4 Days in the South (Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia) (Episode 24)
Marilyn and Matt finally visited their friend, Vinny, who lives in Charleston, South Carolina! While there, the two explored the city of Charleston and even took a day trip to Savannah, Georgia. As two New Yorkers, this was a bit out of their comfort zone, but they loved every second of it!
In this episode, they discussed:
- Where they found $140 roundtrip tickets
- How they found a cheap car to rent and why renting a car is so important in exploring the USA
- Eating ALL the food, like fried okra, collard greens, grits, biscuits, she crab soup, and barbeque
- Exploring Magnolia Plantation and stumbling upon an unexpected alligator!
- Gorgeous views at Folly Beach, even in the freezing cold
- Outstanding barbeque from a restaurant featured on Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations with Andrew Zimmern
- Wandering around Savannah, discovering it's so small, but when walking in circles, it doesn't feel like that
- FREE bus service in Savannah, Georgia
- River Street and the greatest sweets they've ever had: pralines!
- A somber yet beautiful cemetery
- The monstrous and dreamy homes in Charleston
- The worst place to eat in Charleston, SC
- Colorful and captivating buildings on Rainbow Row, Broad Street, and East Bay Street
- The nightlife on King Street
- Super Bowl Sunday in Charleston
- The absolute best movie to watch on Netflix
Thank you all for reading/listening! If you'd like some extra information or to see some pictures from our adventures, check out the blog post below!
Wine: Citra - Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy)
One of our friends from college, Vinny, moved to Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago. We'd always wanted to go and visit our friend and explore the city-- and we finally did it! We flew from New York and were there from February 1st to the 5th.
First, we found an excellent deal on Skyscanner in their flight deals section. We found roundtrip tickets to Charleston for $140 each. Not bad! So, we decided to take the deal and go!
Before going to Charleston, we reserved a rental car for the five days that we'd be there, so when we arrived at the airport, the first thing we did was get the keys to our new ride! ...Nothing fancy, though. Quite the contrary. It was a compact Yaris! But, whatever. It did the job for us and it was the cheapest option-- $135 for five days!
Travel tip for the USA: rent a car in most places. Public transportation tends to be rare in the USA, so renting a car is most likely your best option to get around. Charleston is no exception!
One great positive of driving in a compact car in the South: you save a lot in gas! The gas is cheaper there and the compact car uses less gas! Altogether, we ended up paying $22 in gas and we drove a lot!
(5:00) Just like our road trip through Ireland, I ended up driving the entire time. But, that's fine with me! Our first stop was one of the many places we'd researched to eat at: The Early Bird Diner. While there, we ordered some yummy food! Matt got eggs, bacon, and a biscuit. I got the food item called "The Mess" (so perfect for me), which had eggs, potatoes, onions, and other good stuff! It also came with a buttered biscuit, which was just to die for! We also ordered two sides to share: fried okra and collard greens. Both food items are food staples in the South. However, we both did not enjoy the collard greens! The fried okra, however, we realized we could have every day it was so good! The Early Bird Diner was a great place to eat-- the food, staff, ambiance, and service were all delightful!
Since our friend would we working late, we decided to instantly enjoy the day and explore the city on our own! After we were filled with hearty food, we drove about 30 minutes or so to the Magnolia Plantation. Magnolia Plantation is a popular tourist attraction in Charleston, SC and is the city's most visited plantation.
It cost us $20 each to get in. Bummer, I know, but we like to think that that expense was worth it in the end. We waltzed around the gorgeous grounds of the plantation, admired the gardens, and stared off over the rice field, which looked more like a majestic swamp. Our favorite things there were the old trees draped in Spanish moss. They were just stunning!
Even though we went in February, we still enjoyed ourselves because it was beautiful out! It was a solid 65°F, which was a nice break from the 30°F in New York!
(8:25) Throughout the gardens, there were signs that gave warning about alligators. Naturally, we were a little worried, but it didn't seem like they really would be around, since there were other people there, too. But, as it turns out, we were wrong.
