day in Charleston was Ted’s Butcherblock. Upon entering Ted’s, the first thing I noticed was the charm of this artisanal grocery store/deli. When visiting, you could order an charcuterie platter for an event or a picnic basket that you could take to the beach for a day of fun in the sun. Or you could order a meal and enjoy it at one of the tables.

In this case, we stopped here for lunch and ordered from the “deli” counter. I had one of my favorite brands of ginger ale and a Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado sandwich on ciabatta with cold style Mac-n-cheese. This was the first time I ever ordered mac-n-cheese and it came out cold like macaroni salad. This entire meal was delightful adventure.

After a hearty lunch, what better way to spend a beautifully sunny afternoon in Charleston, then revisiting the Ravenel/Joe Riley Waterfront Park for a relaxing stroll and a sway on one of the public swing benches.

After a brief interlude in the park, we walk along East Bay Street to stop in Bakehouse Bakery so that I could pick up a treat to take with me on our evening flight home.

As you can see from the photograph of my lemon poppy scone, I totally had to try it right after purchasing it. YUM!

After that pit stop, my mom and I spent the early evening revisiting the shops on/near Meeting Street and on King Street.

We always spend our last day going back to shops that we really enjoyed to potentially pick up a last minute trinket or two in remembrance of our great vacation that is coming to a close.

As the sun sets on our time in Charleston, we built in time to revisit your favorite restaurant for the sweetest goodbye send off.

This second trip to Cru Café book-ended our trip, as this was our first and last meal in Charleston. Since I am a huge fan of General Tso’s Chicken, I was compelled to try the General Tso’s Cesar Wrap, while my mom ordered the Shrimp BLT with pepper jack mayo. WHOLY MOLY!!! Hands down, one of THE BEST MEALS I ATE in Charleston. Cru Café has been added to my tome of restaurants that I would dine at every time I visit Charleston, SC.

The flight home is always the most poignant moment of a trip. It is the last refuge before real life comes crashing back in.

This is why as the plane flies over the friendly skies, I loving gaze out the window dreaming of the places I been and fantasizing about future journeys.

Below is an itinerary and map of the locations mentioned in this blog post.

Sites visited (with current addresses):
Alphonso Brown Gullah Tours
The tours leave from the Bus Shed at the Charleston Visitor’s Center at 375 Meeting Street.
If booking tour within 24 hours, call for reservation.
(843) 763-7551

Battery and White Point Gardens
King Street, South Battery Street, East Battery, and Murray Blvd
Charleston, SC

Philip Simmons Museum House
30 ½ Blake Street
Charleston, SC 29403
(843) 571-6435

King Street Shopping
Between Broad and Spring Streets
Waterfront Park
Cumberland St. to Tradd St

Ravenel Waterfront Park
Cumberland St. to Tradd St
Restaurant visited:
Bakehouse Bakery Café
160 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 577-2180

Brown’s Court Bakery
199 Saint Philip Street
Charleston, SC 29403

Cru Café
18 Pickney Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 534-2434

Ted’s Butcherblock 
334 East Bay Street
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 577-0094

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