On Charleston and Victims of Timing

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Charleston Mansion

What do Luang Prabang, Barcelona, Bali, and South Korea have in common?

For me, they were victims of timing.

I visited each of these destinations at the worst time — either at the tail end of exhausting adventures, or after an incredible destination that I hadn’t wanted to leave in the first place.

As a result, I didn’t go in with the best attitude possible, and as a result, I feel like I need to revisit each of them in order to be captured by their magic.

Charleston was like that.

Charleston

It was the end of the #SouthUSA trip, and especially after falling for Savannah so hard and leaving before I wanted to, it was hard for me to be effusive about Charleston.

One of my readers told me that in her family, they say that you’re either a Charleston person or a Savannah person. Well, I am undoubtedly a Savannah person, with no disrespect to Charleston itself!

Had I visited Charleston as a standalone trip, I think I would have been bubbling over with praise for this city, its beauty and charm and deliciousness. People LOVE Charleston. I just didn’t feel strongly about it.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. I really did have a good time in South Carolina’s prettiest city.

Charleston Battery

I loved exploring the beautiful mansions down the Battery.

Charleston Architecture

If you’re into architecture — and I very much am — Charleston is one of the great architecture cities of the U.S.

Charleston Kitteh

This thirsty kitty was the star of the Battery — he was surrounded by people taking pictures of him!

Charleston

On recommendation from my bud Tom, I checked out Jestine’s Kitchen. Tom is one of the people I wholeheartedly trust when it comes to food, and he didn’t disappoint!

If you’re looking for some Southern comfort in the heart of Charleston, make this place a priority — the food was fab!

Jestine's Fried Chicken

Easily the biggest fried chicken I had across the South, cooked to bronze perfection.

Also, macaroni and cheese was listed on the menu as a vegetable. Because THE SOUTH.

Jestine's Coca-Cola Cake

I had a Coca-Cola cake for dessert: a sweet, sticky chocolate cake made with Coke instead of water. Because THE SOUTH.

After lunch, I headed out for some more strolling and a photo walk.

Charleston Fire Station

There’s a fire station right in front of Jestine’s, which makes a great Southern photo op.

Charleston Market

Charleston’s market is a good place to stop for souvenirs and see the beautiful (and crazy expensive!) handwoven Gullah baskets.

Charleston Custom House

Romance at the Custom House!

Charleston Park

I loved this little park.

I can see why people love this city. It’s beautiful, friendly, a nice small size, and the food is fabulous.

The #SouthUSA Verdict

After traveling through the South, I came to the conclusion that the trip would have been better in reverse. I found New Orleans, Savannah and Seaside to be my three favorite destinations of the trip, and this trip spreads them out better.

Doing the trip in reverse would start off with Charleston before hitting with the even better Savannah, some downtime across Florida and a beautiful stop in Seaside, some quiet time in Mississippi and Alabama before finishing in New Orleans, the most impressive destination of all.

Country Inn Summerville

Where I Stayed: Country Inn and Suites, Summerville

Over the course of this trip, I loved my stays at the Country Inns and Suites. But the Summerville Country Inn had a very different ambiance to it. The Country Inns I visited were three-star hotels with service that made it feel like a four-star; this one was very lax and casual by comparison — I always felt like I was intruding when I approached the front desk.

The beds were made messily; the staff hung out in front smoking while on duty. I was floored when the breakfast service used not only disposable dishes and utensils but STYROFOAM plates — this seemed like an enormous waste and a complete 180 from the other Country Inns that talked about how they were helping the environment.

Plus, Summerville is a 30-minute drive from downtown Charleston, which is impractical (especially in a town where parking is expensive and tough to find).

There isn’t a Country Inn in downtown Charleston, but there is one in North Charleston — I’d stay there next time. As for my feedback on the Summerville property, it’s been shared with the company prior to this post, and I hope they implement changes so that it represents the brand better.

Rates at the Summerville Country Inn start at $99.

The #SouthUSA campaign is brought to you by Country Inns and Suites by Carlson and Holiday Autos. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Have you been to Charleston? What did you think?