We climbed up this observation deck and while admiring the rice field, Matt suddenly pointed out an alligator! It was about 20 feet or so from the bottom of the observation deck, sleeping in the long grass across the water. It was our first ever wild alligator, so we were pretty amazed and slightly terrified, to say the least! I guess those signs everywhere were rightfully placed, huh?
Matt made a hilarious observation during that moment: alligators are like dinosaurs! What an accurate observation!
Once we came down from the observation deck, that was when we noticed just how close it was to us. We were aware that alligators swim and run quickly, so we made sure to watch the alligator from over our shoulders as we scurried away!
(11:02) Since the plantation was closing, we made our way back to the car. On the way, we discovered some interesting things in the garden, like bamboo and adorable white bridges!
We drove to Folly Beach, which was about 35 minutes away by car. That wasn't a problem for us, since we had nowhere else to be! So, off we went!
We wandered a bit on the beach and on the pier, caught a bit of the mesmerizing sunset, then went back to the car. It was much colder by the water than it was on the plantation! We needed our coats!
(12:20) After that, we went on a hunt to satisfy our growing hunger! We went to King Street, which is a popular street in Charleston. We parked our car in a parking garage since parking on the street is near impossible, then walked around the street. However, as it turned out, a lot of the places we were seeing we way out of our price range! I mean, we saw a hamburger somewhere for $32! Insane!
We didn't search very hard, to be honest. We only walked for about 5 or 6 blocks, but nothing seemed to suit us. Matt looked up a few of the other places we wanted to eat at on his phone and found that Melvin's Barbeque was just a 10 minute drive from where we were, so we almost ran back to the car and sped there!
Melvin's Barbeque is a popular place to eat in Charleston. It was even in an episode of Bizarre Foods Delicious Destinations with Andrew Zimmern! When you go there, you have three options: dine in, take out, or drive-thru! Yes, we know drive-thru is associated with fast food crap. But, that's not the case here. Melvin's has authentic meat that's been slow roasted in their outdoor barbeque for hours.
We ordered two platters, which both came with a type of meat (Matt got pork chopped pork and I got Texas-style prime beef brisket), cornbread, and two sides (we both got coleslaw and salad). ...It was to die for, y'all.
Matt and I agreed that my meat was the better of the two, but his was good, too! We shared, of course. His platter was $13 and mine was $17. If you're ever near Charleston, head to Mount Pleasant and eat there! Order the fatty Texas-style prime beef brisket! Be sure to slather it in their famous mustard sauce as well. You won't regret it!
After we stuffed ourselves, we finally headed to our friend's apartment. We waited for our friend to come home from work, chatted a bit, then crashed hard. Not only did we explore all day, but we also were running on just 3 hours of sleep!
(17:22) Our friend was working the entire day on our second day there (it was a Friday), so we decided it was the perfect opportunity for a day trip to Savannah, Georgia! We'd heard such great things about it and figured the two and a half hour drive there would be worth it.
When we got there, we parked in a parking garage (just like Charleston, it's impossible to park in the street) and walked right next door to our first stomach-influenced destination: Henry's Restaurant. It's a popular and cheap place to eat in Savannah, so we thought it would be an excellent place to grab some lunch!
We both got grilled catfish with eggs, grits, and a salad, which was all delectable! It was also Matt's first time eating grits, which he was pleasantly surprised about! For those who don't know, grits is a food staple in the South of the USA and is made with coarsely ground corn kernels and water or milk. That's it! It can be a little bland, but slap a little butter and salt on there, and it'll be even better!
(19:24) After stuffing ourselves, we realized we needed a bit of a boost to wake us up. We headed down the street to The Coffee Fox, which is well-known for its killer brews (of coffee) and decor. We sipped on some espressos, admired the decor, and watched the passersby on the sidewalk right outside the window. This was where we first realized Savannah's potential.
