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Lovely Charleston: A Long Weekend in the Holy City

Lovely Charleston: A Long Weekend in the Holy City

Jun 13th, 2019, 10:38 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 102
Lovely Charleston: A Long Weekend in the Holy City

We just came back from an amazing weekend in Charleston to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We have been fasting (or we're at least back to a standard 2,000 calorie diet) since our return to make up for the immense amount of food, wine, and beer consumed in a four day time span.

First off, getting to Charleston from New York could not be easier. We flew JetBlue from JFK direct to Charleston and our 6:30 am flight had us arriving at our B&B, the John Rutledge Inn, by 8:50 am. The travel could not have been smoother and it certainly makes the city the perfect destination for a long weekend getaway.

The John Rutledge Inn was a fantastic spot. Located between the South of Broad neighborhood and lively King Street, it was the perfect location for us. We didn’t rent a car until our last day when we drove out to visit one of the plantations and mainly got around by walking or using Uber. I reserved a room in the carriage house, but we were upgraded to the George Washington Suite which was a huge room which ran the length of the building. We had a very comfortable living room, great bedroom with an incredibly comfortable bed, and a very nice bathroom. Breakfast at the inn is served either in your room, in the upstairs ballroom, or outside in the courtyard depending on your selection. Each night a menu is left for you to make your breakfast selections, a menu that includes just about anything you could possibly want. I have stayed in many B&Bs and have never seen this great of a selection for breakfasts. Between the hours of 4:30 and 6 pm, tea is served with accompanying snacks. One day it was a huge charcuterie platter, the next, small tomato tartlets, grilled shrimp, and brownies. After that, port, brandy and sherry are put out for you to enjoy at your leisure. Each member of the staff we encountered was extremely warm and accommodating. We would definitely stay here again. It was a step above many other wonderful B&Bs at which we’ve stayed.

Day One

After dropping our luggage off at the inn, we walked around the corner to Miller’s All Day to get breakfast. My husband decided to get his trip to the South started on the heavy side with an order of the chicken fried steak and eggs, while I opted for the significantly lower calorie breakfast of eggs, grits, bacon and a biscuit. The food and service were very good. From there, we walked along Waterfront Park, enjoying the views of the harbor and posing for some pictures near the Pineapple Fountain. We then walked over to the Edmonston-Allston house for our first house tour of the weekend. The Edmonston-Allston House is one of the rare houses open for tours directly on the battery. From the piazza, you’re afforded beautiful views of Charleston Harbor as you enjoy the curiosity of a joggling board, a long board that is suspended on two ends that was alternatively used as a courting tool and as a method for women to practice their side-saddle.

View up the Battery

After our tour of the house, we walked north to 167 Raw for lunch. We got there early since they don’t take reservations and even at 12:00 on the dot, we were still told that there would be a 90 minute wait. That was fine for us as we were still stuffed from our breakfast several hours earlier. We put our names down and then walked to a nearby bar where we enjoyed the wait in the comfort of air conditioning. The weather was particularly humid. When we returned to 167 Raw about an hour and 15 minutes later, I was surprised to find that the host remembered us by name and quickly escorted us to our seats. Eschewing the traditional rule of no oysters in non-R months, we enjoyed a delicious plate of oysters and clams followed by one of the best lobsters rolls I’ve had and the special sandwich of swordfish with pastrami spices. It was an excellent meal. With about an hour to spare before our afternoon walking tour, we wandered through the Charleston City Market admiring the sweet grass baskets and other crafts. At 3 pm, I scheduled a walking tour with Oyster Point Tours to give us an overview of the city and its history. The tour was really wonderful, led by a smart and animated tour guide named Palmer. It was the perfect thing to do on our first day as it gave us a better historical framework as we continued to tour the city. One of our favorite things of the tour, and just walking around the city in general, was peering into the beautifully maintained gardens of Charleston.

Private gardens in Charleston


By the time the tour had concluded, we were sufficiently tired from our long day and returned back to the John Rutledge House to relax and cool down before dinner. I made reservations that evening at The Ordinary. We took an Uber to the restaurant which proved to be a very cheap and efficient way to get to places that were further than we wanted to walk. We were seated in restaurant’s upstairs dining room which I highly recommend. Although the entire restaurant has high ceilings, the hard surfaces make it quite noisy. We found the upstairs area to be more subdued. The menu here is largely made up of small seafood-focused plates. We enjoyed their seafood platter (oysters, shrimp, clams, and a crudo), the fried oyster sliders, a salad of burrata and South Carolina peaches (apparently they’re better than their Georgia counterparts!), and the chowder. All of the food was delicious as were the craft cocktails. My husband, an Old Fashioned lover, raved about the one he got here.

