south carolina · Uncategorized

A Whale of a Tale…

Originally published on 30 July 2014.

Ready for a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Come along with me through this enchanting garden!

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My husband Steve teases me because when I travel, I hit the ground running by expecting on-time departures and arrivals and scheduling activities very soon after anticipated arrival. Turns out, he’s right. But he wasn’t there to tease me in person!

And in the spirit of packing in the fun, let’s go! First things first, let’s get to the B&B: The Ashley Inn, named for the Ashley River to the west of the B&B, named for Lord Ashley Cooper, one of the original eight Lords Proprietors of Carolina.

Fun fact about Ashley Cooper: his secretary was John Locke. Another fun fact about Charleston in general: the Cooper River runs to the east of the Charleston peninsula. Yes, Ashley and Cooper. And apparently some Charlestonians say the Ashley and Cooper Rivers join at Charleston to form the Atlantic.

Renting a car was going to be quite expensive, and the bus could take a long time from what someone at the Inn told me. But a cab was relatively inexpensive, so I opted for that! The cab driver was a Christian, which made for a good ride. He was so kind, and when he found out I’m a Christian, too, he started calling me “sister.” One of the best parts about traveling is God’s aptitude for putting Christians in the most needed and unexpected places.

And before we even got to the the B&B, I got a text from my own personal tour guide saying he was there waiting for me! I arrived and checked in just a few minutes later, changed into my rain boots (for the threat of rain and the puddles from an earlier storm), and off we went! Paul Garberini of Uniquely Charleston Tours was an absolute delight! He’s as passionate about his tours and his city as I am about mine! We had such fun. Come read about what I learned!

We rode in his tour van as he pointed out sights along the way–Ashley Hall, which is the girls’ school Laura Bush attended; the 1801 jail where the last hanging in the country occurred (Neeley Duncan in 1911); Colonial Lake; the ruins of the original Charleston Museum, which was the first museum in the country, but it burned to the ground in the 1970s.

Moving right along! Tours guides always know the best free parking spots, even in the trickiest of cities. We parked behind the Unitarian Church. The garden picture at the top is from the graveyard behind the church. It’s a truly beautiful building, and it has a secret… there’s a church inside the church! Instead of tearing down the first church when they wanted to update it, the just built around it.

And onward we walked to the fanciest part of town: South of Broad Street. And boy are those homes beautiful! Particularly this one:

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This is the Miles Brewton House, 1769, one of the oldest homes in Charleston, and it has stayed in the same family all this time! It’s also been considered the finest in town throughout its history. Generals of various sides in various wars have stayed here for that very reason. The sign beside the house states the following:

Miles Brewton House

Private Residence

Outstanding example of Georgian Architecture in America. Built between 1765 and 1769 by Miles Brewton, Revolutionary patriot, with designs of Ezra Waite, architect. Inherited 1775 by Brewton’s sister, Rebecca Motte, Revolutionary herione, in whose family it has remained. British Headquarters 1780-1782, under Clinton and Rawdon. Federal Headquarters 1865.

Next stop, Battery Park. There’s a hotel there where JFK entertained a certain lady during World War II–a woman whom a certain federal agency kept records on… because she was a Nazi spy!

Round the park we go, gazing upon beautiful homes, B&Bs, the river, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney… and fig ivy steps:

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They have to use fig ivy instead of the stuff they use in England because of the type of bricks they made there in Charleston. The English ivy would break right through the bricks! Another fun fact about Charleston home style: the black color on the shutters, doors, etc., is actually GREEN! It’s still called Charleston Green. It starts off as a true green, but as oxidization happens, it turns black. I’m not a chemist, so I don’t understand why, but that’s what they say!

We saw some more sights, and Mr. Garberini even went over the two-hour timeframe for me because I kept wanting to know more! He took me back to the B&B, and then off I went on my own!

See? Here I am at the Charleston Visitor Center! It’s actually a very cool visitor center, in a building that was originally a train station.

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So, where did I get the name for this particular blog post? At the Charleston Museum (in a different, unburned location). Many, many years ago (in 1880), an Atlantic Right Whale swam into Charleston Harbor, but there was one problem–he couldn’t find his way out! Soon thereafter, the men of Charleston began to hunt this whale. Large as he was, people paid 25 cents a piece to see him when they brought him ashore on Concord Street. Now we can see his skeleton, hanging elegantly from the ceiling of the Charleston Museum.

I stopped in at a couple of house museums after that. The Joseph Manigault (pronounced “man-i-go”) House is one of the oldest house museums in the country. The other house I went to (and I hoofed it, just making the 3:30 tour!) was the Heyward-Washington House, where my friend George Washington stayed on his tour of Charleston in 1791! But you know the best thing about the house? It has a functioning necessary! Yes, I used it.

See? 21st century plumbing!

After that I went in search–in search of historic Charleston after museum hours! I found the market–oldest in the country–the waterfront, the Huguenot Church, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, but the one I really wanted to see was Philadelphia Alley!

It’s a very beautiful place, and quite peaceful. Just one question, though… was it founded in 1766 or 1776? 😉

And by then, it was suppertime! A friend had recommended Magnolia’s, and while it’s quite a fancy-dancy type of place, but if I’m only going to be in this town just over 48 hours, I have to make my meals count. Please feel free to lick your lips and salivate as you gaze longingly at my shellfish and grits–shrimp, scallops, and lobster in a rich lobster sauce over creamy grits! That’s fried spinach on the top–we are in the South, you know, where we fry our vegetables to make them good!

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And while I should have stopped there, I did not. I thought about the cobbler, passed over the cheesecake, thought a moment about the strawberry shortcake, but at last I settled on the truest of summer delights: sorbet and ice cream! The sorbet was peach, and undeniably some of the best I’ve had, but the delight came in the form of an ice cream I’ve never seen in a store… Yes, every meal should end with a scoop or two of white chocolate ice cream. Yum!

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Poor Whit, eating alone. Not quite. My sweet, hard-working husband arrived home and fixed his supper at the same time I was eating mine! We texted throughout my meal. The actors sitting next to me may have thought me terribly odd–riff-raff in shorts and a t-shirt, eating a fancy meal alone and texting–but there’s no one else I’d rather have been spending time with, even just virtual time! He sent me this picture, likening me to Samantha and himself to the frog prince:

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Holding hands–so sweet!

Ok, I know we’re all exhausted, but we have just one more treat. It’s a ghost tour! Our guide, John, was amazing! He was very knowledgeable and engaging, and when I told him I, too, am a tour guide, we got to talk guide-y stuff. Touring is much more regulated in other cities, though I’m glad it’s still pretty free and easy in Old Town Alexandria! Some of our stops included Poogan’s Porch, the fourth most haunted restaurant in the country; The Mills House Hotel, where ghosts breeze through as frequently as the guests, despite the fact that it was demolished and rebuilt in 1971 just as it was first built in 1853; the Circular Church, housing the oldest grave in Charleston (from 1695); and the most famous haunted place in Charleston, St. Phillip’s graveyard!

That was day one in Charleston–don’t worry, there’s just one more day, but that will be reserved for the next post!

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