Timeline: August 15-18
Jessica and Kris flew in on Saturday the 13th to spend a week with us to celebrate my birthday on Sunday and then a week later attend the wedding of our niece Kristen and her fiancé Andrew. We picked them up at the airport and as per our usual protocol, made haste to the Flying Saucer, there to grab a bite to eat and a beer or two.
Sunday dawned bright, clear, warm, and humid. Kris and I did an hour long ride on the Greenway to campus and back while Joanna and Jessica went off to a yoga class. We cleaned up and prepared to host a gathering at the house to celebrate my birthday, a milestone year, one in which I go fully on the dole, now eligible for Medicare.
It was a good party, full of energy, lively conversation, food, and drink. It went pretty late and we cleaned up knowing we’d be heading to Charleston the next day for three nights. We took off the next day by early afternoon, a simple three hour drive on the interstate to the Francis Marion Hotel. I’d picked this property for its central location, enabling us to park the car and walk to most of the places we’d want to visit while in town.
Originally having booked a standard room with two double beds, I got to thinking that it would be better to pay the extra money and get a suite, given that we like to get up early and Jessica and Kris are more sensible, and like to sleep in. We pulled up in front of the hotel and loaded our gear onto a cart with the assistance of a bellhop and I went inside to check in. Having recently read advice about asking for perks at hotels, I simply requested an upgrade to a suite, thinking we’d pay the difference in rates.
There was some initial confusion as we’d used the hotel’s reservation service, Booking.Com and the clerk wasn’t sure he could process the request, but got some clarification and indeed gave us the upgrade, to a two room suite with full kitchen and washer/dryer combo for, get this, no additional charge. From now on I’m just going to have to ask.
We unpacked for our stay, had a beer to relax and then awaited our rendezvous with Susan and Shawn, who we were going to meet for dinner. I know Susan from my Student Union days. She was as the University of San Diego (USD) when I was at UCLA and we served together as volunteers in our ACUI region there. She moved to the University of Charleston before we left Los Angeles and we connected again once we arrived in Charlotte. She and I also served on the ACUI Board of Trustees together.
She and Shawn picked us up in his Honda Element, a perfect vehicle for this guy who likes to sail and windsurf. It was a tight squeeze for the six of us, with one unlucky individual relegated to the cargo area for the short drive north to our first stop of the night, Edmund’s Oast, a brew pub we’d heard good things about. Unfortunately, it was closed on Monday’s for the season and we then walked next door to our dinner destination, Butcher and Bee to see if they could take us in early.
They were able to accommodate us and seated, we ordered drinks and our first round of small plates, which we would continue to do throughout the night. Many plates were consumed, all quite good, but the ones that stand out for me were the Bacon Wrapped Dates, Tuna Tartare (Amba, sesame, and pickled mustard seeds), and the Whipped Feta with fermented honey, cracked black pepper and pita. For dessert, we had one big round of their Phatty Cakes, spicy ginger cookies filled with a delectable vanilla mascarpone.
Finished and full, we drove a couple of blocks over to another Charleston Brewery, Revelry, for a final beer. I particularly enjoyed the Lefty Loosey, a nicely balanced California style IPA. It was a delightful evening, so nice to connect with Susan and Shawn outside of the boundaries of ACUI, sharing a bit of our family with them. I have a sneaking suspicion there will more such times to share in Charleston in the future.
The next day would be long and full of being tourists. I’d booked us a walking tour at 10am and so we started out down King Street a bit early so we could stop for some breakfast, something hearty to hold us over during what we anticipated would be two hours of walking. A left turn onto Market brought us past a good looking option, the Sweetwater Café, which we entered and ordered up a round of food to keep us going. Here is my review for Trip Advisor:
We stopped in yesterday for breakfast before taking a walking tour. Service is friendly and efficient and the food is quite good. My veggie omelet was excellent, with the ingredients (tomatoes, onions, peppers, and mushrooms) bursting with juice, perfectly cooked. My wife ordered the Fried Green Tomato Omelet, an unusual and delicious take, which included the cafes slightly sweet bacon. Gravy for the biscuits was hearty and tasty.
We arrived at the tour office a block off Market only to discover, after a soon to be understood amount of high level of confusion, that I had misread the booking and our tour was for the next day. Given that Joanna and I had completed an extensive AAA based walking tour the year before, we embarked on our own version, this one of shorter length, taking us down Church all the way to the White Point Garden, a park at the bottom of the battery, then back up Meeting Street to the Nathanial Russell House for a tour.
Faithful readers will recognize our weakness for tours of historic homes and this was a good one. Owned by the Historic Charleston Foundation, it is widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical dwellings. A National Historic Landmark, its interiors are restored to their original 1808 grandeur and surrounded by formal gardens. Of particular interest was the Foundations desire to restore as accurately as possible, engaging the talents of Susan Buck to research, through some minimally invasive techniques, the actual paint colors that were used during the period being represented.
Finished with the house tour, we jogged over to King and stopped in at the Savannah Bee Company to look at the merchandise, and then, because Kris had make mead himself, partook of a mead tasting. In all we sampled five different versions, all unique, some beer like, some wine like, all good in their own way.
We returned to the Francis Marion and without much delay, pulled the car out of valet parking (only a few dollars more than self) and prepared to sally forth for the rest of the afternoon. Check out the next posting to see where our adventures took us.
Francis Marion Hotel: http://francismarionhotel.com/
Edmund’s Oast: http://edmundsoast.com/
Butcher and Bee: http://butcherandbee.com/
Sweetwater Café: https://www.yelp.com/biz/sweetwater-cafe-charleston
Nathanial Russell House: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathaniel_Russell_House
Savannah Bee Company: http://savannahbee.com/charleston-honey/