Charleston Charm

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I had the pleasure of spending an extended weekend in Charleston, South Carolina with my mom and sister for a girls’ getaway. We enjoyed such a special weekend strengthening our bonds and soaking up the southern charm. I cannot thank my selfless father enough for using his airline miles to book our girls’ trip flights and both my parents for sponsoring the entire weekend – meals, accommodation, and even a shopping spree on King Street!

We arrived at the Charleston airport just after noon on Friday and Uber’d to John Rutledge House Inn where we would spend three nights. This bed and breakfast was so quaint, feminine and charming, but what really made our stay here was the staff. Jim and Margo went out of their way to get to know us, calling us by name at every encounter, offering to make or change our dinner reservations, take our photo for us, and recommending scenic walks and sites to see. Though check-in is not until 4 pm, we were allowed to settle into our room upon arrival at 1 pm. Our room was spacious, elegant and cozy, and the location of this B&B turned out to be perfect. We also loved the tasty breakfast and delightful afternoon tea with aperitifs and snacks.

We were on the hunt for lunch, and unfortunately, many of the restaurants I’d read about did not serve weekday lunch (oops!). We ended up at Blossom, a Lowcountry seafood establishment. The interior of this restaurant is so light and pretty, a perfect “welcome to Charleston” lunch date. We enjoyed some oysters, light seafood and wine before setting out to explore the town. Our first observation about Charleston was how absolutely charming every aspect of the town is – the cobblestone sidewalks, French-style homes, friendly folks, historic preservation, and abundance of blooming flowers. Our second observation was how similar the climate is to Houston, TX – HOT and HUMID; we’ve grown accustomed to every destination being at least 10 degrees cooler plus dry and breezy in comparison to Houston, not the case here. Perhaps spring or fall might be a better time to visit since there is so much to do and see outside, the weather didn’t stop us from enjoying but we were drenched in sweat almost continuously (makes it hard to look your best 😉).

We walked down East Bay St after leaving Blossom and headed to Waterfront Park where there are a couple of fountains with people of all ages splashing around to cool off. The park is along the waterfront with a pier that extends out over the water, though there is no beach since the shore is more marshy in this area. The park has benches and walkways shaded by big oak trees with views of ocean on one side and historic homes on the other, a very pleasant place to relax.

We headed back up E Bay St to the Historic Charleston City Market which is appropriately located along “Market St”. Vendors set up tables throughout the open-air market stalls and sell all kinds of handmade, local fare. You could spend as much or as little time in the market as you like, but it is certainly worth passing through for souvenirs and viewing the infamous sweetgrass woven goods which you can see being made in multiple stalls. There are also some neat artisan shops in permanent buildings along the sides of Market St, we particularly enjoyed the store One of a Kind and would recommend having a look through the mesmerizing kaleidoscopes they have on display. There are also many candy stores in this area too, so we sampled pralines at a handful of them before selecting the most delicious ones to bring home to Texas for my mom’s sister.

We had a 6:30 pm dinner reservation at Circa 1886, so we opted for a leisurely stroll through the French Quarter stopping to peruse a couple of art galleries as we made our way back to John Rutledge House Inn to freshen up. Even though dinner was only a half mile away, we decided to Uber since we didn’t want to show up a sweaty mess. Circa was the nicest restaurant we dined at during our trip and since we were guests at one of the affiliated bed and breakfasts, we were able to enjoy a 3-course meal made up of any three courses on the menu for $49 each (around $60 value depending on which items you select). My sister and I tried the antelope special which is the signature dish of the restaurant, it was phenomenal! The wait staff was very professional and well educated on the menu, we loved every dish we tried and embarrassingly finished almost every bite of our three courses (so much food!). After dinner, we walked back to our hotel, it was much more temperate after the sun went down, however we determined the cobblestone sidewalks are not very easy to navigate in anything but flats.

At John Rutledge House Inn, you complete a breakfast selection card and place it on your door prior to midnight for the next morning meal, you also select where you will dine (courtyard, ballroom, balcony or in your own room) and then just call the concierge as you walk out your door to breakfast so they prepare your pre-selected meal fresh and serve it to you within five minutes of sitting down. We loved the food, ambiance and service at all of our breakfasts and the afternoon teas. After breakfast, we set out shopping along King Street which was an all day affair – there are so many cute boutiques, eclectic antique shops, and stunning art galleries! We side stepped back to E Bay St to try out Pearlz Oyster Bar for lunch since they’d been closed when we tried to visit on Friday, the food was decent but ambiance and service not spectacular, wouldn’t call it a must-do. We continued shopping on King St, picking up some steals and splurges before making our way to King Street Cookies which had been recommended by our concierge. I had the Mexican cayenne chocolate cookie which was an interesting delight, the regular chocolate chip was pretty phenomenal too. There is apparently a fun farmers’ market at Marion Square park on King St Saturday mornings, but by the time we reached this spot at 4 pm they were already packing up.

