This past weekend I finally did some traveling. Minus my overnight getaway to nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park in early March, it was the first I had done since my Disney cruise back in November. Needless to say, after all this time I was the equivalent of a bull waiting to be released out the gate at a rodeo (and that right there is the last time I’ll be talking about bulls and rodeos on The Red Headed Traveler).
I made it to Charleston, South Carolina, the number one city I’ve wanted to visit in the United States for the longest time. While flying-wise, it’s not terribly far from my home state of Pennsylvania, it still involves connecting (damn you, Pittsburgh Airport and your lack of direct flights), not to mention it’s definitely more on the expensive side (both flights and hotels-I could fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a lot less). But there are those destinations where you just have to man up and go if you ever truly want to see them and so I did.
I have so many wonderful posts and photos to share in the coming weeks, but for now I’d thought I’d do a highs and lows post because there were definitely some of each. Also, be sure to follow along with me on Instagram and Facebook as I’ve been sharing scores of photos that make it easy to see why Charleston is so beloved.
–Charleston’s Historic District is simply amazing, just as I knew it would be. It seems that most buildings you passed by had some historical significance, especially if they had a marker denoting the building’s lineage. They are utterly gorgeous and coming from the stolid North, I loved seeing the vibrant colors that so many of the buildings feature. Walking around the Historic District is truly a photographer’s dream come true. Now if only the blue skies had cooperated…
-Reliving history. Growing up in Philadelphia I was surrounded by the historical events of the Revolutionary War. However, I always loved learning about the American Civil War too (I adored Ann Rinaldi books-a wonderful YA writer of historical fiction). But being able to finally visit Fort Sumter (site of the first shots of the Civil War), see the houses where local Charleston residents actually sat out on their piazzas so they could see the “fireworks” at said Fort Sumter, was just a dream and mission complete. I’m also a huge fan of the 1980s TV miniseries The North and the South, the bulk of which was shot in the Charleston area, so yes, that too made me happy.
-Traveling with my mom. Yes, on this particular trip D was not my traveling companion but rather, my mom. Although we had taken two overnight road trips some years before, this was more hardcore. As she’s in Philadelphia, we actually ended up rendezvousing at the Charleston Airport (our flights landed within a short time of each other), and so began our girls’ trip. As you know from my bucket list, taking a mother-daughter trip was something I had always wanted to do and hope we can do it again in the future (Puerto Rico…Quebec City).
-When making our plans, I knew that I wanted to visit one of the famous Ashley River plantations (they’re about a 30 minute drive from downtown Charleston). There are numerous ones to choose from but I ended up going with Drayton Hall after I discovered a local company offers tours there. While the house hasn’t been restored and doesn’t have any furnishings, it’s considered an outstanding example of Palladian architecture in North America and the only plantation house on the Ashley River to survive intact through both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. The morning of our tour, I got a phone call from said local company confirming our pickup for our visit to Magnolia Plantation. I said, no no we are booked for Drayton. The man I spoke with went on to say that due to the Cooper River Bridge Run (Charleston’s version of a marathon), they’re not able to make it out to Drayton, but that I could “take an Uber or taxi” if I really wanted to go (so a taxi can go out there, but a 12 passenger van can’t). When I asked him how I was allowed to book said tour a month and a half prior, considering the date of the run would be known months in advance, (like any big time running event is), all I was told was, “I’m just going through the paperwork.” And never once was an apology uttered for ruining our plans and causing major disappointment. So in short, Southern Accent Tours is a completely unprofessional business operation that I would not recommend booking with at all.
-Power outage ruining our dinner plans on our final night. I had made reservations to eat at Magnolia’s on our last night in Charleston. Long story short, the power went out for scores of businesses on East Bay Street, including Magnolia’s. The outage lasted a couple of hours, just long enough to completely nix our dinner plans and cause us to not have a memorable final meal in the Holy City. It was beyond disappointing considering how much Charleston is touted as a supreme foodie city.
-Food poisoning. Yes, this is definitely the low of all lows. Due to said power outage, my mom and I ended up getting take out from Hyman’s, a local spot more frequented by tourists that’s been around forever, since most places still didn’t have electricity and it was getting late/we were hungry. We both got the shrimp and grits. We both got terribly sick with the same symptoms very early the next day. Let’s just say that having to spend all day in airports while dealing with food poisoning is about the worst form of punishment. I’m so sorry that this terribly marred what had otherwise been a lovely trip.
Now that I’m well on the road to post-food poisoning recovery, I can say that Charleston is definitely a city I’d love to return to. In the meantime, I don’t plan on eating shrimp for a very long time.