From Hilton Head Island, we checked out and drove to Charleston, SC. In Charleston, we stayed for two nights at the Hyatt House Hotel, conveniently located in the Historic District.
The Hyatt House is actually a dual-hotel, as it also shared the property with the Hyatt Place. We chose the self park option, and as this was a paid stay for us (vs using Hyatt points) the parking was $20 a night, and the garage was conveniently located adjacent to the lobby. We knew we wouldn’t be driving around once we got there, so the car stayed in the garage until we checked out on Friday. We had a nice room with full size fridge, microwave, dining area and separate bedroom. Hyatt House are good hotels for extended stays because of the larger rooms and amenities, similar to Marriott’s Residence Inn, or Hilton’s Homewood Suites.
The first day, like all cities that are new to us, we headed out on foot to explore. We had already had lunch on the drive up to Charleston, so by the time we got there at 1:30pm, it was an ideal time to walk around King Street, the Main Street near the hotel. And walk we did! We walked thru parks, past monuments and historic hotels, houses, restaurants, shops, theaters and lots of other sites.
I guess we were comparing Charleston to Savannah as we started walking to the riverfront, not realizing it was a couple miles away, but unlike Savannah, most of the restaurants, pubs and hotels are located in the historic district where we were staying. We did pass lots of restaurants and pubs as we walked, and got some good ideas for dinner places as we went.
We saw several Churches along the way, and they had quite unique and very steep, steeples; hence the name? We later learned on tour that Charleston has one of the largest number of churches per capita of any other US city.
We didn’t go all the way to the water on the first day, but we did end up at The Shops of Charleston Place, a small high-end shopping district built around the five star Charleston Place, The Belmond Hotel.
I had spotted a luggage trunk in the window looking at the Louis Vuitton store from the street and was curious how much they were gouging the affluent customers for. More on that in a moment, but for now we went into the shopping plaza, and ultimately the very grand Charleston Place Belmond Hotel itself. Once inside the Belmond Hotel we were immediately drawn to its Hollywood Hills like grand staircase, and a huge chandelier that looked like it belonged in a Beverly Hills mansion. We took a few quick photos there, while I quickly slipped off my mask for the picture under the chandelier.
Likewise DOS temporarily shed his mask for a photo on the Grand Staircase, but then put it back on as he waltzed down the stairs to the main floor lobby, reminiscent of the final scene in Sunset Boulevard with Gloria Swanson. I’m ready for my close-up now Mr. DeMillel!
We had a drink in the classy Thoroughbred Club located in the Belmond Hotel main level. We sat at a table overlooking the bar area, and enjoyed browsing the extensive drink and wine list, while also enjoying the masculine decor, with various horse racing pictures and memorabilia.
Unlike typical pub mix, we were presented with a large tray of fancy mixed nuts and assorted snack munchies. Surprisingly the drinks were pretty reasonably priced for such a fancy establishment, unless you wanted a high end glass of Caymus Cabernet, Special Selection for $65. I had an imported draft for $7 and it was served in a long stew frosty mug, while DOS had a Chocolate Martini for $13.
After looking at the food menu prices we were wondering what the nut platter was going to cost us! Fortunately we had already eaten lunch so we could forgo the $28 hamburger and additional $6 for an order of fries. I did have a second brewski, and it turns out the nut platter was complimentary! The Thoroughbred Club has consistently been voted among the top bars in Charleston, so it’s really worth a visit to see this classy place. Just remember to eat before you go!
After lunch DOS and I strolled past some of the fancy shops there, and noticed there were actually a couple short lines to get in some of the stores such as Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. When we walked past and looked thru the windows, however, there was hardly anyone in the stores! I guess these ultra-high end stores wanted to give their shoppers an exclusive, albeit way overpriced experience, or maybe didn’t want more than four people in the store at a time due to COVID. Still it came across as people waiting behind the ropes to get into a popular, high demand Las Vegas Club! I just wanted a logo hat from the hotel’s gift shop, but they didn’t carry any in their gift shop.
By the way, don’t you think DOS would make a great model for one of these highfalutin stores?
I was so tempted to go into the Louis Vuitton store and enquire about this humongous luggage trunk I had seen in the window display. The glamorous trunk was reminiscent of the grand ocean liners sailing around the world prior to the jet age, when passengers would take trunks of clothes for their trans-Atlantic and world cruises. While this photo is not very good because of the window glare, here is the luggage trunk I peaked at from the street view.