We enjoyed some tea and port wine in the ballroom back at John Rutledge House Inn before getting cleaned up for our 5:45 pm dinner reservation at Magnolias. We loved the food and atmosphere at this restaurant and would definitely recommend reserving a dinner here for some “upscale southern cuisine”. After dinner, we walked down by Waterfront Park to digest a bit before heading up to the rooftop Pavilion Bar for a nightcap. The cocktails aren’t great at Pavilion Bar but you can’t go wrong with a glass of wine, and the views off the coast and over the historic town are really lovely as the sun sets. We walked home through the French Quarter again and rested up for another fun-filled day.

Sunday morning we had a tasty breakfast in the courtyard at John Rutledge House again before strolling south down Meeting Street to gawk at the beautiful historic homes on our way to the Battery and White Point Garden. We had fun daydreaming about the types of people within each residence and being mesmerized by the elaborate, small scale gardens in each window box planter. We walked along the water a bit then back up E Bay St to check out the Rainbow Row of iconic, pastel-hued rowhouses. This was a lovely, overcast morning, keeping it cooler than the previous days had been. We made our way back up to the Historic Market so that we could get a few last-minute souvenirs and the clouds opened with a deluge. We found ourselves at a juncture where we had to cross an uncovered street to continue through the market but the torrential rain caused us to hesitate. The rain never let up and fifteen minutes later the street was flooded almost knee deep with water entering up into the market stalls, we noticed it smelled like seawater. We called an Uber who swooped right up the curb on the wrong side of the street to pluck us out of the flooding chaos. She informed us that when it rains so heavily during high tide, a lot of downtown can flood quickly like that with both the rain and oceanwater. We had Uber drop us off at The Dewberry hotel where we’d reserved a 1 pm brunch in their Henrietta’s restaurant.

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We had a couple of minutes before our reservation to dry off in the restroom and try to make ourselves presentable, we had been almost completely drenched from head to toe so this was a little bit fruitless. The restaurant was quite empty on this stormy afternoon, but the waiter was friendly and efficient. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch while the storm subsided. After brunch, we walked a couple of blocks to the historic Aiken-Rhett home where we followed a guided audio-tour through the estate. It was an eye-opening experience to see the various levels of preservation within the early 1800s era home and to see how much space was dedicated to animals vs slaves vs the small family. There are many additional historic homes open for tour within the city, though this is the only one we were able to visit; this was a perfect rainy-day activity. We walked through Marion Square park and then down King Street towards our accommodation, stopping at a few shops we hadn’t had time to visit the day before.

We had tea time and then relaxed in our room for a bit before a 7:30 pm dinner at Poogan’s Porch, a restaurant very near to our hotel, not wanting to wander too far in the unpredictable weather this stormy Sunday. Poogan’s Porch was, again, Lowcountry cuisine, served in a restored Victorian house. I love the Southern charm and opulent décor of all of these South Carolinian establishments, so feminine and inviting. The food here was decent, we’d say not quite as good as Magnolias which was not quite as good as Circa 1886, though we thoroughly enjoyed every meal. After dinner we headed to Bin 152 wine bar where we shared a bottle of Tuscan wine and enjoyed a full-fledged rain storm out the banquette window where we sat. After we finished the bottle, we waited for a break in the weather so we could race the two blocks over to our bed and breakfast.

Monday morning we had intended to enjoy breakfast in the courtyard again but the rain left it a soggy mess and the concierge recommended either the balcony or ballroom for our last meal on the grounds. We packed up, savored our breakfast and then checked out of the John Rutledge House Inn. We spent Monday morning visiting some extended family (my mom’s sister’s son’s wife and five kids). The drive out to their home was pleasantly filled with mossy oak trees and grand estates. This was our first-time meeting most of this family so it was a lovely morning visit before heading to the airport.

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Charleston, SC; this was a perfect location for our girls’ trip and we would highly recommend the destination to anyone looking for a charming, romantic getaway. We thought the weather was a little hot and humid and might recommend an earlier Spring or later Fall visit for a more temperate adventure. We would definitely suggest staying in a small bed and breakfast for the quaint, southern hospitality that they provide over chain or larger hotels. One thing that we weren’t able to squeeze into this trip was visiting the Magnolia Plantation Gardens which looks pretty dreamy, there are also a handful of beaches just a short drive away that could warrant an additional day’s visit. What else did we miss on our quick Charleston visit? What other destinations do you recommend for a whimsical girls’ getaway?


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