I just came back from a week in Charleston with one of my girlfriends. She used to live on the east coast but moved back home to the mid west three years ago. I miss her terribly and don’t get to see her often so last year we decided to have a girls only vacation, once a year, to ensure that we get to see each other on a regular basis. Last year I chose Denver as our city, this year she chose Charleston, SC.
What a beautiful city, so green, so colorful, the people were absolutely wonderful, friendly, and helpful. I have never been to a city that had as much pride as Charleston, they love their city, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
There are so many things to do in and around Charleston, we did our best, but we didn’t make it to everything! We arrived on Sunday afternoon and had a late lunch and went over the game plan for the week. After checking into the hotel, we headed downtown to get a lay of the land and find a great place for dinner. We found a beautiful little bistro, more on that later, I plan on a post just about the food of Charleston!
Monday morning we woke up bright and early because both of us are very early risers, ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to the Magnolia Plantation for the day. There are so many plantations tours to choose from, you certainly can’t go wrong with any of them. We bit the bullet and went for the all-inclusive tour, we had access to the gardens, the house, the swamps, the boat tour, and the slave cabin tour.
The first “tour” of the day was the nature tour but that didn’t take off until 9:30am so we had an hour in the gardens around the house. We didn’t realize how extensive the gardens were and we almost missed our Nature Train tour!
It had rained quite a bit on Saturday so the swamps and marshes were full of water. The alligators were very happy. We saw over 25 alligators on the tour, thankfully, the plantation had installed wooden ramps in the swamps for the gators to sun themselves. I couldn’t believe how close we were to live, untamed alligators. Our guide wasn’t fazed at all, he said they weren’t that big and since it had rained, they were a happy bunch.
In addition to the gators we saw white egrets, turtles, lizards, and ducks. Our guide explained the difference between a swamp and a marsh, and talked about all of the vegetation on the plantation like the spanish moss, live oaks, and crepe myrtle. After departing the nature train, we got on the next train for the Slave Tour.
Our guide had an incredible wealth of knowledge, not only about the history of slaves on this particular plantation, but the slave trade in general. The cabinets were built in the 1850’s and were inhabited until the 1990’s. The cabins never did have indoor plumbing but in 1969, they did install electric. In the 1920’s they added a spigot outside for water. The homes were very poorly insulated and each only had one room. I can’t imagine what it was like to live there, among the snakes, mosquito’s, and gators on a blisteringly hot July day. It was an educational and moving tour, I learned quite a bit about the conditions and treatment of slaves. Our guide, Mr. Joseph McGill, is also involved in a project called The Slave Dwelling Project, in which he is trying to preserve the history of the slave trade through education but also by spending nights in former slave cabins. Please check out his website, it is a wealth of information and he has started taking groups of students with him on his journey.
After the slave tour, we did a walking tour of the plantation house, which was occupied by the family until 1975. It is still owned by the Drayton family, but they no longer reside in the home. They asked us not to take photo’s in the house, so I have a few of the gardens and the front/rear of the home. It is a beautiful home, along the Ashley River with large single pane windows that afford you not only an incredible view of the grounds and river but were designed to capture the cooling breeze from the water.
After the house tour, we had a quick lunch at the cafe on the grounds. While eating lunch we watched a storm roll across the grounds, lightning and thunder followed by heavy, heavy rains. The rest of our tours were canceled and we headed back to our hotel. They did tell us we were welcome back to finish the boat and swamp tours any day that week but we just ran out of time and had far too many things to see and do!