Day Two

We began the day bright and early as I scheduled a 9:30 am tour to Fort Sumter, organized by the National Park Service. The 9:30 am tour is the first one of the morning which means that once everyone arrives on the island, the U.S. flag is hoisted. Since the flag is so large, a good number of volunteers are needed to assist in the process. This was a special site to see given the history of the fort. Fort Sumter is a well-organized park with signage around the perimeter of the fort to explain what you’re seeing along with a small museum and gift shop. The boat ride there takes 30 minutes, you’re given about an hour to explore, and then the return trip is another 30 minutes. Not only is it a great trip if you’re interested in Civil War history, it gives you the opportunity to get out on the water and have a view of Charleston from the harbor.

One view from Fort Sumter

Once back on land, we walked along Calhoun Street crossing through Marion Square which was hosting a lovely open air art market. We wound up purchasing an oil painting that will serve as a reminder of our visit to the Holy City. We continued on, eventually making our way to the Darling Oyster Bar where I had made reservations. We had a wonderful waiter who was funny and attentive and the food here was very good. We had oysters, a lobster and king crab roll, and a plate of fried oysters and fried shrimp. Everything was delicious. We wandered out of the restaurant onto King Street and proceeded to walk south. Much of King Street was closed off to vehicular traffic for their Second Sundays which was very nice. Restaurants had set up their tables in the street and there were a number of musicians entertaining the passersby. We walked along King Street and eventually made our way to the Nathaniel Russell House. I highly recommend this one. It has been beautifully curated on the inside and the floating grand spiral staircase in the main hall is spectacular to see. The tour guide here was also excellent. From there we went to the Calhoun Mansion. The small, but lovely, gardens are free to wander through and unless you’re interested in the eccentric collections of one man, I would skip this mansion. Every piece of wall space and table space is covered with the current owner’s collections of art, antiquities, and other oddities from his travels. In terms of understanding Charleston and South Carolina history, a visit to this house isn’t going to help much.

Gardens at the Calhoun Mansion

We returned back to the John Rutledge in time for tea which we enjoyed outside in the courtyard. From there, we walked to the Vendue Hotel’s rooftop bar. We only had time for a quick drink before our dinner reservation at McCrady’s. We picked McCrady’s because we wanted something special for our actual anniversary dinner and that is just what we got. The dining room is set up as a u-shaped bar with the kitchen at one end so that all guests can watch the chefs work. I can’t say enough wonderful things about the level of service and the wonderful food at this restaurant. In total, I think we enjoyed eight different courses ranging from oysters to their elevated version of hoppin’ john to duck breast. Because there are only about 20 people seated around the counter, the amount of individualized attention from the host and the two waiters is unparalleled. I chose to do the wine pairing with my meal which was very nice and the waiter was extremely well-versed in the wines and their producers. My husband began his meal with another Old Fashioned that he liked even more than the one he got on our first night. We left the meal so incredibly pleased. It is one of those meals that we will talk about for years to come.

Charleston at night

Days 3 and 4 to come…
northfork280 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2019, 11:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,242
Really enjoying your report! Will await Days 3 and 4.
tomarkot is online now  
Jun 14th, 2019, 07:52 AM
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Day Three

We began day three by stopping first at the Old Slave Mart Museum. Our tour guide from the Oyster Point tours had made note of the museum so we wanted to visit it. As the name makes clear, the museum sits on the site of an old slave market. Slave auctions were moved from the sidewalks to interior spaces after a time because it was believed that the outdoor slave auctions impacted the gentility of Charleston (as though indoor ones didn’t). Inside the museum you have the opportunity to listen to recordings of interviews with former slaves about their experiences which was particularly moving. The museum itself is small and mainly made up of signs with a lot of reading material. There are only a handful of artifacts. You can probably visit the museum in under an hour.

From the museum, we walked north to the Aiken Rhett House. The house was the former home of Governor William Aiken who was one of the largest slaveholders in South Carolina. It was an interesting transition to move from the Old Slave Mart Museum, seeing the place where the enslaved were sold, to a house where some of them may have ended up. Unlike the Nathaniel Russell House or the Edmonston Allston House, the Aiken Rhett House is in the process of being preserved, as opposed to being restored. The furniture is old and falling apart and the paint on the walls is cracking off, but I think this is one of the neat things about the house. It was haunting to walk through, particularly visiting the former quarters of the enslaved. Instead of a guided tour, there is a comprehensive audio tour which includes commentary by a history professor at the College of Charleston and one of the preservationists of the house. N.B. There is no air conditioning at the Edmonston Allston House so a visit earlier in the morning is probably best.

From the house, we took an Uber to Rodney Scott’s BBQ. There are a number of bbq spots in Charleston, but I wound up choosing Rodney Scott’s based on Eater’s Essential Charleston guide. Although I can’t claim to be a bbq aficionado, this place was really good. The pulled pork won a James Beard Award last year and I could see why. Accompanied by hush puppies and cole slaw, it made for an awesome lunch. With stomachs full, we embarked upon our afternoon activity of a self-guided brewery tour. Craft breweries are popping up all over Charleston and my husband is quite the beer fan. As such, we began by visiting Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company which is located in a modern office park complex. They had a huge selection of beers, including some that we had seen on restaurant menus in the preceding days. We moved from there to Holy City Brewing Company and then onto Revelry Brewing Company. Revelry features a lovely rooftop bar where we were able to enjoy the breezes that had finally appeared after two days of near-constant humidity. The folks at Revelry have opened a nearby brewery called The Hold which features some of the more interesting stuff that they’re doing with their beer, including a beer aged in Cabernet Franc barrels. We ended our long afternoon of beer tasting at The Hold before heading back to the Inn for some refreshing tea.

