English: Cousin (pronounced: cuz-in)
Francais: Cousin (pronounced “coo-zuhn” with the n being nearly silent)
My mother is the youngest of 5 children; 6 if you count my Uncle Max who was unofficially adopted by my grandmother during his early teens. Between the 6 siblings there are 15 kids including me and my brother. Of those 15 kids, there are 5 that are settled in France. We don’t see each other often but keep in touch via social media and through our respective parents. I find it interesting though that despite the distance and lack of regular communication, we usually pick up right where we left off when we see each other.
Such was the case this past week when my cousin A and her husband, also with a name starting in A came to visit. They flew in from Paris to spend a few weeks in the U.S. and visited my mom in Washington D.C., then drove down to see us. I haven’t seen this cousin in 17 years; she had visited the States and I, Paris, but our paths didn’t intersect for one reason or another. I was a teen the last time we saw each other. We’ve both gotten married since then and I’ve had 3 children. Lots has changed. And yet, we picked up right where we left off, her husband no doubt helping in that effort with his gregarious Southern French personality and quick laugh. My husband ended up having to go out of town for part of their visit so the kids and I took it upon ourselves to show them Charleston.
First, breakfast at Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe and a stroll through the market.
Do you see what I mean? First day in town and it’s as if the kids grew up with them.
Next, we planned for an afternoon at the beach. You can’t do that without snacks though so we made a quick trip to our local Whole foods where I introduced them to the pleasures of grocery shopping with a nice crisp glass of Pale Ale in hand. Our Whole Foods has a beer bar wherein you can grab a glass and shop! Obviously, my two youngest were less than impressed!
The afternoon was spent at Kiawah Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, followed by a stop at the famous Angel Oak, and dinner from Lewis Barbecue. Fun fact: When the French say “barbecue” they mean grilling. At first they thought going to a barbecue place meant we’d pick up the meat and take it home to barbecue. Needless to say, upon arrival they very quickly understood that barbecue is a type of cuisine in addition to a method of cooking. We brought home beef brisket, pulled pork, hot guts, jalapeno corn pudding, baked beans and slaw. Delicious!
Honestly though, if you’re in town, you have to go. Lewis Barbecue truly is one of the best in the city.
The next day brought us to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. We enjoyed the breeze from a boat ride through the old rice fields then a jaunt around the gardens. The kids were quick to point out how hot it was but relented in their complaints when gelato was promised.
If gelato wasn’t enough of a treat, A & A invited us out to dinner so we enjoyed oysters and shrimp and grits at Prohibition that evening. #SouthernFoodGoalsAchieved
The following morning, I had wanted to take them to Botany Bay, but alas the bridge was damaged during Hurricane Matthew so we decided to try out Bulls Island instead. I figured it would be fun since the kids and I had never been and it required a ferry ride to the island.
The ride itself was great; it was warm and breezy and the captain was very knowledgeable. Upon arrival, I had expected there to be a walk to get down to the beach, however I had expected more of a stroll than a hike.
Mistake number 1: Failure to bring a stroller, carrier or wagon.
The boat left shore at 9 AM and after a 20 minute ride dropped us off on the island. It would return at 12 PM for pick up. If we missed that boat, we would have to wait 4 hours for the next one. The captain reminded us that it was a long walk to the beach so to prepare in advance. He passed out maps on the ferry even. I grossly underestimated the distance. The kids were tired half way to the beach. I made them walk the whole way under the guise of preparing for future hiking trips but I knew we’d have to carry them on the way back. There was no way those little legs were going to make it, especially in the South Carolina heat.
Mistake number 2: Failure to wear long sleeves or hiking gear
I am not exaggerating when I saw we hiked through a swamp. There was a path, probably 20 feet across that was grass and sand, sandwiched between swamp and marsh. Do you know what that means? It means A LOT of mosquitoes. Not those little tiny things we get up north. They are Carolina mosquitoes and they were starving apparently. Even with repellent we were swarmed. The kids did not find this the least bit amusing.
Mistake number 3: Underestimating distance and time.
As I mentioned above, I completely underestimated how far it was to get to the beach and once we were actually on the beach, how far it was to walk to the trees. At Botany Bay, once you get to the beach you’re surrounded by the beautiful bare trees. The trek through the swamp had to be a mile at least and the beach walk was another half mile.
It was gorgeous, but of course, we quickly ran out of time and the kids were already exhausted. Undaunted, my cousin’s husband grabbed G and threw him on his back, African style with a towel tied around his waist. My cousin took the bags and walked with my oldest while I carried S, piggyback style. We each wrapped ourselves in a towel knowing we’d be attacked again by bugs and hauled tail back to the dock. We made it by the skin of our teeth. We boarded the boat and it immediately left upon us taking our seats. Talk about an adventure!
As beautiful as it was, I don’t think I’ll be making that trip again until the kids are older and not without the necessary gear. Leave it to me to not do enough research and force my poor guests to work while on vacation! Gracious as they were, they brushed it off as nothing.
We spent some time letting our leg muscles relax poolside, then met up with my girlfriends that evening for some happy hour libations at Stars, a rooftop bar downtown.
One of these lovely ladies is a Louisiana native and being that my cousins were headed to New Orleans next, we spent some time chatting about things to see and do there. Politics inevitably came up with the recent French election and it was interesting to listen to the various points of view.
Gluttons for punishment, we decided to skip dinner and gallivant around town, walking nearly the length of King Street, admiring the shops and conversing with locals. I can tell you that I was thankful I wore my flip-flops out that evening and not my stilettos.
Short of the ill-planned island adventure, I felt their visit was a success and was able to send them off the subsequent morning with thoroughly worked out leg muscles, full bellies and hopefully full hearts too.