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42 thoughts on “On Charleston and Victims of Timing”

  1. Thanks for this post! It’s really good to keep in mind (especially the inn) as I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston and am planning on doing some trips to the USA this summer.
    Great photos πŸ™‚

  2. As a former resident and lifetime lover of Charleston I find this post extremely disappointing. I think had you stayed downtown, you may have a a much better experience. I wouldn’t even recommend anyone to stay in North Charleston, unless you need to be close to the airport. If you want to know and experience Charleston, stay in Charleston. This post shows one very small part of the city, from the Battery to the Market. Charleston is so much more.

    1. Megan, I could not agree with you more!! As another former resident and absolute lover of Charleston, I think she may have gone about this trip the wrong way. Kate, I think you missed so many of the amazing parts of the city. I’m sorry to hear you ended up staying in Summerville, it’s definitely not Charleston there. I hope you will give it another chance because it really is so so much better than Savannah! (Although, I do think you’re right, you either love Savannah or Charleston….and I’m a very biased Charlestonian)

  3. Charleston and Savannah are two cities I’m dying to visit! I “think” that if I only had the choice of one, I’d want to go with Charleston. I’m a huge history nerd and with all of the Civil War and Revolutionary War sites there, I think I’d be in heaven πŸ™‚ From pictures that I’ve seen the architecture also looks amazing (Savannah’s seems more later 19th century).

    But hopefully I’d never have to choose and be able to visit both πŸ™‚

  4. Kate,
    I’ve been waiting for this post. I could tell that you two were exhibiting a bit of travel fatigue when you met us in Charleston. I was disappointed when I didn’t see a Charleston post. All things considered I think you portrayed some of its highlights very well…maybe you’ll try again with better timing.
    Frank and Durelle

    1. I totally agree, Frank. The posts from the South have been in chronological order and Charleston is last, so there was no skipping over it. Would love to return! Thanks again for taking us out; we had a great time! πŸ™‚

  5. I hope you give Charleston another try but as you say, you are a Savannah person so another try may not elevate Charleston over Savannah in your mind. Another try, however, may leave you with a better impression of Charleston when you aren’t so exhausted. I love Charleston – and after living close by for 15 years I still find new things about the city to explore. Give it another go – and maybe try staying in the city (Summervile isnt my favorite either)

  6. Haven’t been to Charleston yet, but it’s certainly a city I’d love to visit. I also love how you put your experience was just a victim of timing. I felt that last year when I visited Ottawa – I was just really exhausted and stressed and I didn’t enjoy the city, but luckily I was able to go back a bit later and get a better appreciation for it. Hope you’ll be able to return all of these places again.

  7. I want to try Charleston again. I was there once for a work conference. We had plenty of downtime, but it was snowing!!! I think that happens once a century in Charleston and I was lucky enough to be there. I was also sicker than a dog.

  8. Just visited both New Orleans and Savannah after reading about your experiences. I must say that even though I liked Savannah nothing compares to New Orleans. It is simply one of the best experiences I’ve had in the US so far. Such a unique and unrepeatable place. I thank you Kate for making me want to explore the south in more depth. I really had a great time. Have not been to Charleston, but I could totally understand your point after visiting NO and Savannah. These cities are just too hard to beat.

  9. Charleston looks lovely. We can’t wait to do a trip down south. Savannah, GA is also on the list of cities to visit. Seems that they can be done rather affordably too.

  10. Totally agree with your suggestion to flip the road trip and your overall ranking of the three cities. My favorite thing about Charleston is the food, especially the seafood – though that fried chicken, mac, and greens looks *amazing*.

    1. I can’t agree with the other commenters enough: you’ve got to come back to Charleston! First of all, stay anywhere other than Summerville or North Charleston–James Island, West Ashley, and Mount Pleasant are all cute places if you don’t want to stay downtown. As a native and resident of Charleston, I love the city (and Savannah–they are both so different!)–there’s just so much to do here. Maybe next time, you can see the beaches, take a tour or two, and eat some more food. I hope you come back soon!

  11. I am the same as you – Charleston was okay but my heart was left in Savannah. Had I gone the other way around it could’ve been a different story.

