Site 1 Section OO. Pull through. W/E/S
11/19/17 – On the road again. Went to the See Wee restaurant (http://seeweerestaurantinc.com) on Rt 17 in Amendaw, SC (north of Chalreston) for the She Crab soup as recommended in our guide book. A thick, lobster bisque-like soup with a shot of sherry on the side so that you can mix yourself. Outstanding. (P.S. We had this at 2 other places in Charleston, but neither were as good). Well worth the stop. A unique homey “low country” home style place that once was a country store and still looked it. Also stopped at Cape Romain wildlife refuge. Walked out a long boardwalk looking out over a river and miles of salt marsh. They have boat tours of Bull island off shore from here. Looks like a good trip.
Oak Plantation is a large, level and well planned out campground, with mostly pull through sites and multiple wi-fi access points. On the negative side is the multiple speed bumps going through the park. Also, the exit from the park on Rt 17 to Charleston is a left turn out of the park across two lanes with a narrow median strip to pause. This area was strewn with broken pieces from a previous accident(s).
That's us on the right.
Was very nervous about driving the truck into Charleston. An old city, can't use a parking garage, don't know where I'm going, etc. A neighbor recommended Uber for about $16. He warned – you don't want to drive in Charleston and we read traffic could be as bad as New York. After a little back and forth we decided to drive in anyway. I though if we can't park we can drive around and get the lay of the land – figure out where things are.
Over the bridge we went and followed the coast (the scenic route in our guide book). There was metered street parking along the sea wall with nothing opened, but shortly after that we found a cobblestone street with a small parking lot. We pulled in and saw a sign that said most of the parking was for residents, but there were a few meters that took credit cards. I grabbed an open spot and was shocked to see the cost - $1/hour, which to me is ridiculously cheap compared ot Boston, where I payed $22/day to go to work. For the rest of the week, we parked at the same parking lot, always half of the 10 or so spaces were open, through $5 in the meter and enjoyed ourselves. As an added bonus, this parking lot was next to a dog park. Tens of dogs running around together playing made for an enjoyable stop each time we parked or were ready to leave.
Driving through Charleston was a piece of cake. Very little traffic and that is only on a couple of the main streets. Leaving the city – Rt 17 can be busy. The day before Thanksgiving for example was a little mad, but with my GPS I drove around a good piece of it. Nothing like Boston – more like Worcester traffic.
Charleston is great to walk. Sandy had a walking tour from a AAA book that we loosely followed.
We walked every street I think from the City Market at the north to the seawall/walk along Murray Blvd to the south and from Meeting Street on the west to Waterfront Park on the east.
Favorite areas were Church Street, Tradd Streets, and all the little alleys and views of the gardens and verandas.
The houses in the first two photos are part of what is called "Rainbow Row," thirteen colorful houses along East Bay Street.
Cobblestone Street near the waterfront.
This is a popular and I think defining style of house in Charleston. The "front" door actually leads to the veranda. Homeowners did this for privacy as they lived and even slept on the veranda during the summer. We saw many houses of this style and we loved looking over walls to see the beautiful gardens and verandas. This is one of my favorites.
One of the older houses. Note that the shutters on the first floor are solid while the top floor are slats. This common feature in Charleston was done for privacy.
Having your "front" door down an alley also affords better privacy.
Walking the streets allows you to find all these neat little alleys.
The photo below shows one house and its courtyard. Our carriage tour guide said it is her favorite house in Charleston.
This is the Circular Congregational Church of Charleston:
The graveyard at the church had some really old graves. This one is from 1743.
The most popular activity is to take a carriage tour. It really is a must do. Our driver gave us much more history and insight than we could ever get or follow in a book. We sat in the front seat with a little girl and an older relative. The driver introduced us to Larry the horse before we set off and answered a few questions. She said the horses only work 6 weeks at a time then get a break on a pasture for a while. The girl (7 or 8?) asked questions about the horse every ten minutes or so during the entire hour ride. It was pretty funny. After about 45 minutes and we were nearing the coast, talking about the history of the many houses, the little girl asked, “Do they attack houses?”
Heyward-Washington House Tour:
Note the hitching posts and the step for people to use when they came our their carriages. These are original.
I had asked the carriage tour driver if she recommended one house tour over another and she said they are all good. On-line I liked the reviews of the Heyward-Washington house so we went there. Glad we did. The tour was short but really interesting and different from others (see http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/historic-houses/heyward-washington-house/). There were three things that stood out to me. One was the separate 1740's era kitchen that looked like the occupants just left for a moment. An identical sized wash room complete with large tubs for washing and a huge iron, stood back to back sharing a chimney.
The second interesting thing was a bookcase that is said to be the “finest example of southern cabinetry in existence.” It was beautiful (and huge) and I don't know how many types of inlays were in there, but I remember boxwood and holly. The holly stood out to me, because I never heard of that used as wood before. Most of the wooden structures (houses) and furniture are made from cypress which was readily available and impervious to rot – hence the longevity of the houses.
