August 29, 2017
Travel Diary: Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.A
I’ve been looking to visit Charleston, South Carolina, for years. So, when I found out that it was in the path of totality for the 2017 Solar Eclipse, I jumped at the opportunity! I figured I could get two awesome things out of one trip; see a beautiful city, and a total eclipse. I’m happy to say I was able to check both goals off my bucket list.
Now, I have to admit, that I was late to the show on this one. I didn’t start looking for places to stay until it was very late in the game, and mostly all the luxury spots were booked up. Usually I’m on top of these sorts of plans months in advance, however, I am building out a boutique, so I am choosing not to be too hard on myself with this one. Thankfully, I was able to find space at a cute boutique hotel, the Elliot House Inn. Now it wasn’t posh, but it was adorably quaint and comfortable for the three night stay. They even had an in house historian who kindly gave me advice and insight into the sites I was particularly interested in visiting.
Day 1- On my first day I arrived about midday, and I honestly just set out to explore the streets a little. I was beyond charmed by the architecture and beauty. Now it’s imperative to mention that my son was with me, because that meant ice cream stops! Our first ice cream of the trip was at Belgian Gelato. It was delicious! AJ loved his salted caramel shake and my chocolate Gelato was to die for! If you go, be prepared to wait on line. They are very popular. The line moves fairly smoothly, but there is little to no seating inside, so don’t plan on relaxing there.
Of course I stopped at some of the local shops along the way. I especially loved Maris Dehart on the corner of East Bay and Vendue Range. Beautiful boutique with very affordable fashions. I purchased this adorable Greylin dress, that I decided to wear later that evening. Along with two adorable hats, and a few other little accessories! Definitely worth the walk from the hotel!
Later in the evening I had reservations at a restaurant I have been following on Instagram for quite awhile, Chez Nous. I’m pleased to report that it far exceeded my expectations. It was as delicious as it has always appeared and they were gracious enough to cater to my vegetarian needs.
A little warning here, however, as I learned the hard way. . . the outdoor dining is beautiful, but it’s the South, and had I thought about it sooner I would have doused my legs in bug spray before eating out in the courtyard. I was fairly eaten alive. So, while I do recommend eating outside in their beautiful courtyard, I advise bug spray!
After dinner, it was time for more dessert. . . this meant a little walk from the hotel down Meeting Street to Peace Pies for some ice cream sandwiches. For me, chocolate covered strawberry and for AJ a little s’mores action! Super yummy, and they originated in New Jersey!
Day 2- My first full day in South Carolina meant that I was going to see some of the sites just outside of Charleston. I decided on my top two; as I was only there for a few days, I prioritized. I really wanted to see Magnolia Plantation Gardens and Swamp, which meant hopefully AJ would get to see some alligators as well.
It was beautiful. Again, a little buggy, but then again, it had a swamp. I was prepared this time, thankfully! Haha. Note: There are quite a few options to choose from at the ticket gate. I chose just the garden walk (gorgeous flowers and beautiful bridges) and the swamp walk (lots of birds for a bird watcher, and there was an alligator that had snuck up on the walkway), however you can take a boat tour, the plantation house tour, etc. They have an all inclusive option available, but that takes about 6-7 hours to complete all the inclusions. As it was very warm and I didn’t have that much time, I opted out of that, but if you have the time, and the weather permits, it did look like a nice tour package.
Next stop was the Angel Oak Tree. . .
This was a must see for me, as I have a Peter Lik (click HERE to see his photo) photo of this very tree hanging in my house. The tree is simply majestic. Now it’s also, extremely popular, and is now fenced in to protect it from people carving on it. Getting a good photo op with it was next to impossible, but I was so happy to have seen it. Be sure to check the times that you are allowed into the enclosure, otherwise you only get to view it through a chain link fence.
