Monday, November 17, 2014

Climbing Halfway To The Stars On A Cable Car--San Francisco Will Take You To Greater Heights

Charleston and San Francisco are very similar and at the same time mountains different. Over the years and miles apart, the two cities have competed for the top spot as "the number one destination" with the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. This year San Francisco was named 11th.

Don't call it "Frisco", sophisticated locals prefer you call it "The City." For more than a century, it was the only city in the western United States. During those years, it was an island of urban entertainment and culture, rivaling big cities like Chicago and New Orleans. Today, it is the second most-densely populated major city in the United states.

If you are planning a visit to "Twitter Town" for the first time, finding your way around can be daunting. If you do not have a smart phone with a GPS, I conclusively suggest you bring a GPS or as in my case, have a helpful son giving you the needed directions.

San Francisco drivers are merciless towards newcomers attempting to navigate the network of steep hills, lane changes and numerous exits. A long time resident and Lyft driver called it a city with no left turns. After leaving the airport, I found it to be a city of wrong turns. You will need to cross that bridge when you get there and San Francisco has two of them, The Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

Coit Tower
Once you get to where you want to go, San Francisco is both fascinating and intriguing at every turn of the corner. Wonders like Outer Sunset's expansive surfing beaches, Vista Point's panoramic mountain view like no other, the awesome Golden Gate Bridge walk, and the ageless and majestic Muir Woods will fascinate you. Attractions like the spooky audio tour of Alcatraz, the movie rich Sentinel Building, the city's world renowned cable car system, and the 210 foot Coit Tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood will intrigue you.

Sentinel Building
To sum it all up, San Francisco's stunning landscape and diverse cityscape will take you to greater heights, literally. And once you get there, you be "above the blue and windy sea" where "little cable cars climb halfway to the stars!" Hope you enjoy the images as much as I did seeing them.

Outer Sunset's beaches

Vista Point's breathtaking views

Views around the Golden Gate Bridge


Muir Woods

A final note of interest. The redwood's of Muir Woods hold the secrets for a long life: 1) Family; the children all grow near the parent tree, 2) Community; each family reaches out to neighboring families, 3) Stand tall; the redwood's grow straight and are the tallest trees in the world, and 4) Thick skin; the redwood's thick bark protects it from insects, disease and fire.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Three Charleston Restaurants For Breakfast--From The Simple To The Sublime

At the furthest point on the Lower Peninsula, White Point Garden is an ideal place to catch the sweeping brush strokes of the sun's first rays of the morning as they artfully spill over the tall, rooftop silhouettes of Sullivan's Island unto the watery canvas of Charleston Harbor and ascend the railed walls of East Battery Street painting its waterfront homes with a soft, amber hue. With nothing more than the warmth and peacefulness of the moment to contemplate, it is a spiritually uplifting way to nourish your soul and kick-start a new day. Before long, the silent streets will be awakened by the flood of sight-seeing visitors and the clip-clop of horse's hooves pulling carriages loaded with tourists seeking to soak up the charm and history Charleston is renowned for. A suitable time to pocket your ponderings and depart the park to physically nourish your soul at one of the many unique restaurants and cafes located throughout the Historic Downtown District, from the simple to the sublime.

A short walk from the Battery on picturesque Broad Street is a street-side French cafe called Gaulart and Maliclet--also known by locals as Fast and French. Established by artists Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet 25 years ago, the restaurant's vision is summarized by their proclamation, "Where there is art, there is community--Where there is community, there is art." Their mission is to provide fresh, affordable, healthy, global cuisine with a French flair in a social environment. The seating in the cafe comes with close quarters. Great for friends who are interested in coming together to catch up on what's been happening around town and personally. Breakfast is served all day beginning at 8am. At Fast and French, emphasis is on simple but results are elegant. French press coffee made to order accompanies all breakfast specials. A variety of filled croissants, baked baguettes, fruit salad and yogurts are all fresh and reasonably priced. Open everyday except Sunday.
98 Broad Street, Charleston, SC

