I’m obsessed. We went around 10:30 on a Thursday. It was pretty busy, but the barista was still super helpful. I had an iced key lime caramel latte, because I’m a sucker for interesting flavor combinations. I’d recommend it, although I would have preferred a stronger key lime flavor. I also tried a vegan apple spice doughnut.
Amethyst Coffee Co
Seriously. I want to spend every day here.
The vibes were so good, the wifi was so strong, and the playlist was so dope (Manchester Orchestra anyone?) that I ended up coming back later in the afternoon to charge my phone, enjoy a cortado, and plan out the rest of my day.
So many perfect plants.
I asked the two baristas how to get to the art museum and they gave me detailed instructions. (It involves walking to the corner, turning right, and walking one block until you see odd-shaped buildings.)
I’m a sucker for an art museum with cool architecture. If the museum itself isn’t art, I find it hard to trust that it will hold decent art.
The cost is $13 for adults, with an additional $5 to see the special exhibit. I figured future chances of seeing an exhibit on Western films and the art that inspires and is inspired by westerns were slim, so I sprung for a ticket to the special exhibit, The Western: An Epic in Art and Film.
Entrance to “The Western” exhibit
The Clint Eastwood area was one of my favorite parts of the exhibit.
I enjoyed the film clips spread throughout the paintings and other art. I am partial to art exhibits set up in interesting ways – not necessarily by medium or by time period, but rather, by how the pieces influenced each other (The Barnes Foundation in Philly is a great example of this). Pioneer painters and indigenous artists inspired western film directors, and those westerns in turn influenced later artists.
Here are a few of my favorite paintings in the special exhibit:
The rest of the museum is beautiful. Each floor is a different time period/culture/movement. I confess to moving through the Spanish Colonial, Asian, and American Indian wings pretty quickly.
The European & American collection had a few really pretty Monets and other Impressionist paintings. (I’m a sucker for the French Impressionists, especially Cezanne.)
Here are two of my favorite paintings in this collection:
Another collection I enjoyed was the Modern and Contemporary Art collection.
This is textiles, not lazer beams. I stared for a long time.
All in all, I’d recommend the Denver Museum of Art. I really liked the Modern and Contemporary section, and the museum itself was fun to explore.
Bonus: this is one of the best museums I’ve ever seen for children. Every collection had fun areas for kids, including puppet shows, art projects, family patios, and rooms full of toys. I haven’t seen anything like it in any other art museum I’ve been to.
Pro tip: There are lockers at the museum, so if you’re roaming around all day with a suitcase in tow (like I was), you can leave it there – just be back before the museum closes!
WOAH SO COOL: If you visit the museum from Tuesday-Thursday during the summer months, be sure to check out the food truck festival in the nearby Civic Center Park. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a large array of food trucks.
After stumbling around in a daze for awhile, unable to decide what I wanted to try, I settled on Venezuelan food and a popsicle, and was not disappointed in the least.
Arepa is the BEST. Seriously. Like a taco but… dare I say it? … better.
Nothing like an herb and flower popsicle
Have you been to this museum or any other art museums in Denver? Where should I go next time?
If you read my fairly comprehensive blog post on my St. Croix trip, you’ve already met the friendly bartender, Jameson, who gave us some great recommendations. One of the places he told us to check out was an abandoned resort called the Clover… something. Clover Crest? Cloverfield? I don’t remember, and I could find no mention of it online, which led us to assume the resort was probably abandoned before the internet became prevalent… I’m guessing the 70s.
“Yeah,” Jameson said. “It’s this old resort with a clover shaped pool out front. I’ve been up there a bunch of times. There’s an epic view from the roof; I’ve watched meteor showers and done all kinds of things from there.”
Ok Jameson, I don’t doubt that.
Really, I don’t.
I just wish you were a little better at giving directions.
“Drive past Estate Mount Washington Plantation until the road splits into a Y, then go left until you see two boulders. At that point, leave your Jeep and walk down the path until you reach the resort.”
To be honest, the directions sounded pretty idiot-proof, so our last morning on the island rolled around, and we headed out to find the resort. We were also hoping to find some large stone Roman style bathtubs that monks had carved down by the sea in the 1600s. A group of American expats told me about the monk baths when I was walking along the beach one day, and they were supposedly in the same area of the island as the deserted resort. (Jameson told us these people were friends of his, so I should’ve known their directions would also suck.)
We drove down the main road through Frederiksted and continued along the shore. When we reached the gravel road that led to Estate Mount Washington, we turned down it, and tried to follow Jameson’s directions. However, we were met by gates, no trespassing signs, steep hills to private homes, and security cameras. There were no boulders in sight.
