When my husband asked my if I wanted to go to South Carolina for my birthday, I was pleasantly surprised. We decided that though there is much of the the world we still want to explore, we should also take more domestic trips. As we mulled over various destinations, we were steered away from Hilton Head and Myrtle beach from friends and began to check out Charleston. A friend of mine raved about her babymoon experience there and I thought wow, it sounds beautiful. My husband and I talked about it and I was soon whisked away for my birthday retreat.
Charleston was in fact—gorgeous—and full of old Southern charm. Once we arrived, while riding in our Uber from the airport, we chatted with our driver as we passed a huge Boeing engineering site. I was reminded of how pockets of the U.S. are so different from each other, and casual conversation is so welcomed south of the Mason-Dixon line. Our Uber drivers in New York were usually silent, aside from asking for directions, or chatting on their own phones. It rained lightly as we arrived to our first early morning stop: brunch, since we weren’t scheduled to check in to our hotel until a few hours later.
The first time we went I had shrimp and grits (not pictured). The food pictured above is from our last day before heading to the airport. The food was fantastic.
After filling ourselves with energy, we headed to drop off our bags at the hotel before our guided walking tour of Charleston.
Our hotel was (as usual), as surprise for me. My husband likes to plan our trips so I normally end up asking him what kind of attire I should bring, and other than that all I know about our vacation is the destination city. He chose Zero George for our accommodations. And what a lovely, beautiful, quaint, ray of sunshine it was.
Zero George did a wonderful job of capturing a calm, serene oasis experience that we were looking forward to upon visiting Charleston.
I found the city to be quite the opposite of what I’d imagined, if I’d imagined it being any particular southern way at all. It was far more beautiful, far more walkable, far more colorful. I loved the palm trees sprinkled everywhere—in all the yards and on the streets. It felt quite tropical, almost Caribbean. (I have not yet been to New Orleans, but I’ve been told that if I liked Charleston I’d love it there.)
After we dropped off our bags, we rushed in the heat to our walking tour to get there on time. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, and we were happy to let the sweat bead up on our skin, since we weren’t heading to work or to fulfill a responsibility. I was glad I wore a patterned dress, though, so the sweat spots weren’t so obvious.
Our tour was called Oyster Point. The owner, William Harris, was our guide. Of course, because the trip was a surprise for me, I had no idea what to expect, other than the heat itself. William, a history buff, was charismatic and greeted us, enthusiastically, as we joined the group. The first thing he said as the tour began and after he’d introduced himself was something along the lines of: “We got our first bad review on Yelp four days ago. We’ve never gotten a bad review and we take them seriously. If any of you are offended by the idea of slavery, please leave now. I cannot talk about Charleston without talking about slavery. It is the reason Charleston exists as it does today. If you’re interested in glazing over topics of slavery and looking only at pretty buildings, this is not the tour for you.”
I was pleasantly surprised at the openness of the group, all interested in the meaty history of Charleston, and myself, who had no idea what to expect, was even more excited to absorb all of what I would learn.
This was where the tour began. Interestingly, this is also a common commuter path, so since it was a Friday morning, we had to move aside to let some commuters by.
Oyster Point Walking Tour:
One aspect of Charleston’s rich history is the abundance of all kinds of churches, with many blocks having even three or four churches all next door to each other.
Of course, Charleston (formerly Charles Towne) was the largest port of the transatlantic slave trade (with New Orleans being the second largest). William made it a point to ask the group what percentage of the (non-immigrant) African-American population are descendants of slaves. There was an audible gasp when everyone was told that the answer was over 90%. The vast wealth of Charleston is rooted in slavery, William continued.
It was quite an emotional feeling to see the slave auction site, through which my direct lineage had most likely entered the United States. We were also the only African-Americans on the tour. I do think it was an emotional realization for everyone there.
We moved on to Rainbow Row and Fort Sumter. I highly, highly, highly recommend doing the tour if you find yourself in Charleston. I learned quite a bit—far more than is pictured here.