When Brian and I drove through the boatyard gates on Friday morning, I had no expectations. We had plans of putting Illusion back in the water, but six weeks of labor on an old boat had taught me that nothing goes as planned; the hard projects took the allotted time, but projects that seemed easy stretched on for days (or weeks) and multiplied. Our pre-launching to-do list included seven projects, so I assumed that at least one of them would go awry. If that occurred, it was possible that we wouldn’t have enough time to get Illusion back in the water before the end of the day, and it was Friday, meaning it would have to wait until Monday.
We put on the last two sea cocks – ones that had frozen on us earlier in the week and prevented an earlier launching, made sure the others were closed, hooked up the second bilge pump, vacuumed out the bilge, checked all the hose clamps, organized the mess, and painted the last few areas on the bottom that needed a second coat without so much as a hitch. The traveling lift scooped Illusion off her stilts, carried her to the ramp, and lowered her back into a cradle of saltwater at 2:30 pm.
Brian jumped aboard to check for leaks, then the Rockville crew grabbed the lines, and pulled Illusion towards a nearby slip (we still haven’t hooked up the engine). As she pivoted around the boat at the end of the dock, one of the men lost his hold on a line. I looked over my shoulder to see her stern swinging wide and the entire vessel moving towards shore. The narrow waterway didn’t leave much leeway, but they managed to tow her back into position and safely into the slip. When things finally settled down, Illusion took her place amongst the other boats, and we cheered. Cold beers were cracked; high fives were exchanged, and we sat for a while and admired the view – from the water.
I am exhausted, relieved, and filled with an expanding sense of gratitude and excitement. I can’t wait to be on our way!
With the departure date lurking somewhere in the near future, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic about the beautiful place that I’ve called home off and on for the past seven years. Charleston is both unique and picturesque, with cobblestone streets winding between colonial mansions, Charleston singles, church towers, cemeteries, waterfront parks, and oak trees draped in Spanish moss. My close friend, Mary, came to Charleston last week on a business trip and was forced to stay through the weekend because of a snowstorm up north. This unfortunate (fortunate!) event provided me with the perfect excuse to engage in the best of what the city has to offer one last time before I depart.
Charleston, you will be missed!
I thought this information might useful to anyone planning a weekend visit to Charleston, so I’ve included our itineraries in the hopes that you will use it to build-your-own weekend adventure. Because Mary only had two full days to take advantage of, we planned our touring around efficiency, eating (of course), and capturing the essence of the place. This is a rundown of our two-day tour of Charleston plus a few travel tips for first-time visitors.
Day One: Itinerary
- Breakfast at Hominy Grill – 1 hour
- Browse antique shops along King Street – 30 min
- Drive to the Battery and walk around – 20 min
- Wander, explore streets and architecture south of Broad Street – 30 min
- Drive to Rainbow Row/East Bay Street – 5 min
- Walk to Waterfront Park – 20 min
- Explore art galleries on Queen and Broad Streets – 45 min
- Check out churches and cemeteries on Church and Meeting Streets – 20 min
- Drive to Folly beach – 25 min
- Lunch at the Lost Dog Cafe – 1 hour
- Walk on the pier – 45 min
- Stop for a Tokyo Crepe – 15 min
- Drive back downtown – 25 min
- Dinner at a downtown restaurant – 1 hour
Day Two: Itinerary
- Drive to Isle of Palms – 20 min
- Brunch at the Boathouse – 1 hour
- Drive to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island – 10 min
- Walk around the fort – 45 min
- Walk along the beach – 45 min
- Drive back downtown – 20 min
- Drive by Citadel – 10 min
- Break – 2 hours
- Dinner at Monza on King Street – 1 hour
- Walk to Paolo’s Gelateria for Dessert – 20 min
*times are estimated
Places to stay: During my last year of college, I worked at a bed and breakfast downtown (the 1837 Bed and Breakfast to be precise). There are a large number of unique B&B’s conveniently located throughout the historic district. Each one is distinct, some located in historic mansions, renovated Charleston singles, or carriage houses, so the price ranges vary drastically between the different accommodations. You can easily walk or bike the city, usually a full breakfast and parking is provided, and in most cases, they are family owned or run, so you will get a personalized experience. If you are on a tight budget, check out the NotSo Hostel, Charleston’s only backpackers’ hostel located in a historic house on Spring Street. Call the Charleston Visitors’ Center for more information on accommodations and booking.
