Anthony and I went for a quick little three day visit to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate his birthday. I had spoiled the surprise a month or so in advance, so it wasn’t a big surprise when we hopped on a plane at the break of dawn and headed south.
When we landed in Charleston, we quickly pealed off all the layers we had on since it was around 78 degrees and we had just come from 50 degree weather. We quickly dropped off our luggage at a cute airbnb I had found that was across the Ashley River from Charleston.
We rushed off to breakfast and ate at Another Broken Egg in Charleston. The food here was AMAZING. They have 114 items on the menu and it was so hard to decide on what we wanted. In the end, I ordered Huevos Rancheros and Anthony ordered a traditional breakfast. We noticed a couple sitting next to us ordered a side Biscuit Beignets, and they looked so amazing that we had to have to order some to try for ourselves. The beignets were heavenly. Fried dense pieces of goodness that came with a side of apricot jelly. Woah, baby. They were scrumptious and we kept thinking about them the entire trip. The woman that served us behind the bar was extremely sweet and helpful. I noticed as she spoke (and as others spoke on our trip) that the South Carolina southern accent is smoother and less twangy than what you would typically imagine a Southern accent to sound like.
We then were fueled up and ready to go do what we do best. Walk around and explore. We walked around and saw the Charleston City Market, where vendors from all over Charleston rent a space to set up shop every day of the year and sell their merchandise. We walked down King Street and up and down the downtown Charleston streets. The architecture is beautiful and it was interesting to see the old businesses and buildings. On one street it seemed like Charleston was a poor city, and on another street we would find cute and expensive shops and restaurants as far as the eye could see. We walked down Rainbow Row and we walked into the Visitors Center and got ourselves situated with a map and booked a tour to Magnolia Plantation for the last day of our trip. We hopped on a free trolley and hopped off to walk around the Charleston Waterfront Park and eat gelato. The pier in the waterfront park was so cute and had bench swings that you could sit on as you enjoyed the view.
What was startling is that there were a lot of black young boys no older then 13, all around Charleston selling sweet grass roses that they would make by hand and sell for two or three dollars a flower. It made me extremely sad because you are accustomed to seeing that type of peddling by young kids in third world countries. When I asked local Charleston folks about the boys, they said that it was just a way for some of them to make some money. I didn’t get the impression from locals that these boys needed the money or were suffering, but you never know. It still broke my heart.
We must have walked a few miles that day. We walked all through White Point Garden which has these amazing large oak trees and old cannons used in the civil war. We walked through the Battery area which was (and still is) considered where the most wealthy live. We saw house upon house sitting on enormous lots with enough wrap-around porches to satisfy me for a lifetime. We then went into Cathedral Saint John the Baptist. It was an extremely ugly brown building from the outside, but on the inside it had some of the most beautiful stained glass portraits I have ever seen.
We then walked around quite a bit more and found ourselves starving for dinner. We stopped into a place called Monza for dinner. This was a recommendation from a friend and I’m so glad I listened! The menu is done very beautifully as each pizza is named after a race car driver with the drivers history noted on the other side of the menu. We ordered a Nicoise Salad and a Margarita Pizza, and both were delicious. I think we each could have eaten an entire pizza each. We sat in their courtyard behind the restaurant, but I soon realized I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes, so we had to move inside. We received excellent service and really enjoyed our meal.
We then popped into Cupcakes Down South for dessert. I ordered a pumpkin cupcake that I ended up eating later in the night at the condo. It was hands down the best pumpkin cupcake I’ve ever had. (Side note: We tried to go back to get another on our last day, but unfortunately they don’t sell the same flavors every day. Pity.)
We continued to walk up and around King Street and were amazed at how many great restaurants and bars we saw. Each bar, even the divey ones, were so unique and well decorated. All the restaurants looked busy and looked like they had yummy menus. It was so cute to see all the young college couples out on the town for a Saturday night date dressed in formal clothes. No hootchie mama clothes for the girls mind you. All very well dressed and so very cute.
I had scheduled a morning Civil War & Slavery walking tour. We were going to just get up and get going to the tour, but then realized… “What are we thinking??? We have to eat as many meals as we can here!” So we rushed off and tried to find a breakfast place that could seat and feed us quickly. We settled on Eli’s Table. I ordered the Spinach Benedict and Anthony ordered the Praline French Toast. This was the description for the French Toast:
“Grilled sourdough soaked in vanilla and cinnamon, finished with bourbon creme and candied praline”
Obviously-Anthony’s dish beat mine by a whole lot. He also ordered a Chocolate Raspberry Latte that was divine. He absolutely won that brunch plate challenge. My dish was ok, but not as much of a slam dunk as I had hoped. We gobbled away and ran down the street to meet our tour guide.
The walking tour was through a company called Old Charleston Tours. Our tour guide was an air force veteran that had been living in Charleston for the last twenty years. He was an extremely knowledgeable guy and was able to feed us information for three hours straight. It was remarkable how much he knew! He walked us around Washington Square Park and up and down Meeting Street to the White Point Garden we had seen the day before. Our tour guide discussed Charleston architecture, culture, and gave a perspective of the Civil War through the eyes of the South. The South thought they were going to win the Civil War with no issue and found themselves in for a disappointing discovery. He also noted that Charleston was the main hub in the United States for slave trade pre-civil war. Most slaves would be brought in to Charleston and sold off into slavery from there. He also mentioned that though Hollywood depicted masters as being brutal to their slaves, in reality most owners were not like that. He noted that slaves were a part of a family’s inheritance portfolio and were an asset. They would not want to “damage” an asset. I was skeptical when he said this, because I know a lot of foolish people who don’t take care of their “assets”. His comment didn’t ease my mind and shouldn’t make the situation of slavery any better. A human thought they had to right to own another human being. The bottom line is they were pretty damn stupid and ignorant.
