charleston: the battery, the old slave mart museum, & magnolia plantations

Sarah and I arrived early in Charleston, parking in a garage near Waterfront Park, and walked into the park.  Situated on eight acres on Concord Street, it was built on what used to be marsh and water.  The Pineapple Fountain is artful and has a surrounding wading pool.

Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park


Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park

Sarah ran and I walked south along The Battery. It was a chilly morning, just above freezing, but at least we had blue skies.  South was the Cooper River, with views of Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and Sullivan’s Island. Landward was the adjoining White Point Gardens and elegant mansions.  The Gardens boasted cannons; a statue of General William Moultrie, commander in the Battle of Sullivan’s Island;  another statue “To the Confederate Defenders of Charleston;” and the USS Hobson Memorial, which sank after a collision with the carrier USS Wasp in 1952.

White Point was originally called Oyster Point because of the enormous outcropping of oysters whose shells glistened in the sunlight. 

The Battery was named for hosting cannons during the War of 1812.  The sea wall was built in the 1850s. Charlestonians gathered here in a party-like atmosphere to watch the shelling of Fort Sumter in 1861, ignorant of the horrors to come in the Civil War.

The promenade was a great place to stroll or jog.

We returned to the north and walked past Rainbow Row, one of the most photographed sites in the U.S., although I didn’t know why as the colors were not that vibrant and it was hard to get far enough away to get the line of pastel houses all in one photo.  It includes only nine pastel-colored mansions facing the Cooper River.  These bright historically-accurate colors are remnants of Charleston’s Caribbean heritage, a legacy of English settlers from the colony of Barbados who were among the city’s first citizens.

Most of the houses date from 1730-1750. Originally they stood right on the Cooper river, with their lower stories used as storefronts on the wharf. The street was later created on top of landfill, called locally “made land.”

These were the the first Charleston homes to be renovated and brought back from their early 20th century dereliction, inspiring the creation of the Preservation Society of Charleston (the first such group in the U.S.).

Rainbow Row


Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row

We continued to Waterfront Park where we looked out over Charleston Harbor.

Waterfront Park

Waterfront Park

Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park

After our run/walk, we drove back across the Arthur Ravanal Bridge to Mount Pleasant, where we showered and dressed.  As today was Mike’s and my 31st anniversary, I sent him a message: “Happy anniversary, honey! Sarah and I have already walked all along the Battery.  She ran, I walked.”  He wrote back: “Happy anniversary to you as well! Sounds like a nice morning.  I’ve been working from home since 7:30.  Sitting in dining room for once. Actually got a little over 8 hours sleep for first time in a long while.  Needed it badly…”  I knew he was stressed out dealing with our son, who was having meltdowns over his massage therapy course and the state of the world, so I was happy he’d had a good night’s sleep.

our Airbnb in Mount Pleasant

We returned into the city to visit the Old Slave Mart Museum, where, sadly, no photography was allowed inside. I could only guess Charleston didn’t want its reputation sullied on social media by the horrific slave trade that took place here for so many years. The conditions were horrible, as can only be expected when human beings are treated like property.

After 1808, the U.S. banned the importation of enslaved people, thus increasing both price and demand. Auctions generally took place in public buildings where everyone could watch.  In the 1850s, public auctions were put to a stop when city leaders discovered that European visitors were horrified. The slave trade moved indoors to “marts” near the waterfront, out of the public eye. This is the last remaining such structure. Built in 1859, its last auction was held in November of 1863.

The museum had great exhibits about the transatlantic slave trade and the architectural history of the building. The main exhibit area held documents, tools and displays about this sordid chapter in local history. It was an eye-opening and disturbing museum.

Old Slave Mart Museum

After our visit, we wandered past the French Huguenot Church. This is one of the oldest congregations in Charleston and the only remaining independent Huguenot church in the country. It was founded around 1681 by French Calvinists.  Deliberately used as a firebreak during the great fire of 1796, the sanctuary was rebuilt in the stucco-coated Gothic Revival style, completed in 1845.


French Huguenot Church

We headed to Husk Restaurant for lunch, which turned out to be one of the finest meals we had in Charleston after Chez Nous.