After talking for awhile, with a few of us pushing to drive past the no trespassing signs and a few wanting to be cautious, we decided to play it safe and go search for the monk baths. These proved to be no easier to find. I had been told to drive down the road, past Estate Mount Washington, until I saw a chain-link fence and barbed wire in front of a Manor on the right. The monk baths would be down a little path to the left of the road.
We stopped a few times and walked down paths to the ocean, and we even thought we found them. I hopped into the water at one point, avoiding sea urchin-covered rocks, thinking I was in a little alcove carved by monks. (At some point during the Monk Bath search, Katey called the resort where we’d met Jameson, to ask him for better directions to the abandoned resort. Neither Katey nor I had quite given up on finding it, and we were getting desperate. Alas, he was not working, and could not be reached, and/or he doesn’t come to the phone when random American girls call.)
The water was nice and warm, even if it wasn’t actually the monk baths.
Finally, we said “Maybe we found the monk baths,” gave up, and headed back toward Frederiksted. Some of us jumped off the pier, which gave us the little rush we were hoping to get from exploring a spooky, abandoned resort. Then we headed on to the beach at Sandy Point, which is exactly how I imagine Caribbean beaches.
Soon, Katey and I decided to go back into town to find lunch. After enjoying raspberry mojitos, Red Stripes, ceviche, and crab cakes at Rhythm’s, Katey turned to me. “Wanna go look for the monk baths again?” she asked with a sly smile.
Katey and I were the two from the group who had been pushing to find the resort and monk baths earlier in the day, so maybe it was fate that brought us back into the town for lunch. Or maybe we were just the hungriest. Or maybe we both subconsciously knew, when we drove into town, that it wouldn’t be our only destination.
Soon we were headed back down the bumpy, pot-hole filled road, hoping we were going in the right direction. This time, we went further. The road turned to dirt, getting bumpier and emptier. We drove and drove, finally coming to a Y in the road.
“Wait a second… was that a Y?” Katey asked.
“It can’t be!” I said. “This isn’t the right road.”
Before I even finished speaking, we rounded a corner and were confronted with *wait for it* two boulders.
We both lost it. A fork in the road… two boulders… this sounded strangely familiar.
We had found what we’d given up looking for!
We parked the Jeep and rushed along the path through the boulders. Pushing our way through hanging vines and some unfortunate burn hazel-like plants that had both our legs burning and itching, we followed the path out into a clearing.
There were the buildings.
There was the clover-shaped pool!
We rushed around, as excited as two 5-year-olds on Christmas morning. The place was also spooky, and we were a little freaked out a time or two, especially when we saw unhinged jail doors at the end of long hallways, and as we took the path up behind the buildings to climb out onto the roof.
The rooms lie empty. The countless memories and events they once held are now forgotten.
I’d love to know the history of the resort, or even the full name. Who owned it? What kinds of people stayed there? Worked there? Were there honeymoons and weddings and bachelorette weekends held between these walls? When they built the clover-shaped pool, did they imagine it would one day be filled with muck, trees, and algae?
Perhaps a hurricane came along and did irreparable damage to the resort, or maybe it was just too far out in the wilderness for the leisure traveler.
It’s spine-tingling to see the bones, but only have the ability to guess at the life the bones once held.
View from the roof: the pool, and beyond it – the deep blue Caribbean Sea
The view from the roof was worth the creepiness.
Before we left, Katey bravely ventured into one of the out-buildings. I was on the porch outside, peering down into a random hole that seemed to lead to a dark abyss. (If it was a horror movie, I would’ve fallen into the hole and hurt my ankle, then, one of the jail doors would have clanged shut, trapping Katey. I would have tried to hobble to the Jeep to get help, but when I’d arrive, the tires would have been slashed. Lucky for us, life isn’t a horror movie.)
Suddenly, as Katey was exploring the interior, she started screaming. I peeked in the window to see her running for shelter. She had disturbed a nest of birds or bats (her worst fear), and they weren’t happy about it. We left without further ado, and went a little further down the road in search of the monk baths before giving up and going back to the others.
That evening, we came back with Lindsay and Jess. After we reached the Y and turned left, we saw something on the side of the road. Something big. Something gross. Something that could probably squish a grown woman to death. Something that supposedly did not live on this island.
A massive boa constrictor!!!!!!! (Or similar snake. I think it looks like a boa constrictor but I’m not a Herpetologist.)
