Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina

 

Shortly after my college graduation in 2014, I embarked on an incredible journey with my mother in tow from Northern, California to Durham, North Carolina. I called the Triangle home for an internship that summer and immediately fell in love with the area. One of the many places I had on my bucket list was a state over in the coastal Charleston, South Carolina. What stopped me? Maybe the heinous credit card debt. Maybe the unpaid internship, if we are really splitting hairs. Overall, this fulfilling check off my U.S. city tour in November reminded me of the reasons I chose to live on the East coast and why I adore the South. And can we take a moment to appreciate absolutely zero things there are gluten free?

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As you Californians know, it is a pain in the ass for us to get to the East Coast. Between losing 3 hours due to the time change, the ridiculous costs (you can fly cheaper to Europe) & flight times (it's either Midnight or 6am, take your pick!) getting there is a continual pain. The Reale Adventure recommends taking Friday off if you have the ability to. Red eyes are a great option if you are looking to drink 20 cups of coffee and 12 ambien throughout the day, however I opted for the next best option, taking the day to fly. We arrived around the 5 o'clock hour to Charleston's tiny airport.

So before you say to yourselves "wow am I reading the worst luxury travel article ever" SURPRISE you're actually not and luxury really isn't "me" (says a poor person), but good on you for sticking around. This trip happened to fall during my 25th birthday and Mama Reale truly raises stakes as a birthday celebration specialist. The woman celebrated her birthdays as a youth hunting and skinning deer... so I believe she gets a free pass for eternity to go balls to the wall. That being said, we were greeted by a car service clad with champagne flutes and Dom (Korbel, just kidding) upon arrival.

This car service was pristine and they were diligent on arrival time and ensuring we had a comfortable ride. If you are not planning on being Gigi Hadid for your trip, Uber & Lyft are excellent alternatives and abundant in the city & airport. 

After (chugging) sipping our champagne we arrived at the charming Fulton Lane Inn where we would stay for the duration of our time in Charleston. The Fulton Lane has the PERFECT location. Tucked away in the French Quarter district, it is located on King Street (Shopping USA, we'll get to that), with a rustic brick forefront, yet conveniently tucked away from the peasants. I say peasants because I rarely get to use that in everyday jargon and there was Sherry upon arrival so it all fit. Can't stay here? I'm an avid Air Bnb user or if I'm living my best life, The Kings Charles Inn. Staying close to downtown, waterfront park or even Sullivan's Island (wish I would have had time!) are going to be prime locations.

After a quick touch up, we set off in search of dinner where we delightfully continued on our lux tour of Charleston. 

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Prior to our trip, I had a few restaurants in mind as a carbohydrate connoisseur because calories do not exist on your birthday. Happy people just don't kill their husbands. It's all factual.

Charleston Grill was incredibly high on said list of foodie goodness. Upon walking in, the restaurant just oozes old Southern money. I honestly thought for half the dinner that I was wearing a monocle, cheersing "to industry!" at the top of my lungs, and Frank Underwood was our waiter, but you cannot be too sure after a cocktail and wines (plural).

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The Charleston Grill is very much worth the splurge. The food is pristine, the service reminiscent of Southern hospitality firmly steady through the sands of UberEats, & unique imported wines beyond decadent. Not to mention the smooth melody of Jazz wafting through the room as the person next to you reminisces about Billie Holiday to which you respond "I love him."

I will scarf down Bart tacos if given the opportunity, but tonight was special. After much (little) persuasion, we chose to do a 6 course dinner complete with wine pairings. It was far and away the best meal I have ever consumed. If you are not an oil tycoon, I highly recommend the Low Country Muddle if you are looking for a traditional southern seafood dish. A complete party in your mouth. It was humbling to see all the California and imported wines play against the southern flair.

Other dinner recommendations (more below)? Magnolias for a similar vibe to Charleston grill (make a reservation!) and budget friendly like the Butcher & the Bee .

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After walking back to the Fulton Lane as if we were trying our best to fail a sobriety test, we headed to bed, respectfully. It is worth mentioning that I felt like Kate Middleton's personal assistance (yes aiming low but high here) as I lay my head on arguably the most comfortable bed I have slept in, with the most extra pillow setting I have ever seen. 

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I woke up a 25 year old, immediately going on a run because I'm a psychopath that uses hotel gyms. If you exercise, it's another great way to see the city in the morning while getting a run in. I know you hate me already.

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I hustled to the water's edge and waltzed through the park before noon. I cannot say the same for my mother. Coffee was a must after a boozy night out and we immediately headed to Black Tap Coffee. I chose the lavender iced coffee, which was literally a basic girls' dream. What a cute place to take pictures in a sketchy looking part of town! Don't be alarmed folks. It's definitely delicious and worth the walk through scary town. 

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Shortly after coffee, we headed to King Street to boutique shop like you wouldn't believe. Two Cumberland was my absolute favorite, hosting a swell of unique clothing and jewlery. Overwhelmed by the amount of boutiques? I recommend Two Cumberland (website coming soon but here is their Instagram page), House of Sage, Moon & Lola, and Sassy Shortcake.

