Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lisa & Scott's Visit to Charleston - Day 5

Our second attempt at exploring Downtown was much more successful than our first. The day began with a carriage tour with Old South Carriage Company - the best in town in my opinion. We were very fortunate to get zone 2 for our tour - to control carriage traffic, only a certain number of carriages are allowed on the streets at one time and at the start of each tour, the city gate keeper spins the bingo barrel to find out which tour the carriage will take. Zone 1 and 2 are the best tours in my opinion. Our guide was Annie and our horse was Charlie--both were FABULOUS!

St. Michael's Church
When we returned to the Market area, it was time to grab some lunch so we headed up to Jestine's. I visit this restaurant often but always find it to be hit or miss with the food and service...Tuesdays are the best as the daily special is Sweet Chicken and Lima Beans. On this visit, I tried their fried chicken and must admit it was not very good -- overcooked. The desserts on the other hand are always a huge hit! I had their Coca Cola Chocolate Cake, one friend had their banana pudding and other had the pecan pie...all were delicious.

Edmondston-Allston House
After lunch, I took my friends on a walking tour of South of Broad. We walked down Meeting Street and first stopped at St. Michael's Church - one of my favorite churches in town. St. Mary's Catholic on Hasell Street is my fav (the church is generally only open for Sunday 9:30 mass but well worth the visit). We continued down Meeting pass the Calhoun Mansion to White Point Gardens. After taking a little rest in the shade (it was quite humid today), we walked along the seawall to the Edmondston-Allston House...the house tour is one of my favs. After the tour, we continued up East Bay along Rainbow Row and Printer's Row to Broad Street where we met up with another downpour.

We ran through Washington Park to the Mills House where we escaped the rain and humidity for an hour and enjoyed drinks and apps in the First Shot Lounge. When the rain finally let up, we continued up Meeting and made our way over to King Street for a little shopping before dinner. For their last night in town, we had dinner at Hank's...another fav. As usual, the food and service was spectacular. Thank goodness we had a little walk to our car after dinner to walk off all we ate!

En route to our car, we passed Tristan's and decided a martini was a must. Tristan's recently changed ownership so I was curious to see if the service had improved...I can say that it has in the bar...thank goodness! I tried the Espresso Martini a little strong on the espresso for my taste. One friend tried their Margarita and said it was quite tasty. We all agreed that my other friend had the best drink--the Apple Pie Martini -- Apple Pucker, Stolis Vanilla Vodka, Apple and Pineapple Juice shaken and served in a glass that is rimmed with cinnamon and brown sugar.YUM YUM YUM!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lisa & Scott's Visit to Charleston - Day 4

Today was plantations on the Ashley day. First stop was Drayton of my most favorite places to visit in Charleston. I love how the house has been kept in its original state (for the most part) with no furnishing, lights or plumbing. The tour of the house is very good but the tour guides are hit or miss when it comes to providing unscripted trivia.

Drayton Hall is part of The National Trust and they do have some of the family's furnishing and other belongings. There are plans to build a museum on the property to showcase everything once the money has been raised. Mr. Drayton kept an extensive diary of the daily accounts of the plantation and there is also a lot of information from archeological digs, however, one of the major advantages that Drayton Hall has over some of the other plantation is they also have personal accounts from the grandson of a former slave. The Draytons, like many plantation owners, hired their freed slaves and provided housing for them. Not only did the freed slave stay on the plantation until his death so did his son. His grandson left for a while and them came back and told the folks at The National Trust he grew up around there and would love to work there. He was the plantation's gate keep for years and helped the archeologists in their digs and answered many of their questions. A definite must see!