I googled it. St. Croix (supposedly) only has two kinds of snakes, and they’re both tiny and harmless.
This? Less so.
Luckily, he was dead. We told ourselves perhaps it was someone’s escaped pet, but what are the chances we would find the one escaped enormous snake on the island? We moved onward into the jungle, a little more cautious and nervous than before.
Without a doubt, the resort was creepier this time, as the light of day was beginning to wane. (Also, the snake was fresh on our minds as we ventured onward.)
You can see a little of the clover-shaped pool to our right.
The roof was covered in residue of what may have once been shingles, and was overgrown with plants, too.
There were plenty of beer cans strewn about, and graffiti and zombie apocalypse warnings covered the walls. We were clearly not the first people to discover the abandoned resort.
On our way out to the resort for the second time, I’d noticed a tree with an orange “M” and an arrow. “Could that be pointing to the monk baths?” I wondered.
As we drove back to town, I kept a lookout for the M, and when I finally saw it again, we stopped, climbed down onto the beach, and finally saw long rectangular baths carved into the stone, complete with steps leading down into them. There were also some other ruins and what we’re fairly sure was an ocean toilet.
Finally, as the sun sunk down beneath the waves, we found everything we set out to find that morning.
We went to bed on our last night in St. Croix feeling content that we had seen as much of the island as we could. We explored, we jumped off piers, we swam, we hiked, we kayaked, we found some wildlife, we danced to Despacito in the Jeep, and we truly lived.
The text came in March, when I was just finishing up a mission trip to Hawaii, and already feeling sad about leaving that island life. On one of the last days in Hawaii, one of the girls in my small group messaged me:
“Wanna go to St. Croix in May?”
Me, being me, responded quickly with something along the lines of “Lol, probably.”
A few weeks later, it was settled. We bought our tickets and headed to the Caribbean!
“Where/what is St. Croix?” you may ask.
Well, you came to the right place. First, some quick St. Croix facts since I know you’re dying to know some background.
-St. Croix is the largest island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can see the Virgin Islands hanging out down there to the right of Puerto Rico.
-Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix during his second voyage to the New World, in 1493. (I got to kayak through the bay where he landed! At nighttime. It was as scary as it sounds, but I also felt like an Indian princess, so… worth it.)
-The island was originally settled by the Dutch. The U.S. purchased the islands of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas for $25 million in 1917, but even now, some signs, menus, etc. are still printed in Dutch.
-The ten dollar founding father, Alexander Hamilton, lived in St. Croix from 1765-1772 (age 8-15). He was born on the Isle of Nevis, and, thanks to some wealthy benefactors who saw his skill and intelligence, left the Caribbean to attend college on the North American mainland.
-St. Croix produces much of the rum consumed in the United States. All Captain Morgan and Cruzan rum is produced on the island.
-There are two big towns/small cities/districts on St. Croix. Frederiksted (the shadier one with a red fort) and Christiansted (the more upscale one with a yellow fort).
First Impressions of the Island
It was hot. And our ride for the week was RAD.
St. Croix is beautiful. Soft sand leads to the bluest water, and there are sections of dense jungle, too. The sun shone every day, but it was often partly cloudy as well, which made for some really nice beach days.
I’d been to the Caribbean twice before, so I had some frame of reference as far as what to expect. It reminded me more of Grenada than Jamaica. It’s smaller than Jamaica, and not as much of a tourist destination.
We stayed in a house near the YWAM base, that they have specifically for vacationers. We got connected with them thanks to my friend Katey (three of my traveling companions had stayed with them last year). As a friendly bartender named Jameson told us, “It’s good to have friends in St. Croix.” Couldn’t agree more, Jameson.
Vanessa, who helped us get settled into the house, told us there’d been some strange things happening on the island, and recently a girl was rear-ended at night, and “taken” (dun dun DUHHHHHH). Sooooo… she recommended that we try to get back to the house each night by 8. I think we got back to the house by 9 that night, and more or less ignored the warning for the rest of the trip. Oops. Sorry Vanessa. And our moms.
We arrived in the afternoon, so we pulled on our swimsuits, slathered on the sunscreen, and headed straight to the beach. Rainbow Beach is near Frederiksted, and on our way there, we passed a little beach restaurant called Rhythms, where we were hoping to eat.
As we headed to the beach, we passed basically two-three miles of partying, from Frederiksted on down past Rhythms and Rainbow Beach. Men in St. Croix seem to think it’s fun to lean against their cars on the side of the road, drink, smoke, and collectively stare at women as they pass. So that was fun. We got a creepy vibe, so we headed down the beach past the party, and found a much less empty stretch of sand to spread our towels. (Later that week, Jameson, the helpful bartender, told us Sunday afternoons at Rainbow Beach are “a little wild.” Lol, trust me, we know, Jameson, my friend.)
