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Trip Report 3 days in Charleston, SC

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We recently spend three days in Charleston, SC. We didn't have much of a plan, just stopped there and sort of winged it. To wit:

Accommodations. We found a pretty good deal on Priceline for the Francis Marion Hotel on King St. The location is good -- walkable to many attractions, restaurants, etc., if you're in reasonably good condition. The hotel is an older one, but in pretty good shape. The public areas -- lobby, restaurants, bars -- have been updated and are modern and attractive. The rooms are older, but provide a decent amount of space and are OK, not at all worn or shabby, Our room had two small full bathrooms, instead of the usual single. That's quite convenient when two of you are getting ready. The AC system is one of those older, less expensive ones that go on and off and are a little noisy. We got around that by putting the system on really low when we were out, making the room cold, and then raising the temp at bedtime.

We had lunch one day at Jestine's Kitchen. It advertises itself as "old-school Southern," and that's on-target. Features staples like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, catfish, all for $15 or less. The food and service were good. Good place to go to for a nothing-fancy Southern meal where your bill will be less than $50 for two.

Similarly, we went to the Hominy Grill for a Southern dinner. (Yes, we were on a mission to eat Southern cooking.) Comparable to Jestine's. Good, basic food; good service; nothing too fancy; reasonable prices.

We tried the Magnolia Grill one night for a more upscale version of Jestine's and the Hominy Grill. Good food, good service, nothing remarkable. Our waitress forgot to bring our salads until we reminded her, which was no big deal. Surprisingly, they deducted the price of the salads from the bill. Total: About $100, including a glass of wine for each of us.

For sunset one night we went to the rooftop Pavilion Bar of the Market Pavilion Hotel, overlooking the city and harbor. Drinks are a little expensive, but the experience is well worth it. Tip: Don't wait till sunset to show up and try to get a table. That's when the rush hits. We arrived about an hour before, and had no problem getting a table. Then the crowd arrives. As we were at a table for four, we offered to share it with another couple.

Also had drinks at Gentry's, a cozy bar on King St. The bartender was quite friendly and accommodating, They didn't have in stock the wine my wife wanted, so he poured several samples of similar wines for her to try before making a choice.

We took one walking tour of the city, by Tommy Dew, as recommended by the hotel. Two hours, $25 pp. It was a good tour that covered the historical highlights. Just be prepared for his lecture, which I'd call "South-centric." It leans heavily in favor of the South in matters such as secession, the Civil War and post-Civil War.

Now for the weird part.
Looking for a map, my wife wandered into a place on Meeting St. offering "travel info." They did have some maps and stuff, but the person at the desk immediately launched into a pitch for something called Vacation Inspirations. He said if we agreed to listen to a 30-minute presentation "about our website" we'd get $75 in cash and free tix for carriage ride through the city (which normally cost about $25 pp.), plus some other discounts on things we wanted to do. He emphasized that it was not a timeshare presentation. The deal was we had to show up the next morning and give them $20 to reserve a spot at the presentation, then get the $20 refunded when we showed up. Sounded a little fishy, but we said OK, and they gave us a receipt for the $20. And it was refunded when we showed up. And they did give is the $75 and other promos as promised.

We had a free hour the next a.m. so we showed up and were ushered to a conference room with several other couples. We soon learned that VI is a "vacation club." Short story: You pay anywhere from $2500 to $7000, plus annual dues of $200, to join the club with the promise that you'll get deep discounts on travel. The "30-minute" presentation became a 1-hour presentation, followed by a sales rep who shows up at your table and applies moderate pressure to buy. I simply said, "If you think I'm going to write you a check here and now without doing further research on your company and its claims, you must be crazy." After my repeating that a few times, the rep gave up. Later research reveals that there are some consumer complaints about the company and its not delivering on what was promised.