Charleston didn’t take hold of me quite the way I expected. Maybe it was the pouring rain and the late bus from the airport to the city, or dragging my suitcase down narrow, crowded, cobblestone sidewalks. Maybe it was the miserable humidity. Maybe it was because I had heard so many tales of people swooning over the city and my expectations were high. Maybe it had something to do with its ties to ugly parts of American history.
Or maybe, possibly, it was because I had to submit to the (s)Low Country pace of the city before I could really enjoy it. Sure, I live in Texas, but Charleston was my first visit to the deep South. It has a flavor all its own, and I had to get to know it, before I could love it.
Our time in Charleston consisted of lots of long strolls, a fair amount of history, and more than enough food.
Starting with food recommendations, I’ll spare you my criticisms of our first several meals, and instead reaffirm the idea that Charleston is a city full of great food. I think we were eating breakfast at Hominy Grill when Anthony and I had the realization that we had much better luck with Low Country cuisine in Charleston than when we tried to be fancy. You can’t get too much better than the Charleston Nasty Biscuit.
Husk started off with a bang. I fell in love with pimento cheese in Charleston, and Husk served simply the best. The rest of our lunch there kind of fizzled out, but I would go again and again for that wonderful cheddar pimento slathered on grilled bread.
I seized another opportunity to eat pimento at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and again at Artisan Meat Share. Both places served wonderful, casual meals.
On the advice of a friend (who’s recommendations never fail us), Anthony and I went to Edmond’s Oast for happy hour. We ordered lamb sliders, and I fully expected to be served a ground lamb patty on a bun. To my sheer delight, they brought out house-cured lamb. They continued to impress with Japanese style street corn. I also had a cocktail called, “What time does Sean Connery show up to Wimbledon?” Though we only snacked, dining there was a true experience.
We only ate lightly at Edmond’s Oast due to our late-night dinner reservations at FIG. We probably should have booked a table prior to arriving in South Carolina, but when we called, they squeezed us into a late night spot the next evening.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream graces Austin with its truck for SXSW, so I could not pass up my first opportunity to visit a scoop shop and have a sundae with a conversation cookie and sprinkles. The ice cream is top notch and their caramel sauce makes a wonderful souvenir. The stunning copper store front isn’t so bad either.
I stand firmly in the camp of room service is a (usually overpriced and tasteless) treat and breakfast in bed is the best. Charleston is exactly the type of city you can order in in without feeling like you’re missing out. You could even one-up room service by ordering Caviar & Bananas for delivery. If you do head out, Caviar & Bananas was the perfect stop for an iced coffee, a welcome reprieve from the hellish humidity. It is a darling delicatessen stocked with locally sourced artisianal groceries.
I donut eat many doughnuts at home, but rarely pass up an opportunity to try a fancy local doughnut shop while travelling. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts was not exempt. I preferred their savory pastries to their sweet ones, regardless, it was a tasty, inexpensive morning meal.
Anthony and I do not usually splurge on hotel, but opt to spend our money on other experiences. Had we splurged, I would have opted to stay at the newly opened Spectator Hotel. I still wanted to eye the stunning design in person, so we swung by for drinks one evening. A kind Texan on staff there recommended we go to Poogan’s Porch for brunch. We never made it, so go for me if you’re there!
We stayed at the charming and art-filled hotel, The Vendue. I tend to refuse room service on vacation, but how could I when nightly turn down service included chocolate on my pillow? Free coffee in the morning, appetizers and wine in the evening, and cookies at night did not hurt either.
The Vendue is less than a block from Waterfront Park. Somehow we woke up early enough one morning to swing on the dock during the last few minutes of sunrise.
While it’d be nearly impossible to miss, you can’t go to Charleston without a stroll down King Street. When we didn’t feel like long walks in the hot hot heat, the free, air-conditioned Trolley saved our feet.
I felt like it was really important to see Fort Sumpter while we were in Charleston, where the first shots of the American Civil War rang out. If you’re looking for more American history, you’ll find plenty in Charleston. I would recommend a visit to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.
I also felt compelled to visit one of the many plantation houses while we were there. We opted to visit Magnolia, though if I had a do-over, I may have chosen Middleton Place. After our tour, we took a lengthy stroll through the gardens and I learned I prefer tailored French gardens over their English counterparts.
On the way back from our day trip to Savannah (post in progress), we stopped to see the Angel Oak Tree, estimated to be over 400 years old with a circumference greater than twenty-five feet!
As a traveller I am a go-go-goer. I love to see the world! Charleston taught me, that sometimes seeing the world and experiencing a city, means just sitting still in it for a moment.
Have you been to Charleston? Share your memories in the comments below!