Justin and I just returned from an amazing week in Charleston. Not only did we have days full of amazing meals but we enjoyed weather that seem like a gift from the travel Gods!
Where to stay:
We loved our stay at Zero George. This sophisticated but charming boutique hotel, with its unfussy but luxurious touches, was perfect for our romantic get-away but I would choose to stay there with my family too.
It is made up of a series of historic houses gathered together and connected by charming courtyards which are coveted areas to drink, dine or relax in. The kitchen doubles as the reception area and the bar and reception rooms are warm and inviting. The biggest problem is deciding which piazza or salon you want to enjoy your wine and cheese in!
The row of bicyclesin the courtyard knock the charm factor up another notch even though you wouldn’t think that was possible! We loved it and can’t wait to return!
Where to eat:
Don’t go to Charleston if you are on a diet. Just don’t even go! Charleston is a town for foodies and we simply ate our way through the city from breakfast to lunch to dinner. The list of places to dine could go on and on so I’ll just tell you about our stops on this trip:
Zero George – The restaurant at Zero George is wonderful. The room is small and the indoor tables are limited but the space is romantic and understated. Make a reservation for your next trip now because it is an experience you won’t want to miss! Arrive early and enjoy a few minutes at the bar. The bartender was warm and friendly and gave us the low-down on all of the wonderful craft cocktails including his recipe for a lavender infused sweetener.
Toast - A stop at Toast for breakfast will help you fuel up before a city walking tour. Just be sure to allow a few minutes or more to wait in line. It is a hot-spot!
S.N.O.B. – Slightly North of Broad was such a treat! Located just at the end of our walking tour, they provided the perfect place to sit and unwind after taking in so much of the rich history this city has to offer. They have an express lunch menu that is mouthwatering and perfect if your sightseeing list or shopping schedule is jam packed.
F.I.G. – We went to F.I.G. with very high expectations and it certainly lived up to them. The menu is always changing because they pride themselves in using the highest quality local ingredients. As if the melt-in-your-mouth Gnocchi wasn't enough of a treat, the most recent recipient of the James Beard award winning Best Chef South East, Jason Stanhope, came out to say hi! The dining room was laid back yet energetic and I would certainly go back!
Hominy Grill – Shrimp and Grits for breakfast is not for the faint of heart but when in Charleston, you have to try it! My husband loved it and I stuck with coffee and a delicious high-rise biscuit.
Blossom – Right on Bay Street, Blossom was recommended by a friend and didn't disappoint. We went for lunch but we filled up on our appetizer of fried artichokes and sweet tea and could hardly eat our main courses!
The Grocery – Leave room for dessert at The Grocery! It was so much fun to share dishes from their clever menu and I especially loved their take on roasted and fried Okra.
For a delicious cup of coffee and a bite of something sweet, don’t miss Chrsitophe ArtisanChocolatier-Patissier. Their darling courtyard has a handful of bistro tables and is the perfect spot to rest for a moment and caffinate!
Where to shop:
We were honored to be among the first to check out FritzPorter, a new and clever take on the traditional showroom/antique mall created by Sarah Hamlin Hastings. On the ground floor of the old Cigar Factory, this design collective is filled with treasures from antique to modern and will make you want to re-decorate!
A Charleston Christmas – I love buying ornaments on my travels, especially when I find a Christmas shop as darling as this! This time I bought a glass magnolia to hang on our tree. 177 Meeting Street (843) 853-0209
Speaking of Christmas, I got some checks on my shopping list at Worthwhile at 268 King Street. They carry edgy designs by off-beat designers (Gary Graham - Sara Lanzi) and locally made treasures as well. It is the perfect spot to stop in for a gift.
Antiques– Although many of the charming independent shops have been replaced with national chains, you can still wander the antique stores on King street and keep your eyes out for treasures.
If you are a treasure hunter, don’t miss a chance to rummage through the galleries at Fred LeClercq’s place at 120 Meeting Street. He is a kind and fascinating man who retired from teaching law to open his Antique Gallery. Each piece is labeled with a story and a price but he can tell you even more about everything in there. On this trip, we were lucky enough to be invited upstairs for a peek at his personal collection and a short swing on his porch. Alkyon Arts and Antiques (843) 276-5899
Schedule a few minutes to stop into Croghan’s Jewel Box for jewelery and silver. The store is a gem and so is the family who owns it! They hosted a book signing for me and I couldn’t get over their extraordinary selection! I wasn’t able to leave empty handed and I loved all of the special pieces of antique silver they offered for engraving. I loved hearing the stories of their family's journey though the years.
If you are on the hunt for antique silver, check out The Silver Vault. Proprietor Charlotte Crabtree told me a great monogram story! She had a beautiful antique baby spoon with the letters MPJ that she wanted to give to a friend as a gift for baptism but the baby's name didn't even share a single letter with the beautiful monogram on the spoon so she wrote a note to go along with the gift that started out "May the Peace of Jesus...." She underlined the M, P, and J and suddenly the monogram had a new and very special meaning. Love that!
You can't leave Charleston with out a sweetgrass basket. As you walk the city, visit with the artists on Meeting Street outside of St. Michael's Church and watch the work. They are pricy for sure but they take an average of 30 hours to complete and will last forever. I have a small collection from my trips over the years and I use them for everything from bread service to a candy dish.
Where to visit:
I really hope you will take either a walking tour or a carriage tour of Charleston. I know it sounds touristy but Charleston’s history is so rich and the guides tell it with magical stories that make the city come alive. I think it is the best way to start a trip to Charleston but others like to wait until the sun goes down and end a day in there with a Ghost Tour. Most Charlestonians truly believe in the haints that grace the city so these are not for the faint of heart!
The Nathaniel Russell House, with it's famous flying staircase, is a treat to tour. I loved touring this neoclassical antebellum townhouse, one of Charleston's many great treasures! There are other great houses to see, Aiken - Rhett House, Heyward - Washington House or the Joseph Manigault House, but the Nathaniel Russell House is my favorite.
If you only have time for one attraction, check out the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon. It contains stories that go back as far as the city itself. Imagining George Washington dancing with the ladies of Charleston on the upper floors is in stark contrast to the visions of prisoners in the dungeons below!
Our visit to the Phillip Simmons House was a treat. Justin did some research to track this spot down after seeing so many of the wonderful gates and other iron work that Simmons created around Charleston. He was a local treasure for certain! His nephew, who started to apprentice with him at the age of 13, still works from their workshop and uses his tools. Justin commissioned a boot scraper and I walked away with a plant hook! The house is around the corner from the Cigar Factory so you can visit both spots together.