A couple of weeks ago, I got back from Savannah, Gerogia. I had such an amazing time seeing and photographing the city that I immediately starting thinking about when I could go on my next adventure. The opportunity came much sooner than I was expecting. During a conversation with my parents, I mentioned that I would love to take photographs in Charleston, a city that I’ve never been to but have always wanted to visit. Amazingly, they were heading there the next weekend for a wedding and said I could tag along. A week later my bags were packed and I was back on the road.
Traveling by plane is a miraculous convenience and a virtual necessity when trying to reach certain destinations, but for me there will always be something magical about a road trip. I enjoy seeing the landscape change as you go in and out of different towns, and I love finding local places to stop. On our way to Charleston, my parents and I passed through the town of Orangeburg, South Carolina around lunch time. A quick google search revealed a generic but very popular diner, and a lesser-reviewed local spot called Duke’s BBQ. The diner was bustling, but we decided to pass it by for the barbecue joint.
Duke’s was in a cinder-block building. The handwritten sign on the front let us know that it was only open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (it was Friday so we were in luck). The inside looked like a warehouse building with a kitchen on the far side. In the unadorned space between the entrance and the kitchen there were long wooden tables covered with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. The place wasn’t very busy, but there were ten or twelve people in clumps throughout the dining area. When we walked up to the kitchen, we learned from the extremely friendly staff that it was $8 for a buffet of all you can eat barbecue, coleslaw, and a new-to-me dish called hash that was a stew-like mixture of pork, onions, potatoes, and spices—and of course sweet-tea to drink. We also learned that they only took cash, but after a moment of panic we were able to scrounge up just enough to pay for an extremely tasty meal. Duke’s was a risk that paid off.
After filling up with BBQ and hash we had the fuel to make it into Charleston by early afternoon. When we arrived, we found a parking spot close to White Point Garden. The garden is shaded by a cover of thick oak trees and is right next to the bay. After exploring White Point for a bit, we walked the Battery along the water and into town. We passed the colorful buildings of Rainbow Row and stopped to see children playing in the Pineapple Fountain.
A little further on, we got to the heart of the downtown area and walked through the Charleston City Market. It was energizing to see the work of all types of local artists and the place was filled with people walking through the booths full of paintings, photographs, leatherwork, woodwork, and other handmade items.
Later on in our adventure through downtown, we came across St. Phillip's Episcopal Church with its huge clock tower and cemetery. We continued through the city, often breaking off of the main streets to see what we could find down the cobblestone alleys and I took pictures every step of the way. After dinner at Fleet Landing on the bay and some amazing gelato, we walked back along the Battery to our car, then drove across the Arthur Revenal Jr. Bridge to our hotel in Mt. Pleasant.
The next morning, I woke up early to get some reading and writing done. Once my mom and dad were up, we had breakfast at Page’s Okra Grill (I had a seafood omelet that was very good). Then I grabbed my camera as we took off for the beaches of Sullivan’s Island. I walked along the beach and took some photos of the small beach town. After a while we all met up again so we could head to nearby Isle of Palms for lunch with a couple of my parent's friends that were also in town for the wedding. This time I had some really good fish tacos as we took in the view from the rooftop deck of Coconut Joe’s restaurant.
We went back to the hotel so my parents could get ready for the wedding they came to attend. After they left, I took an Uber to downtown Charleston to photograph the Saturday night happenings. Tourists and locals alike had descended on the town’s restaurants, bars, and markets, so I had a great time photographing it all and experiencing downtown Charleston one more time.
Just after sunset, I stopped into City Lights Coffee for a pastry and heard the barista, who was on crutches, telling the story of how she had had multiple Achilles tendon surgeries and had to give up running (she was on her college’s cross country team). It was sad to hear her talk about how she missed it, but she said it had led to some good things as well and helped her discover new talents and interests.
The girl’s story stuck with me as I walked along the bay one more time, then called an Uber to take me back across the bridge. We would be leaving tomorrow morning, which was Easter, so the weekend was coming to a close. But there was still time for one more adventure.
My alarm went off at 5:40am and somehow I was able to convince my parents to get up with me to go see the sunrise on the beach. Once we were back on Sullivan Island, we came across a parking lot filling with cars and people spilling out onto the beach. We parked and followed the crowd to see that they were gathering for an Easter sunrise service. I took some pictures and then joined the throng when the service started. The sun was beginning to rise overhead as we sang the last chorus of the closing hymn.
Not long after that we were heading home to Atlanta, with the sights, sounds, and tastes of the weekend still echoing: amazing barbecue in a tiny town —children playing in a fountain shaped like a pineapple—a busy market full of artists and tourists— a girl on crutches serving coffee—the sun rising over a crowd of hundreds gathered on the beach.