By Diane Ako
(This is part of my vacation blog.)
Charleston is a very different city than the others. They all have such a different flavor. I see now why Martha recommended these cities. There's definitely more to do in this town than in Savannah, though less than in Atlanta.
Staying at a bed and breakfast or an inn is recommended in this city, too, so I booked us at at The Cabell House, a charming four-room B&B near the Battery. That's the southern tip of the peninsula.
Our proprietor, Ms. Randy Cabell, was a lovely, hospitable woman who greeted us warmly and offered us beverages and snacks in a warm, sunny sitting room. We had just driven about four hours total from Savannah, via Hilton Head, so we were weary.
The house is located in the richest part of the city, where homes run in the tens of millions of dollars. As tourist attractions go, there's really not much in this area, but it was fine with us. It was a short, safe, pretty 25 minute stroll north to Broad Street, the demarcation line for all the touristy stuff.
It seems like at least one house on every block has some kind of historical sign posted out front. The homes are beautiful and graceful. Some of the streets are still cobblestone.
We wandered up north half an hour to find a dinner spot, which ended up being Henry's House Charleston, the oldest restaurant and bar in the state. We were starving so, despite the more adult vibe of the place, we popped in for dinner.
The Cabell House puts out a very nice Southern breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, toast, yogart, fruits, and cold and hot beverages. We are very sufficiently fed.
Olivia wants to ride one of the horse-drawn carriages we keep seeing around Savannah and Charleston, so we booked a morning tour with one of them. The interesting thing about the tour, to us, is the governmental regulation. Apparently, there are three routes and you won't know which route you get until you're on the buggy. That's because, as the guide explained, the city wants to spread out the traffic evenly.
The one hour tour was pleasant and interesting, with a knowledgeable guide rambling on about the architecture, history, and famous residents. He talked about the city's big fire in 1838 and the reconstruction that followed. We didn't see anything we couldn't have accessed on foot, but it was nice to have a local guide put it all together for us.
A stroll through the City Market followed, which was just okay. We spend the remainder of the afternoon walking up and down the streets, looking in the boutiques, and stopping for a bite. I think if we didn't have a small child, we could have gone into a couple of house museums, but that's just the kiss of death for Olivia.
I've become smart about having her take a couple of toys in her jacket pocket before we leave the room in the morning, which buys us a half hour in a museum tour. Similarly, we were smart about having a fully charged portable DVD player for the long car rides. I also bought a waterproof purse by which, in Pavlovian fashion, she has self-trained to paw at for snacks.
It has been many days without exercise for us and Husband is feeling it more than I am. Southern food is fried. Tasty, but fried. Even the vegetables are fried. We feel like we've gained weight!
It happens to be sunny and clear, and joyously, in the low 60's. We jog around the Battery along the waterfront for a bit before sourcing dinner and then calling it a day.
It is raining. It is a slow and steady drizzle for hours that, by noon, turns into a heavier downpour. We have rain jackets, and have decided to see a real plantation. We choose Magnolia Plantation because it's the more kid-friendly of the several choices in the tour guide.
This is 20 minutes outside of town. The long driveway is lined with beautiful oak trees. Parts of the property are still swampland. I wonder if there are alligators?
We buy the general admission fee, and with it comes free access to the petting zoo. By now, the ground is all muddy and we are the only fools in the area, but a little rain can't stand between a five year old and pettable animals.
We spend 20 minutes in the zoo, making friends with deer, goats, turkeys, geese, rabbits, chickens; hollering for a pig to come out and play; and looking at a caged albino raccoon, fox, pheasants, and reptiles.
The aforementioned Mommy Purse turned out to be appealing to more than just my child. The deer smell the banana chips inside and come to me like moths to a flame.
I miss my dog and I vigorously pet a deer like she's Inca, with a nose-nuzzle and a hearty tickle-spot scratch. Deer is confused and starts lowering her butt and looking at me weirdly. Her only sin was to be of a similar shape and size as my Labrador.
We make our way over to the plantation house. Gone With The Wind makes more sense to me now, seeing the wide porch and vast acres of land beautifully arranged around the house. We hear about the history of the house and the family that still owns it.
As with the Mercer-Williams House in Savannah, the owner still spends time in it. That's just not a concept I'm used to from the cities I've lived in or been to before.
When the tour ends - mercifully, for Olivia - we have wet feet and legs, are chilly, and the slight sore throat I developed overnight has bloomed into a head cold. The things to do in Charleston are largely out of doors, so we aren't thrilled about more of the same. As it is, we are missing out on a large portion of the plantation, because we aren't up for walking around in the 50 degree rain.
We decide to head back to Atlanta today instead of tomorrow morning. We like the B&B, and can happily recommend it to others, but under this particular circumstance, it wouldn't be as comfortable to stay in for half a day while one of us nurses a cold. Olivia would be bouncing off the walls.
So, we cash out, say goodbye to Miss Randy, and take the five hour journey back to Atlanta and the comfort of Miss Martha's apartment.