Friday, September 4, 2015

Southern Charms of Charleston, South Carolina

A few days in Charleston, SC requires a To-Do List!  Here are my favorite things to do in this wonderful city, rich in history, culture and Southern charm!
First!  Don't stay just anywhere, Charleston is filled with historic Inn's and B&B's so look at a few and pick your favorite!  It's so hot and humid in Charleston, especially during summer, so I had to land a place with a pool!!!

The Meeting Street Inn offers up a stay in a historic building, a room decorated in antiques, breakfast service every morning till 10am, an evening wine and cheese reception from 5-6pm, and a small pool in the courtyard surrounded by palm trees, fountains and roses!  Need I say more???  It was love at first sight and truly our home, away from home!  Plus, its sitting in the middle of everything, blocks away from the King St Shopping and Antiques Districts, Restaurants, Art Galleries, Historic Sights, Fountains and Parks!  Everything you'd want and need, steps from your front door!!!

After check-in and a glass of wine;)  Get to know your neighborhood!  We went walking around the King St Shopping District and went in search of dinner options!  As you can see, it had just stopped raining and it was soooo hot, every shop window was fogged.  We saw some old favorites like Anthropologie, J.Crew, Kate Spade, Sperry and Palm Avenue the Lilly Pulitzer Shop and found some new favorites, like Croghan's Jewel Box and Haute Hanger!!!

We decided dinner needed to be simple and delish, so we checked out the best pizza spot in Charleston, Monza and it lived up to the challenge!  Great pizzas to choose from and an awesome wine list, service was excellent, ultra sweet and speedy!!!  This place also boasts a great interior space decorated in vintage racecar memorabilia, you're sure to love it!!!

After you get a goodnight's rest and wake up refreshed after your travels, be sure to get gussied up and head out to the historic plantations!!!  Just a 25 min drive Northwest of Charleston, out on Ashley River Rd. you can enjoy all the splendors of historic estates, gardens and river views!  You can easily spend the day and into the evening walking around these beauties, enjoying their landscapes, and even dining at one that has it's own restaurant!

Begin your day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, it's the perfect starting point!  Founded in 1676 by the Drayton Family, Magnolia Plantation has witnessed the changing, challenging and trying times of the American Revolution to the Civil War and much, much more!  When you walk the grounds of this historic estate, you'll literally be taken back in time!  These gardens are the oldest public gardens in America, having opened it's gates to visitors in 1870!!!  Be sure to take pictures to take with you the memory of your time there.  Walk along the pathways and experience the beautiful array of flowers, Spanish moss hanging from the large, twisting oak trees, alligators peaking out of the pond waters, turtles sunning themselves in yoga poses on green rocks and peacocks wandering the brush looking for lunch;)  Enjoy!

Tiny Side Note from Yours Truly:
(Don't be alarmed and please don't let this keep you from going, but let me pass on a word of advice- Look out for the Banana Spider's.  These guys are big and ugly, yellow and black and usually sit in yellow webs way above your head.  No one mentioned these to me and I have to say, I was a bit taken a back when I first saw one, sitting in it's web, just above my head as I was taking pictures of the trees.  I never saw these in Downtown Charleston, but out on the other islands they make their home, so just keep your eye out for them so you don't run into one!)

Drayton Hall was our next stop!  A different but equally as beautiful experience!  This tour allowed us to photograph the interior space which is still undergoing renovations.  This place was beautiful for its raw, stripped away character.  Being here was like being behind the scenes as workman worked on parts of the building at the same time we were touring.
The transition from cattle ranching to rice planting here at Drayton Hall began just after 1738.  John Drayton, at 23 years of age began work on the house and rice fields, it would have been labor intensive work but proved to be a wealthy and prosperous way of life!   

We stopped into Middleton Place just before a heavy rainstorm hit, we visited the gift shop to tuck in from the rain and decided we would return once the rain gave way to better weather.  As an added bonus, the lovely gift shop associates talked us into saving a bundle by skipping the interior tour and coming back for dinner instead of lunch.  On a budget, it made perfect sense!  They open up the grounds to anyone coming to the restaurant on site for dinner, so you can walk the gardens and grounds for free instead of almost $100 per couple during house/garden tour hours, plus the cost of lunch!  So, we decided to take a plantation break, and get out of the rain by antiquing nearby!  Minutes down the road we popped into a few antique shops, our favorite being the Terrace Oaks Antiques.  What a great way to take a mid day break and do a little shopping!!!

When we returned to Middleton Place, it was so quiet, we arrived around 5:30pm, dinner doors didn't open until 6pm, leaving the entire grounds and gardens to ourselves!  We walked along the pathways and out into the beautifully crafted grounds and took pictures, talked amongst ourselves and took in the views before we enjoyed an absolutely delicious early dinner!  It was perfect, and no more rain!  

Before the rain came...

After the rain you see the rainbow???

The Restaurant, on site:)

I enjoyed Braised Short Ribs over Mushroom Risotto paired with a hearty glass of red wine!

Steven went local with Classic Shrimp and Grits, only this dish also boasted lobster, paired with a cool glass of white wine!

