DOING THE CHARLESTON!: Over the River and Through the Streets

So the second day and first full one arrives early, with me of course posting that first entry. I sat here on the couch, as I am now, and used the writing to help me survive the reading of that Dickens book. I guess it’s possible to listen to a story without having a clue what it was about. Maybe it broadened my horizons a bit?

We actually got going a bit earlier than we thought, leaving the room just after 10, and thus missing the hotel’s complimentary breakfast by just a few minutes. But it was ok, because sunning while eating was better anyway.

And that’s just what we did, at a nice downtown Starbucks as people hurried by. I think the location we chose was at 475 East Bay Street, but am not certain as of course there are locations across from locations. In any event, I got my usual sausage egg and cheese biscuit on an English muffin. She had a lemon pound cake.

At about 11:20, we head for the Maritime Center at 10 Wharfside Street, from which the Carolina Belle would depart. This 2-decker takes quite a few people on a historic tour of Charleston Harbor, leaving at 11:30 and 1:30 each day, and lasting an hour and a half.

Before hopping aboard though, we first stroll along then sit on a bench on the Wando River, one in a series of waterways that flow into each other to create an excellent harbor in this city. The Ashley and Cooper rivers are primary among these. There is of course the slightly damp smell that pervades all rivers. It was mostly quiet, other than the occasional gentle lapping that occurred when the wind picks up.

We trek to the boarding area shortly after 1, where a picture is taken of each group of people that can then be purchased for $20. We each held onto a giant foam ring that said Charleston Harbor Tours as the cameras snapped. Then we scrambled on and took our seats up top. I was worried about being a bit wobbly, but was ok in the end. The sun was spotty but great when it appeared, beating forecast rain!

As we begin to motor away from the docks, the captain narrates an amazing amount of history that I could not of course entirely remember. As he does, we make our way past the giant Carnival Fantasy Cruise Ship, also anchored at harbor and preparing to sail in mere hours. Ah, I wanted to go!

The only real thing i do recall is that the first shot of the Civil War wasn’t fired at Fort Sumter, as many think. The Wikipedia article makes no mention of this, but I guess that isn’t particularly surprising.

They of course have to mention the contributions of slaves both to building that area up and to the war effort itself, and in so doing their reluctance comes across. I think that’s always gonna be a sore point in the South.

We also pass Sullivan Island, the Morris Island Lighthouse, and a couple of young kids waving to us from a beach. Overall I would recommend this tour, as the ride feels good and you can learn a little. I suppose it’s easier for folks who can see to pick up more, but there’s stuff in it for blind folks as well.

Next, we hopped in the car to head downtown. We had to pull it into a parking deck and go up to the fourth level, as parking is quite limited in that area. If you can, I would recommend getting alternative transportation down there. As I mentioned, all we really have is that spotty hotel shuttle.

We got out and did some good walking, with the most interesting place being the City Market. This open market is a collection of covered stalls that definitely take you back to the 1800’s. The oddly evocative smell of horse manure (in the sense that it stirs long-dormant childhood memories of being astride those beasts) hangs in the air. I find it easy to imagine people, probably including slaves, coming there to purchase goods. The Sue Monk Kidd book I read earlier this year, The Invention of Wings, takes place here, and would give you a good sense of what those times were like. She gets a sort of headband, and we try a piece of dried okra chips. It is smaller due to the loss of moisture, but still tastes the same. I guess it was ok, but would I eat a whole bag? Probably not.

One thing I WOULD eat in abundance is the homemade ice cream we got next, from a place called Kilwin’s Chocolates. They have a copper kettle that is heated to near 700 degrees in order to melt the sugar. I opt for a fudge brownie that is chopped up in the ice cream, and she gets the peach. This place is a cash-and-carry, with no tables, so we head outside to eat our treats. I have to quickly lop out the top of my cup before the stuff oozes all over my hand, but hey, that means it’s good!

And that was just about it. Finding dinner was tricky, because we’d left the area, chose to go to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, then discovered going there would require re-entering the deck. No way. So, we settled for fast food from Wendy’s over in Mount Pleasant, just across the long Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Perhaps we should have gone with one of those ultra-high priced establishments we passed along the way. Most probably came to at least 34 dollars per person. One placed 4 wine glasses on each table. Maybe I’ll go to something like that one day, but not likely too often. If I’m parting with that kind of dough, I wanna be fed more!

And we arrive at the last full day of our trip. I’ll be back with its happenings later, but we’re hoping for a picnic at Folley Beach, a place I visited in 2002. We shall see, though.

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