After my day out in the humidity…I was in need of air conditioning and some retail therapy (and AJ needed more ice cream lol). So it was back to the hotel to wash up a bit, a quick stop over at Belgian Gelato, and then a short walk over to the shops. Of course, being me, and having quite the addiction, I landed myself in Gucci. What a surprise, right? I decided to finally pull the trigger on the Silvie mini bag. I had been debating it for awhile, but if you keep thinking about it. . . Lol!
With my need to shop satiated and finally thoroughly cooled down, it was time to eat before heading out on a Charleston Ghost Tour! Since we were in the South, I owed it to AJ to get him some BBQ. Now, you can imagine, there is not a lot to eat at a BBQ joint for a vegetarian, but I made due with cole slaw, pickles and corn pudding.
I am happy to report, however, that the meat eaters in my party were extremely impressed with Lewis BBQ‘s brisket. The atmosphere was also very friendly and fun. There also some cool murals outside for fun photo ops!
It was now time for some history and, well, morbid fascinating. Having gone through my teens with a more than slight obsession with the macabre (thank you Anne Rice, Mary Shelley, Poppy Z. Brite, and Laurell K. Hamilton), I was super jazzed (yes I said jazzed…dating myself a bit) to listen to ghost stories and see the sights throughout Charleston’s French Quarter! Bulldog Tours, on Anson Street, offers great walking tours with fun ghost stories. Their guides are extremely knowledgeable and very friendly. I highly recommend the dungeon tour for a nice mix of the macabre I fancy and genuine history. They have a ton of different types of tours, but the dungeon tour was my pick seeing as I had an almost 5 year old companion along, and while he loves ghost stories, I didn’t want to freak him out. I’ve been blessed thus far that he finds ghosts and ghost stories interesting and fun, and not scary at all. So I am intent on keeping it that way!
Day 3 – Eclipse Day!!!! Now it’s important to note that the forecast had us dead center in the line of totality, but also hopelessly at the mercy of gathering cloud cover! Smack my head!
Seeing as the eclipse wasn’t scheduled to happen until after midday, I wanted to find something fun for AJ to do until the big event. He had done a lot of walking around with me the day before (mostly outdoors in the sweaty heat) so I thought it would be a nice fun break to visit the Aquarium!
The South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston is adorable! Not only does it have hands on feeding activities with sting rays, urchins, and starfish, but it also has a state of the art sea turtle hospital. This was especially interesting for both AJ and myself. On top of sea turtles, they also had a shark tank, sea otters, a bald eagle, and an albino alligator. So much fun! To top it all off, there were custom lego displays throughout the entire aquarium that had AJ in heaven! So home run on this one mommy!
So as I mentioned, it was cloudy . . . All the way to SC to see the eclipse and the clouds were making it very touch and go! Well, I wasn’t having it! I was going to see that eclipse and I wasn’t going to let those pesky clouds and threatening thunder storms get in my way. Thankfully I had rented a car, so I got on my weather radar app, looked at the cloud cover predictions for 2:45pm (time of total eclipse in SC), and I headed West towards Columbia, SC. An hour and a half later, the eclipse had started and we had found clear skies and a safe place to park.
The eclipse was incredible! I had come prepared with shade 14 goggles, in multiple styles, mine I will admit were way cooler than everyone else’s. They “make you look like a minion mommy!” Haha! I also had extra that I was able to utilize in conjunction with my Nikon, to get a few shots before totality (as it was too bright otherwise without the filter to capture the eclipse). I did get one without the filter after it went into totality, however!
Feeling extremely accomplished, and rather hungry, it was back to the hotel and time to go find dinner. We ended up right next door at 82 Queen, which was very yummy. Quick note, the portions are huge, so don’t order too much. And the pecan pie is amazing!
Then it was time to wrap up a rather successful trip and pack up to leave early in the am. Thankfully I have perfected my packing game, which makes packing back up to go home, much easier. To see my tips on packing, click HERE!
Thank you, Charleston, for a wonderful trip!