at my current job, I don’t take many days off and work through the weekends so it’s hard for me to have any period to recharge. coupled with some health issues, I really needed a vacation recently. since my aunt and uncle gave us a generous Christmas present, Harris and I decided that it would be great if we could take a weekend trip for our first married Valentine’s Day. man, am I thrilled that we did!
we stayed at an airbnb on James Island, only 15 minutes from Historic Charleston. I am so glad that we chose to stay at Little Kokomo because it was the most quaint little cottage and such a peaceful place to stay. the shower was even outdoors (an experience I highly recommend trying)! Ken and Christine created a lovely place to stay 🙂 if you’ve never stayed at an airbnb, I would highly recommend looking into it! there are so many options: stay for 2 days or a week, stay in a private room or have the whole place to yourself, and some places let you bring your pet! airbnb is a great way to customize your travel experience to your needs and not break the bank.
after arriving at Little Kokomo, we ventured out to Market St. for some shopping and dinner. I will warn you, parking can be pretty difficult to find downtown so be patient. Charleston is a huge walking city so make sure to wear comfy shoes. on our first night, we were hoping to visit the Charleston City Market, but it had closed up for the evening so we walked around and looked at some of the shops on Market St. since the evening was much colder than this Florida girl is used to, we stopped City Lights Coffee for a warm beverage. I loved the vibe of the place and they had lots of baked goods (gluten free!).
for dinner, we stopped at the Charleston Crab House and oh man, their seafood is out of this [sea]world (sorry guys, you can take the girl out of Florida, but you can’t take the Florida out of the girl). we shared some local Charleston favorites: she-crab soup, BBQ shrimp and grits, crab cakes, and hush puppies (p.s. hush puppies dipped in honey butter might be the best food ever).
after our splurge dinner, we walked around a bit. on our way back to the car, we saw the former homes of John and Edward Rutledge. since Harris was just a part of the musical 1776 produced by our alma mater, Florida College, it was cool to see the former home of the man who one of our friends (hi, Cody!) portrayed brilliantly! Edward Rutledge was a governor of South Carolina and his home has been turned into the Governor’s Inn, but he is more famous for being the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence. his older brother John was the first governor of South Carolina and a signer of the Constitution. his home is now the John Rutledge Inn. pretty awesome pair of political bros who wanted to live across the street from each other. after scoping out the Rutledge homes, we headed back to our cottage and spent the night finishing the last episode of the Gilmore Girls revival (more on that at a later date).
for our first full day in Charleston, we thought a walking tour would give us a good background for our visit. I went on Groupon and found a great tour company called Charleston in a Nutshell ($22/2 people). the guide, Jeff, has led tours over Charleston for more than 15 years. he gave us a fantastic overview of the city’s rich history and deeper insight into the culture and religion of the lowcountry. walking down the street, you may not realize all of the history around you, but the city is flooded with it. we learned about the dominating architectural style of Charleston: in an effort to conserve space, the homes are built one room wide with a privacy door at the front that opens onto a front porch, or a piazza, and then the main entry door is halfway down the porch. these single homes are very interesting, almost seeming to be sideways. another quirk of Charleston homes is their color: on the ceilings of the piazza, you can see a sky blue color called haint. some stories say that the color was meant to ward off evil spirits, but the color actually helps to prevent wasps from creating nests on the ceiling. they become confused, thinking that the ceiling is the sky. neat trick! many of the homes are also painted in beautiful pastel shades, but the most notable of these charming homes can be located on Rainbow Row. some of these historic homes are worth over a million dollars.
one very interesting feature of Charleston is a place called the Four Corners of Law. at the intersection of Meeting and Broad St., four different buildings stand: the United States Post Office & Federal Courthouse, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Charleston City Hall, and the Charleston County Courthouse (originally South Carolina’s provincial capital). these buildings represent the five types of law (on 4 corners): local, county, state, federal, and supreme.
