Charleston – August 2017

One random night in September 2016 (about 11 months prior to the trip), I was browsing the internet and reading random articles.  One on the great eclipse of 2017 caught my attention.  I thought it would be pretty neat to see a total eclipse being a bit of a physics/astronomy nerd…and look – the totality was passing right over Charleston.  My wheels were turning.

We had been wanting to go to Charleston for a while.  It just never worked out for various reasons.

Being way ahead of time, I checked for award flights.  Delta not only had available flights, but they were actually at a reduced rate of 9500 miles each way.  I also had Delta status at the time, so I could book and cancel award tickets without paying fees.

Flights were booked right at 11 months out.  I could always cancel if needed.

Next, I found award space at the Hyatt Place Charleston.  This is a category 4 Hyatt, so we were able to each use our annual category 1-4 award night from the Hyatt credit card.  I added on a 3rd day with points.

It seemed the stars were finally aligning for us to make it to Charleston – or should I say the sun and moon were aligning…I can’t resist the nerd jokes.

With nearly a year to go before the trip, I put it on the back burner.  In the meantime, we traveled to Spain and France, booked and canceled a trip to Spain and Portugal, and bought a major renovation project house.  Needless to say, I did not do much planning.

I booked this as an extremely quick trip to minimize time off of work.  And honestly, I was half expecting Alyce to bail on the quick trip when I booked it, but she never balked.

This trip would be just the two of us, and we’d leave Friday evening.  Our return flight departed at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, which left us enough time to watch the eclipse, hop on our flight, and get back Monday night.  With the tight schedule, we only had to take one day off of work.  Of course, if I had known that we wouldn’t be taking 3 weeks off for Spain/Portugal (or anywhere), I would have planned more time in Charleston.

We were all set.  And even though it was a quick trip, we had a great time.  Alyce chipped in with the research, and we ended up eating at some fantastic places by just waiting and eating at the bar (or late at night in the case of our first meal).

Day 1

Our flight did not depart until 4:30.  We each got in a pretty full day of work.  The late start combined with losing an hour to time changes left us not landing at CHS until 8:00 p.m.  The Delta flights again went off without any issue.  Both legs were pretty quick.

Catching an Uber to the hotel was easy enough and cost effective (~$15-$20).  Our driver was an Alabama fan, but he was a friendly guy – so I didn’t hold it against him.

By the time we checked in dropped off our bags and picked a place to eat, it was after 10:00.  Fortunately, our first choice of restaurant was open until 11:00 – Slightly North of Broad.

Alyce had read good things about it, and – even though it was late – we wanted to eat a good meal given our limited opportunities on this quick trip.  It did not disappoint.

We ordered a bunch of small plates and basically created our own tasting menu.  Everything was delicious, and I’d gladly go back for another meal.  That said, it may have been our least favorite of our three dinners…which speaks to the quality of our other two dinners as we had a very good meal at Slightly North of Broad.

One interesting close to the night was that both of our phones were completely out of batteries – something that rarely happens to either one of us.  But with the long day, all the Uber trips, and the fact that our phones were both 3 years old and on their last leg, we were out.  So we had to have the restaurant call us cab, which they didn’t even really seem sure of who to call.  After waiting 15 minutes, our ride finally arrived and took us back to the hotel.

Day 2

The Hyatt Place includes breakfast for all guests.  It is naturally not as nice a Park Hyatt breakfast, but it had multiple hot options and coffee.  We ate it every day and enjoyed it just fine.

After breakfast, we walked all the way down King Street from the Hyatt Place to White Point Garden.  We caught a Saturday morning market at Marion Square by luck on the way.  One thing was that it was pretty, pretty, pretty warm and humid being August and all…

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It was a pleasant stroll – other than the heat.  There were plenty of shops and neat Charleston houses along the way.  At White Point Garden, we found a nice bench in the shade and just sat and hung for a little bit.

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Following our break, we walked past Rainbow Row, along the water front through Waterfront Park, strolled through the Charleston French Quarter, and made it to the Historic Charleston Market.

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Alyce loves a market, but mainly just to browse.  A couple things did catch her eye, but we’d have to come back another day for any final decisions.

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At this point, we were pretty warm and were ready to sit down in some AC.  A quick google search showed a decent looking wine bar a block or two away – O’Hara and Flynn.  We decided to give it a shot.

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It was actually a nice little spot with what I thought was a pretty good wine selection and some bites to eat.  After a couple glasses, we were ready to walk the final leg back to the hotel.  We also scoped out the restaurant where we wanted to eat dinner since we passed right by it.

