It took us about 8 hours by car to reach Charleston from Naples (Florida), which put us there around 8pm. We were very excited about visiting the town’s historic parts the next morning so we got an early start. Known for its southern hospitality and politeness, Charleston’s American roots run deep as does its religious tolerance (it was one of the first American towns to allow religious freedom to non-Catholics). Interestingly, it’s also the place that sparked the first battles leading to the Civil War. A town entrenched in historical conflicts that ultimately flourished and became a gem of the South. Today the city’s charm takes many forms, from beautiful Georgian style super mansions to the more modest yet brightly colored colonial homes. We enjoyed making our way around the waterfront, the cobble-stone streets and City Market, at times utilizing prominent church steeples as directional markers. Charleston was immensely growing on us but by early afternoon we had to start making our way on towards North Carolina.
We had an open invitation from our friends Yulia and Bret, to visit them in Wrightsville Beach (right next to Wilmington). This was our next stop for the ensuing 4 days. We had heard about the beautiful beach and sunset in Wrightsville from Yulia and Bret but being there and experiencing it together with them was special. In true welcome home fashion they greeted us with a bottle of sparkling Rosé (at the beach), while watching dolphins make themselves present under the blood red sky. Catching up with them sparked memories of home (New York), although it also painted a clear picture of their new and more relaxed life down south with the beach just couple of minutes away (a true beauty). With the ocean nearby came an abundance of seafood and so the next night Bret got his oysters on, two bushels to be exact. Steamed to perfection in his fire spit and paired with a tomato-horseradish dip in the company of numerous friends – good times with good friends (old and new). We were settling in nicely to the rhythm of life in Wrightsville Beach just going along with the mellow flow. The next day we headed to Bald Head Island and stayed the night at one of Bret and Yulia’s friends’ house. The island is just a quick boat ride off the mainland and its “private” status ensures its naturally wild charm. There are no cars on the island, instead golf carts are the mode of transportation. What stood out most was the rich vegetation and wildlife on the sanctuary-like island, while massive ocean front mansions affirmed our special access to Bald Head. It was a privilege to be there and best of all we got further acquainted with some of the new friends we made.
North Carolina was a first in many ways – new places, new things and new friendships. Although it brought us one big step closer to home, it also served as a reminder that our journey continues on.