we finished up our tour at the graveyard of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church where John C. Calhoun, former vice president and South Carolina native, had been buried. Jeff told us a few interesting facts about Calhoun’s final resting place. prior to the Civil War, he had been interred in their graveyard, but during the war, the church feared that their building would be burned down if Charleston fell to the Union and discovered Calhoun in their graveyard so they moved him to an unmarked grave in the back of the cemetery. this trick must have worked because the church still remains. Calhoun was later returned to his original burial site. sometimes, there’s no rest for the wicked.
after our tour, we headed over to the market since it was now open. a huge craft practiced in Charleston is the creation of sawgrass baskets made with sawgrass, palmetto fronds, and pine needles. we didn’t purchase one because of budget concerns, but it is a really neat tradition in the south! when we had finished perusing the marketplace, we headed to lunch at Gauliat/Fast and French. this restaurant closely resembles an informal Parisian market. while the food there wasn’t the best of our trip, it was still tasty and reasonably priced. their hot chocolate was delicious and they also carry Orangina! I hadn’t seen Orangina since my trip to Europe where I fell in love with it so I knew this place was authentic.
originally, we had planned to visit Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were heard, but the ferry ride out to the fort is $21/person so we decided we would check out Fort Moultrie instead! only $5 admission for both of us? we’re sold. I am so glad we changed our plans because Harris said this was the coolest fort he had been to! Fort Moultrie is unique because it originally began as a palmetto fort during the revolutionary war and continued to be improved and used through most of America’s major conflicts: War of 1812, Civil War, and World War II. another cool thing about Fort Moultrie was our discovery of a powder magazine full of barrels of gunpowder from the 1830s!
after exploring the fort, we headed to a spot that our tour guide had recommended to us: Angel Oak. unfortunately, the park had already closed when we arrived, but we were still able to see it through the fence. some say that the tree is 1,500 years old, but some say only 500 years so it’s not totally clear how old it is. the most interesting part about Angel Oak is the fact that it isn’t one tree, but four trees that all grew so close to one another that they formed one large tree trunk! it was definitely a cool sight to see.
after many hours of walking, we decided to head back to our place and take a nap before dinner. I am so thankful that we did because we spent the rest of the evening wandering around the side of town near the College of Charleston. the campus is beautiful and the area around it is thriving with cool restaurants and other local hangouts. we first checked out Blue Bicycle Books (surprised it took me this long to find a bookstore) which had the cutest vibe. the store reminded me of a typical Charleston home, narrow, but full of life. off the main hallway, individual rooms were divided into different genres. I didn’t get to buy anything, but I did see a book that caught my eye: Lincoln in the Bardo. currently on the wait list for it from the library! after the bookstore closed, we headed over to Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (my second favorite thing after books) and grabbed a half a dozen for breakfast and the ride home. fantastic donuts, by the way (actually, all the food in Charleston is fantastic). so we had procurred a sugary treat, but we still needed a nice dinner place. thanks to the man walking down the street carrying a huge pizza box, we stumbled upon a little NY style pizza place called Sabatino’s. let me tell you, the slices are huge, the price is right, and the pizza is to die for. definitely wish we had one in Tampa. hoping to digest our heavy meal, we decided to walk down to White Point Gardens and enjoy the stars. after showing Harris some of the amazing houses in that area, we headed home and slept like babies.
sadly, we had to leave our homey little cottage on Sunday. so we packed up, said goodbye, and headed to church. after church, we grabbed some brunch at one of the best food places I’ve ever experienced. Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit‘s unique atmosphere and amazing biscuits make me want to go back to Charleston right this minute. the line was out the door when we got there and for good reason. don’t be intimidated, wait it out. it’s so worth it (I just discovered that they ship nationwide and I am jumping for joy).
well, that’s all for our trip around charming Charleston. I hope y’all will make the journey!
“Charleston has a landscape that encourages intimacy and partisanship. I have heard it said that an inoculation to the sights and smells of the Carolina lowcountry is an almost irreversible antidote to the charms of other landscapes, other alien geographies. You can be moved profoundly by other vistas, by other oceans, by soaring mountain ranges, but you can never be seduced. You can even forsake the lowcountry, renounce it for other climates, but you can never completely escape the sensuous, semitropical pull of Charleston and her marshes.” – Pat Conroy