It’s hard for me to take a vacation. Like many people, I have a list of places I want to explore that’s longer than the list of places I’ve been. I don’t take vacations partially because of financial reasons, but mostly because I don’t have a person that I can easily travel with. I was so lucky when my dear friends Victoria and Elizabeth both raised their hands when I voiced wanting to go on a trip to Charleston. I never like asking friends to go on big trips or big experiences because I know we’re all on some sort of budget, so needless to say how excited I was that two good friends wanted to go on vacation with me.
We all planned to fly separately, that’s just how it worked out, but God had another plan - at least that’s what Victoria and I would say. Victoria and I planned to leave Thursday at different times while Elizabeth would leave on Friday.
I was supposed to be the first one to leave Austin, and Victoria’s flight was a few hours after mine. However, after the other traveler’s and I boarded the plane, the captain came on over the speakers explaining that one of the computers wasn’t working properly. Maintenance came out to work on the computer, but when they couldn’t fix it, the captain said we could wait until there was enough sky visibility for us to take off (that particular computer had to help with that). So, we waited until Air Traffic Control gave us the go-ahead. We were stuck on the plane for two and a half hours. Instead of trying to get everyone on a different flight or plane, we waited. By that second hour, the captain allowed us to leave the plane and wait in the terminal. We exited the plane and waited around, and during this entire time, I’m messaging Victoria with updates - her plane actually left before mine! I spoke with the desk workers and received a new boarding pass for a new connecting flight in Atlanta, GA. During the hour of waiting in the terminal, the captain came on over the intercom to let us know we received the go ahead to board and take off! Looking at the boarding pass of my new connecting flight, I noticed that between my first flight landing in Atlanta and the connecting flight taking off, I would be cutting it close to get there in time - 10 minutes to be exact - and that’s IF I could get off the plane quickly because I was in the back. I kept PRAYING to God that if I was going to make this next flight, we would need to be gated really close to the connecting flight.
When we landed in Atlanta, I turned back on my phone to see all the messages from Victoria that she sent while I was in the air. Turns out, my new connecting flight was Victoria’s! She was giving me updates while we were coming up to the gate and until I was able to get off the plane. It was such a God thing - I was able to see the gates on either side of us, so I was able to figure out that I was ONE gate from Victoria and our connecting flight. Y’all should have seen it. I was football running down the hallway to the gate. I made it through the gate and almost started crying as I let out a huge celebratory YES - and then Victoria heard me and we hugged. Not going to lie, I was so so glad that we ended up on the same flight. It relaxed me after an exciting morning of travel.
After a very exciting morning of traveling, Victoria and I landed in Charleston late afternoon. We grabbed an Uber and made our way to the Airbnb which was a few streets off from King Street. King Street is like the “main street” of Charleston. With tons of restaurants and shops up and down the street. The Airbnb we stayed in was a 2 bed -1 bath with a full kitchen and living space. My story, there aren’t too many affordable hotels in Charleston, so renting an Airbnb would be your best option.
After we dropped off our bags, we went out exploring the area and looking for dinner. Victoria and I walked up and down King St. noting the different stores and restaurants. It’s interesting, the North side of King St. were a lot more local restaurants and boutiques, but the further South we walked, the more franchise restaurants and stores we saw. We were both starving, so we grabbed dinner a little bit early at Old Towne Grill and Seafood. It was AMAZING. I love fresh seafood, and that’s exactly what we got at this restaurant. I ordered a shrimp Po Boy, and Victoria and I shared calamari. This was around 5:00pm and the restaurant was empty besides us, the server, and the cooks. At first, I thought it was odd for no one else to be there, but remembering that people were just getting off work made me realize that’s probably why no one else was really around.