Then, we walked towards the "Historical District," which turned out to be a much larger area than we imagined and we'd been in it the entire time! Specifically, though, we were looking for the gorgeous antebellum homes. However, after walking around and using Google maps, we never really found them! Eventually, we gave in and asked for some help in the tourist center, which is something we almost never do.
We talked with a clerk there who was very friendly, sweet, and full of information! As much as we appreciated her kindness and wisdom, we were also a bit irritated that she gave us tons of info we didn't need or want. We were running low on time and just wanted to see the houses, dang it!
This was one of the times we experienced a difference between people in the North and the South. In the South, they tend to speak slower, be more laid back overall, and be more friendly and pleasant. In the North, that's not the case! This woman was speaking slowly and taking her time giving us tons of information, but she was also really friendly!
(22:13) Afterwards, we started walking toward River Street, but we wanted to go see the homes, which were in the opposite direction, according to the scribbled on map the lady gave us at the tourist center. We walked for a while and realized that we were on the same streets we'd been walking on earlier! We even walked past The Coffee Fox!
We sort of found the houses, which we think now just happen to be pretty much everywhere in the historical district. While searching, we did stumble upon another place we'd wanted to go called the Forsyth Park. The lady from the tourist office compared it to Central Park in New York City, but... she clearly has never been to Central Park because it was nothing like that! There was a cute fountain and some glorious trees with Spanish Moss, but that was about it. It wasn't anything particularly special.
Since we'd walked around so much before, we didn't want to walk all the way across the city to get to River Street. Instead, we chose to take the free shuttle bus service, which is called Dot. Yes, you read that right: free. There's the blue line and the purple line. These two bus lines travel in rectangle-shaped routes around the historical district of Georgia. We highly recommend taking these because the stops are everywhere, the buses come often, and they're free! Did I mention that?
We hopped on one of those buses and took it all the way to River Street, which--you guessed it!--is a street along the river. It's along the Savannah River, to be exact. We walked along the street and instantly loved it! The street was cobblestone, there were tons of cute shops, restaurants, and bars, and there was even a river boat docked!
(24:58) We wandered into River Street Sweets, which the lady at the tourist center said had the best pralines in Savannah. Pralines are a sweet concoction made with nuts, sugar, and occasionally cream. That's it! We'd never had them before, but were keen on trying them. Being that we're on a special diet where we can't eat any carbs or sugars, we just wanted a taste of the delectable delights. Luckily, they had free samples at the door! We tried two: vanilla, then chocolate. They were both jaw-dropping. I mean it! Both of us were at a loss of words for a minute because the samples were so divine! No wonder the shop was filled with people and their cash registers were constantly dinging!
After satisfying our sweet tooth, we waltzed along the street a little bit, just admiring the view. Considering it was getting colder and darker, we thought we'd leave, get our car out of the parking garage where we left it, and head to our next destination: Bonaventure Cemetery.
(26:20) We drove for about twenty minutes to the cemetery, then drove slowly through it. It was an old and gorgeous cemetery, stationed on a scenic bluff on the Wilmington River. It's actually over 170 years old, which is fascinating! We could tell just by waltzing around the cemetery a bit and admiring the various and intricate gravestones.
(27:22) We left the cemetery at 5:00, which is its closing time, and drove to a nearby Starbucks and grocery store for both coffee and snacks for the road! After fueling up our tummies, we drove back to Charleston for yet another two and a half hours or so. One our way back, we filled up our gas tank and it only came to $18! Amazing! What a world of a difference from the North of the USA and even in Ireland!
On our way back, we went to the grocery store and picked up some food to save some money by making food at our friend's apartment rather than going out. We ate, then waited for our friend to get off from work. He got back around 11 and instead of going out on the town like we planned, we all voted to just go buy some wine (surprise!) and hang out at Vinny's apartment.
While making our way back from the grocery store (yeah, they sell wine in grocery stores in the South!), we drove around and gawked at some gigantic homes. They were all humungous, especially since most of the bottom floors were just stilts for flooding. All of these homes were unique, too. Not one was the same as another, which is rare to find in the North of the US.