Rodney Scott's BBQ

Our final dinner in Charleston was spent at Husk. We started by going to the Bar at Husk which is located next door. The cocktails here were great, particularly the Dragoon’s Punch, Puttin’ on the Spritz, and the Barrel Aged Manhattan. We then moved to the restaurant. Much has been said about the fact that Husk is not the same place as it was since Sean Brock left (and McCrady’s for that matter, too). Although I can’t say if it’s the same or not, it was delicious. Everything we ate here (with the exception of the crispy pig tail, too much work for too little meat) was delicious. Of particular note was the stone fruit salad with ricotta salata and shaved fennel and the catfish with Carolina gold rice in a shrimp bisque. We completed the meal with chess pie, something neither of us had ever had, but which was very tasty.

Day Four

The next morning we said goodbye to the John Rutledge Inn and headed out of the city in a rental car towards Middleton Place. I still don’t quite remember how I settled on Middleton Place over the other nearby plantations, but I’m glad I did. First, the tours that they offer were really informative. We started out with the “Beyond the Fields” tour to learn about the life of the enslaved population (some 200-300 people) on the plantation. It was moving to stand on the same ground on which generations of men, women and children toiled. The ability to walk the grounds on your own and to reflect upon all that this area saw was quite something. The house tour was also interesting, although to a lesser degree. Much of the original house was torched by Union soldiers at the end of the war and what remained was subsequently destroyed in an earthquake several years later. The only portion of the house that remains is thoughtfully curated and filled with the collection of the Middleton family from the past several centuries. It includes their Confederate money, a copy of the Order of Secession, and permission for one family member to travel signed by President Lincoln. The house is curated in such a way that you get a sense of how the family lived. The grounds at Middleton are very impressive and include a demonstration rice field so that you can see the conditions in which the enslaved worked to plant, grow, and harvest the crop. In addition to seeing the heritage livestock that they’re raising on the plantation, we were also able to see a number of alligators, some of which were sunning themselves during the day. You could easily spend the entire day at Middleton Place wandering the grounds, reflecting, and attending the various demonstrations, including the potter and the blacksmith. There is a nice restaurant on the grounds where we had our final meal in South Carolina, a great buffet of all things Southern.

Grounds at Middleton Place

Middleton Place House

More Grounds at Middleton Place

We departed Middleton Place for our final stop at the Angel Oak. The tree is very impressive. It’s younger than one of the live oaks at Middleton Place, but in much better condition. Covered with resurrection fern (so-called, we learned, because it fades to brown when dry and becomes bright green again when it rains), the tree is very beautiful. Even on a Tuesday afternoon, though, the area was crowded with tourists. With just a little time to spare, we drove back over to The Hold for one final beer and then headed to the airport.

Angel Oak

Our four days were wonderful and, while there, I began to think of all the other things I want to do upon our return, including spending a day at the beach on Sullivan’s Island, visiting another plantation, and eating many more biscuits. In the meantime, I plan to start reading more about the history of the area which I found so interesting.

northfork280 is offline  
Jun 14th, 2019, 10:22 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 22,343
Gorgeous TR, northfork280. Your photos and activities really took me back to Charleston. Thanks for taking the time to share your wonderful visit.

Have you visited Savannah also? Interesting to compare the two places.
TDudette is offline  
Jun 14th, 2019, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 4
Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.
I have been going to Myrtle Beach annually to visit an Uncle/Aunt. This year we went on a day trip to Charleston and I loved it. I decided next year we will stay in Charleston and take a day trip to visit the Uncle/Aunt. lol.
mereh is offline  
Jun 14th, 2019, 11:59 AM
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Posts: 102
TDudette - thanks! The original plan was to spend four days in Charleston and three days in Savannah, but we weren't able to swing that much time with our work schedules.. As I was initially researching that trip, I found that the majority of people on this forum favor Charleston. That being said, Savannah is definitely on the list. In fact, as we were sitting in the Charleston airport awaiting our return flight home, I started looking at Savannah hotels on TripAdvisor

Mereh - that sounds like a good plan to me!
northfork280 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2019, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I enjoyed your trip report to Charleston, a city I need to visit again as it’s been a few years! I agree about Fort Sumter being a great way to spend a morning for history and getting out on the water. I also liked the contrast between the Aiken-Rhett House and the Nathaniel Russell, preservation vs restoration. I also found the city stellar for dining thanks to the unique cuisine of the Low Country. Well done!

Daniel_Williams is offline  
Jun 17th, 2019, 06:25 AM
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Thanks Daniel!
northfork280 is offline  
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