Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poe and Sullivan's Island by Shelley Hopkins

"The island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long.  Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile.  It is separated from the mainland by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen.  The vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least dwarfish.  No trees of any magnitude are to be seen.  Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie stands, and where are some miserable frame buildings, tenanted, during the summer, by the fugitives from Charleston dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the bristly palmetto; but the whole island, with the exception of this western point, and a line of hard, white beach on the sea coast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of the sweet myrtle so much prized by the horticulturists of England.”

This is how Edgar Allen Poe describes Sullivan’s Island in the story “The Gold Bug.”   His description doesn’t make me want to visit, but I have to remember that Poe was stationed on Ft. Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island in the early 1800’s.  Beach islands were different places then.  What we consider a vacation spot was a place hard to get to, hard to live in, and basically undesirable.  It is a completely different place now, full of vacation homes and expensive property.  Unlike many beach towns, it isn’t over developed, but still retains its beach town feel.  My favorite walks have been along the beach from the main street to the fort.  I also love walking in town, looking at the beach homes, exploring Ft. Moultrie, and eating seafood at my favorite restaurant, Sullivan’s.   I love the entire island visit, from crossing the drawbridge to parking along the side streets and following the different pathways to the ocean. 
The island is small, only 3 miles long, so really I can park anywhere and walk easily to the beach.  One warm Saturday in January my kids and I parked behind the visitors center for Ft. Moultrie and walked all over the town.  First we walked to the pier behind the visitor’s center and watched a few boats gliding along the inter-coastal waterway.   I was tickled to see a man navigating his boat while talking on his cell phone.  Wherever we are we still bring our bad habits.  I took a few pictures of the boats moored to the docks, and of the marsh grasses with the sunshine reflecting off the water. 

We decided to walk towards the commercial part of town in search of lunch, and so we followed the sidewalk by the beautiful homes.  One house had several trees in pots in the front yard.  The trees were lemon and orange trees, very tiny but with full sized ripe fruit.  It was odd to see a spindly looking little tree sticking up out of a pot holding up large ripe oranges.  Another house was for sale, and I eagerly checked the reduced price, still beyond what I could pay.  We passed a series of apartments, one unit had the door wide open and we could hear loud music and a cheerful party going on, the next unit had a hammock hung under the porch, making a most inviting scene although I guess the hammock would not be a great place to relax as long as the neighboring party was going on.  I passed many houses with hammocks in the front yards, hung from porches or trees.  I yearned to live in those houses, resting in the hammock and feeling the cool ocean breeze from only a block or two away.  My son reminded me that we were on a busy road, and every tourist in town would be driving or walking past these houses all summer long.  The idea of peace and restfulness seemed more of an image than a reality. 
The sun was out and the temperature was warm for January, but the breezes brought in cool air.  We chose to leave the sidewalk, turn right and follow a neighborhood street to the last row of houses.  Every so often a public access to the beach is placed between houses and we were quickly walking beside the water.  The air was chillier, but we didn’t mind.  We passed many people also walking on the beach with sweatshirts and jackets, even gloves and hats.  Maybe it was because we had been walking for a while but their choice of winter wear seemed excessive.  We walked along the beach until we judged we were close to the main street and the restaurants, then we returned to the town.  Crossing the main street we continued towards our destination, Poe’s Tavern.   We were not the only ones interested, the street was full of cars, all the parking lots were full, and the restaurant looked crowded. 
We sat outside on picnic tables and ordered our food.  I wanted the regular cheeseburger, so I ordered the Gold Bug.  Laura loves different foods, and especially anything from the sea, so she ordered a hamburger with a crab cake on it, the Annabelle Lee.  Joseph likes spicy chicken so he ordered the black cat, a burger covered with drunken chili.  We became cold sitting there in the sun because of the cold breeze, but even so we enjoyed our meal.  The burgers were the best I have had in a long time.  Laura loves Edgar Allen Poe, and never turns down a chance to quote him, so when her food got cold due to the wind, she had to say, “A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling my beautiful Annabelle Lee.”

Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at Ft. Moultrie from 1827 – 1828.  He later located several of his short stories on Sullivan’s Island including the Gold Bug.  We chatted about his life while walking, and wondered what his family and friends would have thought to see a restaurant and the town library named after him. Poe wrote poetry to be musical, even rhythmic, which was not the style of the time.  He felt the poem was the “rhythmical creation of beauty,” but his critics were not impressed, and saw his poetry as nonsense jingles.

When we walked through the town library, the Edgar Allen Poe Library, we saw prints representing The Raven, and The gold Bug. Almost every corner of this tiny building had something honoring the author on the walls.  His critics may not have been impressed, but today his poetry is extremely popular.  The library was housed in a building that had been a battery for Ft. Moultrie, and it is very small and claustrophobic.  While we were talking to the librarian a mother and her daughter pedaled their bikes into the library parking lot, took their books out of the child’s front handlebar basket and walked in to exchange them for next weeks reading material.  This may be a vacation spot, but it is also a small town with regular residents, and nothing feels more normal than biking to the library every week to collect books. 
The kids and I really enjoyed our Poe discovery day, walking on the beach and eating some excellent hamburgers.  By the time we returned to our car we were cold and tired, but ready to return over and over. 

This last picture was taken on Ft. Moultrie.

Favorite Restaurant #1 by Shelley Hopkins

We are fortunate to live in the land of great eating and wonderful restaurants.  I don’t think we have had a bad dining experience from any restaurant in the Charleston area, and I can’t say that about any other place we have lived.  Last weekend we ate at what is now my favorite place, an old gas station, sort of.  The restaurant, called Fuel, is in a building that started out as an old gas station, but now serves Caribbean themed food. We sat at our tables in the outside dining area, and relaxed while the sun shone and the fans cooled.  It seems that more of the restaurant is outdoors than in, and I like that. If all the tables are full, patrons can wait in the outdoor living room, sitting on couches and enjoying the almost tropical mood.  Diners can relax and chat, traffic is barely heard or noticed.  The patio is a quiet outdoor living space.  The flowers, the building, the dogs and laughing people made me feel like I was in Central America.

We ordered appetizers, hoe cakes.  These little corn meal cakes that used to be cooked on a hoe over a fire in the fields are now gourmet foods, spicy and wonderful.  Next we ordered our main dishes.  I chose Braised Pork Tacos with fried plantains.  Plantains are a type of banana that has to be cooked, and are commonly found in Central America.  I love them.  My son ate the jerk chicken sandwich, and my daughter enjoyed a chorizo burger.  My husband had a goat cheese salad, which he enjoyed.  I found the cheese to be too rich for me, but the salad toned it down.   The food choices were plentiful, the atmosphere was relaxing, and every bite of food had great flavor.   Anytime I can eat outside and not suffer heat stroke I am very happy, and the dining area was both shaded and cooled by fans.  The bathrooms were original from the gas station days, with graffiti on the walls.  I almost looked for a key on a stick to return to the attendant.  Luckily they were cleaned better than old gas station bathrooms.   Fuel has been featured on Diners, Drive Inns and Dives, and although I have not seen that episode I can see why this place was chosen.

Apparently many people take their dogs with them to eat around here.  I think this is strange.  Do these people go take the dog for a walk, and while out strolling say to themselves, “lets go out to eat, I’m sure Fido will love it too.”  Somehow I think the dogs are not as happy as the rest of us, while we are enjoying our black bean burgers and pulled pork tacos the dogs are sitting under the tables smelling all this food and not getting to eat any delicious scraps.  This weekend a very smart group of people had taken their dogs out, volunteers from an animal shelter.  Every dog was wearing a vest that was embroidered with “adopt me” and the humans kept wandering around the outdoor patio with these adorable little family seeking animals.  Almost every restaurant that has an outdoor section has dogs here in Charleston.  