(29:30) After our mini-tour, we headed back to Vinny's apartment and drank a magnum of wine (1.5 liters)! We ended up staying up until almost 4 AM, then crashed hard.
(29:48) Our friend had work at 5PM, which meant we had the whole day with him. Hooray! We stuck to Charleston that day. Around 12, we left to get some brunch at a place called Toast! which was on Meeting Street. Meeting Street is also a popular street in Charleston and is parallel to King Street. This restaurant was recommended by our friend, Vinny, who is also a foodie like us, so we naturally trusted his word!
When we got there, it was packed! We put our name down, then the staff told us it would be about a 15-20 minute wait. That was no problem for us, so we ended up walking to the City Market, which is another popular touristy place in Charleston. However, we don't understand why because it was a market with pretty generic things, but we're also not really into markets like that. If you're into that, then you would enjoy it!
After about 17 minutes, we walked back to the restaurant. They told us that there were only two people ahead of us and it wouldn't be much longer. We waited inside, right in front of the front desk, because it was too cold for us to wait outside. We waited....and waited...and waited. They kept letting other people go in front of us! For example, this one woman just came in off the street and, because she was pregnant, she had to be sat before us! What a load of crap! In New York and most of the North, that kind of crap would absolutely not fly! We were not happy about that, since we'd been waiting for 45 minutes at that point and that lady didn't wait at all!
(32:00) Eventually, we were sat after waiting about an hour for our table. The waiter took our order, but messed up quite a bit. First, we all wanted soup: two bowls and a cup. He only brought one cup and one bowl. The, he brought the soups with our meals. Matt and I both got surf and turf, which was steak, eggs, shrimp, and grits. We were excited for those, but, our meals were cold! I mean, really cold. The eggs were both cold and hard. So disappointing. If they were warm, we think they'd have been good, but they were so cold! We were extremely bummed, but none of us are the type of people to complain at restaurants, so we just kept our mouths shut and ate.
However, I will say that the soup was delicious! We got she-crab soup, which is also a food item to try in Charleston! It's a creamy soup with crab. Obviously, it was delicious!
We were all incredibly disappointed by the entire experience, except for the soup. So, we do not recommend that restaurant if you go! It put a downer on the rest of the day. We wasted so much time there, that our friend had to leave to get ready for work. Luckily we drove separately, so Matt and I stayed to wander around.
(34:32) Another place we wanted to see was Rainbow Row, which is just a line of colorful homes on East Bay Street. We visited just a small section of that and just thought that it was okay. Just a few pretty buildings.
We then walked along Broad Street and thought that it was more beautiful than Rainbow Row!
(35:03) Next, we hopped in the car and drove farther down East Bay Street to Battery Park. That area had some seriously nice houses! Each one was unique, gargantuan, and absolutely gorgeous. The park was alright. It was on the water, which did make it nicer! But, the houses were really pretty.
After a little bit, we got back in the car and drove around a little bit. We went back to Vinny's apartment to make some dinner for ourselves. While at the grocery story, picking up some grub, we made sure to stop at the liquor store. Apparently, the liquor stores there close at 7PM! That's early for us, since liquor stores in New York don't usually close until 9 or 10PM. Quite the adjustment for us!
(37:22) Even though our friend came back at around 11PM again that night, it was Saturday and we knew we wanted to experience the nightlife. No more staying in! So, we drank lots of alcohol and hopped in an Uber to King Street!
On Thursday (day 1 of our trip), we went to King Street, but weren't enthralled by it because it was not lively whatsoever. However, on Saturday night, it was a totally different story. There were people everywhere! There were tons of clubs and bars open and bumpin'! We couldn't wait to dive right into that scene!
The first bar we went to was Prohibition. It's a popular bar there and one of our friend Vinny's favorites! It's prohibition themed and has a dance floor with a DJ. It was really cool in there! We enjoyed ourselves. We left there at around 1AM because our friend told us all of the bars close at 2AM there! BUMMER.
