A Love Letter from Ashley Galloway Thomas

Ashley:

I moved here in the Summer of 2014 with my then boyfriend (now husband-woot!) David, a Charleston native.  We had zero job prospects and a small amount of money to ride out an unknown length of unemployment. Some people thought we were foolish to move to a new city on these circumstances but to us, it just felt right. We were living in Peoria, IL at the time and were ready for a change (and some warmer weather). Charleston seemed like a no-brainer for us. We had a lot friends there, it’s full of amazing food and we’re total porch dogs. What more could we want? Two of our good friends let us stay in their attic apartment for a few months until we could land some jobs and find a place of our own. Which we did. And the rest is history.

Charleston has been and continues to be a beautiful place to live. Here are my top four reasons why I love living here.  

There’s a Strong Local Movement Here

In addition to the many local/family owned restaurants in the area, there are over 80 local farms here in the Lowcountry, many of which participate in a CSA program. Subscribing to a CSA helps keep your kitchen stocked with fresh produce, something near and dear to my heart as a Registered Dietitian. The healthier your environment is, the healthier you will be. Plus, it encourages variety in your diet which is a hallmark of nutritious eating. Love a good farmers market? We’ve got five; downtown, Mt. Pleasant, James Island, Johns Island and Boone Hall. Shopping at the farmers market is a great way to support local farmers and purveyors. The Lowcountry’s use of family owned local farms removes the dependence on 'big agriculture' which causes enormous environmental implications and does not support a sustainable food system, something that our growing population depends on. 

The Lowcountry Landscapes & Views Never Get Old

From sunsets to enormous oak trees to marshes, the Lowcountry is not lacking in the unique landscape department. Some enjoy the sunrise from the connector or the Ravenel bridge on the way to work. Others may watch a vibrant sunset on one of Charleston’s beaches, or over a drink on the dock at Shem Creek. There are several rooftop locations as well that give amazing views of the city. As for our dog Kiki, she prefers the warm and grassy marshland; she says the pluff mud is good for her skin. While the Angel Oak is a stunning and iconic tree of the Lowcountry, massive oak trees are all over this city, beautifully lining the streets of neighborhoods and parks, creating a canopy of oaks. And let’s not forget the beauty on the outskirts of Charleston like Boneyard Beach on Capers Island. We love to Kayak out and camp on Capers; it makes a great weekend getaway. 

Shem Creek sunset

Shem Creek sunset

Angel Oak tree

Angel Oak tree

Kiki enjoying the marsh

Kiki enjoying the marsh

Edmund’s Oast

The Charleston food scene is insane and there is no shortage of fantastic restaurants. But this one is my favorite. From the food, to the atmosphere, to the beer selection, it stole my heart at first visit. The menu boasts seasonal and local ingredients, always keeping you on your toes with something new. I always try something new when I go and have never - I repeat, never - been disappointed. This is rare and probably why I like Edmund’s Oast so much. If you like watching the chefs prepare your meal you can sit inside at the Chef’s Counter which places you front and center of the open kitchen. Or if you feel like enjoying the beautiful lowcountry weather, sit outside at a community table and get some fresh air. And lastly, the beer. Edmund’s is one of the few brewery based restaurants in the Lowcountry and has 40 beers on tap at a time. My favorite Edmund’s beers are Circe and Farrago. And you gotta try the Peanut Butter & Jelly beer just once. They also feature guest taps from local brewers and the most recent was a phenomenal Belgian Golden Ale brewed with beets. Yep, beets. Beautiful color and earthy flavor.  

A look into the Edmund's Oast kitchen

A look into the Edmund's Oast kitchen

I Can Commute by Bike

Why live downtown and not bike everywhere? This is a major perk for David and I since we both work at the College of Charleston. It takes us 15 minutes to get to work and we don’t have to sit in traffic or stress out about finding parking. When it rains we wear ponchos/rain jackets and when it’s 120 degrees outside we bring a change of clothes. We bike to friends houses, restaurants, bars, the farmer’s market and the Music Farm. The only thing we need now is a bike trailer to tote our groceries from the Harris Teeter :) And with all the hard work Charleston Moves is doing, we look forward to seeing other parts of Charleston become more bike friendly.  