Turning left off of Broad Street and traveling up East Bay Street just beyond the busy Old Market, the Saffron Cafe and Bakery has been serving Charleston locals since 1986. In a recent remodel, the cafe added an outdoor patio, a game court and a wood-burning oven. It produces freshly baked goods which are delivered daily to hotels, restaurants and coffee shops throughout Charleston. For the exotic shoppers, International goods like pickles imported from Jerusalem, grape leaves from Lebanon, lamb from Australia, dates from California and the Middle East, and Harrisa sauce from Algeria to name a few can be bought here. It has been named the best place for Hummus, She-Crab Soup, and Red Velvet Cake. For your early morning forage, try the French Toast for $7.50--a thick-cut housemade brioche soaked in egg and cinnamon, grilled with cinnamon sugar or Shrimp and Grits for $8.50--shrimp sauteed in brown gravy, over grits with toast or biscuits. Open at 7am everyday.
333 East Bay Street, Charleston, SC

Back to the Old Market to Meeting Street brings your to the doors of Charleston Place and the main floor of the Belmond. Step through the doors of this sophisticated cafe and you will be greeted by an interior that screams prodigious. The Palmetto Cafe offers its early morning patrons an open, tranquil ambiance crowned by a high ceiling with expansive louvered windows, live green walls, and rich mahogany furniture all overlooking a lush courtyard complete with circular bronze fountain and impeccably kept gardens--perfect for enjoying Charleston's ideal morning weather. Recognized as the only 4 diamond breakfast and lunch restaurant in the city, its menu screams incredible, merging the very best of American Lowcountry cuisine with the freshest ingredients. Breakfast creations include a Peaches and Cream French Toast combining cream cheese stuffed raisin bread with a Georgia peach compote for $18 or a Palmetto Omelet with fresh lump crabmeat, lobster knuckles, mozzarella cheese, and spring onions for $19. The service is impeccably Southern fine. Open Monday to Friday 6:30am to 10:30am, Saturday and Sunday at 9am for Brunch.
205 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bram Stoker's "Dracula" Now Showing At The James F. Dean Theater In Summerville--Take A Bite Out Of Your Schedule

Outside the James F. Dean Theatre, the dark of the night had hours ago blanketed Hutchinson Square and Main Street. Most of the shops and stores locked down for the night. Across the street among the long shadows under the tall, moss covered oak trees, a cold rain coated the silent silhouettes of the numerous scarecrows and displays. It was the perfect setting for a Gothic horror story. Inside, a boisterous, near full house of blood-thirsty celebrants eagerly awaited 11:30 pm and the dimming of the lights--the final prompt Dark Star of the Night had arrived. It was opening night for "Dracula."

Jeff Messer and Andrew Gall's adaptation of Bram Stoker's masterful novel whisks you away on a geographical merry-go-round to Transylvania on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains to the shores of Victorian Whitby in England with stops in-between and back. It all translates into a set of constantly changing scenes throughout the play and a huge challenge for its director and company to improvise a seamless flow of events in a limited space. For JC Conway and Chris Skipper, the limited space was the stage of the James F. Dean Theatre.

I can convincingly state overall(despite some slower moving elements)the challenge was adequately executed on opening night with the assistance of stage manager, Nicole Wallace, and crew. The table that doubled for a ship's wheel and Dr. Seward's desk at the asylum and the five different entrance and exit points that gave Dracula mobility were a clever use of area and props, including the wooden crate center stage used for Dracula's coffin(a touch more detail in this prop would have elevated its realism).

The numerous rotating light cues will help you follow the scene changes as well as set the mood. The incorporation of the two cello players(Abby Maynard and Chris Anderson) located on each side of the stage added a sorrowful, soulful ambiance to the theaters atmosphere during transitions. The prerecorded dialogue was somewhat muffled at times, so you will need to pay attention more intently during those moments.

For a play of this nature to be successfully portrayed with a setting unfolding in the late 1800's and characters physically changing in appearance, realistic costumes and artful make-up are vital. Costume designer and whig maker, Diana Reeves and Mary Miller, did a superb job with the nearly 200 different pieces worn by the 25 cast members while Hana Ryll, Jean Gaston, and Eddie Hall provided the special effects make-up notably worn by Andrew Turnball as Renfield and Kate Berry, Megan Fife, and Michelle Smith as the seductive three brides of Dracula.

