But the locals have a much more poetic expression for the city’s irresistibility: trouvailee. An old-Frenchism, the term means “something lovely found by chance”. And that is Charleston in a word — almost 350 years old and still defined, and redefined, by the thrill of the surprise.
— Jessica Mischner for Southern Living
Get ready for a long, photo-heavy post! Last week I shared a few pictures, but this post has more photos and all the details from where we stayed, to what we ate, to what I’d skip next time around.
Before we get started, I will say that we planned on a walking weekend (with Uber/Lyft in our back pocket as a “just in case our feet are about to fall off” option). When I was choosing where to stay and thinking about what we should do while in Charleston that was a major factor. Some of the best parts of our trip were the inbetweens, the little things we saw walking from place to place. So keep that in mind and let’s think of this as a walking weekend guide.
Friday: ~3 miles walking
We headed to Charleston on Friday, leaving in the morning and getting in around lunchtime. We booked the cutest little Airbnb in historic Harleston Village. It had giant windows and lots of historic home quirks (like window air conditioning units and doors that didn’t completely close), plus a huge porch that was perfect for happy hour. Plus, it was in the perfect spot for our plans — you could set out, visit a different neighborhood, and get back for a rest in a 3 mile loop.
After checking in and dropping off our luggage, we headed in the direction of Persimmon Café, a little restaurant that actually shares its building with a laundromat. Sounds a little ridiculous, but I liked the vibe. My mom ordered the Zucchini Melt (grilled zucchini, fontina cheese, red onions, and a pistachio pistou), which surprised me by actually being tasty (I’m a picky eater, you know). My sister ordered the Roasted Chicken sandwich (shredded chicken, smoked Gouda cheese, garlic mayo, and caramelized onions), which was yummy. And I got the Adult Grilled Cheese (smoked Gouda, green apple, prosciutto, and cheddar), which was so good. And I actually saw them slicing the apple and the cheeses for my sandwich, which is always a good sign. We each tried a bite or two of all of the sandwiches and I would recommend them all! We also all got a Rosemary Lemon Iced Tea, which was refreshing after being in the car for hours.
From there, we wandered. I did some major planning before the trip, but it was important to me that we stay flexible and play it by ear. So Friday afternoon was all about getting our bearings and working on ideas for the rest of the weekend.
I was immediately taken by all of the beautiful houses and all of the greenery — my sister has since commented on how green my Instagram posts of Charleston have been! In addition to all the gorgeous houses we found by accident, we stumbled upon Medical University of South Carolina’s Urban Farm. We walked right in and looked around. It was such a fun find!
We wrapped up the night with a major next-day-planning session with rosé and candles on the porch of our Airbnb. Oh, and a trip back to Persimmon Café for custard. My mom and sister ordered the White Chocolate Cookies and Cream custard, but I went for the Chai Dolce. Both flavors were delicious, but I would call mine the winner!
Saturday: ~8 miles walking
Saturday started bright and early for us. We set out for Lavender Lattes from Black Tap Coffee — they were on everyone’s must-do lists. Lattes in hand, we headed to the Marion Square Farmer’s Market. Along the way, we accidentally happened upon the College of Charleston campus, which was such a lovely surprise! The campus is so pretty. It was crazy to see administration offices in beautiful, old houses. Plus, it was early in the morning and right between the spring and summer semesters, so we had the place to ourselves.
Once we got to the Farmer’s Market, it was all about finding breakfast. We took in all the food options and decided on waffles on a stick. They were as fun as they sound, topped with syrup and a dusting of powdered sugar!
After breakfast, we checked out the vendors’ booths. As a regular farmer’s market attendee around Atlanta, it was fun to see all of the offerings. Most everything was too expensive and not useful enough to splurge, but we happened upon The Pickle Lady and we were immediately sold! We tried her regular pickles, her pickled beets, and her pickled collard greens — she just shoves samples your way. The collards were a huge winner and we bought a tub to snack on later that night.
Next we headed down and around King Street, working our way toward Xiao Bao Biscuit for lunch. The restaurant was funky and great for people-watching. I wasn’t a fan of my order, the Pad kra pow (Thai style minced beef, beans, Thai chili, and basil over rice with a fried egg) — lots of chili heat, but not much flavor. I did love both of the dishes my mom and my sister picked. Mom got the Som tum with chicken (black bean fried chicken over rice and spicy papaya salad), which was unlike anything I’ve ever tried and was very tasty. My sister ordered the Okonomiyaki (cabbage pancake) with bacon and a fried egg, which was really filling and yummy.