FIG is another popular Charleston restaurant, and we missed out on reservations by several weeks.  Luckily, they did have bar seating, and we decided to give it a try and wait it out.

We walked back to FIG after taking a break at the hotel.  We got there a little later than we intended and were told our wait would be 60-80 minutes.  We got a round of drinks and found a place to sit.  The wait wasn’t bad…and it was definitely worth it.  After about an hour, they sat us at the bar.

Everything we ate at FIG was excellent.  I don’t know if we ordered the right things or if it is just that good all around, but we really had a fantastic meal from appetizers through desserts. We finished the night off with a leisurely stroll back to the hotel.

Day 3

We ate breakfast at the hotel again and then set out walking some more.  We took stroll through the campus of the College of Charleston.  It was a really cool campus in walking distance to so much of Charleston.  I was thinking James might be interested in going there until I googled the tuition.  If he wants to go there, he better start working on that scholarship already…

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After passing through campus, we made it back to the Charleston Market.  Alyce was determined to find a souvenir.  And we did.  We bought a neat iron bird bath made of scrap metal.  The pig and frying pan pushed it over the edge.  Another couple was about to buy it as we were pointing it out to the booth owner.  You snooze you lose.  We were able to carry it back with us in our carry on luggage.

With our prize in hand, we went back to O’Hara and Flynn to have a glass of wine and kill some time before Husk’s bar opened.

Husk is possibly the most well known and popular restaurant in Charleston.  They do not have a dining bar, so we had no shot of eating there.  They do have a first come, first serve drink and snack bar, so we decided to give that a shot.

We got there literally right at 3:00 (when it opened), and the bar was already almost full.  There were table available in the upstairs area for another 10-15 minutes, but I was glad we got to sit at the bar.  It was a cool spot with a lot of good drinks.  Definitely worth making a trip if you’re in Charleston and looking for a spot to have some drinks.

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Our first night at Slightly North of Broad, our waiter was telling us his favorite spots.  One place he highly recommended was Leon’s Oyster Shop.  It is a pretty uninspiring looking place from the street, but some quick internet research showed that it had received some pretty high accolades and praise.  It was definitely worth a try.

And again, we had a fantastic meal.  Our waiter pointed us in a good direction for a Pet-Nat wine, we had some excellent Oysters, and the whole fried fish was every bit as good as the ones we’ve had at Peche in New Orleans (which is very high praise if you haven’t dined at Peche).

With our expectations exceeded, we walked back to the hotel.  But we decided to have one last treat and got some ice cream at Jeni’s Ice Cream, which was worth the dietary splurge.

Day 4/Trip home

The only thing on our agenda for the day was catching the eclipse and getting home.  There had been reports that traffic would be horrendous the around the eclipse, so we decided to get to the airport early and just watch it from there.  Better safe than sorry getting stuck in traffic or being unable to find a taxi/uber.

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Turns out those reports were greatly exaggerated.  Didn’t make much of a difference to us, as we found a nice spot to sit outside at the airport and were just fine – except…

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Rain and clouds were in the forecast for the day.  We were holding out hope that we’d get to see the eclipse.  Honestly, it was just an excuse to get to Charleston, and we really enjoyed the trip so we won either way in our book.  Though, it still would be nice to see the eclipse.

Sitting outside the airport, the skies were clear when the partial eclipse begun, and they stayed clear until about 50% of totality.  Then the clouds rolled in.

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Things were looking pretty poor for a while, but the skies parted and we got one final glimpse at the eclipse – about 85%-90% of totality.  Then the sky disappeared for good.  At first it was just clouds, then it started storming.

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Oh well…We still had a great trip.  And probably saw a little bit more of an eclipse than we would have if we had just stayed home.

Our flight back was without issue.  We checked off another new destination and had another successful trip.

Concluding Thoughts

I had heard Charleston be described as a cleaner, safer New Orleans.  I think there is definitely some truth in that description.  Charleston seemed to be more of a traditional Southern city…whereas New Orleans is a mix of so many different histories and cultures – while still being a southern city.

I’d enjoy just walking around, sitting in parks, and looking out over the water in Charleston.  There are also tons of mansions to tour.  We didn’t do one this trip but maybe the next time.  There are also beaches a short ride away and several other excursions within a reasonable drive.

I thought the food would be good, but we were really impressed by it.  Maybe we just happened to hit the right restaurants/menu selections, but everything was excellent.

I’m sure we’ll go back to Charleston.  With the annual Hyatt category 1-4 certificates, we can stay at the Hyatt Place for pretty much nothing.  I wish there was a direct flight, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.  If so, it would be a super easy trip.

Till the next time, Charleston.

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