A well deserved applause goes out to the entire cast for making it all work with notable performances by Lindsey Marie as vivacious, young Lucy Westenra; Dracula's first love interest in England, Julie Hammond as the more reserved Mina Murray; engaged to Jonathan Harker and Dracula's second seduction, Zach Smith as the journal writing, often traumatized Jonathan Harker, Chris Miller as the eloquent and ambitious asylum administrator Dr. Seward, and Ian Bonner as the alluring, blood-thirsty and love-starved Dracula. Ion's standout moment was when he slowly rose from his lifeless slumber in the climactic encounter with Dr. Van Helsing(Fred Hutter) and company. Edwin Hall as Authur Holmwood owned the funniest moment with his improv during a costume mishap.

An outstanding performance was achieved by Andrew Turnbull, who was insanely masterful in his picture perfect portrayal of the carnivorous mad man, Renfield--by far the most complicated character in the play. An inmate at the lunatic asylum overseen by Dr. Seward and under the influence of Dracula, he spends his time consuming flies in the hope of obtaining their life-force for himself, which transitions into a scheme to feed the flies to spiders, to feed the spiders to birds, and finally feed the birds to a cat, which he was denied, so he consumed the birds himself. Andrew's body movements, facial expressions, make-up, and hair-do all blended nicely for a provocatively entertaining as well as psychotically whimsical depiction.

The Flowertown Players presentation of the iconic "Dracula" will keep your interest from the moment the lights darken to the encore. Congratulations to the cast and crew for another successful opening night. To purchase tickets for remaining performances running to November 9th, go to "Dracula" or call (843) 875-9251.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Coastal Carolina Fair 2014-A 58 Year Old Tradition

Some notable events of 1957:
- Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and the 1st to fly in a helicopter.
- The Frisbee is renamed and nationally marketed.
- Velcro was patented by George de Mestral of Switzerland.
- 61st Boston Marathon won by John J Kelley of Connecticut in 2:20:05
- Music Man, starring Robert Preston, opens on Broadway.
- Elvis Presley emerges as one of the world's first rock star.
- Leave it to Beaver premiers on CBS.
- Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story debuts on Broadway.
- "I Love Lucy," last airs on CBS-TV.
- "American Bandstand" premieres.
- Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti comes to Charleston at the instigation of Countess Alicia Paolozzi who owns a home in the city, and begins negotiations to make Charleston the American site of Menotti's Festival of Two Worlds, later called the Spoleto Festival.
- the first Coastal Carolina Fair.

This years Coastal Carolina Fair starts October 30, 2014 and runs to November 9, 2014. Here are some photos and highlights from the 2013 fair:

I made the mistake of going to the Coastal Carolina Fair on my sandals. It was somewhat nippy on the toes after the sun made its exit, but despite my imprudent choice, I muddled through the evening warmed up by the colorful display of fair lights reflecting off the lake and the soulful country ballads of Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan.

I wouldn't of had it any other way. Sundown is when the fair takes on a personality of its own. The shadows are darker, the lights more dazzling, the sounds more raucous, and the smells more decadent. And, it was surprisingly crowded for a Monday night, at least from my perspective.

There was the usual plenty of the three reasons why people go to the fair - food, rides, and entertainment. Sorry beer lovers, one thing there won't be plenty of is beer. It is a nonalcoholic fair, but you don't need beer to have fun. This is a family-oriented event.

The lines moved swiftly and I didn't have to wait too long for anything. Oh, except when I ordered my "fish" gyro for $7, which was advertised as "new", and required a wait. Apparently not a popular choice among fair enthusiasts. The vendor had to get it out of the freezer and cook it up.

After it was sizzled in boiling oil, the vendor informed me, "It's good fish," which caused me to reflect on his words. Was he honestly convinced it was good fish or was he convincingly setting me up for disappointment? I have to say it was surprisingly not-fishy and paired with lettuce and tomato smothered in the house sauce wrapped in pita. Believe it or not, I have never eaten a regular gyro. When it comes to food, I do not venture into the unknown like an Anthony Bordain and eating fair food to me is like competing in a Survivor food challenge.

