So, the husband and I decided to save a little money this year and skip out on the larger vacay we had hoped to take this year, pushing that off til 2011. Instead, we decided to do two smaller getaways, a long weekend this summer and a long weekend after Christmas. For the summer trip, we decided to head to Charleston, South Carolina since I hadn’t been in years (and even then it was only a day trip) and he had never been. I’ve also been jonesing for a beach trip this summer and this was as close as I could talk the hubs into.
On Wednesday, we left bright and early to head down to SC. We stopped in Greenville (only a little out of the way, ha) to have lunch with my brother-and-sister-in-law. We did get to see their new house for the first time, so even though it was just a quick visit, it was nice to be able to see them.
Onwards to the coast! After about 8 hours total in the car, we got to Charleston around 5:30 pm and found our way to our hotel. We stayed at the Anchorage Inn on Vendue Street which is the perfect location, near shopping, eating, and sightseeing. The hotel is a former 19th century cotton warehouse across from what is now Waterfront Park. We had one of the front rooms with a big window looking out on the street. The hotel itself has lots of character, and we enjoyed our stay. Small minuses– the bathroom is tiny, the turndown service they offer doesn’t actually exist, and the included breakfast leaves a little to be desired. The pluses– the location, the ambiance, free wine and cheese in the afternoons, free sherry in the evenings, bath and body works toiletries.
Since we arrived semi-late that evening, we did just a little walking around, exploring some neighboring streets and Waterfront Park. We ate dinner at Sermet’s Corner on King Street. I’m pretty sure that this was the husband’s favorite meal of the trip. It was definitely very good! After a late walk on the pier-area of the park, we turned in early to get a good start the next day.
We were up bright and early to see some of the sights that Charleston has to offer. We started at the Old Slave Mart which was very close to the hotel. While it’s an informative place and shares some important pieces of history, I was slightly disappointed by the fact that you see very little of the actual building since most of the walls, etc are covered up by the museum’s poster-like exhibits.
After seeing the Slave Mart, we headed up a couple of blocks to Anson Street. There we purchased tickets for a carriage ride with Old South Carriage Tours– they’re the ones who wear Confederate uniforms (tho I’m not sure why.) The tour lasted about an hour and we were on route 3. For those, unfamiliar with Charleston carriage tours, there are three routes that the carriages are able to take and your carriage is assigned a particular route each time it goes out in order to cut down on traffic backups. It’s an interesting system that seemed to work pretty well. Our guide, Mike, was enthusiastic and entertaining. I do feel like we learned a lot of information and gained a new perspective on Charleston history. I do believe my favorite part of the tour was when Mike was pointing out the blue that many houses had painted on their piazzas, doors, or shutters… in pointing it out, he asked us what color blue we believed that was. Someone shouted out, “Carolina blue.” Without missing a beat, Mike replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Carolina’s colors are red and black.” Snort. Mike did have on his proud red and black University of South Carolina t-shirt visible under his uniform. (p.s. The blue is called haint blue.)
After the carriage tour, we headed up to the Aiken-Rhett house to take a tour of the home which was originally a private residence built in 1817 for a former SC governor. On that tour, you get an individual audio tour which takes you through the house and outbuildings, including slave areas, stables, and carriage houses. The home, which was held by the original family until the 1970s, is completely unrestored. Rather than being restored, it has been preserved as it stands. There are many pieces of original furniture that were handed down within the family, and it really is amazing to see the layers of history in the decorations of the home. In some rooms, original wallpaper and wall fixtures can still be seen. I would highly recommend this tour for anyone even remotely interested in history!
After having finished up the Aiken-Rhett house by around 2:oo, we decided to spend the remainder of the (very warm) afternoon at one of the local beaches. We headed out to Folly Beach after grabbing a couple of quick slices of pizza from a little pizza place in Rainbow Market. Folly was about a 30 minute drive from Charleston but we made it to the beach with no trouble. I was really surprised too by the lack of people. Don’t get me wrong now, there were tons of people, but everyone was so spread out that it didn’t feel crowded at all! I also loved the fact that there were virtually no high rises within eyesight. It was just a pretty beach area with lots of families out enjoying the sunny weather!
After playing around in the ocean, FAILing a few times in battles against the waves, and laying out on the beach, we headed back to Charleston for dinner at SNOB. SNOB (or Slightly North of Broad) is only about a block away from the Anchorage Inn and seemed to be quite the popular place. Helpful hints – make reservations and wear something decent (think khakis/polo shirts for guys, nice slacks and top/sundress for the ladies). I’m glad I did some research on the restaurant scene so we had no trouble getting in to where we wanted to go and never felt out of place. Dinner at SNOB was probably my favorite meal we had while it town. The service was excellent, very attentive. The food was fantastic– I could have eaten that banana cream pie every day for the rest of the trip!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a quick change and then over to Waterfront park to meet with our ghost walk tour guide. We did a walk with the Ghosts of Charleston. Patrick seemed pretty pleased with it, but I thought it was a little skimpy with the stories. Our tour did take us inside the Unitarian Church’s graveyard (which is closed after dark) which was interesting if only because it is a stunning graveyard (as odd as that may sound.) Our guide was also a little… off. He was even kind of rude to a couple of people who were trying to get information from him early on, but not all guides can be overly nice, one supposes. After the tour, it was pretty much off to the hotel for sleep after a long day!