When I’m thinking of Christmas, I’m usually thinking of snow. A lot of snow! Unfortunately I didn’t have a white Christmas in years! Okay, there has been a little bit of snow here and there back in 2012, but that didn’t really count, because it melted shortly after it touched the ground. At some point, I gave up hoping and especially this year it’s just depressing, because it’s like 10°C outside (what the!?!)! But compared to my last years Christmas, it’s really cold in Germany, because I’ve spent it all the way down south in Florida!
“We should go somewhere for Christmas, if we’re already off!”, is what my best friend and I thought, so we were figuring out, what we could do and especially where we could go. After thinking about all kinds of possibilities, this huge and amazing country had to offer and realizing, that we weren’t able affording any of these (living the good old life as an “Au Poor”!), we came up with the great idea, to just go on a road trip all the way down south. I’m not sure about whose idea it was, but I could imagine, that it wasn’t mine, because I’m the one with the snow and stuff. So we knew, what we wanted to do, but still weren’t sure about our destination. I told my host mom about our amazing plan and she said, that we should go to Charleston, South Carolina. “It’s beautiful and the food is amazing!”, is what she told me and to be honest, I wasn’t convinced. Charleston. This has been a destination, I never thought of going before. It has always been about New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and so on. Big cities, everyone knows and I really wanted to go to. I didn’t know anything about Charleston, so I haven’t been interested in this city at all (really cocky, I know!). So the next thing, I did was, looking at some pictures of Charleston and doing some research on Wikipedia. What I saw was really nice. “Well, why not.”, was what I thought. For some reason, and that is another thing, I don’t really remember, I found out about Savannah, Georgia. This has been the place, where they shot the famous bus scene in “Forrest Gump”, my favorite movie of all time. From one moment to the other, I got all excited and we had to go there! My best friend also wanted to go to Florida, which wasn’t far from Savannah. Our road trip down south was a done deal!
Unfortunately my memory got lost over the past year, so I’m not sure about what day we actually hit the road, but I think, it has been either December 20th or 21st. Well, it doesn’t matter what day it was, because the things, that matter where about to happen. So here we were in our little Honda Civic (thanks to my host mom, that she trusted me that much, that she gave me the car and we didn’t have to rent one!), all excited and ready for another adventure! I had a ridiculously huge suitcase, filled with a bunch of clothes, I didn’t need (such a stereotype of woman…), while my friend was packed with a lot of Christmas presents, he was so excited about, that he kept saying: “Oh my Gosh, I wanna open them!”. I kept telling him, to just open them, if he can’t wait and his answer always has been the same; “Nah, I’m gonna wait until Christmas!”. This was about to be a recurring conversation for the next 4 or 5 days. Eventually, he opened one, before I even started the car.
During our drive, you would have been able watching a German woman struggling with temperature difficulties. Well, you can’t call it being difficult, if it’s getting warmer outside, because warmth is suppose to be a pleasure and anything else but a struggle, but to me it felt like a menopause! As soon, as we’ve reached warmer temperatures, I got crazy and turned up the AC. Shortly after that, it was too cold, so I turned it off again and became hot. I was fighting my own body: AC on, AC off. Window up, window down. I’ve never experienced something like this before. Maybe I was just extremly excited. Besides suffering from crazy weird temperatures, my best friend was playing the English teacher and taught me and also himself a lot of English words, phrases and grammar. What a sophisticated trip. After about 8,5 hours, we finally reached Charleston! We’ve booked a room at the Hampton Inn on Meeting Street, that reminded me of an old Russian barracks or at least a prison (no harm meant, folks!), so I was a little worried about having unwanted guests called Mr Cockroach or Mr Grasshopper. As soon, as we entered the hotel, which was decorated all Christmassy and we finally came to our room, all of my concerns turned out wrong and we had an amazing room with an even more amazing bed! Jackpot! I should stop having this absurd imagination. After we refreshed ourselves, we were about to paint the town red! Not far away from our hotel was a park with a lot of palm trees, that have been decorated with Christmas lights and were looking just beautiful at night! The southern type of Christmas tree. Hungry as bears, we spotted a cute little French restaurant called “39 Rue de Jean” (if you would like to get a table, click here), where we were sitting outside, enjoying some great wine and even greater food. After our delightful dinner, we headed back to our lovely prison hotel, to get some rest for a fully packed sightseeing tour the next day!