Upstairs a beautiful living / entertaining room held an keyboard from 17th century France. The guide pointed out a slope in the wall near the fireplace where the earthquake of 1886 made an adjustment! The main bedroom upstair was my biggest thrill. This was most likely the bedroom George Washington slept in during his longest stop on his tour of the south after becoming president. He did not stay as a guest at homes – usually staying at inns – but due to his length of stay he was able to lease this house during his visit. There was a cupboard with a few pieces of tea ware that would have been in use while he lived there. Very cool looking at a bed and the tea cups that he may have used.
The bedroom (if not the bed) that George Washington slept in.
Being a beautiful day, we decided let's take a boat ride. I wasn't expecting much to see at the fort, but we both like to be on the water, so why not. Turns out we had real difficulty finding a place to park the truck that was reasonable (plenty of garages). By the time we found a place to park, we were 10 minutes from the boat leaving, we didn't have tickets, and we didn't know where to get them, or exactly where the boat was.
I hustled my honey as best as we could toward the waterfront and saw a building for the Ft Sumter museum. I launched up the stairs only to see one park person talking to someone and I could not get his attention. I went back down the stairs and asked someone standing in line where they got the tickets. “Up the stairs”. I ran back to the front of the building and back up the stairs and asked the ranger who was now free. He told me to go outside, turn to the right and take one step – the ticket window was there. Geez!
It was now about 3 minutes before the boat was leaving. I got the tickets, ran back down the stairs, and got Sandy and we scrambled up to the gangplank. Once on board we saw that all the seats looked taken. Not a problem, we like to be in the front anyway, so we walked right up to the bow of the boat. By the time we set off, the bow was crowded with others trying to get a look, but we held tight :). Afterward – On our return to the dock, we saw a huge line of people waiting to get on the boat. I would guess 200 people. We had to laugh, thinking about those poor people waiting all that time when all they had to do was get there at the last minute. And, they will probably rush to get a seat only to realize the best views are up front.
The fort was again much more interesting than expected. I should expect this by now. There was a great museum inside with cannon balls, and story boards on all the battles, and the actual flag that flew for the Federals (really cool). There was a musket demonstration and rangers to answer questions and point out the locations of the other forts that took part in the battles, inlcuding Ft Moultrie.
If you can read this sign, and see the pictures, you will see the before and after the longest siege in US history.
Food in Charleston
When we booked our tickets for the carriage ride, the seller told us that “we Charleston's are serious about our food.”
There were two restaurants side by side that looked good. We tried them both in two days. The Oyster House had a great outside plaza with views to the City Market across the street. I had a good crab cake sandwich and Sandy the She-crab soup and salad. That evening we went to Perlz and had oysters, shrimp, mahi tacos and a couple cocktails. Hey, it was happy hour(s)! Met two nice couples while there. The second were a young couple, married this year, from Rhode Island. So was the bartender! The bartender told them that they had to go to Lewis Barbecue for the best barbecue around. I took note.
The following day, after our carriage ride, we ate at the Charleston Crab House (next to the Oyster House). We ate on a second floor patio. This is where we had the best fried green tomatoes! They were juicy (waiter said the key is that they are not sliced until they're going to be fried), and served with crumbled goat cheese and a piquant dipping sauce. The soft shell crab sandwich was great too. Sandy had more she-crab soup and a crab cake sandwich. Are you detecting a theme here? Hey, when in Charleston...
After our house tour on our last day we had a light lunch at the Low Country Bistro, again on S Market Street a block from the Oyster and Crab houses. We sat on a second floor balcony and had sh-crab soup and fried green tomatoes. These were fine, but not as good as the others we had. This was just a snack because we were saving up for the main event Lewis Barbecue.
Lewis Barbecue was a ten minute drive north of City Market. Walking in was a little daunting. You stand in line and look at a menu board above and behind a row of meat cutters waiting for your order. We were overwhelmed until one of the workers smiled at me and welcomed me over saying he could help me. I told him we hadn't been there and asked what we should get. He said you have to get the brisket. He had two slabs in front of him and he trimmed off two bite sized pieces of one for us to try. Awesome! I said. How much should I get? He cut off a slice from each and said this would do it – will be about half a pound. One was from the “fatty” brisket, and the other slice from the lean. He weighs them and puts them on butcher paper. Then I eye the sausage. Oh, you have to give me one of those! He does. I am shuffle to the left getting my sides, and have totally left Sandy on her own. I was in my own world at this point. Got a side of slaw and a bottle of water and off to the sauce tanks I went. Sandy quickly joined me with her ubiquitous pulled pork sandwich.
The fatty brisket had a thin line of fat down the middle, but was the most tender meat I've ever had, and one of the best tasting. Accompanies with the green tomatillo sauce was fantastic. The sausage was meaty and smoky and Sandy actually liked it better than me, and I liked it. Needless to say, I couldn't finish, but we thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend Lewis!