Click here to see pre-Day 1 and day 1 Charleston Photos with captions
Click here to see pre-Day 2 & 3 Charleston Photos with captions
3.5 days Southern fun in beautiful Charleston
Just a quick note that I had flown in by myself (on a very comfortable Delta flight through Detroit) to teach three workshops. Grabbed a rental car and headed to Lexington (about 100 miles north of Charleston) . Taught there on Wednesday and then drove back to Mt. Pleasant (just across the Ravenal Bridge from Charleston) for two more days of workshops before Kathleen would fly in on Friday afternoon.
During those three days I did a lot of walking after the workshops including back and forth across the aforementioned bridge. You can see my pics from that crossing by clicking here.
One other thing I got to do was eat BBQ. On the second day of my workshops I asked the attendees about where I should go for a late lunch/early dinner. Turns out one of the people there (that I have known for a while) runs a website called DestinationBBQ.com. As soon as I found that out I asked him, “Where’s the best BBQ in Charleston?” He asked me whether I wanted Texas style (sweet red sauce) or Carolina BBQ (vinegar based sauce). Since I was in South Carolina, it had to be Carolina BBQ. He said, “that’s easy…Rodney Scott BBQ on King Street.”
So off I went and as it turned out that on reflection after the 10 day trip to three Southern cities, this was the most authentic experience I would have. Not just the best food, but the most authentic.
The food was amazing. I ordered the pork (that’s what they are famous for) and it comes with two sides so I chose greens and cornbread. Like I said, I was looking for an authentic meal. They also have chicken and ribs but pork was what I was after. I had also heard good things about their mac and cheese as a side but I wanted the basics. With a local IPA to satisfy my thirst, I was all set.
Before I finish talking about the food, I want to mention the place. It’s a traditional take-out joint and it sits across the street from the Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, an alternative high school and since it was around 4:00 pm or so the place was full of the kids from the school. With all of them making noise and a background playlist of Aretha, Smokey Robinson, Jackson Five and more, it was an awesome experience.
And to top it off, when the food arrived, it was AMAZING! There really isn’t anything else I can say about it. Every bite was awesome. Go there! Eat some BBQ and just revel in the experience. BTW: the staff was wonderful to me, a single patron. I sat at the big communal table in the center of the room and they checked on me from time to time to make sure I was doing OK.
Kathleen flew in on Friday afternoon on Alaska Air (I would have flown them down but they only fly to Charleston five days a week and Tuesday is not one of those days—Get with it Alaska.). She got in right on time, we went to check into our AirBnB and then headed out to meet a friend for dinner at the Tattooed Moose, a really fun place that had amazing duck sandwiches and duck-fat French fries. YUMMY! The friend we met (Hi Elaine) was a close friend of my brother John who passed away a few years ago and she had joined us for Thanksgiving one year when we celebrated my dad's 80th birthday.
Our first full day
I have to say that other than our European trips, I did more planning for this trip than any U.S. land trip we have ever taken. We had reservations for dinner every night, tickets for a number of tours, for an evening show and more of the same in Hilton Head and Savannah. We find we do better if we plan ahead.
As most of you know I am an early riser. so each morning while Kathleen slept in (like I should have) I would get up, take my camera and walk about five miles all over Charleston. I love early "golden light" that you get just after sunrise. One morning I was even rewarded with an amazing sunrise.
After I got back from my walk (usually around 8:00) we would clean up and head out to breakfast. We had decided to eat breakfast and dinner and skip lunch most days so we were looking for really good food for breakfast. While I was out walking around I discovered that one of the places we had read was GREAT for breakfast, the Hominy Grill, was located right behind where we were staying. That worked out great so we tried it and liked it so much we went back the next day as well. Great food and great service from Steve. See the pics here...I put captions telling you what you are seeing. Suffice it to say, we loved the Southern cooking we experienced.
That first morning we had booked a harbor cruise with Charleston Harbor Tours. We pre-purchased a package that gave us the Harbor tour, admission to the Boone Hall Plantation and a Palmetto Carriage tour. On the first day we decided to do just the Harbor Tour and save the other two for the second day.
The tour was great. Took about 90 minutes and we saw a bunch of stuff. I got to see the bridge I had walked two nights before from underneath. As a history major one of the highlights for me was seeing Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. It was no where near as impressive as I hoped it would be but it was cool to see it. We also saw all kinds of fauna (porpoises, pelicans and more) and more BMWs than we could count. Make sure and check out my pics for explanations of all that, plus some great food pics that will make you hungry.
Speaking of food, after our harbor tour we drove and walked around the rest of the city so I could show Kathleen some of the things I had seen on my walk that morning. We walked around the Saturday market at Marion Park, grabbed an ice tea at Starbucks, walked around Battery Park and then headed back to our AirBnB for a quick nap and change of clothes before dinner. We decided since we were going to both dinner and a show and might be having a cocktail or two, we would Uber to dinner, which worked out great.
Dinner was at 5Church. The restaurant is in a converted church that is beautiful. The owner/chef was on Top Chef last year and I really wanted to try his food in person. We were correct on that. You will have to see the pictures. And the aforementioned cocktail was the Final Confession and it was WONDERFUL. So wonderful we had two...one before dinner and one with dessert. Kathleen had a pasta special and I started with a squid appetizer followed by braised short ribs with sweet potatoes cooked two ways. We finished it up with that cocktail and some cinnamon beignets with vanilla and chocolate sauce. It doesn't get a lot better than that.