Things to See: As with any city, you could easily fill an entire week with sightseeing, but if you only have a few days, then you can choose your highlights based on your interests (i.e. history, architecture, art, etc.). I recommend walking or renting a bicycle (available by the day here) for traveling downtown because parking and driving in Charleston can be quite tricky. The streets were built for horse and carriage; they may be beautiful, but they are disorganized, narrow, and flood-prone, so bring a map. Definitely wander down to see the iconic Battery, Rainbow Row, Waterfront Park, the Market, the College of Charleston, and any of the residential streets south of Broad Street. There are also numerous art galleries, antique shops, and boutiques located south of Market Street and along Broad Street. For specific tour information visit this site. If you are willing to drive outside of the downtown area, be sure to check out Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, either Fort Moultrie or Fort Sumter (Fort Sumter requires a boat tour), and one or more of the plantations surrounding the peninsula. By the way, check out this great NY Times slideshow of the plantations.
Good Eats: These are simply my favorites. For breakfast or brunch head to Hominy Grill on the corner of Rutledge and Cannon Streets. Located in a pink Charleston-style house with a large mural on the side of a woman with a steaming bowl of grits, it offers typical Lowcountry cuisine, such as fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, etc. For a quick, inexpensive, light bite to eat for breakfast or lunch, visit my favorite cafe in Charleston, Fast and French on Broad Street (croissants, french press coffee, sandwiches, and soups). Check out the lunch or dinner menu for Cru Cafe near the market, a cozy Charleston-style restaurant with a cute little porch available for dining. The Lost Dog Cafe is my favorite Folly Beach choice; casual with indoor and outdoor dining, the food is always great, but remember it is closed for dinner. As for dinner downtown, I will simply recommend FIG ($$$$) and Monza ($$), and send you to browse the dining guide here or here. Be sure to investigate menu prices (especially if you are thinking about dining on Market or East Bay Streets).
FYI the Charleston City Paper is a great place to learn what is going on the weekend of your visit or to read about restaurants and local events, and if you come in the spring, fall, or summer, don’t forget to check out the Saturday morning Farmers Market in Marion Square!
It’s strange to live in a place you plan to leave, when you’ve got one foot in the door and one foot out. I am sitting in a friend’s apartment, in front of my travel easel and make-shift supply stand (several plastic bins stacked atop one another) wondering where I will be finishing up this new painting I’ve started? And what will I do with it when I am done? Every week for the past two months I’ve asked myself this same question. Where will I be this time next week?
The whole experience seems to be unfolding in the only way that it could: we will leave when the boat is ready. And when the boat is ready, we will be ready. We should be truly prepared to tackle most of the potential problems that we could face during the trip. Sometimes you don’t need to travel in order to find yourself in a different place.
It’s certainly made for an interesting year of transitions: from living in a house, to living on the boat, then living on a project boat that was more like a work shed, and finally staying in a friend’s apartment and making the 45 minute drive to work on it at the boatyard everyday. If you’ve let Brian or I relax on your couch, watch TV at your house, do laundry in your washer/dryer, cook dinner in your kitchen, craft in your living room, sleep in your guest room, sleep on your couch, store things in your garage, store things in your back yard, or listened while Brian and I poured out our woes and frustrations over the past year, then please accept this virtual thank-you for helping us retain our sanity throughout the process.
If there is one thing I have learned from this experience, past travels, and living abroad, it’s that happiness relies on sharing experiences with other people; it doesn’t matter where you are. I haven’t been able to participate in many of the movie-going, music concerts, and going-out activities over the past year because of my tight budget, but our living situation has given me the opportunity to spend some quality time with friends while doing the most mundane of tasks. Believe me, no matter the location, there is nothing like sharing a good meal and conversation with others (and it fits into my budget nicely).