Have you ever found yourself with one day to spend in a beloved location, trying to prioritize how to spend those precious few hours? Recently, Alison and I each were within striking distance of Charleston, South Carolina on different occasions. Alison was traveling to a wedding in south Georgia, and I was making a college visit with my son and husband to USC (the east coast institution) in Columbia. Neither of us could resist the gravitational pull to the Holy City.
Should you find yourself in our shoes, or better yet with ample time in this gracious city, we hope our “Not Quite Done in a Day” guide will help you make the most of your trip.
Lodging and Public Facilities
April is peak season in Charleston due to the lovely (bug-free) weather and gorgeous blooming gardens; therefore, securing a room for the night was challenging. The charming inns were booked (we had only 2-weeks’ advance planning) or had 2- to 3-night minimums. lBd found the Doubletree Hotel available, and it was perfectly located at 181 Church Street near the intersections of Market and Meeting streets. It didn’t break the bank, provided comfy and spacious rooms, and offered just the right amenities.
Alison’s last minute plans were in March at the end of Fashion Week and the beginning of the annual Charleston Antiques Show. With persistence on the internet, she lucked into the nicest Courtyard Marriott at Meeting and Calhoun Streets. The bonus of staying here is the concierge service. Kevin McQuade should be an institution if he is not one yet. Not only was he able to secure last minute reservations at Husk (see below), he also shared his secrets for the most hospitable visit in Charleston:
a map ranking the best public restrooms in the city.
What to Do?
(Ellen) We arrived at 12:30 p.m., and lucky for us our room was ready for check-in. We dropped our bags and put on our walking shoes. Our first destination was lunch at Gaulart & Maliclet,
but everyone calls it Fast and French. Although unassuming, it’s treading on being called an “institution” due to its 25-year run. We’ve eaten there once before and had to make a return trip. I fortified myself for the afternoon on the fruit salad with goat cheese, while lBd feasted on the gazpacho and smoked salmon.
After lunch, we had six hours until dinner. Our priorities were checking out the local art galleries and walking the South of Broad streets where the gorgeous homes and gardens reside.
Art in Charleston
One gallery owner we met relocated from Santa Fe to Charleston 10 years ago citing Charleston’s emerging art scene as the reason. For a city its size, Charleston boasts oodles of galleries in a small area. In just a few short hours we popped into the following:Ann Long Fine Art Atelier Gallery Charleston Coleman Fine Art Ella Richardson Fine Art Gallery Helena Fox Fine Art Hilarie Lambert Studio Horton Hayes Fine Art Mary Martin, A Gallery of Fine Art Smith-Killian Fine Art Spencer Art Gallery The Sylvan Gallery
It was helpful for us to see the art together, getting a sense of what we liked and what we didn’t, to help hone our tastes. I look forward to returning for the gallery-hopping again.
The Market and Donkey Carriage Tours
(Alison) You can’t be a tourist in Charleston without visiting the Market. While lots of vendors are hawking unnecessary souvenirs, there are some artists and craftspeople among them. My favorites were the Gullah crafters creating their gorgeous and very time-consuming sweetgrass baskets.
While one was not in the budget for this trip (their high prices can be negotiated down a bit), I did come away with a bouquet of these remembrance roses fashioned from the same sweetgrass.
The story told within the market was that often a Confederate soldier leaving home would be given one of these roses that would never die as a way to remember his beloved.
Just beyond the Market, you will find loads of donkey-drawn carriages available for one hour tours. It was a perfect way to introduce my daughter to the city and learn about the history and lore of this special place. For about $20/person (coupons abound), you may end up on one of four specified routes that will show you different parts of this gorgeous town while you have a chance to fantasize living the Charleston life described by my favorite author, Pat Conroy, in South of Broad.
(Ellen) Before dinner we wanted to experience the view from the rooftop bar at the Vendue Inn.
From the roof we enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails and fabulous views:
Another reason to love Charleston is its culinary scene. So many yummy choices, so little time! Reservations are a must for dinner. Because we planned this trip at the last minute, our opportunities were limited. We were able to get a table for two at Cypress, located at the corner of East Bay and Queen streets.
Cypress is part of the Hospitality Management Group which owns two other fine dining establishments in Charleston: Magnolia’s and Blossom. Cypress was much larger than I expected, which is why were were able to get a reservation. The place was hopping with young and old, casual and formal alike. The food was commendable, and we tottered back to our room under the starry night and gentle breezes.
(Alison) Concierge extraordinaire McQuade managed to secure an early table for two at Husk, a restaurant that I have often read about in such southern favorites as Garden and Gun and Southern Living. Cutting-edge heirloom locavore dining is the specialty here. It was hump season, so the choices were narrow, but the end products were delicious.
The next morning we had one hour after breakfast before we had to pick up our son in Columbia, so we set out on foot again. Heading down Meeting Street and crossing Broad Street, we could barely walk a few feet before I was snapping pictures like a paparazzi stalking its prey.
Enjoy this stroll through a few of my favorites. I’m holding back photos of the stunning window boxes for next week. Stay tuned and enjoy the views!
Our brief visits to Charleston in the past couple of weeks have only whetted our appetites for more. It would be impossible to see this city in a day. Neither of us even got to shop on King Street. So we have vowed to return sooner rather than later and hopefully with some of the posse in tow. In the meantime, what would you do in Charleston if you only had a day?
Calling Card Giveaway
This is your last chance to enter the Calling Card Giveaway from One Thing at a Time with a retail value of up to $100. If you want to be considered you must leave us a comment or otherwise contact us Here to let us know that you want a chance to win. The deadline is tomorrow, Saturday, April 20, 2013 at noon EDT. We hope to hear from you.
April 19, 2013