Here are just a few of the depraved oddities: fried bacon-wrapped pickles, Krispy Kreme sloppy Joes, deep-fried bubble gum, fried shrimp and grits, chicken-fried meatloaf, grilled doughnuts-on-a-stick, corn dogs, kebabs, elephant ears and the most popular food item at the Coastal Carolina Fair, turkey legs, but I am not revealing any new revelations here and the reoccurring word in this assortment is fried, fried, fried. I did see one vendor that sold vegetable dishes. There are three new fried delicacies. I will let you discover what they are for yourself- happy hunting.


Confession - before heading over to the Lakefront Stage to see Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan, I wickedly indulged in a dish of pumpkin-spice funnel cakes - $7. Enjoy the pictures, they speak a thousand words. Photos by Keri Whitaker.

You can expect much of the same and more at the 2014 Coastal Carolina Fair. This years entertainment list for the week is as follows:

Thursday October 30th - Eddie Money - 7:30 pm
Friday October 31st - Danielle Bradbery - 8:00 pm
Saturday November 1st - Big SMO - 8:00 pm
Sunday November 2nd - Swon Brothers - 5:00 pm
Monday November 3rd - The McClain Sisters - 7:30 pm
Tuesday November 4th - Hotel California, A tribute to the Eagles - 7:30 pm
Wednesday November 5th - The Willis Clan - 7:30 pm
Thursday November 6th - Colt Ford - 7:30 pm
Friday November 7th - Big Daddy Weave - 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm
Saturday November 8th - The Embers and Band of Oz 7:30 pm
Sunday November 9th - The Guess Who 5:00 pm

For the complete list of entertainment go to Coastal Carolina Fair.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Lengendary "Brick House" on Edisto Island--A Love Story With A Regrettable Twist

"I know not how it was--but, with the first glimpse of the building, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit...I looked upon the scene before me--upon the mere house, and the simple landscape features of the domain--upon the bleak walls--upon the vacant eye-like windows--with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to no earthly sensation more properly than to the after-dream...Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building. Its principle feature seemed to be that of an excessive antiquity...Perhaps the eye of a scrutinizing observer might have discovered a barely perceptible fissure, which extending from the roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall in a zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters of the tarn."

Drayton Hall 
The Lowcountry is rife with aged and ruined plantation homes that fit the portraiture of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher." Once sprawling estates of opulence, now pillaged realms of providence--some by Federal troops in the Civil War--some by the all-consuming fires of unintentional carelessness--some by creeping disrepair. What Edgar Allen Poe described with trepidation, we idealize and romanticize. For us, they are living remnants of a glamorous and sometime savage by-gone time called the Old South. Their storied and ghostly pasts color our dreams and shade our nightmares--part of the wonder that lures people from all over the country and the world each year by the millions to their caretaker and master, Charleston and its Sea Islands.

Brick House before 1929
The "Brick House" on Edisto Island is one of those houses. Believed to have been built in 1725, Paul Hamilton used bricks imported from Boston and wood aged a minimum of seven years in its construction--Boston bricks were more denser than local bricks. It was architecturally designed in American colonial architecture, but flavored with a French Huguenot influence. The Jenkins family acquired the estate in 1798, which included the 300 acre plantation. It was in the late 1700's and early 1800's Sea Island plantations grew in wealth and prosperity due to its highly-prized Sea Island Cotton. It was around this time an Edgar Allen Poe type story became a part of its history.

Shortly after the Jenkins took ownership, a relative of Mrs. Jenkins visited Brick House from James Island. Amelia was very beautiful, popular, and recently engaged to the prodigy of a prominent Charleston family. She was accompanied by her young mistress. Not long after, a complication arose when Amelia fell in love with a wealthy Edisto planter. She attempted to break off the engagement by letter, but the gentleman came to Brick House to confront her, demanding an explanation. Amelia's answer, "I fell in love with someone else." The jilted suitor pleaded for her to reconsider, but failed. "You will never marry him, I would rather see you dead," he threatened and walked away.

