Carolina in my mind
I have just visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time. My mother and I decided to take a trip - it’s supposed to be the number one vacation spot in the US at this time of year, and it’s filled with history. Spring is late to many areas of the East Coast this year, and Charleston is no exception. We may have been promised temperatures in the late 60s/early 70s, but our timing wasn’t too good. In fact, the first few days of our trip were so cold - in the 40s! - that we wore our (fake) fur hats to stay warm. We saw some sunshine, though, and were able to cast off our winter coats for the last day of the visit.
Our favourite things about Charleston?
1) Virginia’s on King. We found eating out in Charleston rather expensive, so when we stumbled across the wonderful Virginia’s, we were delighted. The food is fantastic (and we ate there three times, so we sampled a few items from the menu) and affordable. The waiting staff are super nice and made us feel extremely welcome. And the restaurant looks great, too. Highly recommended - particularly for breakfast. Order the buttermilk pancakes or you’ll be sorry!
2) The Nathaniel Russell House. There are a great many historical houses in Charleston, but we think this neoclassical dwelling is the best example. Lovingly restored, it is beautifully furnished and maintained and the grounds are as lovely as the house. Be sure to check out the incredible floating staircase in the entrance hall - a feat of engineering in its elegance and simplicity.
3) A sweet treat at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier & Patissier on Society Street. We dived in on a pouring wet day to escape the rain, and warmed up over hot tea, delicious sandwiches and delectable pain au chocolat. We returned another day to sample some cakes, too.
4) Boone Hall Plantation. No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to one of the many plantations which are just fascinating. Surrounded by beautiful old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, Boone Hall is a superb example - and what’s more, it’s easy to reach by bus from historic downtown Charleston if you’re travelling without a car. Look out for the Low County Loop Trolley which leaves from the Charleston Visitor Center.
5) It can be difficult and upsetting to consider the slave trade that provided so much of Charleston’s wealth. The Old Slave Mart Museum on Chalmers Street is an essential visit on your trip, to learn more about the other side of this historical town. The museum recounts the story of the city’s role in the slave trade by focusing on the history of the building and site and the slave sales that occurred there.
Charleston really is a wonderful spot for a trip. We spent four days there, and at no point were we bored. It’s a beautiful city, filled with architectural gems and Southern charm.
**We arrived by train having taken the overnight Amtrak service from New York. We booked about eight weeks in advance and paid $447 for a roomette which sleeps two. The fare also includes a three course dinner in the dining car. From the railway station, we took a cab to downtown Charleston for around $30 (there is a taxi rank at the station). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Historic Charleston Downtown for around $200 per night. We flew from Charleston International Airport for our next stop, Washington DC - we took the Nash Express bus from Charleston Visitor Center to the airport. It costs $3 and takes around 30 minutes.**