We stopped at the campground store as it was shutting down the previous night, and were told that if we showed up at 10 minutes to nine, we could get a ride to town and back for ten dollars a head. We arose early, had breakfast and were on schedule, until the last minute, when we realized that it was 10 to nine. We were only a short sprint to the camp store, so we sprinted and got there at eight minutes to nine. The bus had left. Embarrassment. They apologized and we apologized, the bus came back and we met a very nice driver and a couple from Brisbane, Australia who had lived in the Washington DC area for years. He was an architect for an international firm, travelled frequently, had a large motor home while he was working and used it to travel extensively. After retirement, they returned to Brisbane, and come back the US to tour and visit friends. The traded in the large RV for a smaller class C they leave at a friend’s house, and spend several months touring the US, staying in the Charleston area, and then visiting their daughter in the Washington DC area. The driver dropped us near King and Market Streets, and we walked to the meeting point for our walking tour, ‘Charleston Strolls’.
The Mills House Hotel on Meeting Street was the start for the tour. The Mills House Hotel had been a Holiday Inn property, and was just purchased by the Windham Corporation. Our guide, a very nice southern lady indicated that the property previously had a southern charm, and aside from a small sign at the front desk, it was not apparent that the hotel belonged to the Holiday Inn Corporation. She indicated that it had the appropriate charm of a two hundred year old establishment, until recently. She said that it had just been renovated. The lounge we were sitting in had a euro 70’s style with electric purple fabric wallpaper over the fireplace and a silvery paper in the rest of the room. The carpet was a silver and light grey diamond pattern. ‘It’s not a retro 70’s style that had not been touched since the 70’s?’ says I. ‘No, it’s brand new. It was quite nice, but it’s looking awfully modern lately.’ she says. ‘Who uses purple fabric wallpaper to decorate now I asked?’ She simply smiled. Sometimes I think that if a corporation was running the palace at Versailles, they would remove the mirrors and paint the walls avocado.
Our walking tour wandered through the historic section down to Battery Park, up the north side of the peninsula to Market Square. Our guide was very lovely, and the tour was entertaining, but she knew what she knew, and not much more. It was nice, but we would have done better by getting a good history book of Charleston and wandering on our own. The quality of tours cannot be on the same level as that of Harpers Ferry, when we had a long casual conversation with one of the guides, a son of the park superintendent, who said that he lived there his whole life, was intimately involved with the park, forever, and was concerned that he would pass the test.
Out guide pointed out the fact the Marquis de’ Lafayette had been hosted in a particular house. She referred to him as Washington’s right hand man. I looked at the sign on the house and it turned out that the house belonged to Timothy Ford, Jacob Ford’s son from Morristown, NJ. Jacob Ford was a wealthy Iron merchant from Morris County who supplied the government during the Revolutionary War with iron. Jacob died in 1777, and Washington rented the house from his widow during the winter and spring of 1799 – 1780. Timothy, 17 at the time, later attended Princeton University became a prominent attorney and built the house in Charleston about 1880. No word on what made a northern, rich, attorney move to Charleston. Possibly he left for the same reason Louise and I are travelling. Warmer weather. Small world, but it explains why Lafayette stayed with Ford. Both of them knew Washington well.
We finished the tour, wandered around in the market district. We had passed by several times, and were unaware that it was there. We asked one of the vendors about a place to eat and he recommended the Brown Dog Deli. This has been the first time in 20+ years that we have been given a bum steer on a place to eat. Front end clerks, chamber maids, cleaning women, fellow passengers, friends, and instinct have led us to wonderful places, but today, not so much.
We found a seat at the Brown Dog, and were met by someone promptly and the waitress arrived shortly thereafter and took our order. We ate in a Charleston deli the day before, so I had an expectation. Wrong! We waited for over 45 minutes until our thin, weak, almost cheese included sandwich on faux rye brad arrived with, nothing!, No pickle, no promise of chips or fries, all for $8.00. After two sodas, a charge for splitting the sandwich and a tip (I attempt to be a decent person, even though I should have stiffed the waitress) the bill came to $16. East Bay Deli was way better. We shouldn’t have wasted our time. Fortunately there was a hot dog stand up the street, near a park, where I got an excellent hot dog with all the fixings and apologized to the owner for not being smarter. He sheepishly admitted he had been to the Brown Dog once, and then just smiled. Classy Guy.
We had some time until the ride back to the park arrived, so we decided to take in the Gibbes Museum for $14, a nice, small, museum concentrating on either local artists or artists that painted something locally. There was a tour with a local ‘famous’ artist, who at the start of the presentation said that he was a better painter than he was an art historian. And he spoke the truth. We skipped out on the presentation, as it was mostly read from books and very dreary. When he spoke offhand about the style, the emotion, and how the artist interpreted the subject of the painting we was brilliant, unfortunately, he didn.t trust himself. The artist and the museum docent did credit to any teacher teaching. Preparation does make a difference. Trust yourself and be audacious and fearless when explaining what you love and you will wow them.
We walked back to the Charleston Visitor Center, caught up on the world events, and hopped on to the bus. The driver, Stu, saw our license plates back at the Park, and asked us where we were from, and when we told him, he said that he was from Chester, NJ and retired and moved to full time RV’ing. We have an acquaintance in common. Lou Case. It never ends to surprise me that the world is such a small place.
It was very nice to get back to where we were staying before it was dark. I fixed the water supply so there were no leaks, put the stabilizers in to cut down on the sway and worked on pictures and writing. We had a great chicken dinner and relaxed a great day. On to Jacksonville tomorrow.