That afternoon was honestly the only time all week that I felt uncomfortable/unsafe. Besides the groups of smoking, drinking, staring men on the side of the road, the people in St. Croix were friendly and helpful. One day, the Jeep got stuck in some sand (note to self: don’t park in deep sand), and the very first vehicle to pass by came back and pulled us out. And everyone had recommendations of out-of-the-way things for us to do and see.
Rather than giving you a day-by-day play-by-play of the trip, I’ll just tell you about some of my favorite things.
Hidden Tide Pool Hike
We heard tell of an “easy” hike to some tide pools in the jungle behind Carambola. So on Tuesday morning we headed out. It only took us about an hour to reach the tide pools, but it was a more difficult hike than we expected. On the way, we saw some interesting birds, hermit crabs, and most important of all, VIEWS.
The tide pools were beautiful and warm, and getting to them proved to be a bit treacherous. But we ignored the “stay off rocks” signs, and made it out. Of course I was too busy swimming in them and playing with the black sand to take any actual pictures of the pools themselves… So here’s a few taken by my friends.
We spent an hour in the tide pools, and then hiked back through the jungle to Carambola, where we lay on beach chairs for the rest of the day!
Wednesday night, we went to Salt River Bay (the place Christopher Columbus landed in St. Croix) to join up with a see-through kayak tour of a bioluminescent bay. We kayaked out of Salt River Bay and through open ocean, past the masts from a shipwreck (!!!!) to arrive at the bioluminescent bay. We were led by our fearless guides, Michelle and Michelle (for real).
I can’t explain to you how awesome the bio bay was. Nor can I go into detail about what exactly causes the bioluminescence (bacteria that glows, or something like that). Nor can I show you photos of the night, since we were not allowed to take our phones or cameras.
But I can tell you I’ll never forget it. I can tell you it was one of the most incredible, most terrifying, most other-worldly experiences I’ve ever had. Imagine looking through the bottom of your kayak to see galaxies streaming by. Imagine hitting the water with your hand or oar, and seeing sparks shoot outward into the water, swirling and whirling around.
It. Is. Magical. Google it. And if you EVER get the chance to kayak in one of the seven bioluminescent bays in the world, DO IT. Do it. Do it.
Kayaking at Tamarind Reef
One day we went to a resort called Tamarind Reef. This is where we met Jameson, who gave us plenty of tips. We saw a bunch of iguanas there. They were big, seemed to enjoy lying in the sun as much as I do, and moved surprisingly fast.
My friends ended up leaving, so I had most of the day to myself. My introverted side flourishes in these moments, and I planned to just lay on a beach chair reading until they returned. But free afternoons rarely go as planned, and I ended up adding a little adventure to my day.
I ended up taking a kayak out to an uninhabited island about a mile away. While there, I ran into a friendly Asian couple who had swam out (WOAH). They had snorkel gear, and told me they’d seen sea turtles. They let me borrow a snorkel mask and pointed me to the place they’d seen the two turtles. I came within about 4 or 5 feet of them! It was awesome.
I hiked around the island a bit, despite a sign that warned NOT to leave the beach because it was a wildlife preserve. I ended up getting stung by a bunch of tiny ants (apparently that’s the wildlife they’re preserving). I still have the bites on my hand a week later; if I die suddenly, those ants could be the cause.
Thanks to the sweet Asian couple who took this picture, shared their water with me, and lent me their snorkeling gear. Yay humanity!!
ALMOST back to safety, I felt safe enough to get my phone out of the waterproof pouch and take a few pictures from the sea.
On the ride back, I felt like there were definitely a few unexplained bumps against the bottom of my kayak, so I rowed faster and faster! The sharks didn’t get me this time (probably because they were in my imagination), but it might be awhile until I go ocean kayaking again.
I spent the rest of the afternoon snorkeling and lying on the beach. That night, the girls came back and we watched crab races in the restaurant. Our crab did not do well. Luckily, we didn’t have much money on him. (I think we were all expecting it to be some kind of intense basement event, possibly illegal, but it was actually very kid-friendly.)
Some Other Fun Things:
We preferred Christiansted to Frederiksted. We spent a little time shopping, walking along the marina, exploring the fort, and EATING.
Roosters and chickens EVERYWHERE.
We didn’t see iguanas until the last two days, and then we saw so many!