Fortunately DOS had the good sense to say no to my temporary moment of attempted fake snobbery, so we headed back to our hotel without waiting in line to talk some nonsense about this fancy trunk we needed for an upcoming cruise to Australia next year.
Update: Back at the hotel I was curious about the luggage trunk so I went online at Louis Vuitton and the search bar defaulted to “Mothers day gifts under $2,000”. Something immediately told me that trunk was going to be “expensive”! LOL!
I entered luggage trunk in the search bar and found two “luggage wardrobes” at very the end of the luggage listings. I guess “luggage wardrobe” is the POSH and proper term for luggage trunk. I know it doesn’t seem possible someone would actually spend the equivalent of a new luxury car for a luggage trunk, so I’m attaching the link for “Luggage Wardrobe“. Can you believe the “Wardrobe” I looked at in the window sells for $93,000! Of course you could get the other much smaller unit for only $53,000 but it seemed rather quaint in comparison. At least the $93K unit looks more like a “wardrobe”, while the smaller one definitely looks like a “trunk”! I guess one has to impress the porter with fancy luggage!
I still would have liked to have heard the Louis Vuitton sales agent’s spiel, convincing us why we must have these fancy over-priced wardrobes. I think I would have looked over at DOS, while keeping a straight face and said “Don’t you think we need two wardrobes for our upcoming Australia cruise?” Or, “well these are nice, but I was looking for something a bit more exotic looking”! LOL! (We are actually going to Australia next March, COVID willing, and sailing back to the US on a 28 day cruise, but I think we will manage with our 2 Tumi suitcases and a carry-on thank you!). And the hell what the porter thinks!
Anyway, sorry I digress. We see fancy shopping places like this all over the world and it always seems a bit ostentatious to us even if you have the money, but to each his own.
For dinner the first night we to Indaco Italian Restaurant, which was fabulous. We sat at a high top table in the center of the room, which gave us a great view for people watching the people throughout the restaurant, bar, and others coming and going in this busy dining/drinking venue.
The food was large and made for sharing table side. We started with a meatlovers pizza “appetizer”, which was huge pizza, that we somehow managed to eat before going on to other courses.
DOS and I shared a bottle of Italian Super Tuscan which was unfamiliar to us, but went well with everything we had to eat.
We next had a Cesar salad, which comes in a huge bowl to be shared table-side as well. As we looked around the room, many tables from 2 to 4 people were doing the same: Pizza, then salad, then entree.
For the entree, DOS and I split a cowboy ribeye, which was cooked medium rare and sliced up beautifully for the two of us.
And if that wasn’t enough, we had a final trio of ice creams and crostini’s for dessert!
It was really a fun night of dining and first night in Charleston. Best of all it was only a couple block’s walk back to the hotel.
On our second day in Charleston, we took a “See it all City Tour”, by Adventure Sightseeing Tours at 11am. Unlike the Savannah trolley tours, these vehicles were more like large hotel shuttle vans and air-conditioned. The seating however was rather cramped and the windows didn’t open up, so it made taking pictures difficult, with a lot of glare reflected back from the windows. It seemed that all of the sightseeing companies utilized similar vehicles however, possibly due to a city ordinance, environmentally friendly etc, but it was fine for a 90 minute tour.
The “See it All City Tour” was a nice and quick overview of Charleston, and we had a fun guide named Arthur. Arthur explained how he was a new-comer to Charleston, as he had only lived there for 37 years. He was in the Navy which brought him there, and he liked it so much he stayed. To really be from Charleston he said, you need to come from a family which has lived here for several generations, spoke in his best southern drawl accent. Throughout the tour, Arthur explained a bit of history, inter-mingled with humor while pointing out the sites, and saying “y’all” so many times I thought I’d get off the bus before the tour ended! LOL!
Arthur said that no buildings in Charleston older than 75 years are allowed to be torn down due to the history of the city, and keeping its tradition. Charleston also has their own historic commission board which strenuously enforces any changes to existing buildings via ordinances and board approvals. Just re-painting your house must be met with approval to ensure it meets period standards. While most of this seems like common sense, some of the 75 plus year old buildings are dilapidated shacks and are an eye soar. Other places, only the facade of a building is intact, or columns were saved (and reused) on another building in the city.
Fortunately the city has more than its share of beautiful historic buildings and mansions to offset any of the few old shacks still remaining, while some newer buildings benefit from the refitting of original historic columns such as the one shown below.
The tour left from and returned to the Visitor Center, which was a short walk from our hotel. Even the Visitor Center was a repurposed building, which had formerly been a railroad station. Most of the tours left from this large and very tourist-friendly facility, and the staff was quite helpful with information, maps, and directions. There were many displays to browse thru as well while waiting on your tour departure.