Next stop was Middleton Place. We had already planned to visit Middleton but lucked out and got the free tickets from sitting through the painful presentation mentioned on day 3. By the time we arrived at Middleton Place, it was time for lunch so we ate in the restaurant and really enjoyed it. They have a pre-fix menu for $13.95 that includes appetizer, main course and dessert (which is a sampler of 5 desserts). One of my friends and I selected the She-crab soup for the appetizer and it was very delicious (glad they were able to try a better version than the one we had at Tommy Condon's) and the other friend had the Okra Gumbo - it was very tasty. The Catfish Remoulade was very delicious as well as the Zucchini Pie and Middleton Fried Chicken. The only thing that wasn't a fav was their collards...werent cooked long enough or seasoned properly. The service was excellent and I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Since we had the free grounds/stable admission, we opted for the extra $10 for the house tour...honestly don't think I would have spent the $10 for the house tour if we had to pay the $20 for the grounds and stable tour. The house tour was average and only lasted 30 minutes (a bit short for $10) and focused mainly on the paintings of the family members.

We spent some time with the artisans in the stable yard learning about their crafts and how they might have been when the plantation was in its heyday. They were interesting; however, it would have been better if they were in character like you see at Plymouth Plantation and Williamsburg. There's a beautiful peacock in the stable yards that showed his plume quite often to no avail as the peahen was not in the least bit interested in him. While walking across the Rice Mill Pond Bridge, we did see a small gator sun bathing a little too close for comfort but pretty cool. The property is quite beautiful and a great place for strolling around and taking pictures.

After Middleton Place, we headed back to my folks for some more of my dad's cooking...tonight was BBQ ribs, baked beans and potato salad...yum yum.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lisa & Scott's Visit to Charleston - Day 3

Can you say torrential downpour??? This was supposed to be our Downtown day and we did make it down there with a few changes. Before heading Downtown, we hit Jim Booth's Gallery in West Ashley. I have quite a few of his prints and my friends wanted to pick up a few things as well. By the time we waded over to Jim's place and finished there, it was time for l
unch so we took out the paddles and made our way over to Tommy Condon's for lunch. We spent almost 2 hours at Tommy Condon's because of the rain -- no sense walking in the rain when you can sit on the porch with a cocktail or two. My friends tried She-crab soup for the first time...not one of Tommy's specialties so pass on it when there. Their ribs and Sheppard's Pie on the other hand are very tasty.

When the rain finally let up, we headed over to the Market...another downpour ensued. While walking around the Market, we got suckered into taking a tour of the Lodge Alley Inn in return for 3 free tickets to Middleton Place, 3 free tickets for a carriage ride and then my friends got a certificate for a 3day/2night stay at a selection of hotels (one was on the Cape which will be a nice getaway for them). Let me just say that if it had not been raining cats and dogs, there is NO WAY we would have agreed to this but we were desperate to get out of the rain. If you ever get approached by folks to do this...RUN, do not walk to the nearest exit!! Our sales person was psycho...even went so far as to tell us he was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic...not that we judged him but come on, do you really think that is a professional approach?

By the time we left the Lodge Alley Inn, the rain had let up enough for us to run to our car and head to my folks for dinner. My dad (who fancies himself as a junior Emeril or Bobby Flay) fixed us a big ol' pot of Lowcountry Boil and it was quite yummy!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Lisa & Scott's Visit to Charleston - Day 2

This was supposed to be our Plantations on the Ashley day but my friend really wanted to visit Boone Hall Plantation today as the weather forecast for our Boone Hall day was not looking so good. I was a little reluctant to visit Boone Hall as it hasn't had the greatest tourist rep in the past few years but my friend is a huge North and South buff so off to Boone Hall we went.

All I can say is, it's a definite must see when coming to Charleston. Boone Hall is America's oldest working plantation and full of all sorts of surprises. The admission is $14.50 ($13.00 if youre AAA or a senior) and that includes the self-guided tour of the grounds and a professionally guided tour of the house. We got there just in time to take the 12:30 Plantation Coach Tour for $5 and I must say, it was the best $5 I have ever spent. Our guide was Bob and he was fabulous! The tour was supposed to last 45 minutes but Bob's tour was a bit longer...a little over an hour. The coach tour takes you all over the see all sorts of wildlife in addition to the working part of the plantation. On a side note, you must be at least 6 years old to take this coach tour. Apparently in the past parents have expected the tour guide/driver to also be a babysitter for their kids instead of watching their own children which resulted in a child getting hurt (the ride can be rather bumpy especially after a rain) so the plantation's insurance company now requires all passengers to be at least 6 years old...if only parents would watch their own children.

