Tag Archives: Charleston

Wildcard Wednesday: 4th of July

Charleston beach.jpg

This year I decided to take students to the UK during my family’s regularly scheduled trip to the beach. Since the only reason we go to the beach is because my in-laws orchestrate a big family get together there, my heart was definitely more set on the UK trip. Plus, we stay at a beach house my SiL owns, so I knew my husband’s family would be able to be a bit more flexible with the beach week. And if not, it would save me two 12 hour drives to Isle of Palms and a week in the same house with 14 other people, most of whom are only related to be me by marriage.

True to form, as soon as my MiL knew the dates I’d be going to the UK, she arranged for our beach week to be moved. It’s not the first year we’ve had to mix it up, although the other time was also to accommodate a student trip to the UK three years ago. Luckily my trip coincided with my in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary, so they were happy to move things around so we could have a big family party to celebrate this milestone. That trip was scheduled for the end of June and we just missed being at the beach on the 4th of July.

Wild Dunes is a surprisingly popular destination for the 4th of July. Since my in-laws knew two years in advance when my trip would be, it was no problem for my SiL to make sure her beach house was not rented out for the holiday week. So this year we celebrated America’s independence without any sparklers or bottle rockets as setting off fireworks is illegal on the Isle of Palms. For some reason we also didn’t have the traditional cook-out, even though there was a grill at the beach house. We had my FiL’s homemade spaghetti sauce (which I regret to say I am the only who is not a fan of it–too much meat and not enough spice), pasta, garlic bread and salad. It was a perfectly fine meal, if a little strange.

My family did celebrate our independence a bit by going out to a really awesome breakfast at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. I cannot give them high enough praise. Truly awesome experience. Delicious food, good service, plus we got to eat on the covered patio, which was really nice. I’d been there once before with friends, but I got to introduce my husband and kids to it and they loved it. Especially my son who, despite ordering from the kid’s menu, had way more food than any of us. He was in breakfast heaven.

We spent our day walking the beach and hanging out in the nearby pool, which the kids loved. Both were insanely crowded though. We usually go to the beach over Father’s Day week and even though mid-June is way cooler than July, the beach and pool are never as packed. We actually had someone plop down in front of us on the beach (complete with three beach umbrellas and chairs), partially obscuring our view of the beach, which has never happened before. There were just a lot of people.

Although we had to buck some of our usual 4th of July traditions, we did get to see some pretty cool fireworks, even though they were a little far away. A little after 9 we headed up to the top balcony of the beach house and waited for the city display to start. It was a little slow at first and the fireworks didn’t look very impressive, mostly because they were rather far away, but as the minutes ticked by, the spectacle picked up. The finale, which didn’t happen until about 9:45 was one of the most impressive I’ve seen in awhile. It was gorgeous. My son loved the fact that several of the fireworks formed hearts. My daughter was so tired after a day at the beach and the pool that she completely slept through them!

The only real downside to the day was that the “entertainment” that happens at the Boardwalk Inn next door didn’t stop playing at 10 as usual. Every night during the summer there is a live band next door in the pavilion between two of the pools. The bands begin playing around 7 and have to be done by 10. Since they are outdoor and our beach house is right next to the pavilion, we can hear every single note played. One night, my son was in the bathtub and he yelled out, “Mom, they’re playing ‘Sweet Caroline!'” Then he started singing along. That’s how loud it is every night of our vacation. My husband and I have to listen to mediocre cover bands cover mostly the same songs for at least an hour every night. Even with the TV on watching Netflix, we can still hear the music.

On the 4th of July I was excited to watch an episode of Preacher and figured that the band was going to finish their set with a song or two with their remaining 10 minutes. Nope! Because it was the 4th they played until 11. We still watched Preacher, but had to rewind a few times because the choruses of “Born in the USA” and about half a dozen CCR songs were so loud. It was annoying, but I was glad they didn’t go completely cliche and play “Proud to be an American,” which every other band had played at some point leading up to the 4th.

It was definitely an interesting holiday. I’m glad we went, but I think I’ll be happy to go back to mid-June next year.

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Throwback Thursday: Ghost tours

full graveyardI am a sucker for a ghost tour. Not because I believe I’m going to see any ghosts on the tour, but rather because I like exploring new cities after dark and hearing all the sordid tales that live below ground and don’t get told during the nice orderly guided tours through museums and official buildings. I like hearing the hidden history of places almost as much as I like the fact that ghost tours are almost always walking tours that let me explore parts of the city I might otherwise have glanced over or missed entirely.

