One thing I will say about Charleston in late June is it is hot….crushingly, horrifically, humidly, blindingly HOT. We were originally going to go to Ft. Sumter on Tuesday afternoon but they were calling for massive thunderstorms and we didn’t think it was a great idea to be on a metal boat on the water during a thunderstorm.
Instead we got up early and walked the Magnolia Cemetery and then the City Market in the morning. The cemetery was hauntingly beautiful. Some of the stones are so old you can’t even read them anymore. There are graves of confederate soldiers who parished during the battle of Gettysburg and were transported down to this cemetery to be interred. There were so many unmarked confederate solder graves, I was awestruck. The ladies of the city of Charleston raised the funds necessary to move the bodies, bury them, and buy head stones.
After the market, we toured the Old Provost Exchange and saw part of the original wall that surrounded the city of Charleston. We learned about why the city of Charleston walled their city back in 1670, saw where they imprisoned their pirates, and how they kept a stash of gunpowder hidden under the noses of the British for two years during the occupation of Charleston at the time of the Revolutionary war. The architecture of the site was incredibly impressive and still stands to this day. If you have time, you should try to take the ghost tour of the dungeon, we didn’t have time, but I heard it is a fantastic tour.
We then drove to Mt. Pleasant (a suburb of Charleston) and parked in Patriot’s Park. We saw the USS Yorktowne in harbor and got information on the boat to Ft. Sumter for later in the week. We headed back into downtown Charleston for a fantastic lunch at Magnolia Restaurant. After stuffing ourselves silly, we went to one of the best farmer’s markets I have ever attended. They had beautiful, lush produce, fresh made lemonade, locally made fresh loaves of bread, spice rubs, organic meat producers, honey, homemade pickles, and stands were you could grab a pre-made dinner to go. One of my coworkers suggested it to us and he was so right, it is worth seeing! I just wish we had a kitchen in our hotel so I could have grabbed some items and made us a wonderful dinner.
Since we were in the Mt. Pleasant area, we decided to check out Sullivan’s Island, to decide if this is where we would spend our beach day while in Charleston. While we loved the town of Sullivan’s Island and had a fantastic dinner while there, it does not offer any amenities (beach chair rentals, changing rooms, restrooms, etc) for the day traveller and since we had both flown into Charleston, we didn’t have beach chairs, etc. at our disposal.
I should tell you, it never did rain on Tuesday…..
Wednesday morning, we made arrangements for a walking historical tour of the city of Charleston with Al Ray from Walled City Tours. Al is a 7th generation Charlestonian and has been a tour guide in the city since 1979. He was funny, insightful, and gave us a wonderful tour. We started at the Circular Church on Meeting Street. We learned that Charleston has been a city of religious tolerance and diversity from day one. There are over 400 churches in the city of Charleston, which is why it is apply nicknamed “The Holy City”.
The tour is two hours long and you walk approximately 1 1/2 miles. It was an amazing journey from 1670 until present day. I learned that the city of Charleston was the third largest port in the United States and that after the War Between the States, it took Charleston 200 years to recover financially. We toured the Powder Magazine, walked along Rainbow Row, and saw the last remaining slave market building in Charleston. We just scratched the surface on the history of Charleston, there are so many interesting stories in this city. I highly recommend you take a tour from Al Ray if you have the time. He does also offer a Home and Garden tour, daily at 1pm and a Slave Tour on the weekends. If it wasn’t so flipping hot we would have taken his Home and Garden tour but dear lord by 12pm, I needed a long tall glass of iced tea and a restaurant with air conditioning!
After lunch, we headed to the Aquarium and took the boat to Ft. Sumter. All I really knew before I took the tour was that it was the sight of the first shot fired in the Civil War. I had no idea how long it took to build the fort (10 YEARS!) and that the original plans called for over 80,000 bricks. It was a five sided, three-story fort with walls that are 5′ thick! The fort you see today is vastly different from the fort of the Civil War but it is worth seeing and the cooling breeze on the island is worth the price of admission on a hot summer day.
Thursday was our beach day. We started with a hearty breakfast and hit the highway! We decided on the beach at the Isle of Palms, it is the only public beach in the area with restrooms, a snack bar, and on site beach chair/umbrella rentals. We had a lovely day, hot but with a constant breeze. The water was 80 degrees and the beach was not very crowded. Early afternoon we experienced our first “beach dust devil”. The heat from the sand forms a whirlwind which struck a very wide and long path on the beach. We escaped without incident but some of our fellow beach goers were not so lucky. It tossed beach chairs, umbrella’s, and toys down the length of the beach. One gentleman was hit in the head by flying debris and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. It hit with no warning and lasted a few minutes but rained destruction while it lasted.
I love the beach, I could see myself retiring to a beach front home and being very, very happy. Nothing is more relaxing that sitting in a low beach chair, feet in the sand, icy cold water in the cooler, a great book to read, while listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. By the end of the day I was completely and totally stress free. I am so glad the weather cooperated and we were able to have such a beautiful beach day!