I got back from Charleston last week and all I can say is, wow! I had done some research beforehand on the historic downtown area, good eateries and the like, but I’m still just kind of amazed. Looking at a few houses on Google maps does not prepare you for just how many old homes there are, not to mention all of the different architectural styles.
Naturally, I fell in love. I don’t want to go into a whole giant spiel about why you SHOULD visit (I could, trust me), but if you do go, here are three things I would recommend seeing/doing:
1) Carriage Tour – I did this on my first day there, and it was well worth the money. The tour guides/drivers are all certified, and the city tests them every three years or so to make sure they know their stuff. On a carriage tour, you’ll go to one of three “zones” that the historic downtown is divided into – West, East, or South. You don’t get a choice, this is determined by a city official with a bingo ball. I don’t really think it matters which zone you end up in, because you’ll probably get a dose of Charleston’s history in with the highlights of the tour zone.
There are a number of companies doing these tours. They all have the city license to operate and whatnot, so just do a little research and see which one might be a good fit for you. There are also walking tours for both the downtown area and special topics (pirates, ghosts, naval, etc.).
2) She-Crab Soup – Just to preface, I don’t really like crab. It’s too sweet, and too expensive for the little bit of meal that you get from it. In doing my pre-trip research, though, a looooooot of people were talking about She-Crab Soup from one restaurant or another. Since I ended up going during restaurant week, when a lot of restaurants have a three-course meal for $30 or $40, and a couple had this soup on the menu, I thought I might as well try it. More because I like soup, than because I like crab.
Oh boy, was it good. I had a cup at both Poogan’s Porch and 82 Queen, and I honestly don’t know that I can say one is better than the other. Poogan’s version was a little less dense, and had a spicy kick to it. At 82 Queen, the soup was a bit heavier and creamier. The sweetness of the crab came out more, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
There is a plethora of fantastic food in Charleston, but definitely try the She-Crab Soup.
3. White Point Gardens/Waterfront Park – After you’ve been walking around for a whole day (or two, or three…), take a bench in either of these parks and let it all sink in. Revel in the city’s past and present. Watch the sailboats and frigates gliding through the Cooper River. You might even see a cruise ship, or at least the behemoth tail thing of one. You’ll also see people walking their dogs, or running around the Battery. No one will bother you, probably.
(I prefer Waterfront Park simply because it felt more symmetrical. White Point felt unbalanced, because all of the statues/memorials were on one side of it. )
All in all, I came away with less, and in some cases more, than what I expected from the trip. I ended up with notes on just about all the primary characters, and some ideas on how to tweak the city for the setting. I’ll probably end up twisting some of the history and architecture for my needs, but I still haven’t decided how far I want to go down that hole.
My main concern was learning more about my main character, which didn’t pan out very well. She didn’t reveal herself. My next step will probably be practice scenes, which I’ve never done before. First time for everything, right?
In closing, Charleston is beautiful. If you’re not going to go, find some way to send me back! =)