Posted on November 7, 2016
We finally dragged our tired selves into Charleston as the sun was coming up. In our exhaustion, and the dim light before dawn, we spent some time turning circles around a Coast Guard buoy tender working the channel entrance; they didn’t respond to our hails, and their constantly changing direction was playing with our heads. Finally, we just gave them a wide berth and motored past Fort Sumter and up the Ashley River to anchor.
We hadn’t really given much thought to Charleston as a destination. It’s a convenient stop, with a clear channel and a great harbor, but the charms of the city itself didn’t really play into our plan. Big mistake. Charleston is amazing, and we soaked it all up.
The downtown part of Charleston is very walkable, and we took advantage of the free shuttle from the City Marina to get there every day. Despite war, earthquake, and fire, every single block of downtown is oozing with history and character. Generally, when I upload my photos and start looking for what to post on the blog, I’m sifting through a trove of about 60, maybe 200 for a big landmark place like DC; I swear, I took about 500 pictures of Charleston. The mansions are amazing, and I absolutely failed to capture their beauty on film. I found myself trying to come up with a way to have a single Charleston-style house when we return to Madison. Considering they’re set up for maximum ventilation, it’s a terrible plan…but I think I would be ok with it. The double-decker porches and huge windows would justify the drafty winters.
We allowed ourselves to be seduced by package ticket pricing, which insured that we got ourselves to the Charleston Museum; the Gibbes Art Institute; the Aiken-Rhett House; and the Old Slave Market. It was a huge amount of history to try and absorb; thank goodness for the Gibbes, right in the middle—spending time with a bit of Solomon Guggenheim’s abstract collection, and exploring the Charleston Renaissance movement, gave us a bit of a break from Civil War history and contemplating the terrors of slavery.
On Hallowe’en, we brought the boat into the marina for the night. The kids put on their best costumes, and we walked the dock, trick-or-treating with limited success. We ran into at least three men over the age of seventy whose first language was not English, and completely confounded them; most people scrambled to the galley to see what they had that was even close to appropriate. Based on our unscientific survey, most boaters seem to stock Snickers bars; we also walked away with some Cliff Bars, some granola, and a full-sized bag of potato chips. It was a party for the adults, too, as the City Marina has happy hour every weekday with free wine, beer and food. Shrimp and grits for everyone! We also managed to meet up with an old high school friend of mine who has been living in Charleston for the past 20 years. Facebook is so odd…but serendipitous in this case, as it was great to reconnect with Kristin face-to-face.
For our last day in Charleston, Kristin had set us up with the carriage tour. Horse-drawn carriages are big business in Charleston; to keep the streets from getting too crowded, the drivers pull up to a shed to take their chance with a lottery, assigning them either the east, west or central part of town. Drivers need to know everything about the whole city–they never know where their tour will take them. Our driver, Matthew, was amazing–he knew everything about each building we passed. Once again, it was too much to absorb, but we did our best to take it all in.
From Charleston, we’ll head south (as is the theme)–a bit on the Intracoastal, a bit outside if the weather’s good–and on to Cumberland Island in Georgia. We here it’s not to be missed.