Yesterday we drove 200 miles just to eat falafel. Sort of.
Our story (and we’re sticking to it) is that we drove 200 miles to bike the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville SC and then maybe eat falafel along the way. But we all know the real driving force here now don’t we?
I lived in Greenville for seven years–four years of undergrad study and three years of semi-professional work after that–before moving to Charlotte. It’s a real gem of a southern city thanks in large part to a vibrant downtown revitalization, the success of which other cities are attempting to replicate.
Greenville changed a lot (for the better) while I was there, including the addition of Falls Park and its one-of-a-kind suspension bridge (above). Liberty Bridge’s unique curved design means it can be suspended from just one side, allowing for unobstructed views of Reedy River (below).
We started our ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail at my alma mater, Furman University, and ended up downtown in time for a late lunch. (I regret to inform my fellow classmates that the TKE house no longer exists and the lot we used to park in across the street is now a parking and rest area for the trail.)
Although new restaurants have opened up since I moved, I went with an old favorite for lunch: Pomegranate on Main. Vegetarian entree options are limited (two, to be exact), but you really only need one: veggie kabob with dill lima bean rice. Every table starts with a free traditional Persian breakfast of pita bread, butter, feta and mint leaves, and the we added on a sampler duo of hummus and mirza ghasemi (roasted eggplant spread).
It is the simplest of meals made with the simplest of ingredients, but I’m positive I could never replicate it at home. And that’s pretty much what I’m looking for in a restaurant meal.
After lunch we wandered around downtown, bought candy at Mast General Store, grabbed coffee at Coffee Underground and took a nap in the park before riding back out to Furman.
Furman itself is worth exploring, specifically the iconic Bell Tower, the Place of Peace (an authentic Japanese meditation room broken down into 2,400 pieces, transported through the Panama Canal and reassembled on campus), the lake trail, the rose garden and the many fountains on campus.
The Swamp Rabbit is a 17.5-mile trail running from Traveler’s Rest, SC through Downtown Greenville and beyond. It was a massive undertaking that I think has paid off in economic stimulus for the city. I remember hearing rumblings of a rumored “railroad connector trail” from Furman to downtown when I was a freshman and finally saw the downtown section open just before I moved to Charlotte. Now that the full trail is open, cafes, bike shops, entire apartment complexes and even a Crossfit gym are popping up alongside it.
We saw fellow cyclists, runners, walkers, strollers and even a guy on a skateboard with a paddle. (I don’t even know.)
It’s worth mentioning at this point that I am not a “cyclist.” I ride a big fat orange beach cruiser with a basket on the front and a bell. Also my helmet makes me look like a Storm Trooper.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was when this guy on the hog downtown asked me to ring my bell.
We packed up the bikes, dropped by my sister’s house and made our way to our final (and only) destination: Pita House. I have eaten falafel all over the world and consider myself an expert. The best falafel on the planet is at Pita House in Greenville, South Carolina. Do not even argue. Just go.
Want to replicate this trip? Here are the details…
- Destination: Greenville SC
- Travel Time from Charlotte: 1 hour, 45 minutes (100 miles)
- Parking: Duncan Chapel Road at Furman University (GPS coordinates 34.920141,-82.445966)
- Ride: Swamp Rabbit Trail (Distance to Downtown: 7 miles)
- Eat: Pomegranate on Main, Coffee Underground, Pita House
- Explore: Falls Park, Liberty Bridge, Greenville Drive Baseball Stadium (with a replica of Boston’s Green Monster), Mast General Store, Furman University