Time passed and the threat was forgotten--everyone was preoccupied with the wedding plans. The wedding day arrived. Nearby, Mr. Jenkins private steamboat awaited at the wharf. The newly weds would leave for Charleston after the festivities were completed. Brick House was filled with family and guests. Early in the evening, Amelia retired to the upstairs to put on her dress. With the assistance of her mistress, she readied herself. The veil was placed on her head and the mistress left the room. From the open window in the room, Amelia faintly heard her name called out. She approached the window and peered out into the darkness. Then, there was the deafening sound of a gun shot and a second.

Downstairs, the relatives and guests stunned by the echoing gunfire looked at one another in disbelief. They took immediate inventory. Everyone downstairs was alright. Then, a cold chill fell upon the celebrants. They all rushed up the stairs. The bridegroom was the first to reach the bloody and lifeless body of Amelia. Beside the window, a bloody-red handprint marked the place where she placed her hand before collapsing to the floor.

The jilted lover from Charleston made good on his threat. Outside the window stood a stately old oak. He had climbed into its broad branches, fired the fatal shot, and then turned the gun on himself. His body was found beneath the tree. The pistol's sulfuric exhalation lingering among the leaves overhead.

It is said, the bloody handprint left by Amelia remained on the beautiful, scenic-painted wall until a hundred years later, when it was covered by a heavy, green paint. In 1929, a fire gutted the interior, thus forever erasing the paint-covered manifestation. The brick shell survived. Over the years since, Brick House has suffered instability and extraordinary dilapidation, but Amelia's tragic story lives on. Each year on August the 13th, screams can be heard coming from within its crumbling walls. Some people say Amelia is often seen standing in the bedroom window--wedding dress shimmering in the moonlight.

After 1929

This is just one of the many houses and legends you will encounter as you navigate the historic Lowcountry from Bulls Island to Edisto Island, from the Battery in Charleston to Hutchinson Square in Summerville. They are as nurturing as the coastal tides and as murky as pluff mud. Bring your camera and broaden your mind for these words will reverberate in your ears, "Houses are alive...If we're quiet, if we listen, we can hear houses breath. Sometimes, in the depth of the night, you can even hear them groan. It's as if they were having bad dreams. A good house cradles and comforts, a based one fills us with instinctive unease."--Steven King in "Rose Red"

Ghost or Civil War Walking Tour of Charleston
Chilling Charleston Macabre Ghost Tour
Ghost and Haunted Tours in Charleston
Bulldog Ghost Tours
Tours of Edisto
Botany Bay Eco Tours

Friday, October 10, 2014

Now Barely A Whisper In The Wind With A Ghost Of A Story, Edingsville Beach Was A Haven Of Grandeur And Extravagance

As the legend tells, in the hazy cast of a summer's blood moon, when the ocean air is heavy with a salty mist, you just may see the glazed shadow of the moon's dim light dance its somber dance on the window panes of the once upon a time planter's homes an oyster toss from Botany Bay along a stretch of beach once called Edingsville. And if you carefully listen to the tempestuous breeze passing over the sand and through the scattered relics washed ashore by the agitated surf you just may hear the faint laughter and decadent chatter of the souls who past the time here during the burdensome heat of the malarial months of mosquito infested inland Edisto. But do not linger, for out of the translucent shadows unexpectedly you may be enlisted by an illusory woman walking the beach mournfully in search of her husband long past due from a distant land.

Today, this hauntingly seductive shoreline is a windswept, sea-shelled stretch of solitary sand located between Edisto and Botany Bay Beach(see map). You would be looking from Botany Bay for a glimpse because there is no access to the beach other than by way of a causeway used exclusively by the residents of Jeremy Cay--a gated community separated from the beach by a salt marsh. You arrive at the gates of Jeremy Cay by way of a moss covered, oak lined road called Edingsville Beach Road. The very same road that led the families of the aristocratic Sea Island planters of Edisto to their beach-side, summer resort once called Edingsville and the beginning of the story.

