Monday, September 26, 2011

Day 2- Folly Beach and Charleston

It was another hot, sunny day in Charleston, perfect for beaching.

Temperatures were still in the mid-eighties when we arrived at Folly Beach at 9:30am. The beach was gorgeous and the water warm…bath tub warm. According to the signs it was 83 degrees. At that temperature, even I joined our group for a dip.

Unfortunately, none of us read the pamphlet handed to us when we paid our $7.00 admission. Included in the information were the meanings of the different flag colours displayed at the life guard stations.

As my husband and I floated lazily in the water, he informed me that there had been a shark attack in South Carolina the week before. Scanning the horizon, my mind skittered over all the shark attack shows featured during last week’s shark week on the Discovery Channel.

Suddenly, my spouse yelled out. Without sympathy, I whack him with my water-noodle until I realize he’s not joking. Soon, three others from our party are also yelling and running for shore. They had all been stung by jelly fish.

Sitting on the beach, I read the pamphlet that informed us a purple flag means “unpleasant stinging marine animals present”. Hmmmmm.

Fortunately, the pain from this particular type of jelly fish sting lasts between ten minutes and an hour and is not overly dangerous. Lifeguards keep bottles of vinegar to pour onto the sting.

Deciding to forego the water, we took long walks down the beach. As the tide advanced, hundreds of jelly fish in all sizes were left stranded to die on shore. Rather sad but I wasn’t going to pick them up with my bare hands to throw them back.

As the temperature rose, we returned to Charleston, stopping at Quiznos Subs to use our half price Groupon purchases.

In Charleston, we visited the two historical homes that were included in our Charleston museum pass. Both the Joseph Manigault House and the Heyward-Washington House were interesting. The guides were well informed with both the house’s past inhabitants, history, prominent past guests, furniture and architectural features. The gardens, especially the Heyward-Washington gardens were a joy to meander through.

The houses are about a twenty minute walk from each other but because of the heat, we took the cars. Still, on the short walk from the car to the house we enjoyed peeking through intricate ironwork fences at shady private gardens.

Tip: If you can, walk as much as possible because there is so much to please the eye with the hidden gardens and gorgeous architecture in this area.

The kids decided to stay in and have a pizza that evening while us adults went out for seafood. We first decided to try going to an area called Shem Creek which we were told had a lot of seafood restaurants. It certainly did but it didn’t have the atmosphere we were looking for. We wanted to be able to walk around and soak up the Charleston ambiance after supper but Shem Creek was mostly a busy area with nothing but restaurants by the water.

We drove back into old Charleston. Charleston really seems to come alive at night. After a bit of exploring, we finally decided on the Noisy Oyster. This restaurant was just ok. Because it was later in the evening, there were only a few filled tables but still the service was really slow and the food average. We did thoroughly enjoy the collards which had a tantalizing smoky flavour but the huge seafood pot of crab legs, oysters, clams, potatoes, corn and over-done shrimp was disappointing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Day One, Charleston: Museum and The Battery

Our first full day in Charleston was sunny and hot, hot, hot (96 degrees). It was Sunday and very quiet in town. I don’t know if it was due to the heat or the day of the week.

Two adult couples and four boys, ages 12, 12, 15 and 16 made up our group.

We introduced ourselves to the city with a visit to the beautifully air-conditioned Visitors Centre where we collected pamphlets and discount coupons then paid a small fee to watch a movie about Charleston. The movie was actually more of a forty minute Charleston advertisement.

After a quick lunch we explored the Charleston Museum which was right across the street from the Visitors Centre. Parking is free at the museum lot if you are a customer.

We pre-purchased a package from Groupon which included admission to the museum, The Joseph Manigault House (located across the street) and the Heyward-Washington House. Normally it’s a deal to buy the package at the museum, but it became a real steal when we found it for less than half the package price on one of the internet group couponing web sites.

The museum, which is America’s oldest museum (founded 1773) was a real treat. It showcased a variety of exhibits of both cultural and natural history including Civil War, Military, Southeastern prehistoric animals and Southern decorative arts. The interactive exhibits were as interesting for adults as they were for kids. My friend and I probably had the most fun trying on the Southern belle hoop skirts.

Over two hours later, we emerged from the Charleston Museum back into the heat. We opted to leave the two historic houses for later in the week since our museum combo tickets offered the flexibility of touring the sites on different days.

It was refreshment time so we pulled out our half price Groupons for ice cold smoothies. Perfect.

Tip: With kids, regular stops for food and refreshments are imperative to a happy touring day.

Normally we would have walked to Battery Park but with the heat we opted for a ten minute drive. All the males in our group decided to sit in the shady park while my girlfriend and I checked out the gorgeous mansions along the water front. Beautiful sculpture, gorgeous architecture, trickling fountains and ornate ironwork were a feast for our eyes.

This first taste of Charleston left me craving more.