Thursday, May 08, 2008

Where nothing ever happens

Ravi and I visited Charleston, WV for a conference. My initial outlook was rather snooty. After all, I was from a large city, complete with high rise buildings and cursing drivers. I looked upon Charleston as a place where nothing ever happened.
We completed the conference on a Sunday afternoon and watched the speedy emptying of the hotel we stayed in. We asked a rather Marilyn Monroesque receptionist about places to eat. My initial impressions were reinforced when we found that most good restaurants were closed on Sunday afternoons as they were family owned. As hunger pangs assailed me, I told myself- 'whoever heard of restaurants being closed on a Sunday afternoon? This can only happen here!!'
Ravi came up with an idea- 'Lets get to the State Capitol, there are sure to be restaurants there'. I had no arguments to offer, and I knew he wanted to add one more Capitol pic to his kitty. He pacified me with a banana and some random biscuits. We drove the short distance to the Capitol.
Surprise of surprises, the Capitol was deserted, as rest of Charleston was. Angrily I stared at the gold domed building as we drove towards it. Ravi was more optimistic - 'maybe there is something in the front, we seem to be at the back of the building'. I had no such illusions.
As we drove to the front of the Capitol, my anger was suddenly forgotten at the beautiful sight ahead of us. The Capitol sat on the bank of a river, cherry trees dotted the bank at the bases of which there were memorials. At a lower level there was a small path for walking or biking and stone steps led further down to the water. On the other bank were picturesque homes, surrounded by trees and the green lawns of which led into the river. There were small boats dotting the river- a couple sunning themselves, another reading a book. In the horizon, a quaint old bridge was visible. The scene was one of perfect idyll, and as I rejoiced in the peace, I realized though we had slowed down to a stop, nobody honked at us, instead the cars went around. Soon we found a spot to park right by the Capitol and took a stroll on the little path near the river.
The hunger pangs returned, and didn't seem to appreciate the scenery as much as we did. As Ravi clicked a gazillion pics, I stopped a young man taking a walk to ask him about restaurants. He spoke to me at length about the delightful steakhouse, the delicious seafood place and finally said rather reluctantly after being pressed for greater culinary delights than the ones he had told me about - 'there is this place called Bluegrass Kitchen which serves some vegetarian stuff for brunch, which is close by.' I pounced on that, and thanked him for his time (a good 30 minutes), contrasted him in my head with the type of answer I would have gotten in my busy, large city.
At the cafe, I got another pleasant surprise. The place was eccentric and had a cheery outdoorsy feel to it. One end had an open brick wall, decorated with multiple unframed paintings of various dogs. There were also antiqueish lamps, a beautifully painted Gecko and other knickknacks. On the other end was a brightly painted wall, decorated with embroidered rugs. The waitresses were chugging lemonade and were in jeans and T-shirts and scarves. Our waitress informed us that all the vegetables and meat was farm grown and they made their own cream and cheese. After waiting for a short time, our food arrived and was excellent, and had a tangy flavor with turmeric, black pepper and paprika for spice. Crowning everything was the most delicious and heavenly lemon meringue pie I had ever eaten in my short life.
Vetoing my idea of packing several of those fabulous pies, Ravi reminded me about the journey home. As we drove, I silently thought about how hastily and presumptuously I had misjudged this quaint little town. Here, I had found perfect peace and a bustling, busy world seemed far away. Here, I re-encountered hospitality and friendliness which I had lost touch with. And here, time seemed to stand still with no one being in a rush to push it along, as nothing ever happened anyway!


Anonymous avram said...

I do not know if I would ever visit Charlston to feel the serenity and the peace you experienced there at last, but your description of the place, the Capitol, the river side, etc., flows like a movie in front of my eyes. Good blog. Keep writing.

Fri May 30, 02:13:00 AM  

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