We did eventually get off the bus after the 90 minute tour where we passed by some beautiful homes, churches, shops, and even a short drive thru The Citadel campus. This wasn’t a hop on hop off type bus, so we weren’t able to get off the bus until the end, but it later gave us a good overview of places we would like to revisit on our own, which we did after lunch.
After the tour, we had lunch across the street at the Brick Pub, a nice place to eat after being after being cooped up in the van for 90 minutes. The Pub was busy, but no waiting, and many of the people like us, had just taken a tour, judging by their maps in hand.
After lunch, we took UBER down to the Battery area along the river. We haven’t taken UBER in months due to COVID, but felt safe doing so now that we were both fully vaccinated. While it was our first visit to Charleston, it did seem like there was a severe shortage of UBER or LYFT vehicles available during our stay for a lively city the size of Charleston. I guess COVID has impacted a bit of everything business-wise.
Down at the Battery area, we walked along the waterfront for quite a distance. We had been by this area earlier on the bus tour, but now was actually nicer as we could get out and explore at our pace.
We saw some of the colorful mansions we had seen on the tour, but now could get a better look and photo of them.
We saw some of the cannon and artillery left over from the civil war, as well as the area where slaves were brought in from the wharfs.
There was also the Charleston Yacht Club, and many beautiful mansions along the way. We remembered the colorful homes in this one section of town especially we had seen on the tour, but now could take some photos of them.
We were going to have a drink at a local establishment on the waterfront, but unlike Savannah, we didn’t see anything available, at least in the area we were in. I guess it’s a local ordinance of some kind and they don’t want party-goers in the vicinity of the pricey waterfront area real estate. Still surprising though, we saw one boutique hotel, The Harbour View Inn, we thought we would go in for a bit for a drink, and it was locked at the front door as only available for guests staying there. So much for that, we ended up taking the free Market Street bus back to our hotel area.
Unfortunately for the Harbour View Inn, there is major construction going on directly next to the Inn, which will block the view of the water. With Charleston’s strict permitting issues, we were surprised they allowed this new building at this prime location. Will have to compare these photos with the completed photos in the future when we return.
There was a large public park in this waterfront area, and it was bustling with fellow tourists like us. We walked around here for a bit while waiting for the Downtown shuttle bus.
The Downtown shuttle is a full size city-like bus, and amazingly is free for tourists and locals alike and makes regular stops along the route from the harbor front, up thru the historic district. Our bus driver went by the name of T-Bone, and was quite entertaining as he drove along explaining sites and history. We thanked him and gave him a tip as we got off near our hotel, something unfortunately most people did not do – tip.
Once back at the hotel we showered and had a bit of a nap before going back out in the evening. As dinner wasn’t until 8pm, we went to “Pour” a modern beer-type pub located on the rooftop of the Hyatt House Hotel we were staying at. To reach the pub, you simply follow the “pour” signs on the floor of the hotel to the elevator.
Going up in the elevator, you even see sign instructing you how the whole concept works. It’s basically like a self service wine bar where you pay per ounce selected. It’s great because you can have as much or little as you like from some 55 different brewskis! We had been to a similar place last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, but with COVID they and many others like it had shut down, as it was self service and understandable didn’t want people touching the taps, glasses etc. They give you a card and a bar-coded plaque which you use to select and dispense your beer, and then pay at the end of the outing.
It was quite fun, and while most of the rooftop bar is actually inside with floor to ceiling windows, we did sit on the smaller outside section which was nice. It was a bit chilly the night we were there, but we made it in time for sunset which we saw in the far distance.
We later went to dinner at Felix which was just down the street from the hotel. This French inspired cafe was outstanding , as was the service and decor.
For the main dish, DOS and I both had the hanger steak with truffle fries which was delicious! I normally take a photo of our entree, but by this point we were actively conversing with our new found adjacent table-mate friends Ken and Jenny from the Houston area. We really had a wonderful time and we all agreed one of the best parts of traveling is the people you meet along the way, sharing travel tips, and making the most of every day.
We exchanged contact information with Ken and Jenny before we headed back to the hotel, as we were leaving for Charlotte in the morning.
While it was a quick two day trip to Charleston, we made good use of the time, and really enjoyed our whirlwind trip here. Next trip we would like to tour Ft. Sumpter and other historical sites, as well as venturing out to some of the nearby islands.
So, so long to Charleston; our next stop is Charlotte, North Carolina as we work our way up to Virginia.