Biking through the seasons

Biking through the seasons

Bio:

Ashley Thomas is a Registered Dietitian at the College of Charleston, teaches the Nutrition and Dental Health graduate course at MUSC, and writes her own food and nutrition blog, The Fresh Beet. She and her husband David Thomas live downtown with their spoiled fur baby, Kiki.  In her free time, Ashley can be found brushing up on her pottery skills, doing yoga and spending time with friends in the lovely Lowcountry. 

A Love Letter from Mackenzie Foster

Mackenzie:

“Why would anyone want to leave this wonderful city?” is a question I hear frequently from visiting friends and family.  They are always in awe of the warm sunshine, the diverse restaurant scene, and the abundance of things to do. While I don’t have good answer to their question, I can say that I was one of the ones who left. After four years at the College of Charleston, studying for midterms, lying on the grass at Marion Square, countless hours at the beach, and playing Ultimate Frisbee outdoors all year round, I graduated, packed up, and moved to Chicago. Cold, snowy, eight-months-of-winter, Chicago. My five years in the Windy City were filled new experiences, lots of fun, and many lessons learned, but I do have to admit that moving back to Charleston was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Luckily, the Lowcountry welcomed me back with open arms. My departure and return enabled me to see the Lowcountry in a whole new “rose colored glasses” kind of light. While sitting down to write this post I made a list of all the things that I love about the Lowcountry and what makes it unique (it was a little extensive…). There were many topics that have already been mentioned on Lowcountry Love Letters (including some of my faves- the beauty of brunch, the growing craft brewery scene, and of course the beach) so I narrowed my list to three.

1) People

There is nothing comparable to the people you meet in the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” motto is spot on. Upon my return, I immediately appreciated the warm feeling of walking down the street and having complete strangers smile and say hello. While the rest of the country sometimes thinks this is strange, here Southern kindness reigns. I was very impressed by my neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand, my coworkers who understand that family comes first, and my friends who are always there when I need them. I get laughed at from my Chicago friends when I tell them I am baking a pie or a casserole to bring to a friend or that a friend is cooking me dinner, but this is just the way people in the Lowcountry treat each other.

Our annual Charleston family Easter took place yesterday, where of course, Mackenzie brought two grits dishes.

2) Pace

When I first moved to Chicago, I worked with a group of individuals from New York who were opening a Broadway musical in the Windy City. I was in the throws of learning the lifestyle differences between what I have always known and what I would need to quickly pick up. One instance stuck out in particular; while driving with a coworker, I was informed that my driving style could be described as “moseying” (he was a little terrified of the defensive drivers). While at the time I was extremely offended, I have now learned to appreciate the notion of “stopping to smell the roses”. Most of those that I have met upon my return to the Lowcountry have perfected the art of a work-life balance. They understand the beauty of sitting on the porch with a cold beverage, watching the world go by, or taking a long slow stroll down the beach while catching up with a friend.  In a city filled with such beauty, it seems as though the inhabitants ensure that they take in and appreciate all that the Lowcountry has to offer.

3) Culture
As someone who has a background in theatre and the arts, I understand the South is sometimes perceived as having limited options when it comes to the world of art. Luckily, Charleston does not follow suit. We have Spoleto Festival USA, (which is coming up quickly!) offering seventeen days of world-renowned artists who come in from all over the globe to present dance, theatre, opera, and music.  We have the French Quarter Art Walk happening four times a year, touring Broadway shows coming through the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (Phantom of the Opera going on now!), contemporary art centers like Redux and The Halsey Institute, Reggae Nights Summer concerts, improv at Theatre 99, dance projects like DanceFX, concerts at the Charleston Music Hall or the Music Farm and the list continues. There is always something new and fun to experience.

Bio (by Emily):
Mackenzie lives in Mt. Pleasant with her diva cat, Lucille. She spends her days running the world of set design and production for various projects that include Spoleto, President Obama's visit last year, Darius Rucker's surprise CMT concert on the Isle of Palms and more. Her evenings and weekends are filled with outdoor adventures, glorious first sips of champagne, and bad television with her best girlfriends.