I don’t know how they do it.
Charleston is immaculately clean despite the number of horses drawing pretty carriages all over the city at all times.
As a history geek and gastronomy lover, I was excited to check out the South Carolinian capital.
And “Chucktown” didn’t disappoint.
For starters, the namesake town of King Charles II treasures its past.
Which is delightful to a Northerner horrified by New York City’s eagerness to destroy icons and give way to sterile monuments to gentrification.
Like London, Charleston memorializes virtually every other corner with markers telling visitors about its rich history.
The examples are abundant. Not only in obviously historical places, like The Battery and The City Market.
But also in restaurants or hotels, former dwellings of legendary figures.
Like Zero Hotel and Restaurant on George Street, former home of Captain George Anson (1697-1762), commander of the H.M.S. Scarborough and defender of Charleston Harbor.
And speaking of traditions, we arrived in time for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Upon checking out the charming parade, we were also determined to experience the many food recommendations our friends had made.
First stop: 167 Raw Oyster Bar.
Let me tell you something about this place.
Just about anywhere in Charleston you will get an outstanding meal.
From Market Street Deli’s killer Classic Club Sandwich to the more upscale Charleston Grill (best wine list in town) and everything in between.
But, if you had to go to just one place, make sure it’s Raw Oyster Bar, and be ready to get blown away by the freshest oysters, spectacular ceviche, and a lobster roll that makes the Maine ones run for their money.
Located on King Street, 167 Raw doesn’t take reservations, though.
Your best bet is to put your name down on the list and go on a stroll.
Or, as we did, have a glass of wine at Bin 152 down the street, which has a pretty decent program.
Rest assured that in an hour or so, depending on how busy they are, the maître d’ will text you via Resy.
City Carriage Tours or pedicabs are an excellent way to get around.
But you can walk or even bike if you feel like burning the extra calories from all those delicious meals.
Head to The Battery, the iconic seawall and promenade along the Charleston peninsula, to admire the gorgeous homes surrounding White Point Garden.
Continue north on East Bay Street through the South of Broad neighborhood, and you’ll eventually run into the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.
The former prisoner of war facility operated by British forces during the American Revolutionary War is now a museum run by the Daughters of the American Revolution no less.
Next, you’ll find the Old Slave Mart Museum almost around the corner on Chalmers Street.
Built in 1859, it once housed a slave auction gallery. And it’s a vivid reminder with plenty of painful details about the antebellum era.
Tough to experience, it also contains this uplifting quote:
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived againMaya Angelou
The Charleston Museum, in the Wraggborough neighborhood, is also worth a visit.
It collects historical artifacts, natural history, and decorative arts.
It also contains a replica of the CSS Hunley, the submarine of the Confederate States of America used in the Civil War.
So much history opened up our appetite again. And, this time, Butcher & Bee was the answer.
Located in Morrison Drive, a 25-minute drive from the town’s historical center, the popular spot resembles a Los Angeles brunch joint, and it’s known for its burgers and artisanal beers.
We also had to throw in some nightlife for good measure
Luckily, Dudley’s at Ann Street was happy to oblige with a good old Southern drag show, Saint Patrick’s Weekend Edition.
The revue included one of the divas performing to Cranberries “Zombie,” which the whole bar sang along. It was refreshing.
We couldn’t leave Charleston without visiting Fort Sumter.
The tour, via ferry, departs from either Downtown Charleston or Mount Pleasant. It costs $32 for adults, and it lasts 2+ hours.
Highlights include the original canons, brick fortifications, and Union and Confederate flags.
On the ride back, we had the following exchange:
Fort Sumter Ferry Boy: “How did y’all like the tour?”
Us: “Very interesting. Tons of history!”
Him: “They changed some things a little.” (shows us what he says is a 2013 iPhone photo of flags, including the Confederate one, flying on the fort)
Us: “How come?”
Him: (shrugs) “Things change, I guess. I don’t necessarily agree with it if you ask me.”
Us: (Google “Fort Sumter flags”)
USA Today, June 2015: “South Carolina lawmakers have been asked to decide the future of the Confederate flag flying at the Statehouse after nine people attending Bible study were shot and killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17. Alleged shooter Dylann Roof posted Confederate-inspired messages on social media.”
The following day on our way to the airport, we stopped at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church to pay our respects and think about the future of our country.