I am looking forward to sharing this restaurant with my visiting family and friends.  I like the outdoor feel, the friendliness of the staff and the wonderful creative food.  But I will not be sharing this place with my dog, I am not interested in keeping up with my animal friend while relaxing on the patio, and I am not sharing my meal, not one bite.  I am too greedy for that!  For more restaurant suggestions in the Charleston area check out my other blog.

Let’s Learn Hanahan by Shelley Hopkins

Water behind Tanner Plantation

Hanahan is the hidden gem of the Charleston area.  Homes are reasonably priced, and you can find both older neighborhoods with large trees and established yards, as well as new communities with the most modern styles.  The town has one high school, and one middle school, so the students experience the small town community.  Many of the students that live in the older sections of Hanahan can walk to school.  A new town library is being built near the area that includes the new town amphitheater and the boat entrance to Goose Creek reservoir.  I have read that the reservoir, which provides the drinking water, is also one of the most alligator filled areas in South Carolina.  I don’t know if that is true, but my friends that boat on the reservoir say they would never swim in the water due to the large number of gators.
Hanahan is bordered by the old Naval Weapons Station, which still houses a brig, and a submarine school.  Many people that live in Hanahan work for the government, either through the base, or Boeing.  Hanahan is conveniently located to the airport and is only about 20 minutes from down town Charleston and the beaches.

Hanahan doesn’t have many walking trails, but there are sidewalks through much of the neighborhoods of the older sections of town. Boaters can launch at the Goose Creek reservoir from Madeline Ave. and float all the way to the Cooper River, or just fish and explore.  Several neighborhoods border the reservoir, including Eagle Landing and Indigo Island Reserve.  Tanner plantation has many new homes, and an entire community is being developed in the Tanner area with a grocery store, daycare, restaurants, and newer apartments.  These apartments have a nature trail that I have explored often.  From the crab dock at the end of this trail I have fished, viewed sunsets and watched a young alligator nearly walk across the water to grab my husbands fishing bob.  The young gater finally grew tired of the game, released the line and swam away. 

South Carolina is known for its old plantation homes, and Hanahan had one as well.  Yeamans Hall Plantation was established in 1674 when the Lady Margaret Yeamans received a land grant of 1,070 acres from the Lords Proprietors.  A home was built the same year. After passing through many owners, in the early 1900’s, the land was purchased to build a golf course on what was going to be a winter resort.  The golf course and club house were opened in 1926 and still exists today as a private golf course.  I drove down Yeamans Hall Rd and after crossing the railroad tracks I was stopped at the entrance to the golf course.  I told the men working at the gate that I had driven past this road many times and had no idea this place was here.  One man laughed and said it had been here a long time.  The other agreed with me, he had lived in Hanahan his whole life and never knew the golf course was here.  He thought monks lived down this Spanish moss covered drive before he had started working on the grounds.  The property seems peaceful enough for monks, but any meditation practiced here includes concentrating on hitting a little white ball far and accurately.

These last three pictures were taken at the new Hanahan Amphitheater during the Red, White and Blue festival. Many booths and venders were set up selling crafts, bands played and children from a local dance studio performed.  We enjoyed everything including the car show.
Some of the neighborhoods in Hanahan include Belvedere Estates, Belvedere Heights, Eagle Landing, Ortranto, Mossy Creek, Tanner Plantation and Yeamans Park.  Don’t forget to visit my web page and search for homes there, or call me if you have any questions at all!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Riverfront Park in North Charleston by Shelley Hopkins

Riverfront Park

One of my joys in life is discovering new places, especially when these places are close to home.  On the way to one planned activity, we saw a sign for Riverfront Park in North Charleston, and we decided to drive by and check it out.  The park was built to honor the Charleston Naval Base and it does so in a beautiful way, with a water play area, lawns full of statues, and the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial.  The memorial and several plaques tell the history of the Navy Base, from 1901 until it closed in 1996.  During the base’s busiest year, in 1943, 25,000 people worked there. 
The park was built on the site of the former Chicora Park, designed by the famous Olmstead Brothers in 1898.  Old buildings still remain that had been used by military officers when the location had a golf course.  Visitors can walk the pathways, enjoy views of the Cooper River, and learn a little history at the same time.  