When you’re trying to eat conch quesadillas but roosters keep sneaking up on you…
Christiansted National Historic Site (Fort Christiansvaern)
Point Udall – The Easternmost Point in the U.S.
We rose at 4-something one morning to watch the sunrise here. It was a beautiful drive and the views were good on the way back, but unfortunately there wasn’t much of a sunrise. I hiked down toward the water but gave up because my flip-flops couldn’t handle the thorns and steep rocks.
One cool thing about Point Udall? It’s the easternmost point in the U.S. This means I’ve been at the Westernmost point in the U.S. (South Point, where I cliff jumped in Hawaii), and the Easternmost point in the U.S. this year!
Cruzan Rum Distillery
St. Croix’s biggest export? Rum. We toured the oldest distillery on the island, and let’s just say it was the most entertaining tour I’ve been on since… well, ever. Most interesting fact I heard: They transport the rum in tanks marked “ethanol” so they won’t be hijacked on the road!
Ironically, Rhythms, the beach-side joint that looked over-crowded and a little scary the first night, ended up being my favorite restaurant. The food was amazing and it was a nice, relaxed place. I’m glad we gave it a second chance.
Raspberry mojito, Painkiller, Red Stripe. Yum.
Everything in St. Croix runs on island time, so if a restaurant opens 15 or 20 minutes later than it’s supposed to, it’s no big deal (everyting is irie, mon). Cats and roosters happily wondered in and out of restaurants; one outdoor restaurant even had toy guns for customers to scare off territorial roosters.
Christine’s is the cutest little French cafe!
This food was SO GOOD.
What you can’t see here is the cats and chickens that bothered/befriended us all through the meal.
The bathroom at Christine’s. Uh, quaint?
Devouring passionfruit creme brulee.
La Reine Chicken Shack is a popular local place. They only have a certain amount of chicken each day, and when they’re out, they’re out. If you’re ever on the island, be sure to stop here for Johnny cakes, chicken, and rice.
Coffee bar at the end of the world…
Actual bar at the end of the world.
Mount Pellier Domino Club aka The Beer-Drinking Pigs
Out in the middle of the St. Croix jungle, there are some pigs.
“What do these pigs drink?” You may ask.
Beer. They drink beer. It is hilarious and strange and definitely made for tourists.
The hilarious (stereotypical Cruzan) bartender told us it all started years ago when a patron at the bar set his beer on the ground, and a pig named Buddy wondered over, tipped it, and drank. From then on, that man would buy Buddy the Pig a beer every time he came to the bar.
These days, the pigs drink O’Doul’s, because pigs who drink fully alcoholic beer pass out by noon (and, you know, animal rights… PETA… all that jazz).
So uh, I added “Feed a pig a beer” to my bucket list, then checked it off.
Estate Mount Washington Plantation
We found an old plantation on a tip from some locals. It was off the main road, free of tourists, historical, and beautiful.
With each highlight I post, I remember something else we did that I want to write about, so I’ll finish with a few photos, and I’ll be back to tell you about one of my favorite days on the island in a later blog post (monk baths, an abandoned resort, and a spooky, slimy predator are involved).
Moments after jumping off the Frederiksted Pier, we saw turtles in the water, and then, what looked like a potential barracuda
Thanks, friends, for giving me one of the best times I’ve ever had on an island. Or anywhere, for that matter. So much love.
All in all, it was a successful vacation. In a place like the Caribbean, I’d get bored if I was just being lazy on the beach for a whole week. This trip was the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation. If you go, I recommend renting a Jeep. It’s not too expensive, and the roads would be nearly impossible to conquer in a less durable vehicle.
“Keep this place in mind. A better place is hard to find. There is no place like this place anywhere near this place. So this must be the place.” -a wise sign spotted somewhere on the island
You know those vacations that exceed your expectations because you don’t really know what to expect? Charleston was one of those.
It was such a relaxed vacation, which was just what I needed. I’m used to being go, go, go all the time, in my daily life as much as in my travels. Recently I’ve been even busier than normal (although every stage of life seems to have it’s own busy-ness.) Since I’ve been working full time, and also maintaining old and growing new (really great, wouldn’t trade ’em for the world) friendships, it’s been hard for me to find a moment alone.
The other day I told my friends Ruth and Kelsi that I’ve decided to take one night a week JUST for myself, to make no plans, as if that was a big deal. They laughed and told me I should probably take more than one night a week for myself.
I’m learning to say “no” with zero guilt or fomo, but I’m definitely still a work in progress.