After the coach tour, we headed up to the plantation's restaurant, Serena's. YUM YUM YUM! The restaurant is open for lunch daily and what a great lunch it was...not to mention very reasonably priced. My friends tried fried green tomatoes for the first time and I must say they were the best fried green tomatoes I have ever eaten. I asked the server if we could get a side of hush puppies so my friends could try them and imagine our surprise when we got the bill, they did not charge us for them. After a fabulous lunch, we shared a slice of the Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie and Banana Pudding...definitely needed to walk after that lunch.

Next stop - the Cotton Dock and the Slave Cabins. There's a nice view from the Cotton Dock (also a popular stop for weddings/receptions) which is great place to sit and relax at the Plantation. The Slave Cabins recently underwent about a seven year restoration. There is a short video presentation in one of the cabins giving a brief history of the life of the slaves. Another cabin has a sweet grass exhibition, while another shows how the cabins may have been furnished and finally one showing some items found during excavations by archeologists. On our way up to the house, we stopped and talked with Miss Annie while she made some of her sweet grass baskets. She is a terrific artist and is there on Mondays and Wednesdays. Her baskets are of highest quality and the best prices I have seen in Charleston. Tip: do not buy your baskets down at the Market as they are over priced...instead pick them up at Boone Hall or along Highway 17.

Our final stop at the plantation was the house tour. Our guide was Asim and he was terrific! He has done an enormous amount of research on his family's history but also on all the plantations here in Charleston. The house tour included a great deal of history (apparently a recent addition to the tour) and was extremely interesting. I know many folks complain that the current house was only built in 1935 but what I think they may not know is the current house is actually the forth house to built on that spot. The first 3 houses were destroyed by war and forces of nature. The bank actually foreclosed on the third house and during its holding of the house, several hurricanes caused extensive damage to the house. When the Stone family bought the house, it was better to tear down the old house and build a new one. Boone Hall Plantation once made brick (as a matter of fact the brick made at Boone Hall was used to build the City Market and the Old Exchange/Provost Dungeon), however, until the Stones rebuilt the house, there was never a brick main house...all previous houses were made of wood.

After spending almost 5 hours at Boone Hall, we headed over to Isle of Palms to kick back and relax for a little while. We hit Ye Old Fashion Ice Cream Parlor for dinner and love their BLT club!!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lisa & Scott's Visit to Charleston - Day 1

We headed downtown to have an early brunch at Poogan's Porch. My friends had their first taste of Southern biscuits and banana pecan pancakes and loved them. After brunch we headed over to Liberty Park to take the 12:00 boat over to Fort Sumter. You can just imagine the pride my Yankee friends took in reminding me their entire trip that the pride of Charleston was built on Yankee soil and of New Hampshire granite...ugh.

Next stop...Angel Oak on John's Island. We packed a picnic lunch and enjoyed it under the 1,400 year old tree. My friend was in awe as the square footage of the tree (17,000) was the size of his lot! There is a lady selling sweet grass baskets out here but I found her prices to be extremely high - $395 for a basket that we could buy at Boone Hall for only $150 (and much better quality than the Angel Oak basket). If you're heading out to Kiawah, do stop by as it is a sight to see.

The River Course at Kiawah Island was hosting their first annual Blues By the Sea so we headed out there to enjoy a little music as the sun was setting. Unfortunately for my friends, they picked the most humid time to visit (granted it was hot but the humidity was extremely high) so we only stayed out there for a couple hours and then headed home to cool off in the sense giving them heat exhaustion their first day.