My family walked around the park, took pictures of the statues and of the river, and studied the history on the memorial.  It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed watching small children play in the water fountain.  We saw fishermen not catching fish, and couples strolling together.  Workers were setting up equipment for a concert that was to take place the following evening.  What a beautiful location, sitting on the grass by the river listening to good music.  We will be back, and I suggest the park to anyone looking for a quite place to enjoy a picnic lunch or an evening stroll.

Let's Learn Mt. Pleasant by Shelley Hopkins

Let’s Learn Mt. Pleasant

             Pitt Street is one of the most interesting and historical areas of an already historical town.   One end of Pitt Street is full of old buildings with shops, a bakery, and a few historical markers.  Follow the narrow street past old homes, huge live oaks, flowers bordering little white fences, and more historical markers.  At the other end of Pitt Street the road dead-ends at the Pickett Bridge Recreational area.  You can park your car and walk to the end of the causeway that leads towards Sullivan’s Island.  This is the area of the old bridge, or series of bridges that had connected Mt. Pleasant and the island.  Before the revolutionary war barrels and planks formed the first bridge.  The crew of the H.L. Hunley crossed this unique bridge to test pilot the confederate submarine at Breaches inlet.  Later a trolley bridge replaced the barrel and plank bridge, and then a drawbridge replaced the trolley bridge.  The drawbridge was dismantled in 1945, and now traffic enters Sullivan’s Island by the Ben Sawyer highway.  This park is a great place to enjoy the scenery and views of Charleston harbor, bird watch, launch a kayak and fish.  People that live in the Old Village neighborhood, along Pitt Street and the adjoining roads are easily able to walk past these old homes and out to the causeway any time they want.  If you walk along these streets you may come to a play park and the Alhambra Hall.  People were picnicking on the grounds of this beautiful building when I was there, and I enjoyed the views of the Charleston harbor from a shaded bench behind the Hall.  This building was built 300 years ago as a dance hall for local Charlestonians.  Now it is used for weddings and community events.

            Snee Farms was built on land that used to be owned by Charles Pinckney, a SC signer of the Constitution.  The location of his former home is now a National Park Historic Site, and is an excellent place to visit and learn about Pinckney’s life and the early years of South Carolina.  Visitors can walk along paths through the marsh, stop and view a teaching example of rice growing, and can stroll by the locations of former slave cabins.  Stones mark the outlines of the cabins, allowing visitors to see the sizes of these homes.  Snee Farms is a neighborhood that has mixed condominiums, smaller homes and larger homes with generous lots sizes.

            Park West is a huge community with schools, shops, a recreation center, a church, and after driving through several round a bouts you find many mini neighborhoods of varying price ranges and styles.  Some areas feel newer, and others have the old established appearance.  At the end of one of the streets in Park West I found a parking area with a community dock and I walked out to enjoy relaxing marsh views.
            The Brick Yard is a neighborhood built on the banks of the Horlbeck Creek, and has many homes with marsh or creek views.  There are running and bike trails as well as the usual amenities, pools, playgrounds and sports fields. 
             A few of the other well known neighborhoods include Ivy Place, the Brickyard, Dunes West, Laurel Lakes and I’on.
            Mt Pleasant is a great place to live and enjoy the outdoor life.  Most of the neighborhoods include walking paths, and there are many parks and trails to enjoy.  If shopping is your thing, there is Town Center, and there are many antique malls and shops scattered about town.  The farmers market is almost a cultural event in its own right.  There are many wonderful restaurants, kayaking tours and paddle boat rentals on Shem creek, places to buy shrimp right off the boats, and lots and lots of history.  If you are interested in searching for homes, or learning more please check out my page, ShelleyHouseHunters.com
Contact me by email at shelley.hopkins@cbunited.com or call 843-749-3506