ANYWAY. That being said. This weekend was slow paced relaxation with one of my long-term, most-comfortable friends, and it was real good, ya’ll. (Stop pretending to be southern, Carrie. It was 4 days.)
Without further ado, let me tell you about the most charming city and all the things I ate and drank and saw there!
(4 out of 5 stars)
We arrived in the South Carolina city at 10:30 Thursday morning and were immediately charmed. We went straight to brunch at Poogan’s Porch, a farm to table restaurant I read about online. We squealed over the beautiful yellow facade, little garden, and double porches. They seated us on the lower porch, and our waiter was knowledgable and friendly – probably my favorite person we met in Charleston, and a good first introduction to the city.
We shared a carafe of mimosas (literally promised myself mimosas as I tried to prop my eyes open on the all-night drive), and I ordered grits (SO GOOD) and, at the recommendation of our waiter, the French toast with champagne macerated raspberries, whipped mascarpone cheese, and toasted almonds. It was perfect because it wasn’t overwhelmed with an aggressive amount of toppings as French toast often is.
Our brunch was interrupted by a loud truck who stopped in the narrow street next to us to empty the restaurant’s grease. All we could do was laugh as the truck held up traffic and made loud noises for 15 minutes.
After brunch we took a leisurely walk around the shopping district and historic part of the city. We strolled through unique boutiques, and I may have accidentally dropped a few $$ at Kate Spade.
this little path charmed our socks off. Their were houses and mailboxes along it. Imagine this being your street!
The porches slay me.
And the vines.
And the honeysuckle. Charleston smells AMAZING.
If you know me, you know I am not above trespassing in pursuit of an adventure or a pretty picture.
churches and trains, they all look the same to me now
Black Tap Coffee
(3 out of 5 stars)
This shop was a fun little specialty coffee café full of hip college students. They roast their beans nearby and you can find other coffee shops around Charleston selling Black Tap coffee. I can’t remember what my drink was called, but it was basically a mint julep with espresso instead of bourbon. It wasn’t my favorite, but I love trying things I won’t be able to get elsewhere. Ronnie had a lavender vanilla latte which was lovely and not overbearingly sweet or floral.
(5 out of 5 stars)
We loved our little backyard bungalow in the Wagener Terrace neighborhood, near Hampton Park. BJ, the host, lived right next door; he was engaging, and gave us plenty of recommendations. (Among his recommendations was the Thursday night drag show “obviously.” He also told us, “In Charleston, if you’re not drinking, you’re not doing anything.” Needless to say, BJ kept us laughing.) His love of plants was obvious-they were everywhere on his property, He took such care in making sure we had an enjoyable stay. His dog, Kai, shared the patio with us.
Wine and Nicholas Sparks movies often inhabited our chill time.
The Wall Street Journal just published this article on the neighborhood where we stayed, calling it the “hottest neighborhood in Charleston!”
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog Barbecue
(4 out of 5 stars)
This little traditional South Carolina-style barbecue joint was just a few blocks from our bungalow. We feasted there on our first night in Charleston. The whole neighborhood-in fact, much of Charleston-smelled of barbecue. We peaked in a side window in the back and saw a man hard at work in a smokehouse, preparing the meat.
Edward Hopper painting, or just my beautiful friend sitting in a little barbecue joint?
South Carolina style barbecue is spicy and vinegar-y and delicious.
The whole neighborhood smelled like barbecue.
Hampton Park was right down the street from our Airbnb. It was beautiful and sprawling, with a pond, Spanish moss, and birds galore. The neighborhood of Wagener Terrace was a lovely place for a leisure walk. A lovely place to just be.
Walking through Wagener Terrace…
Far be it from me to see a climbable tree and not climb it. Even while wearing a dress.
The Park Café
(4 out of 5 stars)
When I first started planning this vacation (aka Pinteresting), this place caught my attention. When I saw it was two blocks from our bungalow, I knew it was meant to be, so we brunched there Friday morning. The Park Café is airy and full of plants and light. 10/10 would recommend.
I wanted to go here since I first started Pinteresting Charleston.
Not sure if wine or dragons is more enticing tbh
I had the farm egg scramble with vegetable curry, white cheddar, and avocado. The red sauce was spicy and made it a breakfast to remember. (My breath was probably something to remember for the rest of the day as well.)
Plants are everywhere in Charleston.
Iced lattes and chai
The food was aesthetically pleasing as could be.
We decided to head to the beach for the day Friday. Both of us got more sun than we bargained for! Everywhere we went, we were reminded of Nicholas Sparks movies.