Only a few more days until Christmas, as we started our day in Charleston with summery temperatures and a blue sky. It didn’t feel Christmassy at all, which was confusing me a lot in the beginning. It felt like vacation, which it was, but if someone would have told me, that Christmas was about to fall through, I just would have shrugged my shoulders and said: “Alright.”. Our first stop has been the tourist information, to get a summary of things to do in good old Charleston. After my best friend got all kinds of maps and organized, I was being the one, who was just taking pictures again. “Don’t you wanna get a map as well?”, is what he asked me. I told him, that I wouldn’t need a map, if he already has one, since we’re together. Besides that, I hate carrying maps with me, when it’s a little windy and they’re getting all crumbled up and are annoying the shit out of me, until I throw them away and get lost afterwards. So I can get lost right from the beginning. But thanks to smartphones and google maps, there is no getting lost anymore. He looked at me smiling and said: “Well, maybe I am gonna continue our vacation without you.”. “I have the car.”, is what I told him and he just mumbled a “Damn!” and we both laughed. On our way downtown, we spotted a lot of backyards, residental gardens, which Charleston is also known for and which are beautiful! One prettier than the other. My favorite one was the Calhoun Mansion garden with its water fountain surrounded by a lot of plants and trees. And as I found out afterwards, part of the movie “The Notebook” has been shot inside the Calhoun Mansion.
Charleston is known for it’s historic buildings, which are pouring on an unbelievably colonial charme, that made me wanna buy a lot of houses again (It’s really annoying being “poor” sometimes). What I liked about the houses the most, were these huge balconies, which were stretching from one side to the other. Some of these mansions even had two! Me and my friend, we kept gaping about this amazing arcitecture and have been a little bit jealous of these lucky bastards, that could call these houses their home! The luckiest of all, are the ones, that live right at the Battery of Downtown Charleston, the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula, where the Cooper River and Ashley River meet. A view, that makes you forget about all of your sorrows. We conquered the city of Charleston by foot, because it is the best way of exploring an unknown city. You are about to discover places, you never would have discovered, if you’d have taken the bus or the metro (besides there isn’t even a metro). It indeed is exhausting and at the end of the day, you have the biggest desire to just drop dead, but it’s worth the pain! Another thing, I enjoyed, was that little market, that we found by a happy coincidence and hasn’t been far from the water. The market took place in different little houses, that reminded me of old warehouses, which they probably were and they used to stock all kinds of things back in the days, when Charleston still has been one of the most important harbor towns in the United States of America, or to keep their horses and carriages there. I just love strolling along those kinds of markets. You can find the strangest and rarest things, artists and people from around are making themselves, to sell it. I could spend the entire day, looking at all these pieces of art, exploring things, I won’t ever see somewhere else again, because they are all so unique. Besides well-preserved arcitecture, Charleston has to offer a lot of distinguished restaurants and if we did something very well, it has been dining. My host mom told me, that we had to have crab sandwishes, crab cakes (looooooove these!) and every other kind of seafood. I love seafood, so I couldn’t wait, to try all of it and I really had a hard time making a decision, because it all sounded so good! It was also hard making a decision of where we wanted to eat. Good, that we had some coupons for a restaurant on King Street, the place to be, to shop until you drop and one of the main streets besides Meeting Street, so we got a table right outside the restaurant, where we could enjoy the weather, the food and watching people passing by. I love watching people, imagining, where they are coming from and how their lives might be. I know, it sounds creepy, but to me it’s fascinating.
Charleston definitely casted a spell on me! I fell in love with this gorgeous place, I rejected with a shrug of my shoulders in the beginning. I am for sure not a fan of beaches, but I love waterfronts and harbors and I just adored Charleston’s waterfront, its beautiful park with that funny pineapple water fountain and these swings, we were sitting in and swinging at night, enjoying the sea breeze. I have to admit, that I didn’t feel the Christmas spirit at all, which seemed confusing to me in the beginning, but didn’t matter to me at some point anymore. This place has been special in it’s own way, so it has been a very new and special kind of Christmas spirit to me! From this moment, I’ve learned to pay more attention to all the unknown places, besides the mainstream! It’s not all about these big places, we see on a map right away and everyone knows about, because sometimes, we don’t even know, what kind of small and irrelevant places are out there, which become relevant only because of us. I’m more than thankful, that my host mom suggested me to go there. We would have missed out on a lot of beautiful places and memories! So I said goodbye to lovely Charleston after two days, because it was about time to leave and go to…
Savannah, Georgia! Forrest Gump, here I come!