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Thanks to Pamela Rasp of New York City for sharing a look at Beaufort through different eyes.
"STROLLING ALONG BOUNDARY"
By Pamela Rasp
I am a visitor from up North (Manhattan to be precise), staying with friends in Beaufort.
I'm not really a "regular," but I'm someone who has come often enough to have acquired from my charming host a Lowcountry nickname, "Polly."
And I'm someone who, a couple of years ago, was styled a "creek girl" by the same gentleman. This occurred when I dropped dramatically (one might say "majestically, if ineptly") into the Beaufort River while trying to step out of a boat at the Beaufort Downtown Marina's day dock.
Gallant companions hauled me dripping but laughing back up into the boat. It was an ungainly bay baptism, to be sure. But my host, who was born and raised here -- and surely is as gracious and knowledgeable a Beaufortonian as these islands have ever nurtured -- deemed me an honorary citizen ever after. (So I hold this "creek girl" designation with both delight and pride.)
Happily at the time, my soggy, slip-on shoes -- infinitely more familiar with nice, solid pavement than with river water and pluff mud -- were saved, living to walk another day in Beaufort. So recently, with my dear friend, Elizabeth, we headed off walking on our "Boundary Street expedition."
BEST ON FOOT
We began in the sun-filled living room of a neighbor's house, where we were shown his impressive and beautifully displayed collection of metal artifacts. He had detected and extracted them over the years from various parcels of land in and around Beaufort. There were 18th and early-19th century British and American coins, buttons, belt buckles, keyhole plates, sword rings and thimbles -- reminders that in an area with such a rich history as the Lowcountry, treasures are underfoot as often as they are in shop windows.
But shops are not to be ignored, and we needed a soufflè dish for the evening's meal, which seemed a good excuse for a walk to Boundary Street, where we stopped first at the Salvation Army Family Store. Cheerfully and helpfully staffed, this vast space -- with its well-organized array of colorful items -- yielded some terrific finds: 1950's juice glasses; a small, fluted porcelain bowl (excellent for countertop garlic storage); and a lead crystal whiskey glass.
We were not to be deterred when the desired soufflè dish didn't emerge. Crossing Boundary and walking east, we arrived at the splendid Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store. Our objective remained unmet, but we enjoyed looking over the brightly lit expanse of this large trove of items waiting to find another home.
Moving on, our eyes drew us inexorably to our next stop. Sitting back from the street-front but hard to miss with its neon-pink exterior, is the Crave Cupcake Boutique. This shop, which is only big enough to turn around in, is bursting with sugary promise. Its seductive lineup of cupcakes, with thick dollops of colorful frosting, is a tempting invitation to caloric sin. We couldn't not indulge! And the bubbly, energetic woman behind the counter -- the owner's mother -- was a delight to chat with as we made our selections.
Nibbling as we carried on, we arrived at the generously stocked Herban Marketplace -- a cornucopia of organic foods, grains and nuts, vitamins and natural soaps -- and SuZara's Kitchen, where, after eyeing the quiches, salads, wines, cheeses and inviting table area, we settled on a tall, moist coffeecake to take home for the next day's breakfast.
Heading south, we thought we were outside the doorway to the Magnolia Bakery Cafè when we came upon a friendly young man working on a cabinet-staining project in the yard. He must have thought we were slightly mad -- two women of a certain age, eagerly entering a tobacconist's shop -- when we indicated our intention to go through the door. Still, he was politely welcoming and ushered us inside, smiling discreetly when he saw us realize our mistake. But we relished the chance to meet and chat briefly with Raj -- transplanted from Maryland -- the soft-spoken proprietor of Beaufort Tobacco, into whose enterprise we had wandered.
As we were leaving, Elizabeth spotted some empty wooden cigar boxes with nice, dovetailed corners in a larger container by the door. Raj invited her to take what she liked, and we headed off to the bakery, around the other side of the building, with a couple of them under our arms.
Once we were inside, the yeasty smells of Magnolia Bakery were heavy and intoxicating. Pondering the possibilities (that is to say, gazing droolingly into the high glass case stuffed with golden-brown delights), we settled at last on rosemary-flecked dinner rolls -- perfect, shiny-crusted orbs -- to accompany our cheese soufflè at supper.
'GRACIOUS URBAN SPACE'
Our arms now full of parcels, bags, and the cigar boxes, we strolled on until the historic St. Peter's Catholic Church beckoned. What a wonderful thing for Beaufort that this stalwart of Carteret Street is being brought back to such pristine condition.
Despite the fact that we had not found the desired soufflè dish (a Pyrex baking dish had to do substitute duty), we relished each discovery on our long walk along Boundary -- and points south. The search -- and the exploratory meanderings, of course -- had been the real point. And Beaufort had not disappointed us; quite the contrary, in fact.
Lucky are the folks who get to spend their lives here, enjoying such a gracious urban space surrounded by such singular natural beauty. And I'm lucky as an occasional visitor from New York who is able to indulge in the many pleasures of this vastly different sort of island from my own -- including, and perhaps especially, those found while seeing it on foot.