The next day we decided to spend the early part of the day exploring Downtown and then later we would venture out to the winery nearby!  We started just across the street from our Inn at the City Market!
If you are looking for some gifts to bring back to friends and loved ones, The Charleston City Market offers up everything from Charleston souvenirs, to locally made cookies, honey, tea, woven baskets, art, jewelry and many other goodies!  It's huge, so allow some time to explore:)

A Charleston must for a meal is the famous Poogan's Porch!  A darling yellow house, turned restaurant!  This place is very special to Charleston, and it's been around since 1976, so it's earned a place in the local communities heart!  Poogan was a dear old dog who liked to travel from porch to porch in the neighborhood, looking for head scratches and table scraps, so the owners named the restaurant after him in his honor!  This place is well dressed, sweet as can be and worth the visit!!!   

Curiosity was introduced to me by a dear friend who knows her stuff when it comes to vintage finds, so I took her recommendation and made a visit to this lovely shop!  It was as darling inside as it was outside!  Shelves filled with curiosities!  I fell in love with some antique women's silver cup trophies being used as vases for lavender, some etched champagne saucers, apothecary bottles and jewel boxes from Paris, and beautiful pieces of art and woodwork!  Make the journey, this one is not to be missed!!!  

Stepping out any door in this city is stepping out into beauty!  Just wandering the streets you'll be amazed with how dramatically different each street is from the last!  You'll either be greeted with cobble stone streets and flowering, shady trees, or tall colorful buildings with palm trees lining the sidewalk.  It's absolutely wonderful!!!

The famous Millionaire Row or "Rainbow Row" is a must see in Charleston as well!  Beautifully colored row homes grace East Bay Street, right across from views of the Cooper River!  These homes are impeccable!  Stop in front for a pic:)

White Point Gardens in The Battery, down at the very southern tip of Charleston is a great place to take a break from your walking and sit for a while.  Steven and I took in plenty of SMARTWATER to stay well hydrated in the dense heat!  We watched carriage tours go by and found a little peace and quiet in the bustling city around us:)  

Next stop on our list was the Calhoun Mansion!  Oh, my, my, my!!!  This place was amazing!  From the front yard gardens and fountains to the immense collection of antiques and treasures inside, this place is a city, all on it's own!!!  Known for being the Oldest Private Residence in Charleston, the Calhoun Mansion serves as residence to a wealthy Charleston Native and Lawyer who has taken great care in restoring the house to it's original glory and filling it with items from his travels.  Open to the public for tours, visitors from all over can experience the house and all it's interesting offerings, what a nice guy;)    

After seeing all the treasures inside the Calhoun Mansion, I wanted to see about some treasures for my own home, so we hit the galleries;)  Charleston is FULL of amazing art!!!  Definitely explore the art scene here, it is incredible, the range of choices, styles and mediums to choose from, throughout the city!!! 

Husk is another local favorite!  It came as a recommendation for us for lunch before we headed to the winery.  And with all our exploring, we needed a quick bite before we could walk another step!  We enjoyed some Southern Fried Chicken and Burgers here, served with honey butter rolls, cornbread and pickled slaw!  It was good eating, but a bit pricey.  

Eli's Table also looked cute, we didn't get to eat here, but there was always a wait to get in!

As the late afternoon approached, we made the drive out to nearby Wadmalaw and Johns Island to explore the Irvin House Vineyard and Firefly Distillery and see the famous Angel Oak!  There is also a Tea Plantation you can visit, which would have been interesting if we had had a bit more time, I hear it's very neat!  I do have to say, I tried a cup of Charleston Tea and wasn't captivated, Charleston offers up a great deal in Southern Cooking, and Cultural Charm, but in my humble, small opinion, their tea was not my favorite:/

So we went and enjoyed a tasting of the Southern Muscadine wines, and they were very good!  I usually prefer drier wines, but these were different and interesting, plus, beneficial!  The muscadine grape is known for its health benefits, so drink up;)  I even took home a bottle of the Magnolia and Live Oak Reserve!!!  Plus, the shop was great!  I took home a few bottles of Muscadine Jelly for gifts as well as a few other things for others!

If you're into Spirits, do try Firefly Distillery!  That stuff is much to strong for me, I stick to wine;)

Angel Oak is a 1500 year old Oak tree that stands at the edge of Johns Island!  That was our final stop before heading back into town for dinner and late night gallery walking!  With a shade diameter of 17,000 square feet, this oak has surely stood the test of time!  With it's cascading, winding, twisting and turning structure, the tree itself is a labyrinth of natural beauty and curiosity!  Definitely worth the trip! 

Back in Charleston, and wanting to make the most of our last night we choose dinner near Waterfront Park, after watching the sunset over the water and exploring the last neighborhood of our trip!

The Cooper River views from Waterfront Park and Pier are an amazing place to stop, rest and enjoy the views around you!

After our evening stroll we headed to dinner and were craving Mexican!!!  So we dined at the hip and trendy Minero, and it was amazing!!!  We started with Grapefruit/Rose Sangria paired with fresh Guac and Chips and had a tantalizing spread of different tacos with salsas, Perfection!!! 

The morning we left we decided to eat at a true, down home, local joint called The Queen Street Grocery, it also boasts best breakfast if you're looking for something simple and sweet!  Nearby I just had to run into this last shop!  And then, we were off, headed back home after a delightful time in Charleston, South Carolina<3

Their omelettes and crepes were pretty on point!!!

Cose Belle, nearby, is a sweet little shop with antiques and modern clothing, very cute finds inside!  I couldn't resist, one more stop!

I hope you enjoy a slice of Charleston, SC in the near future:)

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