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Trip Report Charleston SC trip report Day One

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Just got back from a short road trip to Charleston SC with my sister (we're early 50's). I am a landscape designer in NY and love architecture as well. She lives in CA and loves the water, especially the beach (but rivers and lakes are fine too ...) We are on a budget, so no shopping and really high-end restaurants for us. We spent 3 days in the city and two days driving.

We arrived in Charleston October 6 in time to see the sunrise over Waterfront Park, where a dolphin popped around to welcome us as well. There's a long pier with hanging bench swings facing the water, very calming. We couldn't check into our room at the Harborview Inn until 3, so we took a quick walk around the area, ducking down some picturesque alleys (Philadelphia Alley has a great paving pattern), and headed out of town to see Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantations.

Started at Drayton Hall and took a 10 AM house tour. Staff commented that it was an exceptionally busy day, but it didn't feel crowded to me. I loved seeing the house empty. The guide was terrific - enthusiastic and full of interesting tidbits. We also walked to the river and took tons of photos. Drayton Hall is a National Trust property, and as such seems more academic than tourist-y.

Magnolia Hall is a whirlwind of tourist-pleasing attractions, many of which have additional fees. We paid for general admission plus the "From Slavery to Freedom" talk. We walked the grounds, with their gardens, petting zoo, and hedge maze. The slavery talk was informative and a little surprising - on the way to the slave cabins, our guide pointed out two gardeners who each had lived in one of the cabins - slamming home the fact that servitude in general is not the far-distant past. Although the facts about the slave trade were not glossed over, there was no mention of inhumane living or working conditions, social treatment, or struggles during Reconstruction. The tour is new this year (better late than never!), but I hope it continues to evolve and attempt to explore those more difficult topics.

Just in from the Magnolia Hall entrance is the Swamp Gardens, an additional fee but one you can visit without paying the general admission. Amazing boardwalk through the swamp, complete with tons of wildlife (birder's paradise!). We spent quite a bit of time there, very peaceful and hardly anyone else around. There is a slave cemetery just off the trail with wild beautyberry (Callicarpa), the purple berries in fall are amazing.

Back in Charleston, we checked in to the hotel, which is directly across from the fountain in Waterfront Park. Our room was just off the atrium where breakfast and all-day coffee/tea was served, but we were never disturbed by any noise. Our room was spacious and comfortable. We walked over to The Noisy Oyster for my first taste of fried green tomatoes, also had raw oysters - both very good. It's right across from the covered stalls on Market Street where there are t-shirts, hot sauces, and sweetgrass baskets for sale. More tomorrow ...

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