(Yes, I had my quasi-yearly cocktail at Edel. )
So let's walk through this lovely city, shall we?
(Although walking when it's over 100 degrees with the humidity....yeah. Not so much for this Midwestern girl.)
We stayed at the gorgeous Francis Marion hotel at the intersection of King and Calhoun Streets.
My room had a vanity, a desk, an incredible bed, and a nice, deep tub for soaking (which I did just about every day, because you NEED to after being out in the heat. You feel so much more human after.). I called it a "princess room" and it's exactly what it was. Blue is my favorite color and I'd love to be able to paint my room at home this color. (I'll have more on my room renovation plan later.)
The hotel did have some water problems during Edel, but it was rectified, and I always had water for my showers and baths. :)
The attached Starbucks and gift shop were also plusses, and the beautiful lobby was great for relaxing and talking with other Edel guests.
Also, the location right on King Street was great for shopping and catching the CARTA DASH bus (the free trolley that takes you around Charleston). There were three pick-up points within a block of the hotel, so win right there. And being across from Marion Square meant simple access to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning, where I got my sweetgrass basket.
This is what you need to know about CARTA's DASH trolleys: The "stops" on the map aren't the real stops. You have to look for the signs that have the appropriate numbers. They stop a lot more than the map suggests they do. This isn't a bad thing--it just means you have to be aware where the appropriate stops are for your bus. (Route 210, 211, or 213) Together, the three of them will take you to most of the city's main areas. We took the trolley all over the city and since it's free, it's very economical. Your other options are walking, your own car, a pedi-cab, or a taxi.
While they usually ran pretty well, note that they don't run much past 8 Sunday-Thursday, so plan accordingly. And also, the buses can stop at weird times/places for no apparent reason (we stopped at one point for no reason, and the bus driver just left us at the curb....it was tres strange.)
One can't talk about Charleston without talking about food.
We went to a few restaurants, so let me break them down for you:
Hominy Grill: This was our stop on Friday for lunch. The shrimp and grits were amazing, as were the fried green tomatoes. For dessert, I had Carolina Jam Cake, and my parents had the Hummingbird Cake. The food more than made up for the fact that they don't take lunch reservations, so you are probably going to have to wait outside. Fortunately, they have beverages so you don't die of heat exhaustion, and there are benches. My advice? Get there EARLY, and make dinner reservations.
But really, it's all worth it for that food.
Poogan's Porch: Anytime I walk into a restaurant and see "Hail to Pitt!" scrawled as part of an autograph, I get happy. Poogan's, on Queen Street, has had a number of distinguished guests, including Bill Cowher, Jodie Foster, Jim Carey, Barbara Eden, Barbra Streisand, and Giada di Laurentiis. And let me tell you, the food and atmosphere tell you why immediately.
The biscuits are the best biscuits I have had in my entire life. I am not exaggerating. They are like clouds with delicious honey butter. I can't even tell you have amazing they are.
Mom and I chose the buttermilk fried chicken for our brunch option, and this was also the most amazing fried chicken. It wasn't greasy, it was crisp and crunchy, and it was so moist. It was basically amazing. Everything about this meal was magic. (Yes, I know, I used "amazing" a lot. I'm sorry. I can't help it.)
Also--collards are spicy! I had no idea!
Queen Street Grocery was home to our first Charleston meal, and it also did not disappoint. I had cold-pressed coffee and a delicious crepe with ham, goat cheese, and dill. It's very local and very friendly, and this was one heck of a crepe.
Carolina Ale House was our last meal in Charleston (Sunday night). I wanted a burger by this point, and this was recommended by the hotel staff, so we went and enjoyed. They have a patio and since they're three floors up, you'd have a lovely view of Marion Square and the surrounding King Street area. It's a sports bar with a diverse menu and great burgers.
Speaking of King Street--let's talk about shopping, shall we? :)
We went up and down King Street a few times, and here are some of my favorite stores/places:
Blue Bicycle Books: used, new, and rare books, with a store cat (!) and lots of signed books by Southern authors, especially Pat Conroy. A small, but fun space, and a must for book lovers who want to indulge in some Southern Literature.
Rewined Candles: You like wine? You like candles? Look no further. This local company takes used wine bottles, cuts them in half, and fills them with candles that smell like wine tastes. The sangria is so fragrant!
(A lot of the rest of my souvenir grabbing I did at Edel, and you can find my recommendations here for some great Catholic companies!)
If you're looking for a place to go to Mass, The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a beautiful choice, and they also have a great organ and organist.
The Charleston City Market was fun and was located near Poogan's Porch. It's one of the oldest city markets in the country, and parts of that are evident (no air conditioning except in one area), but it has some fun things.Are parts of it touristy? Well, yes. But some parts are also really neat. Definitely come and explore.
My parents also enjoyed visiting the parks by the waterfront, which they did while I was Edel-ing, and they took a carriage tour via Palmetto Carriage.
VII. Yes, it's true--the South is a very friendly place. I liked having doors held for me (even if no one called me 'ma'am' this trip, sadly!) All of our waitresses and the people in the hotel were super friendly and helpful, which made the trip that much more enjoyable. I enjoyed my time in Charleston and I hope I get to go back soon!