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Monday, September 1, 2014

Charleston - The Quintessential Charmer

I do declare that Charleston is one of the top-notch cities in the world. It literally had me at "hello," where strangers say good morning on the street. It quickly became apparent why it has been named the #1 city in the U.S. by multiple publications including Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure. There is lots to show and tell, so let's get started.

An efficient and inexpensive way to get from the airport to downtown is via the NASH express bus (#4). The stop is right outside the terminal and will only set you back $3.00. The last stop is at the Charleston Visitor's Center, which is a great starting point to collect maps and other literature. 

I intended to use Airbnb as I always do; however, the city of Charleston has a law banning rentals for less than 30 days, making Airbnb rather pricey and not so short-term. That left my meager budget and I with the one hostel in town called Notso Hostel. 

The hostel has two locations within about five blocks of each other with one housing dorms (main house) and the other private rooms (the annex). After reading lots of reviews, I chose the annex. The location is ideal, because it's right off one of the best streets in the world - King Street.

I accomplished a lot in four days by spending 12-13 hours running around the city on foot. If you don't mind walking, the downtown area (aka the peninsula) is walker-friendly. Charleston also offers a free trolley to numerous destinations. I really lucked out with picture perfect weather, so there was no need for public transportation (thanks Mother Nature).

I am completely besotted with Charleston due to the extremely friendly people, vibrant row houses, food, vast art scene, architecture, and stunning churches. I was drooling even when I wasn't eating. Let the gallery begin with a little taste of the brilliant architecture -

Upper King St.

Gibbes Museum of Art

The Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon

Karpeles Manuscript Library

Meeting St.

Broad St.

I was almost tripping over myself on every street, because some of the homes are that exquisite. I felt like a paparazzi, only I was stalking homes and not celebrities. I highly recommend walking down East Bay St., detouring on as many side streets as you can, until you reach Battery Park. The waterfront mansions are sensational, to say the least.

There are so many phenomenal restaurants scattered around the peninsula that it's really hard to pick and choose. I promised myself that I wouldn't make a repeat visit, regardless of how fantastic it was, because there are so many options. Here are the venues that I dined and/or drank at and I recommend them all:

CO -
Five Loaves Cafe -
Basil Thai -
Black Bean Co. - 
Kudu -
East Bay Meeting House -
Bay Street Biergarten -
Fuel Charleston - 
Tasty Thai & Sushi -
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit -
Prohibition -
The Belmont -

Tofu Banh Mi @ CO

Kale, Chive & Veggie Soup @ Five Loaves Cafe

Vegetable Delight w/Tofu @ Basil Thai

Festival Wrap @ Black Bean Co.

Banana Chocolate Muffin @ Kudu

Love this wall @ Kudu

Chickpea House Salad @ East Bay Meeting House

Pretzel Bombs (stuffed w/gouda cheese) & Palmetto Espresso Porter @ Bay Street Biergarten

A sweet outdoor patio @ Bay Street Biergarten

Black Bean Burger & Sweet Potato Fries @ Fuel Charleston

So fond of the patio @ Fuel (I spy Obey Giant)

Cucumber Veggie Roll & Tempura Asparagus Roll @ Tasty Thai & Sushi

Cheese & Chive Biscuits at Callie's Hot Little Biscuit

Fun decor @ Callie's

Being the art ambassador that I am, I was excited to unearth some art galleries and street art. I only made it inside two galleries (The Art Mecca of Charleston and DiNello Gallery) and they were both outstanding. I was also eager to find street art from one of my favorite artists, Shepherd Fairey, (aka Obey Giant) who was born in Charleston. I didn't find them all, but happy with what I saw. 

Obey Giant at Groucho's Deli

Obey Giant sits atop the Francis Marion Hotel

Artist unknown
Obey Giant at College Lodge Residence Hall

Charleston (aka the Holy City) is home to about 20 breathtaking churches, and their eye-catching steeples can be seen at just about every turn. I found it fascinating that many of them have on-site graveyards complete with giant oak trees and Spanish moss. The perfect setting for lending an ear to a few ghost tales. 

St. Philip's Church

French Huguenot Church

Cemetery at Circular Church

Circular Congregation Church

Citadel Square Baptist Church

Unknown cemetery

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Grace Episcopal Church

The following photos are random that I discovered by fate or intention:

One of many cannons @ Battery Park

Monument @ Battery Park

Charleston City Marina

Embassy Suites Hotel (formerly the Old Citadel Military College)

Love everything about this building!

Powder Magazine - the oldest public building in the Carolinas

Charleston City Market

Admiring the lovely Cooper River
Gorgeous trees @ Battery Park

If Charleston isn't currently on your bucket list, hopefully it is now. I fell so hard for this spectacular city that I may just become a permanent resident some day. I leave you with this reminder - always keep your eyes and ears open. This amazing opportunity presented itself in Marion Square.

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