    And Coca Cola cake!!?? Was it sickly sweet or actually okay??

  12. Charleston and Savannah are definitely two cities I would love to visit! I’ve had a few of those ‘victims of timing’ trips, sometimes it’s just too hard to completely enjoy yourself when you’re so exhausted! But I have found that once I have revisited a place again, my view of it has always improved. Hopefully next time you visit Charleston you will enjoy it more! x

  13. I’ve really enjoyed these posts about the South, it isn’t somewhere I’d ever thought to visit before but would definitely think twice about it when I’m next in the states. And holy hell that restaurant sounds incredible! Using other liquids over water in a cake mix…. I may have to try that for myself…

  14. I totally understand what you mean. It was the same for me in Amsterdam, I think. The timing was bad, and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I expected to.

    Though, I agree with you – I love Savannah a lot more than Charleston!

  15. Coca-Cola cake is really common down here, and it’s delicious. And, to be honest, my first thought was “why would mac and cheese be listed as anything but a vegetable”?

  16. Charleston does sound like a lovely city (I know you have a soft spot for Savannah). I appreciate your honest views on the hotel. I have been following your city series….I really enjoy reading them and especially the pictures are so pretty and elegant!

  17. I don’t think you gave Charleston a fair shot! The best parts of the area are in the historical areas (which it looks like you did not have time to really do..). We also got to go to the plantations around Charleston and they were so beautiful. Very romantic!

  18. It looks like a beautiful place, but I certainly know what you mean when you say “victim of timing”. I have a few of those places too which I hope to revisiting some day under better terms.

  19. Timing is so important when it comes to travelling – particularly when it comes to season I find. Some destinations are just meant to be visited in Summer – and seeing them in Winter just leaves you wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Will definitely bear your advice in mind if I do a road trip of the South!

  20. Coca-Cola cake? As an addict to this soda, I simply must try it. Also, good on you for not pulling punches on your reviews. Your honesty is refreshing in the travel blog space!

  21. I took your advice and started off in Charleston first before going to Savannah on my southern road trip and I have to say – I was equally impressed with both.

    However, I was not basing my impression of Charleston on the city alone but rather the entire overall experience. I went to the Magnolia Plantation just outside of the city and visited the Angel Oak Tree – a huge live oak tree approx. 1500 years old. Both sights are a must for me when visiting the Charleston area. I also not only had the best southern food but one of the best meals of my entire life at The Glass Onion (which is again is not right in the main part of Charleston but right outside).

    But maybe if I had gone to Savannah first I would not have enjoyed it as much…

  22. Oh no Kate! I’m sad you didn’t have an absolutely lovely time in Charleston.

    We live steps from Jestine’s and the firehouse and definitely should have put you up with us instead of having you stay ALL THE WAY OUT in Summerville πŸ™‚

    Try Charleston again, stay downtown, grab giant cinnamon rolls at Wildflour on Sunday and hit the farmer’s market on Saturday. Hopefully that will change your mind!

  23. I agree with some of the other posters. If you want to experience Charleston you MUST stay in Charleston. Summerville should not be an option.
    Recently, I visited Charleston on a two day trip. I stayed in North Charleston and drove into the city. I felt so disappointed because there was no parking and I am a photographer so I missed alot of photo opps. At night I did managed to park in a timed lot and took some nice photos at Waterfront park.

    During my stay i visited Folly Beach and Isle of Palms, which were both alot of fun. As for food, I found a great vegan joint called Dellz. Absolutely the best vegan food I’ve had. Try the Beach Bum wrap! It will change your life for the better.

    Staying outside of the city maybe cheaper but you sacrifice experience. I am definitely putting my pennies together for a return trip and will stay in the downtown area.

  24. Born and raised in Charleston, please don’t stay in North Charleston. It is just the opposite of Charleston. It’s dangerous, dirty (mostly just an industrial area), traffic is terrible, and about twenty-thirty minutes away from where you want to be. There are plenty of nice, inexpensive hotels with nice views of the water downtown. And if you want a fun place to go kayaking with lots of wildlife and a good local feel, check out Bowen’s Island, and have lunch there. Very cool place.

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