Headed out of the city…
Key lime colada on the pier
While walking up the pier, I saw a man catch a shark that was probably about 3 feet long. Shark fishing is illegal, so I watched as he untangled the hook and tossed his catch back into the sea. The day alternated between sun and clouds. We ate at Rita’s Seaside Grill (2 out of 5 stars) before heading back into town. It was nothing special-just a casual spot for seafood or burgers.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
(5 out of 5 stars)
I had Jeni’s once before, in Nashville, and it was the same locally-sourced, clean, creamy goodness and intriguing flavors I remembered. We stood in line for 25 minutes before finally getting to the counter, where I of course sampled about 6 flavors before deciding to get a flight of mini scoops. I chose Osmanthus and Blackberry Crackle (a light peachy floral flavor with a hint of blackberry tartness), Brown Butter Almond Brittle (pure comfort), and Brambleberry Crunch (a classic Jeni’s flavor).
The scooper topped my ice-cream off with a fresh waffle cone wedge (YUM), extra-bitter hot fudge (holy cow), raw honey whipped cream (um, wHAT EVEN), and a few amareno cherries (HOW!!), I basically took two bites and melted into a puddle of happiness.
(3 out of 5 stars)
I love grits. Hominy Grill is known to have some of the best. This brunch of traditional southern comfort food was worth another long wait!
I ordered the famous Charleston Nasty Biscuit which is probably famous for giving people heart attacks on the spot. It’s crispy fried chicken in a biscuit, on a bed of sausage gravy. Of course I also had a side of cheesy grits, because, well, when in the south do as the southerners do. (Also I LOVE grits a strange amount for someone who has never lived in the south.)
We also had breakfast cocktails (obvs). I had the day’s special, which involved orange juice, honeysuckle vodka, pomegranate, and champagne. YUM.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
(4 out of 5 stars)
Originally we were going to spend this day at Boone Hall Plantation (the filming location for Allie’s house in The Notebook), but at the recommendation of BJ and a friend of mine from Lancaster, we decided to go to Magnolia instead. While the house may not be quite as impressive as Boone Hall, the gardens are sprawling, wild and gorgeous.
More than once I happily ran off the path and up a tree that sprawled out over the river. An old man told Veronica to keep an eye on me or I’d become alligator food. Thanks for looking out, lil old man.
The Daily by Butcher & Bee
(5 out of 5 stars)
After tramping around Magnolia most of the (hot) day, we needed some iced coffee beverages. So we hit up The Daily on our way home. I had a tahini mocha made with Stumptown Coffee, and a same-day croissant. They had pastry cases, shelves, and coolers stocked with all kinds of local goods, as well as shelves and shelves of wines and ales. The Daily has a trendy, general store kind of vibe.
The coffee shops were one of the few places in Charleston where the employees and people in general seemed a little snobby/less-likely-to-literally-give-you-the-shirts-off-their-backs-if-you-asked-for-it. I noticed this at Black Tap as well as The Daily. What’s up with that, Charleston?
Good coffee and good vibes.
Leon’s Oyster Shop
(4 out of 5 stars)
Since day one in Charleston, I was hoping to find some fresh oysters. I held out for Leon’s, and man oh man was it worth it.
Charleston is a bikable city.
I made a friend while waiting to be seated at Leon’s, as you do.
I chose the char-grilled oysters with lemon, parsley, butter, and parmesan. They came with pieces of toasted bread and were gone before I knew it. I also had hush puppies (another great southern invention that the north needs) and spoon salad, which consists of whole grains (barley, said the obnoxious yet informative know-it-all sitting at the table next to us), tomatoes, currants, and pecans.
I tried the “Sazerac” as well. This cocktail consists of rye whisky, Peychaud’s bitters, Absinthe, and sugar. Hmm. Not really sure what to say about that other than there’s a reason I stay away from whisky. It was an experience, though.
We also went out for cocktails that night. The Benedict (3 out of 5 stars) was our favorite. A classy little lounge known for it’s cocktails (everyone we talked to recommended it to us). It reminded me of The Horse Inn because the bartenders seemed VERY serious about their drinks. Charleston is definitely a bit of a party city, with lots of bars and lots of people out late.
(3 out of 5 stars)
Three words: Sunday Sticky Buns.
I got a (hot, fresh-from-the-oven) combo bun (sticky bun/cinnamon roll) and an orange juice, and we sat on the patio, where a friendly dog was roaming and a friendly Texan couple chatted with us and gave me a donut muffin.