(38:30) We walked out of Prohibition, wandered a couple of blocks over, and went to another bar called Republic. It was very different from the previous bar. It looked fancy inside, but also had a DJ. However, the DJ was playing hip-hop music, so we went to the outdoor area. It was cold outside, but they had heaters outside so we were perfectly content just sitting on some couches outside!
Then, just as our friend warned us, the bar closed at 2AM. We walked around, trying to find another bar that was opened, but they all were closed! How lame! We were so bummed. We tried to find another place to go, but nothing was opened except on strip club that apparently was very dingy. So, we took a cab back to Vinny's. We didn't have much of a choice!
(40:56) That morning, we woke up a bit late, naturally. And, surprise-- it was Super Bowl Sunday! We didn't plan to be there during the Super Bowl at all. It just happened to be one of the days we were there!
We originally wanted to go out to a bar and hang out there to watch it, but we were all so lazy that we decided to just stay at Vinny's apartment. We did, however, go to the supermarket to pick up some wings to make and other good Super Bowl grub! The Super Bowl didn't start until 6:30PM, though, so we decided to wait until it was almost time to get the food and cook. For several hours, we watched a lot of TV. No regrets!
Huge lazy day tip: watch "Zombeavers" on Netflix. It is such a poorly made horror film, but it's absolutely hysterical! We were peeing our pants laughing! If you are ever in the mood for a B movie and to laugh the entire time, you have to watch it!
(43:37) After watching lots of TV, we finally went to the supermarket to gather our goodies for the Super Bowl! We got frozen wings (they were unsurprisingly out of fresh ones), some stuff for a giant taco bowl, and mini weenies!
Frozen wings tip: just put them under running cold water for 20 minutes and they'll be ready to go! That's what we did and they came out perfect!
So much food, football, and drinks with great friends. It was such a perfect way to spend our last night in Charleston.
(45:30) Vinny left for work early in the morning. We said goodby to him, then slept just a bit longer, then got up at 7:30. We packed our nonsense, got ready, and got in the rental car. We topped it off for a measly $4! Exquisite! Then, headed to the airport to drop off the car, which we did with no problems. Next, we jumped on our plane and returned to the brutal cold of New York.
After landing at JFK, we needed to get from the airport (located in the borough of Queens) to where Matt lives (located in the borough of Staten Island). Both of these places are located in New York City, so you would think that taking an Uber from one of these places to the other wouldn't be that expensive, right?
Wrong. We had to shell out $100 to get from the airport to Matt's house! Insane. I mean, we spent $140 each roundtrip to Charleston, SC! Who makes up these freakin' prices and gets away with it?!
And no, we couldn't have taken public transportation. We would've had to take all of the modes of public transport and it would take hours to get back. Oh, and would end up costing almost the same as the Uber ride. Absurd. How does anyone get afford anything in that city?
Overall thoughts on the South of the USA: We both liked it a lot! People were so friendly, and that made our experience far more enjoyable than if they weren't. For example, even people at the grocery store were exceptional friendly and genuinely curious about you and your life. They would be so kind-hearted and even ask you what you were doing that night. How kind! Hardly anyone is like that in New York.
If I (Marilyn) had to pick which of the two cities we went to were my favorite, I would pick Savannah. It's a smaller city, it's easier to get around, there's a lot to do, and it's beautiful. Charleston is great too, but I don't like that the city is so big. I mean, it's 156 square miles! That's quite large.
Matt agreed that he preferred Savannah to Charleston, too. But, then again, we did spend more time in Charleston than we did in Savannah, so it's hard to say for sure which place is better.
Have you ever been to Charleston or Savannah? What did you like or dislike about it/them? Have you visited any other great places in South Carolina and/or Georgia?
Thank you so much for reading/listening! Cheers and happy travels, friends!
Wine: Citra - Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Italy)