After having an excellent first meal in Charleston, Victoria and I went furthered explored the little town. We walked further down King St. taking note how the exteriors of all the buildings were some of the original facades - even maintaining the original name on the building. We eventually walked through Slave street, and a placard told us it’s called Slave street because it was known as the street where slaves were walked down to be sold. Slave street was still cobblestoned, and I tripped but didn’t fall a few times. I actually tripped all over Charleston that weekend. Slave street then led us to the Waterfront Park where a gorgeous walkway runs against the ocean, the famous Pineapple fountain, and a B.E.A.UTIFUL deck with pavilions, bench swings, and tables. I have a thing for the ocean, so I immediately felt at peace smelling the salt water, hearing the waves, and feeling the coolness from the oce
After spending some time at Waterfront Park and watching dusk settle in, we then continued our walk back to the Airbnb. Along the way, we found an adorable shop with everything cute inside. I would have bought the entire store if I could have. The store is called Indigo in case you’re interested.
We continued making our way back to the Airbnb, and along the way, we stopped at King Street Grocery to grab a few essentials for the house. Essentials meaning eggs, coffee, pretzels and Oreos. One of the best parts about having an Airbnb is the ability to cook our own breakfast.
I woke up at sunrise the next morning to explore a little and do some early morning shooting. I explored the area that we didn’t the day before, and that was the neighborhood area. I loved getting to see more of the local area! There’s a college in Charleston, so I saw a lot of college kids walking to campus. Of course I saw people walking out of their homes to head off to work.
I made my way back to the house so Victoria and I could start off our Day 2. We decided to go to the Charleston Aquarium that morning before Elizabeth arrived later in the day. Charleston is small and accessible enough that we walked mostly everywhere. Thus, we walked to the aquarium which was about 15 minutes from the house.
The first thing we did when we got to the aquarium was hang out with manta rays. I love how silly and happy manta rays look - they look like they’re always smiling. I had so much fun petting the manta rays and asking the staff member all the questions. For instance, did you know that the stinger part of the manta ray is close to their body and not at the end of the tail? I always thought it was closer to the end! We then made our way inside the aquarium where there is a lot to see. The ground floor housed various fish species, but most importantly their turtle conservation area educated guests about how they’re saving sea turtles at the Sea Turtle Care Center. They had a few of their patients in tanks with a bio about each so we could read about the state the turtle was in when it arrived and the sort of treatment it’s received. I loved how the Turtle Care Center named the turtles after various Harry Potter characters. One was a huge Loggerhead named Hagrid, which I thought was very fitting.
The second floor were more exhibits and taks filled with various species of fish. One tank held an octopus that Victoria had to point out to me because he was so well camouflaged I almost missed him. There were more touch tanks with sea urchins, crabs, and starfish. Then, there were two outdoor exhibits. One held a few sea otters who were very adorable sleeping. They did the cute otter thing where they waved their arms around and trying to adjust to a comfortable sleep position. The other outdoor exhibit held fish, turtles, and herons which most likely had their wings clipped to keep them from flying all over the place since their space was so open.
On the second floor, I met one of the staff members holding a python named Monty (Like Monty Python, haha get it?) and I got to even hold and pet the snake! There weren’t many staff members on the floor - we saw a few of them going all around in different zones - but all of them were extremely knowledgeable in EVERY area. I know because I asked a lot of questions. They’re also all very friendly and helpful and willing to answer all my questions!
After leaving the aquarium, Victoria and I stopped off at the Fort Sumter center which is right next door to the aquarium. They offer ferries and tours to the actual Fort, but we opted to not go there considering time and the fact that we were both getting hungry. The visitor area was nice, still and there were a lot of pillars set up with information about the history of Fort Sumter and the Civil War pertaining to the Fort.
By 12:30pm we were both very hungry, so we looked for a restaurant nearby to grab lunch. Surprisingly, there aren’t many restaurants really close, and the ones that were had $$ or $$$ next to them on Google Maps. We both decided we wanted a cheaper option for lunch. I found East Side Soul Food that was a bit further North of us and had a $ next to it. The walk was only about 15 minutes, but between the heat, hunger, and being tired, it felt much longer. East Side Soul Food is located in what appeared to historically be the black neighborhood - there were signs about black history and the neighborhood. One of the things we noticed was the gentrification that was happening - new developments were being built up but a lot of the neighborhood seemed much older. East Side Soul Food may be a local neighborhood restaurant, but it was SO GOOD. It reminded me of my cousin’s grocery store in Louisiana where there’s also a kitchen where the cooks would make fresh food to eat there or take out. East Side Soul Food is a small little building where people could buy non perishable items like spices but also grab lunch. Victoria got fried fish and I got fried chicken. Both of us were so impressed with what and the amount we got.