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After spending what I would consider a down payment on a ford focus would be, we walked around the neighboring areas and streets, completely picturesque and worth getting "lost". A few beautiful spots? The Charleston Library Society, aged churches on every street corner, and famous Waterfront Park.

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So, you're walking through the streets of Charleston and are thinking hmm where are my pinterest best, colorful walls so I can post something clever on Instagram? Look no further than Rainbow Row. A short walk from King street on East Bay Street, the Easter egg color walls are a great backdrop for your eminent snapseed contrast edits. Get there early in the morning to avoid others in your photos and having to potentially use a shitty editing app trying to get Carol out of the picture.

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Next Stop: Liner? Late Lunch? Either way I was about to eat my hair because I was starving. As an avid fan of seafood, I had to make a pit stop at 167 Raw for oysters. As far as food goes, I truly have no fear and oysters are no exception. They taste delicious, you can put hot sauce on them and are perfect for a quick bite. Charleston is famous for their seafood flair as they are located on the water and 167 served up the best. Fried Seafood more your style? Try Pearlz Oyster Bar or Roadside Seafood.

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After devouring these in 9 seconds, we took one last stroll around town before getting ready for dinner, wearing warmer clothing, & ultimately ending up a rooftop bar. Note: November is CHILLY. Prepare for sweater weather and tights!

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Because it was my birthday, the seafood escapades did not end at 167 Raw to my joy. The Darling Oyster bar was up next and certainly did not disappoint. I decided on a special pasta seafood dish and was absolutely in love. Did the night end there? HELL NO.  The Rooftop Bar at Vendue supplied fun drinks, but even more fun people. We naturally became friends with the bartenders, found our way behind the bar, somehow found California local Lagunitas Brewery (very cool and two stories!), took a photo with our new friends (and exchanged info for Christmas card exchange) and ended up at another bar until 2:00am. This is 25. 

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Because I'm responsible and the pinnacle of health drinking water before bed, the last day of our trip was greeted with brunch. I was responsible, but subject to mimosas.

Before our trip, I had done some research and had found two places I absolutely HAD to visit: Callie's Hot Little Biscuit and the Macintosh.

What brings you joy? For me, it's biscuits. Since this trip, I have said 1000 times over that I will be opening my own biscuit shop in California in the near future. When i'm independently wealthy, you know? Callie's certainly doesn't disappoint with specials changing daily, their homemade raspberry mint jam sandwiched between fluffy clouds, & of course the name. Naturally a hat came home with me and I haven't taken it off. Make sure to get there early if you are heading that way- the order at the counter storefront is SMALL and we ate ours in the street with no shame.

The Macintosh is more of an upscale brunch option, but holds southern classics near and dear to my heart: chicken and waffles & "breakfast" version of shrimp n grits, with chorizo instead of shrimp. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Arguably the most delicious thing I put in my body. Lactose intolerance be damned. Well, I wish it was that easy to say. This is also a great place for dinner if you have the time!

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Next stop: a carriage ride through town because I am a super tourist and so is my mother. I would highly recommend this activity when it is not pouring down rain, however, find a poncho if so. The lowcountry rings true to its name as flooding occurs incredibly often due to the elevation. Be mindful of puddles and potentially bring rainboots. As a California local responds "wait Hunter boots actually serve a purpose?"

There are several companies that let you reserve your spot beforehand, such as Old South Carriage Company and Palmetto Carriage Works. If you truly have a date and time you would like to do the tour by all means, reserve but we ended up just walking up to one near the main square and had about 12 asking for tours, you know, like those guys with the fidget spinners. 

If you are a history buff, this is the tour for you. It is amazing to tour a city as old as Charleston and have homes untouched since their glory days. Plus you get to listen to tour humor, hold your horses there (woof)! You will find a few spots you will see throughout the tour below.

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Continuing our day time escapades, my last request was naturally to tour a southern plantation, and I had several in mind. There were some obvious choices, such as Magnolia, Middleton, Charleston Tea, & Hopsewee, you know, just to name a couple. With the raining weather persisting, we opted with our closest option in nearby Mt. Pleasant, Boone Hall Plantation.

Boone Hall is known for a couple things, but most importantly being in the Notebook. I hate myself and love myself you know? 

What attracted me most to this plantation was the longest stretch of oak trees I have ever seen. Not to mention larger than anything we see in California. After joyously strolling through where slaves were living (Side note, why do people get married on plantations? Yikes.). They host tours throughout the duration of the day and hopped inside just before it started pouring. 

The most special part? Witnessing a marriage proposal. I'm #foreveralone, but not made of stone. So naturally I took photos for them while feeling bitter. Because yes, his family and her family were all there secretly to see it. I'm not crying, you're crying.

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We ended the day by grabbing a quick bite to eat and watching the sunset from the Waterfront district area. Although the weather was poor, the sunset truly felt like the cherry on top of a perfect birthday weekend. Wow, cheesy much?

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Charleston truly gave California a run for its money between good people, good times, and biscuits (I'm on an all carb diet). Feel free to message me for more recommendations or write down your favorite Charleston memory.

Cheers,

Kathryn