The Southern Charmer
After dinner we had tickets for a close-up magic show at the Palmetto Crescent Parlour. We were seeing Kellar O'Neill, the Southern Charmer. It was super show. Kellar wove stories of his family and the old South into his magic which was very impressive. One of the best parts is that the audience consisted of about 20 people. That meant that everyone could see everything. We were in the first row and both Kathleen and I got to take part in the show as did pretty much everyone in attendance at some time or the other. If you are going to Charleston, we would highly recommend seeing The Southern Charmer at the Palmetto Crescent Parlour. Kathleen is assisting him at right.
Our second full day
Our second full day started much the same as the first with a longer and earlier walk with an amazing sunrise for me followed by another outstanding breakfast at the Hominy Grill. Then we headed across the Ravenal Bridge to Mt. Pleasant to tour the Boone Plantation which was part of the package we had purchased with the Harbor Tour. We were running early and as we crossed the bridge we noticed a big festival starting at the park below the bridge where I had started my walk across a few nights earlier. It was the annual Blessing of the Fleet on the pier under the Bridge. We stopped to check it out while waiting for the plantation to open.
Got to walk out on the pier and get photos of the bridge from still another angle, then it was off to Boone Hall Plantation. The place for having such a horrible history was very beautiful and much of it well restored. The entry with the beautiful, long drive up the oak lined driveway. was impressive. Truly beautiful. Then we toured the slave quarters which were organized with each building showing a different part of black history from slavery through the present day.
After seeing all the quarters, we had signed up for a tour of the big house. It was a three room tour where the guide discussed the history of the entire plantation. It was a nice tour and a great chance to get out of the heat and humidity. We followed the house tour with a wagon tour with our guide Patrick around the agricultural part of the plantation. Fairly interesting but not sure I would do it again. But we did have beautiful weather and it's a part of history that needs to be remembered so it never happens again. Besides, the drive in between the oaks was worth the price of admission.
After our plantation tour we headed back into downtown Charleston for the third part of the package, a carriage ride with Palmetto Carriage Tours. Their stable is located right downtown and they have their own parking lot, which is very helpful. One thing that kind of surprised me was that on the phone when they mentioned they had their own parking lot (I was impressed–parking is at a premium in downtown) they neglected to mention that even thought the parking lot was only for their patrons, that it is a PAY lot that you will need to pay for. Not a big thing, but be prepared if you ride with them and I kind of felt ripped off.
The tour itself was outstanding. One thing that I found interesting was that every carriage must stop at a city run booth to prove that they were not carrying more than the law allows in the carriage to protect the horse or donkey(s) pulling the carriage. Once that is checked, a machine spits out a ping-pong ball with a number on it, kind of like a bingo game or the lottery and then the carriage driver is told what route will taken by that particular carriage. That way the streets aren't clogged with traffic as they would be if every carriage if every tour took the same route.
Our driver and tour guide was Jenny and she had just procured a new hat (historically accurate) that she was trying out on us. Her tour was excellent, well paced, very humorous and we learned a lot. I did find that my legs had a real problem with the seats and by the end of the 90 minute tour (of which about 60 were actually spent touring) they were really cramping. It must be because of how the seats are configured but it was worse than being in an airplane coach seat.
After the ride, we walked around for a short time and then headed back to our AirBnB to relax for a little bit and let me work on downloading photos before we were off to eat dinner at tiny restaurant that was walkable from our place Chez Nous. This place is interesting in that they have no fixed menu. Each day the chef posts his menu for lunch and dinner (the same menu-just smaller portions) on his Instagram feed with photos of the dishes. There are always two appetizers, two entrées and two desserts. We were intrigued and that added to the walk-ability, was the reason we tried it. I should mention that we lucked out and hit two excellent dishes. I had the stewed vegetables (which should have been better named because they were delicious). Had some great sauce and a fried egg on top. Delicious. Kathleen had a very interesting salad followed by chicken while I followed my vegetables with a shrimp and pasta dish. Both were wonderful and all so good that there was no way we could eat dessert. So it was off to bed for our last sleep in Charleston.
The next morning we were up early to pack up and head to Hilton Head with lots of great stops in between. The first was for the BEST breakfast of the entire trip—chicken and waffles at The Early Bird Diner. This place was in the New York Times list of 20 things you have to do in Charleston. And it wasn't just eating there that the NY TImes suggested. It was the chicken and waffles they said they were a must. And they were right. First, I have to admit that I have never had chicken and waffles before (I have had chicken and I have had waffles–just not together) so I figured why not start with the best. And it was AWESOME! Pecan-crusted deep fried, boneless chicken and a cinnamon waffle. The waffle came with maple syrup and the chicken with a honey-mustard sauce. I could eat that seven days a week...but I would weight 300 lbs in no time. And great coffee too. In fact, pretty much all the coffee we had on this trip was outstanding.
Our last stop in the Charleston area was the world famous Angel Oak. It is a 400+ year old oak tree which is located about 15 miles outside downtown Charleston. It is so big that branches have grown out, down and into the ground and then back out again. It is an amazing tree and well worth the stop. I have a bunch of photos of on the photo page.
From here, it was on to Hilton Head. More about that on the Hilton Head page.