Saturday, June 15, 2019

Charleston Charms

Trip date: May 2019

I was up sooooo early! At the airport at 6am for a 7:30am flight to Charleston. Not my choice of hour to travel as my friends know, but Alaska only flies there once, every other day. I was on my way to meet my friend Forest, for a little girl's trip, so it was worth it.

As I sat at the gate and checked my status for a first class upgrade, I was disappointed to see that I was 3rd. Resigned to my bulkhead premium seat, I boarded and got comfy. I was chatting with my seatmate when a flight attendant leaned over and asked if I wanted to move up. So weird! The first time I have ever been upgraded after already being seated! Seems a passenger in first was removed for being drunk (at 7am!!). Thank you sir who makes bad decisions! haha!

The Charleston airport is tiny, so it was easy to get my bag and then a Lyft. I met Forest at our 2 bedroom Airbnb, which was in a great location and super cute and roomy.

We had wonderful weather while in town for our 3-night stay, not too hot, not too humid. We took advantage of it on our first day by doing a self-guided walking tour of the historic area.
We started at Waterfront Park, which has beautiful views of the Ravenel Bridge and the bay. We kept a look out for dolphins, who frequently play in the currents here, but weren't lucky enough to spot any. Besides the views, the park is well known for the pineapple fountain, the symbol of hospitality.

We made a quick stop into the Old Exchange aka Custom House, a 250 year old landmark building. While we didn't go thru the museum, one of the employees explained that it had been used for many important meetings regarding the US Constitution, as well as a military prison.

From here we walked past the colorful houses of Rainbow Row, and through the gorgeous neighborhood of Charlestowne. These houses are just so pretty, so charming, so southern!

I had read about Mrs. Whaley's Garden, a private home that opens their garden to the public, so we found the house and let ourselves into the back. It's a really pretty little space but neither of us thought it was worth the suggested donation of $10 each!
On to White Point Garden, at the very tip of the city on the bay. I had a work conference call to join so we found a shady spot under all the beautiful live oak trees. It's a great place for a break!

Call completed, we continued to Legare Street, jasmine perfuming the air, and the old mansions completely impressing us. There are some unbelievable homes here! Many have stone walls protecting their privacy, with doorbells by the gates. Most have beautiful open-air porches, perfect for enjoying a cocktail. It is an absolutely gorgeous neighborhood.
As we left Lagare, we walked past the Nathaniel Russell House and were so surprised to read that it had cost $80,000 to build in 1808, at a time when the average value of a home was $262!!!
We popped into City Hall and were allowed to go into Chambers since they weren't being used. Very pretty room, and the associate who was there was happy to chat with us about its history and use.
We passed by the Old Slave Mart, as well as a few different churches before ending our walk at the Dock Street Theater. Also called America's First Theater, as the original building was the first to be built for the sole purpose of theater in 1736. And fun fact, Stephen Colbert's aunt Patricia was a playwright and actress at the theater for over 30 years!
This was an easy and really enjoyable 1/2 day walk around the historic district. Just be sure to wear comfy shoes!

The next day we took an Uber out to Magnolia Plantation. It's about a 25 minute drive up to the 300 year old plantation on the Ashley River. The main admission ticket is for the gardens, then there are a few extras you can purchase also. We added the plantation, the slave quarters, and the swamp. We are overachievers!
The grounds are amazing! We followed the path around the gardens and ponds and spotted turtles, birds we couldn't identify, peacocks, fish, etc. And so many lush trees. The gardens here are the oldest public gardens in the US, opening to visitors in 1870!

Our entry to the Main House was timed, so while waiting we decided to get a glass of wine. Which came with a styrofoam cup. The South really likes to hold on to tradition. Sigh.
The tour of the house was very interesting, it is still owned by the original family, and is the 3rd structure on the property. The style was much more casual than the plantations I visited in Louisiana. A difference between the influences of the English and those of the French. 

Photos aren't allowed inside during the hour tour, but the house has a lot of family heirlooms that are really gorgeous, and the guide was great at explaining the history of both the family and the on-going construction of the home. 
We found our way to the small train which would take us out to the slave cabins for our next tour. This was the most interesting area to me. Five original cabins, dating back to 1850, have been preserved to show how they were during different periods of inhabitants. The most recent was in 1990!

Our guide, Joseph McGill, is the founder of The Slave Dwelling Project, which brings attention to the history of slavery by sleeping in former slave dwellings around the country. These include historic sites, antebellum houses, and the homes of 12 US Presidents. 

The conversation, and information Mr. McGill shared was heavy, thought-provoking, and insightful. I highly recommend this tour.

And lastly, we entered the swamp via a boardwalk, for a self-guided stroll. There were quite a few egrets, herons, and alligators that we spotted. We were pretty much the only people out there so good thing the alligators were in the lake and not on our path!

A very full day at the plantation, and a very interesting one! 

On my last afternoon in Charleston I visited the historic city market before heading to the airport. Visiting markets around the world is one of my favorite things to do. Unfortunately the one in Charleston is pretty much just tourist shops, so I bought my magnet and left. :)
Charleston is filled to the top with history, beauty, and of course charm!

*edited to state, people have asked me if we took one of the horse-drawn carriage rides which are so popular. We didn't, and I'd ask you to do your research before deciding to do one. There are many issues with the poor treatment of these horses, some actually fainting in the street due to hot weather and lack of proper rest and hydration. You can read more here. *

All Charleston photos here

Charleston eating & drinking report here.


  1. good trip, indeed! And, that plantation visit was super interesting to me. having not visited one before (well, apparently, i did visit this one when I was very young but recall zero about that) it was kind of a unique peak into history.

  2. I would love to visit the south!! What a fun trip to go on!!!


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