Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Imagined Ghosts, Godzillas and Gluttony

Charleston, day two, dawned just as hot and muggy as the first night ended. And it was cloudy to boot. A sky that was white and heavy before nine A.M. didn’t bode well for the rest of the day. But that didn’t stop Dutchboy and I from forging on with our plans for the day. Plantation day! A day to head out to the Ashley River and visit a true Southern Plantation. Many of the old plantations have been torn down and rebuilt, being “restored” to their former, imagined splendor. But I didn’t want that. I wanted the real thing. I wanted old, I wanted history, I wanted the ghosts of the past to be present. And I think we found that at Drayton Hall.

Here’s the lowdown on Drayton, from their site: “When the National Trust purchased Drayton Hall from the Drayton family in 1974, they purchased a house that had survived the better part of three centuries, the only plantation on the Ashley River to survive intact to present-day. But survival alone isn't what makes Drayton Hall unique. Even more remarkable is the fact that Drayton Hall survived without ever having been substantially altered — in near-original condition. In fact, even electricity, plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning were never added. Rather than restoring the house to reflect a single period of grandeur, the National Trust made the bold decision to preserve the site as it was received from the Draytons in 1974 in order to provide a time line showing change and continuity through three centuries of American history.”

It is the tour guides that bring this plantation to life. They escort you through the property, each room is a story of the family, a re-creation of a life and a time that has passed. Yes, it is partially a slave story, and that is shared, too, through remembrances of Richmond Bowens, born of a slave family, who chose to stay on as share croppers after they were freed. He loved this land so much, he returned in his later years to help recreate the story of Drayton Hall and share his memories. He and his ancestors are buried on the property, in a cemetery that was started by the slaves and was kept up by the sharecroppers and the family. You can and you should visit this hallowed place. It was an surreal experience that I don't have words for, even those months later. Burials of descendents is still allowed.

The Drayton family still gathers here annually at Thanksgiving. Inside the house, you will find a growth chart etched on a wall, where the family members are still allowed to record the growth of their children. It is an intensely personal place, beautiful and graceful, existing outside of time.

There are various trails you can walk during your visit to Drayton. There’s a walk that follows the Ashley River, as well as a Swamp boardwalk. Thankfully, I have my own crocodile Dundee along on the trip.
Because God-freakin’-zilla showed up in the swamp!!!

SURE! You scoff. He looks tiny and harmless. All lizards look that way. Then they turn on you and BAM!!! Tokoyo is swept off the map. Who’s laughin’ then??? Dutchboy, not heeding my warning, kept provoking it, trying to get a great photo. I shouted advice from a safe distance, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. And finally, finally, I was proven right. Godzilla was angry. IMG_3734

SEE????? I told you so. Angry lizard. Dutchboy, proving his bravery, stood his ground for one photo before retreating. (Retreating is typical Dutch, btw. Retreating is usually followed by coffee and cake, but not this time.)

We did retreat back to our hotel to prepare for dinner. Which was going to be a special treat at a highly recommended restaurant—SNOB! AKA Slightly North of Broad. Oh, oh, my what a treat it was. It all started with a lovely berry sangria and the usual bread, a fantastic cornbread, and butter.


After that, the appetizer of choice, the cheese platter. If this was placed before me at anytime, I would be the happiest person on the planet. Let's just say one bite and I was ECSTATIC. A lovely French blue cheese, Thomasville Tomme from Sweet Grass Farms in Georgia, and a locally sourced Goat Cheese from Split Creek Farms.
How could they ever top the deliciousness of that blue cheese and fresh berries? Or the goat cheese with dried fruit? Or the creamy Tomme and the nuts?? I don’t know how, but they did.
Following the advice of our helpful waitress, I opted for the specialty of the house: BBQ tuna. A perfectly seared tuna steak topped with delicately fried oysters, green onions, country ham butter (OMG this was a Southerner's idea of NIRVANA), and a mustard BBQ sauce. It was. SIMPLY. DIVINE.
Even Dutchboy’s normally boring and unchallenging choices, fresh strawberry salad and gazpacho, tasted as magnificent as they looked! In the case of the gazpacho, it was better than it looked-- much to the infinity power better!

How could I hold anymore food??! I felt like a bloated Roman Emperor, or Mr Creosote-- "Just one little mint, Monsieur. It is so thin..." I don’t know how, but I managed. A luscious bread pudding. But now for the truly distressing part of this tale: I forgot to take a picture of dessert. I was so giddy with good food and two glasses of wine that I fell upon that bowl of sweetness with a gusto that is reserved for men who are stranded on an island without food for a week. But I did remember to take a picture of the damage.

Not bad, huh??

After all that food, we needed to move or die in at the scene of my over-self-indulgence. So we waddled off into the sunset, to the pier and down Rainbow Row to watch the sunset set, and the city come alight.

It was the night of the “super moon”—a fitting end to a super day.
Moon over Charleston As always, the entire set is available on my Flickr Account.

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