July 27, 2014

Charleston, darling.

I believe this trip was necessary for both Mindy and me, made up of a thousand little memories that won't be nearly as interesting to you as they were perfect to us.

When it was all over, I returned to Atlanta feeling healed and restored after a particularly difficult Spring. So, while this may seem like a thank you to two lovely Southern cities, it really is directed at the even lovelier Mindy. Her wisdom, patience, and sense of humor made her the perfect travel companion.

It also helps that we're both frugal as all-can-be, but we'll discuss that later.

For now, thank you, Minds, for letting me be me, unedited and unpolished, for a whole week. I hope you know how much more you make the people around you see and love Jesus.

So back to the story: Determined the incoming hurricane would not defeat us or our plans for a very merry Independence Day, we made our way north, but ever so slowly.

A friend in Charleston was reporting rain, so we stopped on Hilton Head Island to eat BLTs - stacked with fried green tomatoes and served with a bowl of buttermilk for dipping - and took some time to relax in a rocking chair under giant umbrellas. We were in no hurry, and Hilton Head seemed like a nice place to take a break. Sit a spell. Linger a little longer.

We browsed the boutiques, picking up words of advice on cards and serving platters.

I'm a notorious rule follower, so message received.

If you're not familiar with the geography of Charleston, the city sits on a peninsula surrounded by other peninsulas and islands. We stayed in an area just to its east called Mount Pleasant, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning a trip. The trip to the historic downtown is an easy jump over the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. bridge (here's a Southern family worth investigating), and you can easily access the various beaches. 

The first order of business was to pop into our gem of a hotel, dump our bags, and take a quick shower - we had a party to get to, y'all! John Andrew goes to law school in Charleston, and a group of his classmates/colleagues were throwing a kick-off to the Fourth of July. We got the invite, quickly RSVPd YES, and threw on our best patriotic chic.

Well, Mindy did. I reverted to a LBD.

We got downtown a bit early and did a stroll up and down King's Street, where we were greeted with a familiar sight.

We showed impressive restraint, only to cave just up the road for a red, white, and blue cupcake. It was our patriotic duty, and we answered the call.

Perfection. Are you obsessed with Mindy yet?

While window watching, we caught a glimpse of this proud patriot. Wranglers, flag shirt and belt, and red, white, and blue kicks.

We would later see him at the party, but would never become friends. I consider this one of the great disappointments of my life.

We paused for a few quick obligatory pictures, elevated by the fact that "American" and "King" were both visible in the same shot.

We finally arrived at the party, where we knew only one person.

Folks, never underestimate the power of two girls with nothing to lose to make friends and, when necessary, entertain themselves. Mindy displayed a level of extrovert-edness I'd never seen before and set out on her goal to get to know every interesting character in the place.

Like this guy.

Amidst the crowd of Polo button-downs, chinos, and boat shoes, she found him. It.

She also came through for me and my shyness and initiated a conversation with the owner of the best man bun I've ever seen (up until that point - Miami was to come) in real life. It was beautiful, blond, and haphazard, but that's as much as he had to offer us. The conversation was...lackluster...and we wished him well and moved onto other things. Not bigger, not better, just other.

Never one to pass up a chance to do the "Wobble," Minds tried her best to coerce me to the dance floor.

I never make it out, though, because I was preoccupied trying to get my phone back from a bachelor party that had taken it captive. Between Mindy's cute Texas accent and my knowledge of Larry Bird, we won the Boston group over and had an audience for the rest of the night.

I hope that somewhere, someday, somehow, this man realizes that this picture of him exists.

Following the party was the after-party, and following the after-party was the after-after party, which led us through the College of Charleston campus and straight to the front door of the Chi Omega house!

Once a Chi O, always a Chi O.

Actually, it led us us back to our friend's house, where we all ate frozen pizza and listened to EDM under the red lights to which my eyes never quite adjusted. I think I forgot to ask why they were the way they were - it made sense in the moment.

Eventually, we all rather sensibly realized we were actually tired and our gentleman of an escort walked us back to our car before hoping onto his ride and cruising off into the night.

Bonus: For those of you who are fans of Bravo's "Southern Charm," I saw this "hyper-active multi-tasker" at the party.

A note on frugality: I would like to state that Mindy and I made an art form out of conquering the complimentary, continental breakfast. It takes a certain, very low level of pride to eat and then carry plates and bowls and cups of food out of it the way we did, and I am thinking of asking Mindy to write up a step-by-step guide for a future post. I think she's pioneered a movement. 

After the after-after party, we got some sleep. We woke up the next morning and went to work in the breakfast nook of the hotel before popping down to South Battery for a run along the ocean and through the historic district, occasionally pausing to snap pictures of the homes we liked. 


In the middle of it all, a little reminder of home.

My history buff soaking it all up.

We made a quick trip back over the bridge to shower and throw on swim suits because - wouldn't you know it - we had anther party to crash.

Before that, though, we made a quick stop for tacos and I had the best one I've ever eaten: Korean BBQ, pickles, and kimchi, topped with fried oysters. I ate it in my enthusiastic way while Mindy fell in love with the restaurant manager.

Full disclosure here. When we first set out on this trip, we had one goal: score an invite to a Fourth of July party on the water. At all costs.

Well, score an invite we did, although we weren't sure what we were getting ourselves into. JA's text said only "Dock party, end of Queen Street." So, we threw on bathing suits and went there.

Tiptoed around a house.

And were greeted with this.

Right in the Charleston Harbor, surrounded by pier after pier that stretched out as far as you could see.

We followed the dock we thought was connected to the house at which we had parked. 


And walked, letting the sounds of Calvin Harris and the promise of southern boys in short, American flag swim trunks be our guide.


We were the best of guests, inconspicuously claiming a tube as our own and laying in the sun for hours, letting sweet boys swim drinks and fried chicken out to us throughout the afternoon. Then, as the tide went in and our tan lines were undeniable, we packed up our bags and dashed.

Five hours of straight sun ( + SPF 50) resulted in a few new freckles.

And the ocean water had dried, leaving behind a layer of salt.

We had dinner + firework plans, so we showered and quickly threw on something light, arriving just as it grew dark.

The next morning we grabbed breakfast (and snacks to last throughout the day) and made a quick trip to Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island. Mindy loves museums and monuments and history and facts and gobbled it all up.

Situated right on the beach, it provides excellent views of Fort Sumter.

We sat on the rocks for a bit, watching the tiny crabs move around below us, before getting antsy and deciding to take off our shoes and go for a run along the beach.

The morning was overcast and windy - perfect for a salty barefoot run in the sand.

Post-run, we made one last trip back to the hotel to shower and check out before visiting our final Charleston destination: Magnolia's on Broad Street.

We were, without exaggeration and thanks to Mindy's tenacity, the first people in the door and the first people to be seated that day.

How perfect is my date?! One last time, we split fried green tomatoes and crab cakes.

Then, we packed up our sandy, salty bags and headed back to Atlanta. 

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