Charmed by the ‘World’s Best City’

Sun.Star Cebu - - FRONT PAGE - JENEEN R. GAR­CIA / Writer and Photographer

It was al­most De­cem­ber in Wash­ing­ton DC. Most of the leaves had fallen from the trees out­side my of­fice. The days were get­ting shorter. And there I was, busy chas­ing af­ter dead­lines just as I had for the last twelve months. “You need to get away,” my co-worker said in a rare mo­ment of em­pa­thy. I knew I needed to hear the sooth­ing waves, feel the sand un­der my feet again. But where to go when I had spent so much of the year trav­el­ing for work, and didn’t want to spend an­other six hours or more of my life fly­ing to a trop­i­cal beach?

Charleston, ar­guably the heart of the gen­teel Amer­i­can south, is best known for its hos­pi­tal­ity, col­or­ful his­tory, and cui­sine. What doesn’t al­ways come to mind are the many beaches and bar­rier is­lands sur­round­ing what used to be the big­gest slave port in North Amer­ica, and what still is one of the big­gest centers of trade in the US. Be­cause so many friends had rec­om­mended it, Charleston, South Carolina was on my list of places to see when I had time for a quick trip. What a de­light to dis­cover that the “World’s Best City” in 2016 ac­cord­ing to Travel

+ Leisure mag­a­zine also had the beaches I so des­per­ately needed!

De­ter­mined to have my beach va­ca­tion, I booked a place on Folly Beach. The town of Folly Beach is ac­tu­ally a bar­rier is­land about 20 min­utes away driv­ing from down­town Charleston. It is less pop­u­lar – and there­fore qui­eter – than the other beaches, be­cause it doesn’t have the ameni­ties that fam­i­lies love, such as play­grounds and pools and bath­rooms by the beach. Just a 10-kilo­me­ter- long ex­panse of sand, in­ter­rupted only by a fish­ing pier that es­sen­tially marks the is­land’s eastern and western sides. Bliss.

But Bo­ra­cay it isn’t. Rather than the warm, rel­a­tively calm wa­ters of the Sulu Sea, here was the At­lantic Ocean crash­ing full force onto the shore. Though I was down south, it was al­ready very late in the fall, and the wa­ter was colder than the cold­est rain­storm back home. The wind was chilly even in the midafter­noon sun when I ar­rived. I won­dered if I would re­gret this solo es­capade of mine.

It was low tide, and the beach stretched wide in all di­rec­tions as surfers made the trek into the waves. I couldn’t help it. I took off my shoes and waded into the

What do you do when you long for the sea and you’re thou­sands of miles away from the near­est trop­i­cal is­land? You head south to the Caroli­nas.

cold wa­ter. The next day, I biked to the western point of the is­land where I was told the sun­sets were magnificent. “It’s just an un­be­liev­able shade of pink,” the re­cep­tion­ist at the inn where I was stay­ing told me. This was on the land­ward side of the bar­rier is­land, where tall grasses and oys­ters made up the salt marshes that I first thought were calm rivers flow­ing into the ocean.

As I took in the view, I sud­denly saw some­thing black, glis­ten­ing in the wa­ter. It dis­ap­peared, then came up again, ris­ing and fall­ing be­neath the dark wa­ter. My breath caught in my throat. It was a dol­phin! No other crea­ture could be this grace­ful. It was alone, swim­ming very close to the grass and the mud, prob­a­bly in search of food. I had read about strand feed­ing, where a group of dol­phins herd a school of fish to­wards land, and then heave their bod­ies onto the beach to feed. This unique be­hav­ior has been seen mainly in South Carolina and Ge­or­gia.

Ev­ery day that week I walked on the beach, one day tak­ing a boat to get close to the light­house, one af­ter­noon just watch­ing rows of black­birds on the pier, an­other morn­ing read­ing a book at my room’s bal­cony fac­ing the marsh. The town li­brary had a cart of books that were free to take by any­one, local and tourist alike.

Just be­fore my evening flight on my last day, I took one fi­nal walk on the beach, ab­sorb­ing each glint of light, each mur­mur of the wind on the sand. I had not got­ten my trop­i­cal is­land, but I found this haven of quiet sur­prises in­stead. The sun­set was stun­ning, as it had been ev­ery day of my stay here. On my way back, I saw an old man in his beach chair, tak­ing a pic­ture of the last rays of the sun with his flip phone.

“Do you sit here ev­ery day on the beach?” “Yes,” he an­swered. “Do you ever get tired of it?” “No,” he said with a smile Nei­ther would I.

POOLS left by the re­ced­ing tide re­flect the evening sun.

FALL BY THE BEACH. Avoid the sum­mer crowds by vis­it­ing in Septem­ber, or right af­ter Thanks­giv­ing.

IN THE 1700S

INSTAGRAMMABLE. No dearth of ma­te­rial on the is­land.

EAST FROM WEST. The fish­ing pier splits the is­land into east and west.

Ships bring­ing goods to Charleston were asked to drop off sick pas­sen­gers on the is­land be­fore en­ter­ing port so as not to in­fect the city’s res­i­dents. ROWS OF BLACK­BIRDS on the pier.

LOST DOG CAFÉ is a must for South­ern food! They serve hearty break­fasts ‘til 2 p.m., and make your furry, four-legged friends feel ex­tra wel­come.

CATCH UP on some read­ing while en­joy­ing the is­land’s views and cui­sine.

BAR­RIER IS­LAND

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