charleston charms me – day 1

Back in September, when I started hearing rumors about Danny going to Charleston, South Carolina for a work retreat, I tried not to get too excited.  When it actually became a reality in October, though, I started planning.  Because no way was he going to go without me.  Based on what we already had planned for December, we decided it would be best if I joined at the end of the retreat, so I came in on a Thursday evening, after all of Danny’s co-workers had headed back home earlier in the day.  There aren’t any direct flights from Denver to Charleston (as far as I can tell), so I had a long day of travel, leaving the house around 8am and arriving in Charleston around 9pm.  Danny had already picked up the rental car and checked into the hotel, though, so I picked up my bags, walked out the door at passenger pick up, found Danny in our bright red rental car, and was on my way to bed.  It worked out really well for us.

The first night we stayed very near the airport since we knew I’d be getting in late, and we wouldn’t be spending much time at the hotel the next day either, so we found a Groupon for the Hyatt Place, which was very nice (amazing breakfast!) and also the cheapest hotel we stayed at in a long time.  Groupons…they’re the best!

After breakfast we packed up and got going.  We left the rental car in a parking garage in downtown Charleston and started exploring!  We started near St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, came across the Charleston City Market, which we explored (and should have bought artwork and ornaments at right then and there instead of waiting and ending up with a keychain from the airport…), kept walking, and ended up along the water.

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 ^^ Look at that swing!  On a boardwalk in the harbor!  I thought these were so neat. ^^

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So, to be honest, I was really pumped about Charleston, but then I arrived and the airport seemed kind of…ghetto?…and our drive from the airport to the hotel, while short, wasn’t through a great part of town, so I was starting to get kind of skeptical about things.  But then…

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^^ …we came to this lane of trees, which took me back to London and Green Park, and I was hooked.  Remind me of London and I’m all in.  So this is the spot where I started loving Charleston.  ^^

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^^ And then, our wandering led us to the Battery.  I’ve heard it’s one of the most photographed places in Charleston…the beautiful, classic homes on one side, the harbor on the other, with a boardwalk (sidewalk?) in the middle.  Further up, where the road curves to the right, there’s a bunch of cannons that remain from Civil War days (see below), and more tree-lined paths.  It really is a neat part of town. ^^

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^^ We were really just kind of wandering around downtown Charleston, coming across historic homes and churches and cemeteries (below) and things I’d been planning/hoping to see (the market, the Battery).  Rainbow Row was another thing.  We were just walking down Bay Street, and thought, is that Rainbow Row?  It’s funny, because it just blends in to Charleston, and the houses that are a part of the official ‘Rainbow Row’ aren’t really any different than all of the other houses in the blocks surrounding them.  It’s just the colors, I suppose, that set it apart.  Since it’s so iconic, though, I snapped a picture to remember that we found it. ^^

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^^ Lunch at the Brown Dog Deli.  That’s a sloppy vegan for me, and a vegan chili cheese dog for Danny.  Good food, extensive vegan menu, reasonable prices, neat atmosphere.  We recommend it. ^^

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After lunch, we stopped by a place our waitress at the Brown Dog recommended for dessert, but it wasn’t very good, and not really worth mentioning except that it was out of our way and hard to find.  We kept walking, this time towards to Aiken-Rhett House.  The Aiken-Rhett House, built in 1820, stayed in the Aiken-Rhett family from the time of its building until 142 years later, when it was then sold to the Historic Charleston Foundation.  The Foundation chose to preserve the home, rather than restore it to what it might have looked like one hundred years ago, thus the inside of the house and surrounding buildings are mostly empty, and thus things seem a bit…run down.  Just a little bit of background.  We toured the inside of the home, the slave quarters, the carriage house, and the big backyard (which was actually the entrance to the home back in the day) with an audio guide tour, which after our time in London and Paris, is definitely one of our favorite ways to see places.

(Photographs are not allowed inside of the home, so that’s why all of our pictures are taken outside – with the exception of one in the slave quarters.)

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After we finished up at the house, we made our way to King Street.  It’s kind of like an upscale shopping mall (think Anthropologie, J.Crew Banana Republic, etc.) spread out along the historic streets of downtown Charleston.  We didn’t do any shopping, just wandering, but we really enjoyed it.

When it started getting dark, we walked back to our rental car, and drove to our hotel for the next three days and got settled in.  Thanks to (another) Groupon, we stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort.  It ended up being such a great place for us – it was across the harbor from the historic downtown area, but it really took no more than ten minutes to get from one to the other, and since there’s no way we could have afforded to actually stay downtown, it was a great compromise.  Especially since when I say ‘across the harbor,’ I mean that it was on the water and every day, usually once in the morning and once at night, we walked through the sand and onto the pier.  I am all about being close to the water.  Due to a mix-up with the room, we weren’t facing the harbor, but we did have a pretty sweet room with a fireplace that made up for it.

For dinner we went to a fast food-style Mexican place (reminiscent of Qdoba or Chipotle) that we found out is a chain in the south.  It was pretty good, cheap, and close to our hotel.

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Afterwards we asked our GPS to find us a vegan bakery (for some dessert) but had little success.  We ended up back downtown where we split a few little treats and wandered around a neat little kitchenwares store.

Overall, day one was a great introduction to Charleston.  We had amazing weather (low 60’s), and I enjoyed starting our time by just walking around.  Before the trip, I had a list of places I wanted to see, but I didn’t have too many “must-sees.”  I mostly just wanted to walk along the Battery, go to Fort Sumter, go to the beach a couple of times, and just experience the city.  For me, this wasn’t one of those trips where I planned to go go go, like we usually do, and it felt so…luxurious?…to just spend a day walking around, stopping when we wanted to, and seeing things at our own pace (which wasn’t slow by any means, but still).

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