On the Road, Part 2

We arrived in Charleston in the dark on Saturday evening and eventually found where we were staying, the NotSo Hostel. This place is incredible, if anyone is ever travelling to Charleston you must stay here. Such an amazing atmosphere and just such a nice place – definitely the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and our kitchen and bathroom were far nicer than any chain motel. It’s really hard to describe, so I’ll let some photos do the talking:

Our building – our room is the one with the open door.

Our room!

Our kitchen, shared with two other rooms.

I would happily spend a week in this place, and it was a shame we were only there two nights. There was a free bagel breakfast served every morning in one of the main house kitchens and there were so many lovely little touches everywhere. It being a hostel meant that we met several people also staying there, several Americans and also some British, Scottish, Dutch, German and Belgian people. I so want to go back.

On Saturday evening, after arrival, we walked down King St, one of the main shopping streets, until we got to the proper downtown area, and had dinner at this really quirky little French restaurant where we sat around a big table/bar with other people and had amazing soups and desserts.

On Sunday we spent the whole day out exploring, and met up with some of Cornelia’s Dutch friends who were on exchange at College of Charleston and they showed us round a bit. How to describe Charleston? It is honestly one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever been to. It’s so beautiful, and the architecture is just amazing – the city is filled with old houses of a very distinct style, with two tiers of porches on the side of the house and painted all different colours. There are tons of fancy shops, restaurants and hotels, but there is also a definite grittiness to the city as well – it’s not as clean-cut as Charlottesville is, there is a kind of dark, sultry undertone to it. It’s also very cultural and artsy, there are more art galleries than I’ve ever seen anywhere and lots of interesting independent shops and cafes. Charleston has a large part to play in US history (it was where the Civil War started, for one, was an important port and used to be one of the biggest cities in the country) and is also famous for it’s many many churches, all of which are stunning. As the building of the city predates cars it’s very walkable and has a very European feeling to it in that sense, while also mixing in a tropical/Caribbean feeling (there are palm trees everywhere) with a distinctive American style – I’ve never been anywhere like it and can’t wait to go back.

On Monday morning we packed up and left straight after breakfast and spent the whole day driving back to Charlottesville – about an eight or nine hour drive, this time on the interstate so not as much to see. Still, nothing like being out on the American road.

Other things that happened on this trip:

– We saw actual cotton fields.

– We got a parking ticket in Chapel Hill. Luckily only $15 but took us until South Carolina to notice it was on our windshield!

– We ate: the aforementioned grits, blueberry pancakes, biscuits (the American kind), dried okra, bagels, fried green tomatoes, chicken tenders, Belgian ice-cream and French soup.

– We saw the sea!

– We had an on/off relationship with our GPS navigator, an Australian-accented voice called Lee. By the end we were quite attached.

– We listened to a LOT of music while driving, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Coldplay and old 80s/90s stuff being most dominant.

– We got very confused at several gas stations about how the paying system worked. And about how to open our fuel tank door.

– We learnt that Denny’s Diner is surprisingly good and much better than Huddle House.

– We fell passionately in love with Charleston.

Tomorrow I leave for DC as family have arrived in the US for a visit. A very busy time indeed.

Southern fried love,

Natalia xxx

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