I enjoyed a “Fistful of Berries” Bourbon: Husk blueberry shrub, ginger beer, lime, & vanilla.  Sarah had an “Alley Cat” – white port, red bell pepper juice and shrub, honey, and Meyer lemon bitters.

Sarah ordered two appetizers: one was Sweet Water Valley Pimiento Cheese on Grilled Crostini, pickle relish, crispy country ham and chives; the second was a soup of Heirloom candy roasted squash, duck confit marmalade, curly kale, roasted fennel, sorghum, and pepper mash. 

For lunch I had Shrimp and Geechie Boy Grits, with sweet peppers and onions, fennel and tomato broth.  It was so delicious!  Sarah had Husk fried chicken, roasted cabbage and onion, confit fingerling potato and mushroom jus.  Sarah treated us for lunch. 🙂

Soon after lunch, we saw the mural we’d seen our first night in Charleston, this time in daylight.

mural near Poogan’s Porch

After lunch, we strolled through the Old City Market, which is like a pedestrian shopping mall, full of southern -style souvenirs and sweet-grass baskets.  I bought a couple of Charleston mugs and a Gullah print for $5.

As we drove to Magnolia Plantations & Gardens, we passed an old roadside trailer with a sign “Timbo’s Hot Boiled Peanuts,” and I remembered fondly a childhood friend of mine whose mother, born and raised in Charleston, had introduced me to boiled peanuts.

drive to Magnolia Plantation & Gardens

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens cost a fortune for admittance. Sarah wasn’t keen on going because all she wanted to do was shop.  This got to be quite a drag.  I realized our relationship over her adult years has been for me to go down to Richmond, where she lives, and eat, drink and shop.  We’d never done much more than that, which saddened me.

The founder of Magnolia Plantations was Thomas Drayton, Jr., son of a wealthy Barbadian planter.  He came from the Caribbean to build his own fortune. He immediately married the daughter of Stephen Fox, who began this plantation in 1676. Magnolia has stayed in possession of an unbroken line of Drayton descendants to this day.

I loved all the Spanish moss on the trees and the long Japanese-style bridges.

The gardens felt slightly kitschy.  Not manicured, it had a wild playful feel.  Chinese lanterns were set up for the holidays, making it look a bit gaudy.  It claims to be the first garden in the U.S., dating to the 1680s, but also the first public garden, dating to 1872. It is one of the earliest tourist attractions in the U.S.  It has themed gardens: The Biblical Garden, the Barbados Tropical Garden, and the Audubon Swamp Garden, complete with alligators and named after John James Audubon, who visited here in 1851. There was an extra charge for the Swamp Garden, which we didn’t visit.

On the way back, we decided rather than go out to eat, we’d check out a couple of markets and get something for dinner to go.  At Gita’s Gourmet, we got containers of Brunswick Stew and Chicken Poblano Soup, hummus, Alouette Everything cheese spread, crackers, and feta-stuffed olives.

As we ate our dinner, Sarah introduced me to the TV series The Good Place, which I found rather annoying.  She complained that every time she introduced me to a TV show, I automatically didn’t like it just because she recommended it.  How ridiculous! There is no accounting for why people like certain shows and not others.  I dislike shows about the afterlife, futuristic shows, horror or violent shows, or fantasy. This one was about the afterlife and I found the characters grating.

Then she introduced me to the show This Is Us, which I liked very much, and we ended up watching several episodes of it.  Thus I proved her wrong, that I could in fact like shows she recommended.

We also argued about the focus on food and fancy restaurants. I didn’t want to keep eating the amount of food we were eating at every meal, nor did I want to spend huge amounts of money every time we dined. She is a foodie through and through, and sees vacations as a time to sample local cuisine.  I also love to sample local cuisine, but I don’t feel the need to have a huge spread at every meal.

She said maybe it was best we didn’t travel together and I agreed.  Basically, we wanted different things from a holiday.  I liked to see a variety of things and have a variety of experiences, whereas she enjoys eating, shopping and relaxing. I thought it probably was best we didn’t travel together, except maybe an overnight focused on eating and shopping.

It was very disappointing, as I would love nothing better than to travel with family.  But I thought it best if we just kept close to home for family gatherings.

*Steps: 15,963, or 6.82 miles*

*Wednesday, November 13, 2019*