After that three hour walking tour we (meaning Anthony) took some photos of the park, the beautiful battery houses, and Rainbow Row. We then popped into the Edmonston-Alston House which is an older confederate style home that is open to the public to tour through and view the architecture, furnishings, and artifacts that the family once owned. What was shocking is many of these old, stunning houses are still owned by a descendant of the family. This house in particular has a third floor that is closed off to the public because an Edmonston-Alston descendant lives there. That lovely wealth just keeps getting passed down from generation to generation. Must be nice!
We were starving (if you could believe it) at this point and walked up and down East Bay Street trying to figure out what to eat. In the end we decided on just having an extremely early dinner at Magnolias. While we waited for them to open for dinner we went into Bake House Charleston for an “appetizer” and water. I had the most AMAZING pumpkin snickerdoodle cookie ever. I was skeptical because it looked hard in the jar, but it was just such a delicious, moist, and yummy cookie. I’m drooling now thinking about it.
We went to Magnolias and had one of the most, if not the most, phenomenal dinner we’ve ever had. Ever since reading the book Fried Green Tomatoes, I have wanted to try the southern dish. We saw it on the menu and ordered it. The grits were this buttery mashed potato like heaven. The tomatoes had cheese stuffed in the center. The chutney was the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. It was heavenly and I was so sad when we ate the last bite.
Our waitress was incredible. Extremely sweet, attentive, and had an immaculate attention to detail. Anthony ordered the Sweet Chili Rubbed Ahi Tuna and I ordered the Shellfish over Grits. I was unfortunately not feeling amazing so I didn’t try the tuna, but Anthony said it was incredible and left not one bite behind. Under the Tuna was a row of cheese stuffed egg roll type things that he said were also amazing .My Shellfish over Grits was perfection. The grits were creamy. The lobster, scallops, and shrimp were cooked perfectly and mixed into the creamy grit goodness. It was so rich I couldn’t finish it, but had the rest when we got home later that evening.
Unfortunately, we were far too full for dessert, but the dessert menu looked incredible. I only wish I had another stomach.
I thought were were out of fuel for the day, but we ended up walking around and back to Waterfront Park to catch the sunset. Anthony captured some amazing photos. We saw a young boy all on his own making sweet grass roses and I think in that moment as it was getting dark it really hit us both how lucky and fortunate we are. We bought one off of him and as we talked to him he was extremely polite with “yes ma’am” and “no sir”. He told us that the boys and girls club taught them how to make the sweet grass trinkets to sell. It was getting dark, so I asked him if he was going to go home soon. He said “yes ma’am. After my last sale.” After he sold his last rose to us, he ran off as far as we could see…hopefully on his way home.
On our last day, we got up early again to rush to get breakfast before our tour. We went to a place called Virginia’s on King. I won’t write too much about that place because it was bleh. We had by chance passed it and decided to stop in. A later look at their reviews showed that generally people are unhappy with the food. We were disappointed since all the rest of our food in the city had been superb. We then rushed to hop on our tour to Magnolia Plantation.
We were on a bus full of people that were probably 50+. Either we are again, very lucky, or we have old people souls. Not sure which. Our tour guide was great and he gave us some background knowledge of the South and the southern plantation living. When we got to Magnolia Plantation we hopped on a little tram and were taken through some of the plantations grounds and swamp areas. I had never realized how much land people owned back them. When I was in middle school and read books that told the tales of slaves on a plantation I always questioned why they didn’t all try to run. Now I understand. There must have been more fear of the unknown and what you could encounter in the swamps trying to run. I would have gotten lost in 5 minutes walking around the woods on the plantation. Not to mention you could find yourself in a swamp full of bugs, snakes, and alligators. It was saddening to see the small slave cabins and how families of ten or more could live in such small quarters.
The plantation house, wasn’t as extravagant as I expected. I found the house to be quite small actually. But the grounds were vast and beautiful. The owner of the plantation had planted and worked on a beautiful large garden to keep himself entertained and his wife pleased. They opened the plantation to the public when they hit a financial crisis, and it was listed as one of the most remarkable places to visit in the United States in travel magazines at the time.
Once we got back from the plantation we had a quick lunch at Rue De Jean. I was really dissatisfied with my Nicoise Salad there and the service was abysmal. I did have a truffle potato soup that was to die for, but it was not worth the terrible service and soggy-mediocre salad.
We then rushed off to City Market to buy our customary magnets and Christmas ornament and quickly hopped on another tour before we had to rush to the condo to grab our bags and catch our flight. There are many horse carriage tour companies in Charleston, but I had heard that Palametto was the best. We had an amazing time and got to see areas of Charleston we hadn’t seen before. Our tour guide showed us more enormous houses. He told us that there is a law that the outside of the building can not be modified, but the interior of homes and buildings can be. The only thing that can be done to the outside of the buildings is to upkeep the antiquated appearance. I appreciate that law because it gives Charleston a beautiful look, yet it would be terribly expensive to be a home owner there. There are a few houses that notably don’t have the money to keep appearances, and so the house is starting to fall apart.
Overall, Charleston was a beautiful city and one that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to visit. I would recommend a visit to anyone that is interested. It’s full of beautiful and charming architecture and restaurants, full of charismatic and good people, rich in American history and is sprinkled with scrumptious southern cooking.