13 Weeks of Wandering: Charleston

Bangkok | Cambodia | Vietnam | Laos
New York >> Miami | Portland >> Vancouver


Where To? Charleston, South Carolina
How long? 3 days
Mode of Transport? Car


13WoW – Charleston

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“Looking good!” I hear you say. Thanks – I try my best. Oh, you were talking about the car? Okay yeah, fair enough, it is pretty sexy. So I picked this beauty up at the Airport after booking online with a pick up from Atlanta and a drop off in Miami. Unlimited mileage. Full tank. Two weeks. Now the road trip really begins.

A word of warning in case you were thinking of doing the same, if you are given a price online, expect the price to double when you go to pick it up. I had not anticipated this when I stretched my already-thin budget to hire the car, and it wasn’t soon until the additional extras that were adding up had me crying over the counter… quite literally.

Yes, head was on the counter, tear puddles building up and a salesman’s hand reaching over to pat me on the head… “Please don’t cry?” I think he may have been begging rather than asking.

You see, if you get insurance, it covers you for if you hit someone else but not damage to your own car, and so you have to buy another insurance to cover any damages to the hire car (which I’m glad I did because I’d soon have to replace the car). Plus they try to sell you these toll passes, fuel agreements, add VAT and all sorts of other extras that just cost so much more. I left with a heavier heart and a  lighter wallet.

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But all that was soon forgotten, the next challenge was picking my car. They pointed to a row, “choose a car” they told me. They didn’t tell me that once I’d chosen a car, I could pretty much just drive off with it. The keys were already in the ignition, I spent 15 minutes getting used to the steering wheel on the other side, the clutch pedal missing and the gear box condensed into D,R,L. Thankfully my uber driver had given me a crash course on driving automatics before dropping me at the airport; basically D for Drive and R for Reverse, not really sure what L was for….
Eventually I knew I’d just have to go and figure the rest out on the roads. Confidence was key, and I was scared AF!
Spotting another car driving out, I decided to follow it – surely at least they knew what side of the road to be on. At the barriers, I showed my license and paperwork fully expecting them to take one look and refuse to let me drive out with their car but the barrier was lifted and I was let loose on the roads. My first journey? The four hour drive to Charleston!

 

Charleston Grand Hotel

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When I arrived in Charleston, I hadn’t booked a hotel/hostel or anything, still staying true to my free-spirit. So I had to book the cheapest hotel available and that landed me in the Charleston Grand Hotel in North Charleston. My review on North Charleston? Don’t go there. Just stick to Charleston. The staff were friendly and the room was comfortable, in fact the bed was very comfortable. Generally, there appeared to be a good vibe in the hotel and I liked the lobby area, but on the other hand I found a pillow riddled with ants stuffed down the side of the armchair in my room and the chair itself seemed pretty dirty so didn’t want to sit on it.

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So , basically found out pretty quickly that the area is pretty sketchy; thought I was going to get stabbed just going across the road to the petrol station. It was dinnertime, but there were no restaurants open nearby and I couldn’t have afforded it even if there was so when the “Gas Station” across the road came into view, I decided that was my best option for dinner.
The decision was immediately regrettable when stepping foot on the other side of the road, as I suddenly became aware of the kind of people that surrounded the gas station. They were the type of people that nearly definitely had a weapon on their person, drank alcohol out of brown paper bags and hung out territorially by the gas station. I looked left, I looked right, and I looked down… at my ripped jeans… and that’s when the plan came together. Realising that I could probably pass for one of them with my thoroughly shredded jeans, flat cap and trainers, I mustered up as much swagger as I could pull together and strolled confidently into the shop.

The cashier was well protected behind one of those bullet-proof glass screens that you only see in movies, and I hid in the back of the shop to get out the exact change for my pot noodles – taking no risks. At the counter, I slapped down my change, the cashier nodded and I walked back to the hotel as fast as I could!

 

Charleston

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Charleston, situated by a harbour, is the oldest city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town, named after King Charles II. If I didn’t know better, I’d say this was the epitome of deep south, bible belting, rich patriots judging by the feel of the area around White Point Garden (the fact that the film “The Patriot” was filmed here had no bearings on my judgement). But not too far beneath the surface of the prosperous, clean cut, not-a-petal-out-of-place exterior, there is a dark history.  Historians estimate that approximately half of all African slaves brought to America arrived in Charleston. At that time, Charleston grew from a small seaport to a very wealthy city, it’s economy prospering due to its well positioned harbour and the growing of cotton, rice, and indigo (most certainly undertaken by the slaves). Charleston was the only major city to have a majority-enslaved population with white planters and merchants in control, mostly English colonists.

Do make sure you visit the Battery Park and White Point Garden if you go, it’s worth seeing the large historic houses, stunning low branched trees and the beautiful ocean harbour. You can still get a feel for the rice fields as you walk by the harbour, and you can visit one of the most well-known plantations; Boone Hall.

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Another place of interest is the Charleston City Market. Full of history, this market is always buzzing with people; an array of tempting stalls to choose from. Many merchants sold hand crafted goods, some sold spices and seasonings claiming to be so good “you’ll want to slap yo mama”. And I’ll let a couple of my favourites speak for themselves.

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Finally, I also enjoyed a visit to the Waterfront Park. A famous pineapple water fountain signifies that you are welcome as you approach the park. Heading to the edge of the bay at sunset, I took in stunning views and listened as one of my favourite songs from “A Cinderella Story” was played- “Angels”. A shower broke out and I ran for shelter nearby. A young man decided to chat me up whilst we waited, except he assumed that I was 14 years old and when asking how old he was, he replied “legal”. I told him my age, he told me his; he was 21. “Stop approaching 14 year old girls,” I warned him.

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Later on, after a few cheeky drinks with some new friends, I was taken to a late night pizza place, Pizzeria Di Giovanni ,where the staff had just as much fun as the customers… at least whilst I was there! We ordered the largest slice of pizza I’ve ever seen, and then this…

I returned to the Waterfront and found a pair of glasses by the pineapple fountain. A group of friends were sitting by the fountain giggling, so I approached them with the glasses. No-one else was in sight. What was funny was that one of the women had lost her glasses over a year ago that looked identical to these, and when she tried them on, they were the exact specifications as those she wears. Even stranger, she had lost another pair of glasses a few days ago and needed a new pair. So it seemed like it was meant to be!

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As we parted ways, her partner urged me to visit Edisto before heading to Savannah, and so, that’s where I was headed next.

 

 

 

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