A car-free day in Charleston

A car-free day in Charleston

What’s this?  Aren’t we supposed to be on a road trip?  So far, we’ve only driven from the airport to the hotel and the car has remained stationary in the car park ever since!


With the free trolley stop right outside the hotel, though, why bother with the car?  We stepped outside and onto the trolley downtown, unsure at first where we’d get off but making a snap decision to leave at the same time as everyone else: at the market.


I was unsure what to expect at the market but imagined it to be mostly produce and in particular, looked forward to some juicy South Carolina peaches.


Except it wasn’t that kind of market at all!  Full of souvenir-type shops, this was clearly targeted at the visitor and not the local population and though it was interesting to walk through, it didn’t keep us for long.


We chatted to a few of the sweetgrass basketmakers who were creating this Charleston speciality.  The first maker we spoke to, Kathleen, had made some really fabulous baskets, beautifully shaped and exquisitely finished.  Other baskets we saw, like those in the picture above, paled in comparison and we agreed that if we wanted a basket to take home, then we’d return to Kathleen and choose some of her work.  Except that we didn’t really want to spend $200+ on a basket, however beautiful it happened to be…


A large heap of dried okra caught our eye and as we wondered why, my hero snagged a sample.  I can report that I am none too keen on okra in any form, thank you!


Done with the market and ready to move on, we decided to continue into the old town.  It was a beautiful day and Charleston was looking lovely, though by now the heat was beginning to build.


Walking along Meeting Street, we came upon this sign, commemorating a rather significant event.  It’s fun to stumble upon such things and Charleston is full of them!


The buildings here are grand and there are the most beautiful examples of wrought ironwork here and there..


It’s not the easiest of things to photograph sadly and there wasn’t long enough to get my sketchbook out.  Never mind.


Just after I’d recorded my presence with the very decorative watermeter cover, an elderly gentleman stopped to chat with us.  Originally from Hamburg, Germany, he was in search of his jacket, he told us, having left it behind at a hospital appointment earlier.  We seized his recommendation to spend some time in the building to our left, the air-conditioned headquarters and store of the Historic Charleston Foundation, where my eye was caught by a rather smart quilt in the corner.


Thinking it was an Hawaiian style applique design, I went to take a closer look.


It was printed and not appliqued at all – and sometimes, things do look better from a distance!


Feeling a little cooler, we continued on our progress towards The Battery, admiring the beautifully preserved homes on both sides of the street and thinking that owning such a treasure must be quite a responsibility.


I posted pictures of the wonderful window boxes previously, because there really were some beauties along the way.  Planted to colour coordinate with the soft historic colours of the buildings themselves, these were my favourites.


I enjoyed noticing small architectural details, elegant entrances and historic markers too.


Not all of the homes were grand and some were small and simpler in style.  I’ll bet that, just like London Mews houses, they still cost an arm and a leg, though!


I’ve no idea what this little feature is for, but I liked the shape!


I could imagine sitting on the verandah of this huge home, admiring the colours of the small maple tree in the sunshine.


Though my patience might be tried by the neighbours who appear to be renovating an identical home next door. My goodness, that’s a huge project, isn’t it?


Actually, there are homes tucked in small spaces all over the place, which results in some cute addresses.


Oooo, wrought iron alert – look at those gates!


Gorgeous, aren’t they?  (Actually, when I first qualified as a Craft Judge, one of the first exhibits I was given to judge was a pair of wrought iron gates – though they were not in the same league as these!)


Another small detail we spotted, though by the time you’d worked it out, I think that you might have missed the point?

Calhoun Mansion

We decided to make a stop at this next home, the Calhoun Mansion, one of Charleston’s finest houses.  Reading in our guide, we couldn’t resist joining a guided tour and taking a look inside, though sadly, there are no photographs beyond the lobby.


Nathan, our guide, referred to the house as the “ooooh” house, or the “OMG” Mansion.  We began uttering those words as soon as we walked through the garden, wondering if we could recreate those beautifully manicured box bushes?!


There were other clever details – eight jets of water which met perfectly in the centre of the pool to create a fantastic effect.  Love it.


The doorbell was interesting, with what looked like a glass marble as the push button.


And as we stood listening to Nathan tell us a little about the background of the house, I couldn’t resist a picture of the door hinge!  Looking around the house, every door hinge was similarly decorative – wow.


The porch was tiled with stunning encaustic tiles with a dogwood blossom design.


And with the advice to look for the nautical “rope” design throughout the house, the front door opened and our tour of the mansion began.

To get a flavour of what lies behind that door, have a look here and here.  Suffice to say that we too oooohed and aaaaahed over every room.  What a treasure!


Next stop was The Battery which was exactly as we remembered from our previous visit.  Super hot hot hot by now: a high of 94F we read, so we didn’t linger but returned to shady streets and a cool deli for some lunch.


The wrought iron spotting continued and look what was next door:


A new build in this area of historic Charleston must be a rarity.  I’d love to have details of this one.


Before too long, we were back in the commercial district.  We pottered a little in the Charleston Makers store, the Brackish Feather Bow Ties catching my hero’s eye (until he saw the price, that is)  and finally, caught the trolley back to the hotel.

This evening, we enjoyed yet more Low Country seafood at Coast and crawled back to the hotel feeling full, weary and ready for a couple of hours in front of the TV in an air conditioned room.  Outside, it’s still 86F, even though it’s gone 9pm and the forecast tomorrow is for a max 97F.

That’s warm.  Isn’t it?

The Plantations

The Plantations