Butcher & Bee
(5 out of 5 stars)
Can we talk top 5 meals of my life? Because Butcher & Bee is on the list. I wasn’t that hungry after my morning sticky bun, but then I saw their impressive array of “mezze” (small plates) and I had to try three of them. I got the whipped feta, grilled fava beans with hummus and schug (!!!!!!!!) and cheesy grits. The grits were spicier and less pure-southern comfort food than the grits I tried at other places on the trip, but I enjoyed them. The fava beans literally changed my life. I’m already planning my next trip to Charleston (or Nashville) just to eat here again! Such a satisfying last meal in Charleston.
All in all, Charleston was lovely, relaxed, and charming. It was really the best of both worlds… a bustling city with old time charm. I would recommend it to lovers of good food and drinks, slow-paced vacations, history, and plants!
Also, Charleston means checking off half an item on my 22 Before 23 list (explore two American cities you’ve never been to). That list has been falling by the wayside a bit, so it felt good to check a few items off today!
Now can someone please point me in the direction of the nearest salad?
This whole winter felt like I was paddling against the current, and also didn’t know which river I wanted to be paddling down, or if I even wanted to fight the current or just let it take me.
So that’s what I did. I let the current take me. This way, then that way. Further from who I know I am. Further from the kind of person I want to be.
Meanwhile, Jesus was rowing beside me in a little canoe, offering me a hand up.
But I decided I’d rather let the current take me.
I have my life laid out in milestones. When I get to this place, I won’t have more problems. Then I get to that place, and I realize no person or relationship or job or level of responsibility will ever make everything okay or bring me to some level of completion. Stretching myself to my breaking point isn’t somehow going to turn me into a better or stronger person. Taking care of myself is going to turn me into a stronger and healthier person. Giving myself the same level of care I give the people around me, is going to turn me into a whole person.
I woke up on Monday morning in my friend Ruth’s bed, with this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t do it anymore. The first thought I had, even before I opened my eyes, was, “I can’t let the current take me anymore because if I don’t stop now I’m going to drown.” So I got out of bed, took a shower with boy shampoo (thanks, Paul), and did the dishes from the night before. And I talked to Jesus and told Him I’m sorry and I’m going to try harder. But rather than telling Him I’m going to be better, like I have been telling Him for awhile, I told Him “Jesus, I can’t do better. I need you to come in and purify me again.” I said, “Jesus, I’m ready to get back into the canoe with You.”
And He said to me, “Carrie, you don’t have to climb back in; let me pull you into the boat. I want you here. I’m already doing a work in you. Just because you can’t see or understand what I’m doing, doesn’t mean I’m not working.”
This scripture from Isaiah popped into my head as I was doing the dishes. And then I came to work and opened Pinterest (as you do) and it was literally the first thing at the top of the page:
“I am about to do something new. See? I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will make a pathway in the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
That’s me. I’ve been that wasteland for too long. God’s created a river, a pathway out, and I honestly think what He wants to do for me is simply show me how to find Joy in Him again.
The thing is, I haven’t been. I’ve been trying to find joy in other things for the past few months, and that’s what’s bugging me, in the back of my mind. Carrie, you were just doing this last weekend, and you think you can just leave that behind and make Jesus your focus again? Pretty sure it’s going to take a little longer than that.
I’ve always been my own worst critic. Disappointment in myself is the hardest to overcome. I’m upset with myself. Not because I did anything “that bad,” but because I know Jesus. I’ve known Him for years. I know He is the only way. Yet, I still choose to walk away. Some days I still choose to ignore Him. That’s why I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed not because I did anything “that bad” but because I’ve been putting other things over Him. Satan would love to catch me up in that. In the shame. He would love to catch me up in guilt. He would love to convince me I’ve used up Jesus’s grace. He’d love to convince me I’ve used up all my chances. Satan would love if I believed him.
You know what? No. (#nottodaySatan) I’m done believing the lie that shame always takes a long time to overcome. I believe my God is active. I believe He runs on His own timeline. And when I turn to Him and tell Him I’m ready to let Him do a new thing in me, I believe He will do it.
He’s always done it before, and I believe He’ll do it again.
If you’re in the wasteland today, keep believing for Him to bring you through it. Keep asking for Him to bring you through it. And please don’t believe the lie that you are the only one struggling. If you are struggling and think you’re worse than anyone around you, reach out to someone you trust. Reach out to me if you need to, even if we don’t know each other well. You’re not the only one with “real struggles,” although sometimes when you’re surrounded by “church people” and “church talk” it can feel that way. But guess what? We all struggle. Every single one of us.
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