With the 18th century closing out and the 19th beginning, Edisto planters were fast becoming the wealthiest plantation owners in the South due to Sea Island cotton. Silky and highly-prized, Sea Island cotton boasted extra-long fibers making it a variety avidly sought after by mill owners of the world. Their unbelievable wealth empowered the planters to establish an aristocracy reinforced in blood and marriage. They built beautiful mansions, bought town-houses in Charleston and entertained lavishly, but in the summer months their plantation paradises languished in summer's oppressive heat besieged by swarms of mosquito and the dreaded "country fever," also known as malaria. While seeking relief on the barrier island beaches of the Atlantic, they discovered the cooling ocean breezes kept the scourge at bay. With this realization, the idea of Edingsville Beach was born.

Sea Island plantation
 By 1820, the beach-side resort of Edingsville had grown to include sixty stately two-story, brick houses wrapped in terraces with sweeping views, adorned with gardens and serviced by carriage houses and slave quarters. Two churches praised their good fortunes and resolved their sins while an academy kept the boys educated. In 1852, the Atlantic Hotel was built by the Eding's family to accommodate the growing list of vacationers. The beach retreat was dubbed "Riviera of the Low Country."

Every May, the planters would gather up their servants and furnishings, load them onto wagons and carts followed by horse drawn carriages filled with their progeny, and make the trek over Edisto's hot sandy roads to their magical haven by the ocean to spend the long summer days partaking in elegant parties, boat races, horse races, elaborate banquets and splashing around in the soothing, salty waters of the Atlantic. They would stay until the first frost of autumn. It was a leisurely, carefree life, but destiny had other plans for Edisto's planters and Edingsville Beach.

Between the devastation of the Civil War in the 1860's and the boll weevil infestations of 1917, the Sea Island Cotton industry in the Lowcountry became decimated. In almost a single season, the royal crop of the sea islands was wiped out, never to return. After escaping the insanity of the Civil War, Edingsville Beach's benefactor became its malefactor. The very same ocean that brought jubilant relief brought absolute devastation.

A series of hurricanes beginning in 1874 relentlessly eroded away the golden era existence of Edingsville Beach until finally the hurricane of 1893 washed away all affirmation of its splendor and extravagance leaving only a tabby brick fireplace and broken trinkets. Over the years since, the occasional piece of china or brick appears on the beach delivered by a passing wave as a reminder of the once flourishing aristocracy.

As for the illusory woman, her name is Mary Clark. She was the daughter of one of the wealthy planters who spent the hot summer months with the family at their water front home on Edingsville Beach. She recently married her childhood sweetheart, a ship's captain, who also was a descendant of island planters. Four weeks after their wedding, the groom set sail for the West Indies. It was October, and most of the planter families were still in residence in their beach homes.

Each evening, just before sunset, Mary walked down to the water's edge, stared out over the steadily building surf and longed for the return of her husband. Two weeks had passed. The captain's ship was overdue. The smell of an approaching hurricane was in the air, but it was too late to leave the island. The causeway was already flooded. Mary knew in her heart the captain's ship may be involved.

The hurricane hit and the house trembled and swayed. The structure started to buckle and sea water washed into the house. It was a long night of terror for Mary and the others as they struggled to stay alive. The morning brought an eerie calm and a scene that would never be forgotten. Trees were lying everywhere. Some beach houses were moved off their foundations with porches, chimneys or windows washed away.

Through it all, Mary's concern for her husband never wavered. Looking in disbelief at the heavy pieces of furniture, chairs, and sofas strewn along the beach, she spotted a dark, lumpy form floating on the ocean's horizon. She watched as the form washed closer toward the shore and become more recognizable. It was the form of a man. A numbing chill ran down her spine. She ran into the water, and as the form got closer to her, she recognized the body of her husband. With a shuddering cry, she plunged her trembling arms into the salty water and with tears streaming from her eyes, drew his lifeless body to her heartbroken chest and then it disappeared. Later, the heart-wrenching news arrived. Her husband's ship went down in the hurricane and all on board were lost.

Now it is said, on moonlit nights a young woman can be seen desperately searching the beach and running into the waves to pull the form of a man onto the shore.