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CHARLESTON

Right after Savannah we met my parents in Charleston, SC, the next big southern tourist city. We enjoyed comparing them back to back, though locals from each will argue to the death that they are completely different.

I will say Charleston had much more of an old money feel to it. I loved the Clydesdale horses clapping down the old cobblestone street with the beautiful old stone washed buildings filled with brightly colored window boxes. The graveyards were older and the churches just as prominent, as with most southern cities. Charleston had a Gothic style revival with some of their churches, which made a very unique architectural break in the Queen Anne and Georgian style houses that lined the streets.

We only spent three days in Charleston, but it was quite luxurious to have a personal tour guide and a chauffeur the whole time (AKA my parents).

Our first night we naturally went to eat some barbecue at Swig & Swine. It was incredibly good, although I know it wasn't the 'southern BBQ' that the south is famous for. It wasn't the guy whose family has been smoking meat in their front yard for four generations, where the only thing he knows is how good barbecue is and how long it takes to make, but this place did have a tasty brisket and awesome sauces, so I can't complain.

The second day our tour guides took us to the downtown market. Apparently the market used to be just on Sundays with more local craftsmen and vendors, but we still enjoyed the market immensely. Unfortunately, when you live out of a truck, shopping can be a bit frustrating because you can't buy anything due to space and budget, but it is always fun to get inspiration for a future house or just people watch. This market was about 6 blocks long, and filled to the brim with vendors and visitors. My favorite thing about any kind of outdoor market is, of course, the free samples, which Eric always grabs one as well, and just hands it to me because he is a great husband.

After the market, we had to stop in the Charleston Candy Kitchen for more free samples of pralines, and they were so good we all bought some to go. We continued to stroll around the main city down to the battery, and finished with a picnic lunch at Waterfront park. This park was everything I wanted. It had beautiful old oak trees expanding high above a blanket of lush grass which covered both sides of the main path, families out enjoying the warm day, and a pristine white gazebo right in the middle. After a beer and a sandwich, we kicked back and laid in the shade going in and out of a nap. It was a perfect moment.

When we woke from out lunch daze, our tour guides drove us over the bridge to Sullivan's Island. The weather was cloudy and a bit chilly, but the beach was calm and uncrowded. We tossed the Frisbee and walked down the coastline relaxed and joyful. After the beach we took a drive around the island ogling the rich houses and checked out Fort Moultrie. I am pretty ignorant when it comes to human history, but I always enjoy when I can visit these monumental spots and make a connection with moments in our nation's past. Fort Moultrie, formerly named Fort Sullivan, was built of palmetto logs and inspired the flag and nickname of South Carolina, as "The Palmetto State". It has played a significant role in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

We finished the day with a fantastic southern meal of scallops, sausage, shrimp and grits at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, and retired to our hotel (yay inside)!

The next day was rainy and cold, so we had a little less on our itinerary. We did a driving tour of the historic district and putzed around some more shops before a quick lunch at Kitchen 208.

After lunch, mom, Eric and I went to our very first cat cafe experience at Pounce Cat Cafe. It was a hoot! $15 got you an hour with a bunch or adorable cats and a beer. Eric ended up hanging with a cat named Bruce, who was a big ol' tom cat curled up in a cardboard box and loved pets and naps. Mom ended up attracting four cats with her superior cat fishing abilities, and I just ran around overwhelmed by the cuteness everywhere. We all had a lot of laughs and enjoyed having a good beer with some kitties. It was a neat and different thing to do in a city.

Since it was still raining and freezing outside, we toured some art galleries, which Charleston is famous for, and mom talked with each gallery owner while dad, Eric and I wondered around pretending to be art critics. We did go in one of the Audubon galleries, which is one of my favorite art styles, and found out why reprints can be so expensive. The prints for sale in this gallery were printed from original plates on extremely high resolution printers onto quality watercolor paper that made them look like an original and cost thousands of dollars.

We finished the day with a stormy wine stroll through the old graveyard at the Circular Congregational church, and took off for dinner at Minero before the rain started again.

The last day we were awakened at 4am by an alarm inside the heating element in our hotel room. After an hour trying to get someone to open the heater and fix the problem, the cook of all people finally came and turned the alarm off. We thoroughly bitched out the hotel manager and got a refund for the night, but it was another reason I am glad we are not traveling by hotel most of the time. It is so expensive and you are still at the mercy of other crappy people doing jumping jacks above you a 2am, or having a 60 person birthday party to all hours of the night on your floor, or watching T.V. at full volume for 24 hours on the other side of the wall (all happened in our 3 nights). I will take the same annoyances for 1/10th the cost thanks. Though walls are nice.

Even with the sub-par hotel, we all had a great time, and I am grateful to have experienced this city with my parents. We said our goodbyes, which always sucks and brakes my heart, and headed our separate ways. Eric and I were off to our first National park for the east coast, Congaree.

2/10 would not stay again at the Hawthorne Suites

10/10 would visit Charleston again

Song: Gasoline – Shovels and Rope

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