29th & 30th September 2015
Our first visit to this town, in fact this is the first time we’ve been anywhere in the US south of New York. We’d docked around midday, pulled on our best walking shoes and set off.
First thing we noticed as we left the super-cooled air-conditioned environment of the ship was it was hot….and very humid. But that wasn’t going to deter us one little bit even though we weren’t really sure what we were going to do or see here.
Just outside the port we met our first local (there were going to be many) a taxi driver…but instead of trying to convince us that he was going to light up our world with the tour of a lifetime for an irresistible price, he just asked if he could help.
We told him we just wanted to see the town and he directed us towards the park then pointed out several other areas of interest. We thanked him and without any pressure he handed us his business card with a simple, ‘If I can be of any help, please call me’.
Now it’s rare that we bother using the local taxi’s because they are often quite aggressive in the way they go about their business (and that’s understandable considering how many of them there are) but this guy’s approach got my attention. I promised to make him our first point of contact should we require transport during our visit, and to be honest I meant it. Nice bloke.
So we found the park which was very pretty, with a couple of large fountains and a beautiful tree-lined avenue. Shame about the smell. The waterfront area appears to be a salt marsh with a mass of reeds lining the water’s edge.
We especially loved the signs detailing the rules of entering the fountain areas. We were informed there was no life guard on duty and paddling was at the visitors own risk. It was also forbidden for a single individual to step into the cool water, bathing was for a minimum of 2 persons and a maximum of 25 (picture above is of one of them….fountain not bather) No alcohol, no loud music, no electrical equipment!!! LOVE IT, LOVE IT.
Anyway (there’s my favourite word again) walking from the park and around some of the back streets we enjoyed seeing the pretty traditional houses, all shapes and sizes, so cute. Then we found a main street full of galleries (there are many of these in Charleston…it must be a very inspiring town)
We found several churches, cemeteries, museums and many more galleries on our travels, but by now we were hot and just a little bit damp. Time for a drink.
It was 5pm and, because of the time we’d arrived, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and as the local Irish Bar, Tommy Condons, was offering 2 for 1 on burgers we decided to try them out (just for research of course and it would be rude not to) We were not disappointed….however we were still full when it came to dinner later that evening.
At around 8pm we headed back towards the port, but by now the market stalls were all gone. At least we had another day here so tomorrow maybe!
At this point I am going to have a moan. I won’t name names but it concerns one of the ‘sweet shops’ near to the market. As we’d passed by we were enticed in by a delicious smell of caramel. The young lady behind the counter had offered us a taste of a praline/pecan biscuit.
Mmm, very tasty. So we asked to purchase a couple of these digestive biscuit size delights. She put them in a bag and weighed them.
“Nine twenty five,” she requested.
“Sorry?” I asked. That seemed a bit pricey for two biscuits even if they were of the melt in your mouth and transport you to heaven variety.
“Nine twenty five,” she repeated.
“Really?” I’m not very good at concealing my surprise or shock, but I handed over a $10 bill anyway.
“Do you need change?” she asked.
Normally I don’t like receiving coins back in change, it drives that magical archy, metal detector thingy at security crazy. But this was an exception.
“Absolutely,” I demanded.
Now it was her turn to show surprise.
“Really?” she asked.
I held out my hand, expecting her to hand over the gold plated treats and my change. But she didn’t. The bag I’d just paid for was still on the scales, she looked down at it.
“Hang on a minute,” she stated, “I pressed the wrong button.”
“I pressed the wrong button.” Now she’s frantically pressing buttons.
“Yes I got that bit the first time, but…”
“The price should be nine ninety six.” She smiled and defiantly cocked her head to one side. Unfortunately she had my money and my cookies…what choice did I have.
I held out my hand and she handed me the bag, which I took, then out went my hand again.
“You still want change?” she looked genuinely shocked.
She reached into the till drawer, took an age to collect the four one cent coins and counted each one into my hand.
“Thank you,” I said and stood my ground.
For a second or two she looked at me, puzzled.
“Thank you,” I repeated. It was my turn to tilt my head and for good measure I raised my eyebrows.
She sighed, “You’re welcome.”
Back at the ship we found a couple of our dining companions to inform them we wouldn’t be down for dinner. Then we’d showered, dressed and headed back into the town for a beer.
We avoided the first bar as it was very busy owing to a ‘Drag Act’ performing. Further up the road we discovered a nice open terrace with American football playing on several big screens. This was the one for us, and a couple of local beers later we wended our way slowly back to cool down after a day sweltering in this interesting town.
Hang on a minute….wasn’t that several male crumblies off our ship sneaking furtively out of the ‘Drag Act’ bar? Well I never!
Now breakfast onboard the ship is ok, but after nearly three weeks it’s quite samey. So this morning we’re on a mission to get ourselves a proper, bon-afide, genuine American Breakfast.
One of the servers in Condon’s suggested ‘Toast’ on Mission Street and when we arrive it was packed. So we got our name on the list and waited. Ten minutes later we’re shown to our table and lavished with tea, coffee and juice.
I order a Short Stack and my dear lady get French Toast (reputed to be highly recommended by the New York Times)
Now I have to admit that although I’d ordered buttermilk pancakes, crispy bacon and maple syrup I wasn’t absolutely sure I was going to like the combination. But, hey ho, it just has to be done at least once in a lifetime.
It was good….very good….very filling and sweet beyond belief….but very good.
Breakfast done we wandered first to the Confederate Museum at the top of Market Street, then on to the main Charleston Museum at the other end of Mission Street. Both were very good and we enjoyed a few hours of history and culture.
Around 3pm we’d started our walk back to the market to browse the stalls, but guess what? We never made it that far. It was hot here….very hot and sticky. So where better to stop and drink margaritas than a bar called Sticky Fingers.
Once propped up at the bar we ordered a couple which didn’t last very long, so another two quickly followed. Now this is where I made a slight miscalculation. We’d been tempted to enter this particular establishment by the sign outside which read
‘Margaritas..$3 all day’
This was exceeding temptation, but I was sure at that price there would be little alcohol included (in most of the bars the cocktails were at least $5/6) So a few more margaritas followed as they were so refreshing.
I think we’d just finished our third when the rain started hammering down outside (I realise that it would hardly be raining inside but please remember I have been drinking)
So we ordered another round along with a plate of nachos smothered in barbequed pulled pork. I think I can honestly say these were the best we’ve ever had, and Brittany our server appeared to keep topping up our glasses regularly.
In the meantime we’d started up a conversation with a local lad who’d joined us at the bar. I know we got a little loud and merry but I definitely remember having the best of afternoons with our new friends…hands across the water and all that stuff.
Before we knew it the clock on the wall told us it was time to go as the ship would be leaving in an hour. Standing up was the first issue and walking in a straight line was positively out of the question.
However we did make it back safely, but instead of standing up on deck for the sail away we fell sound asleep in our cabin, and there we remained until 8am the next morning.
Charleston was a top port with great people and we’d happily return….but that’s not just the drink talking….we really enjoyed ourselves (except maybe for the sweetie shop where we felt we were somewhat ripped off)