Actually, Mom and I visited with my cousin and his wife, Kerry and Becky Roller at their spacious home in Mount Pleasant. We stayed two nights, not quite 48 hours total. But it was a perfect visit, especially for Mom, who’d never visited Charleston. I told Kerry and Becky that Mom would be happy just spending as much time as possible visiting with them. She and Kerry had big plans to work on the Wallen family tree. Kerry is the oldest son of my late Aunt Mary, who was the baby of Mom’s family until Mom came along. Mom is now the last of her siblings, and as such, her “institutional memory” is highly sought after. We’d all like to record as much as we can while she’s still around to help us fill in the blanks. When she can. You see, she didn’t ask enough questions herself before the generation before her left us.
I’d promised Kerry, a computer genius, that we’d bring a box or more of old family photos, which he said he could high-speed scan — and ask Mom to identify as many of those pictured as she could. But we forgot. I remembered when we were well down the road. So no pictures. But Kerry has done quite a bit of research and has a detailed family tree at his fingertips online. The first night we were there he fired up the gas logs, put Mom in a recliner nearby, and did computer genius stuff to make his online family tree magically appear on the very large flat screen television over the fireplace. They got to talk a lot. I’m not sure we helped much on paper, but I could tell Mom and Kerry both thoroughly enjoyed the time together.
The next day, our only full day in the Charleston area, was supposed to be sunny and fairly warm, temperature wise — but heavy winds were in the forecast. I wondered if Mom could stand to do much touring.
She did. Because Kerry and Becky, world travelers who’ve lived in Mount Pleasant for four years or so, have touring down to a science (but somehow keeping it spontaneous — I might need to add “travel genius” to both their descriptions). Both had responsibilities to tend to Friday morning. Meanwhile, we’d been pampered all morning by Patty Hurley, a close friend Kerry and Becky had visiting. Kerry and Becky each returned home mid-morning and were ready to take us to lunch in the heart of historic Charleston.Nice, I thought, at least Mom will see a bit of the historic areas. What sometimes is called “the nickel tour” when exploring a new-to-you locale or site. Instead, she got a grand tour that showed her the highlights of Charleston in one afternoon.
Our first stop was the Battery. Kerry parked the car and we all climbed up on the landmark seawall and looked out across the water to Fort Sumter. Becky already had provided a narrative of the homes along Rainbow Row and other nearby structures. As we braced the wind coming off the water, multiple horse-drawn carriages passed by. The next thing I heard well was Becky calling out “Wanda says she’d like to take a carriage ride.” I was surprised. Becky was on her phone immediately booking us a horse-drawn carriage tour with Old South Carriage Co. (“They’re the ones with the red sashes,” Kerry said. “They’re the ones we like.”) Reservations for the carriage ride made, we were off next to lunch.
We ended up at Hyman’s Seafood (215 Meeting St., (843) 723-6000), “an establishment since 1890.” Kerry and Becky each voiced surprise there was no line to get in and we were seated by a front window downstairs almost immediately. By the way, they were feeding us hushpuppies before we were even in the front door. Once we were seated I couldn’t decide whether to first study the vast menu or look at all the fascinating photos and other memorabilia on the walls. A lot of famous people have dined at Hyman’s, which also boasts a sign proclaiming it has been voted best seafood restaurant in the Southeast by Southern Living 10 years running. The famous don’t just have their pictures on display. Most every tabletop has at least one plaque memorializing who ate at that table. Our table was once visited by the Beach Boys.
But the true star at Hyman’s is the food. I had the best crabcake I’ve ever had and the cocktail sauce was almost as good as Skoby’s. I also loved the shrimp and grits, salmon croquette and collard greens I ordered. Mom ordered chicken strips (there’s one in every crowd, you know). Our waiter, I think his name was Josh, made excellent suggestions and really made us feel at home and well taken care of throughout the meal. Kerry and Becky had never eaten at Hyman’s, partially because it is often very busy as a well-known spot to tourists. They said they’ll go back. So will I. (P.S. go to the bathroom and wash your hands, the salt-scrub soap is to die for.)
Next we dashed a few blocks (by car) to Old South Carriage Company (14 Anson St., (843) 723-9712). Becky had booked us on their “Historic Charleston Carriage Tour,” advertised as “Our one-hour narrated carriage tour covers more than 2.5 miles and 30 blocks of historic Charleston. It really is the best way to see the ‘Holy City’ and learn about its rich and vast historical areas and attractions.” I really can’t summarize it any better than that, but can testify to their truth in advertising. If your wondering, they offer a variety of tours, some walking and some by carriage, some during the day, some at night. I wouldn’t hesitate to try each one. Becky had arranged to make sure Mom got a seat front and center and Old South provided us with extra blankets to keep her warm during the ride. We were only gone an hour. But we traveled through several centuries along the historic streets of Charleston.
After the carriage ride, Mom and Kerry waited in the car while Becky, Patty and I walked a block or two to Kaminsky’s to “look at” desserts. My, oh my. We ordered six to go, Patty’s treat. It’s what we ate for dinner that night! But when I go back, I’m going to have to try a Red Velvet Cheese Cake milkshake.