I was introduced to my first ghost tour when I took a group of high school students to London. As part of a lovely tradition called May Term, students finished their finals in mid-May and spent the last two weeks of the year taking mini-seminar courses over topics ranging from the films of Alfred Hitchcock to orienteering to Asian literature. These courses, which ranged from 2-6 hours a day, gave students a chance for intensive study, often in a very hands-on way. During my 6 years at that wonderful school, I got to lead two May Term courses on trips to England.

It was during the second trip (which my best friend got to go on with me) that we all decided to take both a Jack the Ripper tour and a Haunted London tour. Both tours took place just as twilight was setting in. Even though we saw no ghosts (not that I thought we would), as we moved through crooked cobblestone streets and dark alleyways, I found myself giving into the “spook” and having a great time. There may not have been any jump scares, but picturing myself in Victorian England with the Ripper on the loose was fun. Our guides were very entertaining and could really spin a good yarn.

A few years later, I got another taste of ghost tours when I lived in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. I lived on historic St. George street, right next to the St. Francis Inn, which is one of the oldest inns in the country. St. George street is a mess of  brick road that is always filled with either tourists or horse drawn carriages. I can count the number of times I was able to turn onto the street and make it all the way to my apartment without getting stuck behind a carriage on one hand.

Although the carriages drove me absolutely bonkers, living in the heart of such a historic city, especially one with so many fun tourist attractions did guarantee there was always something to do, especially during the summer. While I never went on an official ghost tour while I lived there, many nights as my husband and I were walking back to our apartment after getting some ice cream at Kilwin’s or having dinner at The Columbia Restaurant, we would find ourselves walking behind one of the many ghost tours that haunted our street. It was impossible not to get caught up in some of the tales.

While leading students on another trip, this time to Scotland in 2015, our guide offered us a chance to go on a haunted catacomb tour. The stories weren’t really that creepy, but being down in the catacombs had its eerie moments. Especially while our local guide was telling us the story of a young boy who had perished in the tiny room we were all scrunched into (it was lit by a single candle). It wasn’t the story that made me jump and scream. It was the ginormous football player I’d brought on the trip who had snuck up behind me and grabbed my leg during the story that had me wanting out of that room.

All in all, my experience with ghost tours, while not even remotely spiritual, have been pretty darn fun.

small graveSo, when 9 of my dearest, if not geographically nearest, friends and I got together for a vacation in Charleston, SC a week ago and they asked what there was to do in the area (I’m the “expert” as I visit Charleston every year), one of my first thoughts was ghost tour. Since everyone was pretty keen on the idea, another friend found a tour company, bought tickets and we were on our way.

Unfortunately, since several people also wanted to visit a gastro pub and spend the night on the town, she booked us on the 6 pm tour. Even in September, 6 pm is not only well before the witching hour, but also well before it even gets dark. Unbeknownst to her, it was also the family friendly version of the tour. Our haunted look at Charleston, which our guide kept reminding us didn’t necessitate going into actual graveyards since the entire city is basically built on top of a graveyard, was not exactly spookified.

Even though the tour wasn’t even remotely scary, our guide was charming and had some great historical information to give. Unfortunately for him, he had a group of English majors, one of whom has her PhD in Victorian literature, so his story claiming that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Annabelle Lee based on his romance with a young Charleston girl (who supposedly still haunts the house they courted at), did not fly. And since we are such big geeks, we spent quite a bit of time after the tour looking up “facts” he gave us. Turns out a lot of them were sketchy at best.

Still, he did take us into a really cool graveyard at the Circular Congregationalist Church, which is the city’s oldest burial ground. He wasn’t supposed to. Apparently only one tour company has permission to give tours in said graveyard. But we promised to pretend not to know him if anyone questioned us. He told us some great stories in that graveyard and we got to see some super neat old graves, some of them dating back to the late 1690’s. On our way back to the meeting point, he also took us past St. Phillip’s Cemetery where the famous ghost of Sue Howard Hardy was supposedly caught on film mourning over the grave of her son.

While a few of my friends thought the ghost tour was a bust, I had a great time on it. I loved being out, walking the city with my best friends. I may not have been scared and I may not have seen a ghost, but I got to spend time with people I love and that’s all that I really wanted.

 

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