We started heading back to the house after eating a delicious lunch, but along the way we stopped off at Republic Ice Cream off King St. I loved the classic diner look of the shop, and the ice cream was smooth and creamy as well! Growing up, I wasn’t much into coffee flavored treats, but as my love for coffee has grown so has coffee flavored treats. Thus, I opted for Republic’s coffee flavored ice cream and I was not disappointed.
Victoria and I then headed back to the house to wait for Elizabeth to arrive and join us for the rest of our Charleston adventure!
Later in the afternoon after Elizabeth arrived, we went to Savannah Bee Company for a mead tasting. It’s a cute little shop on King St. where honey products are sold. There are so many different things you can make with honey and different types of honey! They have the standard honey that you think of when you think honey, but there’s also whipped honey of different flavors, honey flavored coffee (which I did buy and bring back with me), solid honey, and beauty products from chapstick to body lotion. Their mead tasting bar is set up in the back of the shop, and for $10 we tasted six different flavored meads. This was my first time to drink mead, and I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth it was. However, it was difficult for me to get through the tasting because I have really strong Asian Flush - basically, I’m technically allergic to alcohol and I get really red really fast. Victoria, Elizabeth, and I took a photo, and I looked like a tomato in between them. Even though my experience with the mead was decent, Victoria and Elizabeth will say they had a wonderful experience and greatly enjoyed the mead.
After the mead tasting, we headed over to the City Market. City Market is a MASSIVE outdoor local and artisan market where you can find locally handmade items. When I say it’s massive, I mean massive. It happens every day from early morning until the afternoon, and then some of the vendors come back in the evening for the night time version. The day time is the same as the night time, but day time is a lot bigger. City Market spans a good 4-5 blocks. We walked around and looked at the different booths, but what really caught my eye was the street musician performing by the market. Not going to lie, I have a thing for guys who can sing. I started to imagine what would happen if I never went back to Austin and ended up dating this singer. Then I realized how silly that is. That guy could really sing, though!
For dinner we ate at Charleston Crab House where Victoria and I split a plate of oysters - Elizabeth isn’t a fan of seafood. Then I got a salad for my main course mostly because I really needed to eat some sort of veggie. The salad and oysters were great! One thing to note about oysters, there’s a difference between gulf oysters and Atlantic Ocean oysters. Apparently, my body wasn’t a huge fan of the saltwater oysters because I started to feel really sick while we were walking back to the house. I got over it pretty quickly, but things weren’t ok for a hot minute.
I had another early morning! This time, I went to do some sunrise shooting at the Waterfront Park and Elizabeth joined me. It was gorgeous to see what the ocean looked like just after the sun had risen. There was already one older man out on the dock fishing, and another photographer shooting. We saw a flock of seagulls fly over head. It truly was serene to be out there so early. The Waterfront Park is close to the city market, so we walked by the market and watched as vendors started unloading their goods and products for the day.
Elizabeth and I made our way back to the house to meet up with Victoria to start the day. I would leave the next morning at 5am, so this was my last day of vacation. As we started walking down King St, we realized Charleston was having their PRIDE Parade. I’ve never been to a PRIDE Parade because I’m not a huge fan of huge crowds tightly packed onto a sidewalk, but the Charleston one was much more relaxed and laid back. It was beautiful to see so much love and acceptance! After passing the PRIDE Parade, we went to the Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market happens every Saturday morning, and this Farmer’s Market puts the ones in Austin to SHAME. The market encompasses one side of Marion Square and there are tons of vendors from local restaurants to artisans. There was even someone there selling their handmade wooden benches. I grabbed coffee, of course, from Cup Fine Coffee and Roasters while Victoria and Elizabeth got food. While they were waiting for their food, I went to investigate why I kept hearing an eruption of laughter periodically. Turns out there, was a street dance team practicing and performing on the sidewalk. The team of b-boys were amazing! I couldn’t understand why the rest of the people watching weren’t as excited. Sure, they were just practicing and playing around, but they were really good and clearly talented. After watching and wishing I could dance like those guys, I made my way back to Victoria and Elizabeth.