After lunch, we stopped by our Airbnb for a little rest. Once we were re-hydrated and revitalized, we headed south. If you’re looking for giant, gorgeous houses, with impeccably designed and maintained gardens, South of Broad is your neighborhood. All those fancy pictures of Charleston that you see? South of Broad.
We strolled along The Battery and through White Point Garden (which is really more of a park than a garden, if you ask me). Then we looped back around to see Rainbow Row. We happened upon Hazel Parker Playground and paused for a quick swing on the swing set. From there, we kept heading toward Waterfront Park, the Pineapple Fountain, and the pier. It was so nice to be near the water! We’re heading to the beach soon, so it was like a little teaser.
At this point, we were starting to feel like wrapping up the day, so we made our final stop at goat. sheep. cow. Visiting the fromagerie was one of my must-do items for the trip, so we specifically planned to have a cheese board dinner after our full day. (And our tub of Farmer’s Market pickled collard greens was an excellent addition!) We got the help of a member of the goat. sheep. cow. team and ended up bringing home a soft cheese (Brebirousse — so delicious and buttery), a hard cheese (Red Leicester — yummy and different from anything I’ve ever tried), and a salami (Crespone — delicate and garlic-y). We also grabbed an EVO Craft Bakery baguette and a tub of green olives.
Once we got home, we unwrapped our cheeses, poured the wine, and started up a playlist for the evening. It was perfect! Before tucking ourselves into bed, we took a night stroll back to Persimmon Café. We had been planning to order their Strawberry Basil Limeade (there was a sign out front announcing that it was back!), but they were out. Instead we ordered Lemon Berry Coolers, which were so good!
Sunday: ~4 miles walking
After our hefty Saturday schedule, we planned to keep Sunday a little lighter. Our big stop of the day would be the Charleston City Market, with a few little stops added as we went. We wandered in the direction of the market and happened upon The Rise Coffee Bar. The space was beautiful, with marble everywhere, exposed brick, and the best tiling! My mom ordered their Mint to Bee Latte (house-made raw sugar simple syrup infused with fresh mint and paired with wildflower honey, lemon juice, espresso, and your choice of milk) — it was delicious and special! My sister ordered the Vanilla Iced Latte and it was so yummy.
Once we got to the Market, we grabbed breakfast at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit. I ordered the bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit sandwich — always a good choice. But the stars were the Confetti Biscuits that my mom and sister ordered. The icing was just right and you can never go wrong with sprinkles!
We strolled through the Market and headed back out to the pier once we had seen all the booths. We took our previous day’s waterfront route in reverse; it was fun to see everything again!
From there we headed toward The Unitarian Church in Charleston. On the way, we checked out Cabbage Row, which served as the inspiration for Catfish Row in Porgy and Bess — a little anticlimactic, but an interesting detour if you’re in the area. Our visit to the Unitarian Church included a stop inside to check out the beautiful ceiling and stained glass windows, as well as a walk through the cemetery. It was a pretty amazing reminder of how old Charleston really is!
We were getting hungry so we headed back toward our Airbnb and stopped at 60 Bull Café, a place we spotted during our initial wandering session on Friday. It was their window art advertising an all-day mimosa carafe special that really caught our eye! In addition to our mimosas, we ordered the Café Breakfast (two eggs, Geechie Boy grits, and toast with strawberry jam), the Montagu St. Scramble (fresh squash, roasted tomato, basil, mozzarella), and the Bull St. Braised Beef Hash (smoked beef brisket, roasted fingerling potato, pan gravy, caramelized onion, two eggs fried). The portions were reasonably sized and everything, including the mimosa carafe, was yummy!
We decided to take the rest of the evening easy. Around dinner time, we headed out to grab salads at the Queen Street Grocery. We chose to stop in just before closing, get our salads to go, and spend our last night in Charleston relaxing on our porch. My sister ordered the Athena salad (artichoke hearts, olives, cucumber, and feta on mixed greens). My mom ordered the Queen Street salad (goat cheese, walnuts, and green apples on spinach). And I built my own Greek salad. All of the salads came with the house balsamic vinaigrette and they were all delicious!
The next morning, we got up early and headed home. I’ve still got a few bug bites and a leftover sunburn, but it could not have been a more perfect weekend!
Too long, didn’t read? Or looking for must-do’s and skip-its? Here you go!