When we were putting together the plan for this road trip, Gatlinburg, Charleston and Savannah were decided upon quickly. It had been a long time since we were in Gatlinburg – and in our opinion you can’t get too much of the Great Smoky Mountains. We were in Charleston several years ago, but we only spent a couple of days. We left feeling like we could really use a couple more. We had the same feeling on this trip – in fact we may want to visit often, to see more of the history or fabulous homes, eat at a few more of the restaurants or just hang out in Charleston Harbor. I think we both agreed that Charleston could keep us in pelicans, plantations, gelato, and shrimp and grits for at least a couple more visits!
Today we had a 5-1/2 hour drive from Gatlinburg to Charleston. Because of the gorgeous surroundings, we were reluctant to leave the Gatlinburg area, and we spent a little more time on our deck and checked out at 10am. We grabbed some pancakes at the Little House of Pancakes and headed on down the road. After several stops along the way, we rolled in just after check-in time at 4pm. We could hardly wait to unpack and reacquaint ourselves with Charleston!
The pink of the sky made for a beautiful evening. Since this early November trip was spent quite a ways south of Wisconsin, we enjoyed the extension of some nicer weather – at least for a couple more weeks. We had jackets with us most of the time – and we used them – especially when the wind was whipping. But most days were sunny, and that’s about all we can hope for this late in the year.
We walked along the Cooper River, through Waterfront Park. Be sure to click on the Waterfront Park link to see some great photos of the fountain. When it was time to head back, we passed the Gin Joint which (unfortunately) was closed.
You don’t have to go far to find a place that’s not closed, so we proceeded down the street a bit to The Griffon – “Charleston’s Greatest Dive Bar possibly ever” for a huge selection of beers and a great fish fry. People are encouraged to staple dollar bills to the walls with notes or words of wisdom written on them. It was a very fun evening and the fish fry was fantastic! Overall we would agree with Southern Living Magazine’s “BEST BARS OF THE SOUTH” that this bar is “Unapologetically Awesome.” We’ll be back!
That was about all we could handle for one day. We headed back to our “home away from home” for a good nights’ sleep at the Lodge Alley Inn by Bluegreen Vacations – in one of their totally awesome beds!
Next morning we were rested and ready to check out the city. There is a free trolley that will get you everywhere you want to go, but since we took that last time and we really only wanted to cover the part of the city that we missed last trip, we decided to put on our walking shoes and enjoy the sunshine on our cheeks.
One of the best ways to save money while traveling and staying at a timeshare, is to have a few meals at “home” and take advantage of the kitchen, but (at least) one morning a stop at the Dixie Supply Bakery & Cafe is in order. We haven’t been there for lunch (they close at 2:30pm), but their breakfasts are huge, cheap and delicious! The place is nothing fancy and the lines are long, but it’s so worth it! Just don’t go when you’re on a time schedule.
We left our timeshare with a plan to wander the streets and gawk at some historic homes – most with intricate iron gates and flower gardens. We’d walk along the Cooper River passing Rainbow Row (aptly name for its bright and colorful homes) all the way to Battery Park (loaded with history of the Civil War). Wandering back past more historic homes, we set our sights on a restaurant we tried last time, with great food and even better martinis. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it!
We didn’t have far to go to start seeing the fabulous houses, and where else would a concrete pig look so at-home on a garden wall?
I loved that someone thought the life of the tree below was so important that – rather than cut it down – they diverted the brick wall beneath it. Since the houses are pretty packed in together and most have no garages, parking is at a premium with lots of rules and regulations, especially for non-residents. For this reason we opted for the valet parking at our timeshare. It may cost a bit more, but the ease of having someone else find us a spot and maybe save us a couple of parking tickets, made it worthwhile to us.
The alleys are as beautiful as the streets in this historic town. As we made our way down Rainbow Row, we came upon the Edmondston-Alston House and our first tour of this trip.
“Of Charleston’s many fine house museums, only the Edmondston-Alston House (constructed in 1825 and enhanced in 1838) commands a magnificent view of Charleston Harbor. From its piazza, General P. T. Beauregard watched the fierce bombardment of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, signaling the start of the Civil War. And on December 11 of the same year, the house gave refuge to General Robert E. Lee the night a wide-spreading fire threatened his safety in a Charleston hotel.” – READ MORE about the Edmondston-Alston House
Since no photos were allowed inside during our 30-minute tour, I had to settle for the outside, which was pretty spectacular. Imagine sitting on that porch with a sweet tea and enjoying the water view.
“The collection at the Edmondston-Alston House Museum consists of pieces that belonged to the family, reflecting not only family history but American history. Despite the ravages of the Civil War, the Earthquake of 1886 and numerous hurricanes, the Alston family pieces remain in place much as they have for over 150 years. Notable in the collection is an original print of the Ordinance of Secession, portraits, dining room table, gas lights, mirror and exquisite interior woodwork.” – READ MORE about the Edmondston-Alston House
If you’re into history, our next stop will peak your interest. It’s also a nice place to sit and relax and enjoy the warm of the sun after our walk and sightseeing. “This lovely spot on the waterfront features southern mansions, cannons, cannon balls, oak trees, palmettos, statues, a gazebo, and incredible views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse.”
“Battery & White Point Gardens
Located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district, this prominent landmark provides a spectacular view of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor, where the Ashley and Cooper rivers empty into the Atlantic Ocean. It was first used as a public garden in 1837. With the outbreak of the Civil War, it became a fortification for the city. Visitors today also find an impressive display of historic mortars and cannons from the Civil War used to shell as well as defend the city. At the corner of Murray and East Bay there is a Confederate monument. In the early 1720s, the infamous “gentleman” pirate Stede Bonnet was hanged here with about 50 others like him. Townspeople filled the gallows area and jeered as the outlaw was brought to his rightful end. Bonnet was buried in the nearby marsh. His epitaph has been memorialized and stands today in the park.” – READ MORE about Battery Park
Rather than finish up what she was doing and get out of the way, the little girl standing in the gazebo below decided to pose for a picture and I was OK with that!
We continue our walking tour by passing this fabulous bed and breakfast Two Meeting Street Inn. Located at 2 Meeting Street, this inn looks absolutely gorgeous and there’s some last minute availability!
What was going to be our second tour of the day fizzled out. There was quite a line to get in, and due to it’s somewhat higher entrance fee, we decided to look around the outside and then head on our way. The Calhoun Mansion is an Italianate manor house built in 1876. It is currently used as a private home and a museum and looks to be quite a place. Next time we come back, we’ll check it out. For some stunning photos, check out the link and schedule a tour!
We continue our tour with more random gorgeous houses, iron gates and heaving flower containers. The yellow house below is my favorite picture of the whole trip.
And because you know how much I love steeples and random street lamps…
And random churches…
We finally made our way back for another glimpse of Charleston Harbor. Through the gates with the white pillars is the entrance to Waterfront Park, where a wedding was taking place. I decided to respect their privacy and not put my zoom lens on to catch a glimpse of the beautiful bride. OK, I did, but the photo didn’t turn out. I know, I have no shame!
OK, here are the martinis I promised you! Toast of Charleston is a great restaurant only blocks from Lodge Alley. They have live music on certain nights and I’ve heard they have good breakfasts, so maybe we’ll have to give those a try next time!
What a long day! That fabulous bed is calling my name!
Next up: Magnolia Plantation