From the Farmer’s Market, we grabbed an Uber to Island of Palms. When deciding between which beach to go to, it was between Island of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Beach. The locals we talked to told us to not to go Folly Beach because it’s very crowded and that’s where all the tourists go. We then chose Island of Palms over Sullivan’s Island because IOP was advertised as having amenities (public restroom and changing room) rather than Sullivan’s Island. We were not disappointed! Like me, Elizabeth loves the ocean, so we got in the water first. I was a little shocked at first with how salty the water truly is. I didn’t realize at first, but that was my first time swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. We laid on the beach for a few hours soaking up the sun and ocean air. The beach wasn’t busy at all and we had plenty of room around us, but I was able to hear a blanket nearby playing the top country hits.
When we were beached out, we changed back into our clothes and called an Uber to take us to Boone Hall also happens to be where a scene from the Notebook is filmed - when Noah drives up to Allie’s parents house - and Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively got married there. I asked our Uber driver about how much it would cost to have a wedding at the plantation. The venue itself is about $10,000. It looks like I won’t be getting married there, but a girl can dream, right? If you go to Boone Hall, plan on spending a good 3-4 hours there. There’s an entire agenda of different tours and activities that people can take and do! Because of time, we opted to only take a tour of the house and then hear the Gullah Woman speak.
Boone Hall sits at the end of a long drive called Oak Alley and then the house sits even further back up a walkway with gardens on either side of the entrance. The interior is spectacular. The house has been passed between three families since its build in 1681 by James Boone. At one point, the original house burnt down, but a new one - the current one - was built on top of the ruins. On the plantation grounds, there are farm fields where crops are still being grown, a butterfly pavilion, a fishing and dock house, and the nine original slave cabins which have been turned into a museum exhibit about African American and Slave history.
The Gullah performance was fascinating. A black singer and performer educated listeners about the Gullah people and their culture. Gullah is a specific ethnicity of Africans who came to America to be sold as slaves for South Carolina plantations. They have their own dialect and speaking pattern which is extremely fast with the elimination of certain words or letters. After slavery was abolished, the Gullah people still worked on the plantations for a very minimal wage, but they left the plantations to live on the surrounding islands of South Carolina. The Gullah people are still prominent in South Carolina to this day.
After the Gullah performance, we called an Uber to take us back to Charleston (Island of Palms and Boone Hall are located in the town on the other side of Highway 17), and when we got back to King St, we immediately went in search of dinner. From recommendation of some of the locals, we ended up eating at Prohibition. It’s super swanky in there, y’all. Luckily, Charleston is like Austin where no one really cared what you wore because a lot of people dressed fairly casually. I thought this place deserved a bit better dressed than what we were wearing, but we haven’t been home to change since the beach, so not much of an option for us. Prohibition is known for an extensive and excellent drink menu. They deliver on it! I didn’t get a drink, but Victoria and Elizabeth did. Both of their drinks came out looking really pretty and both gave their approval. I can’t tell you what they ordered, but know Prohibition does an excellent job in that area. The quality of their drinks matches the quality of their food. I hardly eat red meat, so I opted for a burger as a change of pace. It was delicious. It’s smaller in width from a usual burger, but the patty and buns are so dense that it makes up for the amount in density. Victoria ordered a few different appetizers including their brussels sprouts; she allowed Elizabeth and I to try them, and I have to say that those brussels sprouts are some of the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever eaten.
To wrap up my last night in Charleston, we went back down to City Market to look around some more. My musician friend was back, so I listened to him a bit while Elizabeth and Victoria shopped. Before heading back to the house, we stopped at Market Street Sweets. Now, there are a lot of candy and sweet shops on Market Street, but this one had gelato. I got my classic favorite - mint chocolate chip. The ice cream was delicious, and the customer service was wonderful! The guy who scooped our ice creams had a bubbly and fun personality that we couldn’t help but smile at!
Charleston was amazing. I fell in love with the little town from the gorgeous architecture, the food, the southern culture, and how accessible the town is. I definitely hope I can go back one day!