Another Birthday, Another Year Older...
I really enjoy this pattern Tyler and I have been fortunate to fall into-- taking little trips to celebrate birthdays but also to celebrate being with each other. Photography can be one of those jobs that doesn't have an off switch. Holidays? Weekends? There is always something to document and you never really want to tell a client "No," so it can be difficult to convince yourself to take a little time off and get out of town. Thankfully both of our birthdays tend to fall during slower times when everyone else is also out of town on vacation. My birthday during the first week of August has usually fallen during an annual Math conference that Tyler works but with the pandemic an ongoing saga conference work is still reluctant to come back so last year and this year my birthday trip destination has been a surprise!
We Started Out Our Trip Driving South
with the GPS surreptitiously covered. After a brief detour and "decoy" stay at a little beachside motel we ended up in Charleston, South Carolina. I had a feeling we'd always end up there for my birthday. It's a city that has been on our list of quick trips and with its Spanish moss and cobblestones it's charm was a thing I wanted to experience in person. Charleston is hands down the prettiest city I have yet to visit. We quickly fell in love with all of the side streets and spent our time happily biking around, staring, pointing, and admiring all of the old city charm. It was baffling to me why all of the tourists were clogging King Street and Market Street when the side streets were so quiet and perfectly made for leisurely wandering around!
Charleston is a city that doesn't shy away from it's history
What I Like to do
It rained a lot on our trip. Besides that first day at the beach we didn't see the sun until we were back in Virginia. The rain didn't really bother us. I'm kind of an inside kinda gal, so we did all the things I like to do when I visit a city:
- Check out an art museum
- Visit a local market
- Find the cutest coffee shop
- Get a great hotdog
- See all the best gardens
- Try to pet a cat or two
While the market was quickly something we began to avoid, we found lots of great places to eat and when the rain let up some we spent time in the many parks around the city
Me and my trusty backpack! While it isn't the most glamorous accessory, it is super convenient for carrying extra water, an umbrella, and anything else you might need or purchase while out. Plus it's water proof!
The market is one of the oldest in the US but it is also very, very crowded. If you're going to go, go when they open at 9:00 Some booths are still setting up and the tourists aren't there yet.
The Gibbes Art Museum, while small packs a lot into their galleries. A weekday shortly after they open is the perfect time to go. You'll practically have the place to yourself and you'll get to see and experience a little Carolina history as well.
Where to Eat!
Haven I mentioned the food??? Finding the great restraunts, bars, and hole-in-the-wall lunch spots is an activity in itself for me when I'm out discovering a new city. To me, its like a treasure hunt and there are definitely a few gems in Charleston.
First and foremost -- breakfast! Callie's Hot Little Biscuit is a famous spot with several locations but get a biscuit from here and you quickly understand why this place is becoming such a southern icon. Be sure to get there early or be prepared to wait in line. If it's your birthday definitely make a stop to scoop up a delicious birthday biscuit!
It has always been tough for me to find a good place for lunch. I just want a salad or a wrap. I'm not a sit-down lunch type. I'm a let's grab something, take it to the park type. Brown Dog Deli is both of those kind of places. You can sit down inside or on the back patio if you want to order from a waitress or you can call in your order ahead and then zip down the street to the Pineapple Fountain. Which is exactly what we did. The food was so tasty and we didn't have to wait too long for it to be ready. I got the hotdog with pimento cheese and mustard. I wanted the experience of eating that hotdog to go on and on and on.
Now, all you Northerners may quibble about the use of "deli" It is not THAT kind of deli with a counter and lunchmeat and sandwiches. It's the South's version of a deli meaning: quick, simple food that you'd have at a cookout or picnic.
Coffee is another must find place in any city I visit. I don't just want Starbucks but I want to find that little place that makes a good brew where I can sit and enjoy the space and plan out my day. Harken is one of the cutest coffee shops. Every detail is curated and perfected. From the hand made mugs and plates to the brass utensils and the perfect coffee shop soundtrack quietly playing in the background. There are plants and screen doors and everything looks cozy, lived in, and expertly eclectic. Located on a quiet side street, seek this place out and you won't be sorry. Outside seating is limited but with the tourists mainly sticking to other streets you shouldn't have trouble finding a spot here
With so many places to eat it can sometimes be difficult to sift through all of the options. What is great? What is just a tourist trap? I had a bit of help from social media when looking for a place for Birthday Dinner. I also had some help from Top Chef. I LOVE Top Chef. I've seen every episode and I've watched a few seasons more than once. So when FIG was recommended and it popped up on Top Chef and we could snag a reservation, I was in! I was truly surprised at how many restraunts were booked solid for weeks out. As it stood we still only managed to snag the last reservation for the night at FIG. A 10:00 PM dinner is not something I do ...ever but I was willing to wait for some promising good food and I'm so glad I did!
Co-owned by James Beard Award winning chef, Mike Lata, FIG is a simple yet upscale place with clean food that is all about respecting the local ingredients. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable. Even with our late reservation we didn't feel rushed or forgotten about which is always a risk when you're the ones closing down the place. What really sold me was the dessert. I love sweets. If I had to rank my favorite desserts it would go something like: 3. Ice-cream 2. Cake 1. (chocolate) PUDDING I don't know if its just my inner child speaking out or if its the rich texture but yeah, pudding is my favorite. This dessert wasn't some sophisticated panna cotta. This was an elaborate and decadent chocolate pudding with delicious crispy things on top and luscious salty caramel below. I will be dreaming about this dessert for a while...
Are you ever out and about and find yourself tired, "hungry" but not like HUNGRY? You need a pick me up and a snack but its a little close to dinner time? If you find yourself in that situation head over to Carmella's They're a dessert bar. Take that literally. They're here for all things coffee, all things dessert, and you can even get a glass of wine if you want. They're open from 11:00 AM to 12:00 AM and those are my kind of hours. If I lived in Charleston this would be my place. You can sit outside in the cafe chairs, people watch for hours, and transition from coffee to cocktails without switching venues. Bonus: the desserts here are not stodgy items behind a glass case of dubious age. They're fresh, delicious sweets that someone took time and care to make.
I am not a travle blogger by any means. I'm just a photographer who likes to wander around new cities, take lots of pictures, and find places with good food. If you're planning a trip to Charleston these are the places I'd recommend. Take a look below to see a few more pictures from our time in Charleston. Maybe they'll inspire you on your next trip out of town.
Click here to see where I went last year for my birthday!