Boone Hall Plantation
You won’t find any skyscrapers in Charleston. The cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages and pastel colored antebellum homes are a testament to the city’s rigorous preservation and strict architectural guidelines.
Humbled by its air of aristocracy and elegance, I couldn’t help but think of the element of human suffering that lurks in the city’s shadows. The city was the key port responsible for the sale and transport of enslaved African Americans to all the major cities in the U.S. Rather than shying away from its history, Charleston strives to tell the real stories of its past by honoring it and educating us.
Our Airbnb was just a couple of blocks from King Street; the perfect location. It was a lovely, two story home and each bedroom had its own bathroom. I loved the cozy patio on the second floor and all the amenities the owner so thoughtfully left for us.
This is one of the few cities I’ve visited where making Open Table reservations one – two weeks ahead didn’t ensure our first restaurant choice. I’m not sure if COVID was to blame or if restaurants are always this crowded, but I suggest planning way ahead – especially if you’re a group, like we were. The six of us like to share entrees, so we experience the menu. Since we were in oyster country, our appetizer was a foregone conclusion.
We were introduced to our first taste of South Carolina’s low country cuisine at Delaney’s Oyster House. Seafood based and served mostly with rice, it’s similar to New Orleans’ creole style cooking. Dining in the historic home, we had a view of the palm trees swaying on the outdoor patio as we feasted on crab and rice, swordfish and fried oysters. By the time we dined at Poogan’s Porch, a restored Victorian home, we were well versed in the cuisine and headed right for the shrimp and grits, scallops and fried chicken.
Never ones to pass up French restaurants, we were not disappointed with the mussels and frites at the cozy Bistronomy. At 39 Rye de Jean, housed in a lovely building circa the 1800s, we enjoyed the scallops, pork chops and lamb shank, and chuckled at the sign above the bar that read “Ooh La La.”
We were impressed when one of the members of the Hyman family stopped by our table to greet us. Hyman’s Seafood, the big, rollicking family owned restaurant has been perfecting itself since 1890. We were greeted with tastes of warm hushpuppies while we waited outside for our table (no reservations are accepted). Brian has been cajoling anyone that walks by into tasting their specialty for years. The combination of the warm, cornmeal based golden fritters and his warm smile and big personality, made it hard to say no. While we waited for our (award winning) she crab soup and fried seafood, served with more hushpuppies, we took turns reading aloud the small cards left on the table. Each with its own positive saying, you are invited to choose your favorite and then turn it in at the gift shop for a free magnet with that same saying. You can guess where we headed right after lunch. At first, we were surprised to see six large, old fashioned working sinks in the middle of the shop, but then realized how clever that was. They were placed there to wash your hands with their famous salt scrub and give it a try before you made a purchase.
The message on the menu read “Lard Have Mercy!” That set the tone for Sunday Brunch at Big Bad Breakfast. After ordering The Jack Benny (a crispy fried hash cake, two poached eggs, sliced ham, wilted spinach, hollandaise and ham powder), it was hard to choose a side, since it seemed as if most of the menu was already on my plate! My choice of the broiled, sugar coated bruleed grapefruit was a good one. Having raised breakfast to an art form, no reservations are accepted, but if there is a wait, it’ll be worth it.
This is not your ordinary de-sanctified church turned bar/restaurant. Look up to the ceiling at Church and Union and you’ll notice rows of white cursive writing on the black ceiling. Artist, John Morris was commissioned to paint the inspirational messages from “The Wayward Seaman,” the 2500-year old manuscript that discusses the art of war. Penned by Chinese General, Sun Tzu in the fifth century, it provided motivational guidance and strategic thinking that proved applicable in all situations. One of my favorite quotes was “Move swift as the wind and closely formed as the wood.” Working 12 hours each evening, it took Morris six months to complete all 13 chapters.
Walking to the wharf via historic King Street, it was refreshing to see local and regional shops outnumber national chains. Eclectic, yet exuding sophistication, we were taken with the area’s vibe. Across from waterfront park, you couldn’t help but stop in front of each mansion along the street to relish its splendor and wonder about its past.
When in Charleston, a plantation tour is a must! Named the No. 1 plantation in Charleston by USA Today, we chose Boone Hall Plantation, not the closest, but well worth the Uber ride. Built in 1681 by Englishman Major John Boone, the 738-acre estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is still a working farm.
Our tickets included an entire day of events and tours. Boone Hall is the only Charleston plantation to present a distinctive presentation titled “The Gullah Culture,” in which descendants of the Gullah people present the history of their slave culture through stories, song and dance. A tour of the mansion built in 1936 provided us with some background into the life of a plantation owner. A 40-minute tour of the grounds on a motorized tractor helped us appreciate the vastness of the property and its farm. The self-guided tour of the nine original slave cabins dating back to 1790 – 1810, were an emotional glimpse into the aspects of daily life.
Still eager to discover more about this amazing city, we booked a walking tour through Walks of Charleston. Not only did our tour guide, Amy Tankersley, have a wonderful sense of humor, she had a way of making every detail interesting. Who else would take it upon themselves to actually construct a diorama in order to explain the original city’s walls?! I particularly loved the alleys we visited; narrow public streets that widened to all of a sudden surprise you with glances of interesting homes and beautiful gardens. We would never have found these hidden gems on our own or gained so much insight into Charleston.
In only a few short days, Charleston had succeeded in winning us over us with its southern charm, reminding us “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”
Another “secret” public street