There’s just something about Charleston that makes everyone go “ahhhhh….Charleston!” Compare it to your favorite television shows (Game of Thrones, anyone?) and the answer becomes clear: the experience takes you away to a different time and place.
Driving over the bridge into Charleston I feel immediately taken back to that time in history when ladies dressed in elaborate gowns with elbow length gloves, rode in horse-drawn carriages and took afternoon tea with buttered scones. The elaborate mansions are like a movie set, except they go on and on, street after street, neighborhood after neighborhood. Filled with flowers and plants, private courtyards barely seen from the street, cobblestone driveways, the setting of Charleston is a modern day fairy tale.
We decided to visit Charleston on the spur of the moment with our two faithful pooches. I found on VRBO a shotgun historic home near the the College of Charleston campus.
It was a quick five hour drive for us. Our 100+ year-old home for the weekend had wood floors, two fireplaces, an updated kitchen and a front porch made for sipping coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. Located within walking distance to the shops on King Street, it was perfect.
Our first adventure, recommended by our UGA son, was Kickin Chicken, a bar pub known for its varieties of chicken, smothered fries and homemade white sauce. We enjoyed a great meal at the bar talking with the bartender, a Charlestonian, about the city and her upcoming bar exam and her future as lawyer. She planned to stay and work in Charleston.We had chicken wings, the smothered-in-bacon-and-cheese fries and the signature sandwich. Our son was right: this was a great place to eat and drink.
The next morning, we had coffee on the porch and then walked the dogs. How glorious to walk past the old homes, many with historic plaques, and peek into their courtyards! I really felt like I had stepped back in time. Old churches with tall steeples, corner antique stores, vine-covered iron fences — I was enthralled. The dogs were thrilled, too; there were so many amazing smells to stop and experience.
Lunch was with old friends at Fleet Landing, the ONLY restaurant that is on the water in Charleston. Hard to believe that a waterfront town has only one restaurant on the water! Its history was fascinating. Fleet Landing got its name from being the debarkation site for the naval ships, so all those sailors long ago walked across the very same floors on their way into the city for a weekend of R & R that only Charleston could offer.
The glorious afternoon weather called for another walk. This time we headed toward the Battery, the waterfront park along the Charleston Harbor. The Battery was alive with activity: statues to see, bay water to smell, lots of other dogs walking or jogging with their owners. The sidewalks were wide; the views across the water were immense, the people were friendly. Plaques along the way spoke of the history that is Charleston.
Happy Hour found us at the Market Pavilion Hotel Rooftop Bar. Recommended by locals, it was perfect. Views of the harbor to the Ravenell Bridge were before us and the setting sun made it magical. The hotel itself is very proper and genteel, especially with its ground floor lobby, bar and restaurant dressed head to toe in dark wood tones. Old portraits, heavy curtains, lots of brass, mahogany furniture, again another perfect movie set location! From the rooftop, we could see the Customs building, the old slave market, and the mansions lining the Battery.
Dinner found us with reservations at Hall’s Chophouse, another recommended place. A staple for Charlestonians to celebrate life events, we could see why. Entering the restaurant, we walked in to be warmly greeted by the staff and escorted to our table. There were so many staff personnel assisting with our meal. Four people arrived to set down our plates of Wagyu beef and side dishes all at once. It made me think about those butlers who serve the domed dishes of food with a “WAAA LAAH!” presentation shout. Four people arrived to take away all our plates when we were done. The maître d checked on us twice; the waitress, about four times. Very nice, since the restaurant was so very busy, to be at a restaurant where full service actually happens.
We walked back along King Street from the restaurant to our historic home window shopping the whole way. From the slave market, to riding in the horse-drawn carriages, to the historic tours inside the mansions, there was much of Charleston we did not see, but there will be another magical time to experience those things — I guarantee it! For a weekend, we truly felt immersed in another world.
Interested in visiting the Charleston area? Here’s some scoop on Isle of Palms too.
Julie Starling is a 15 year OTP resident and a senior contributor to the website Trip Advisor under the name “TravelingGal2012.” She has also written about the largest Hindu Temple OTP.