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  • Writer's pictureKen Murray

Charleston's French Quarter and the Battery, and a Whole Lot of Walking

Day 2 - Exploring the French Quarter and the Battery

Our first full day in Charleston started early with a 9:00am horse carriage ride by Old South Carriage Company. There were about 12 tourists in the carriage and our horse, Rebel, began taking us through the French Quarter. We then toured The Battery, with it's massive, Antebellum mansions overlooking the bay. The tour guide was excellent, giving us both history and perspective on Charleston of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries as it became one of the wealthiest cities in the world. We toured for one hour and identified sites and locations we wanted to walk back to see in detail.

Our next stop was a slow walk and browse through the Historic Charleston City Market. The market is full of stalls of merchants and craftsmen and women selling jewelry, clothing, knickknacks, and famous, beautiful sweetgrass baskets. Shelly was interested in the baskets, but did not buy any.

We then walked to the Joe Riley Waterfront Park. The first site we saw was the famous Pineapple Fountain. The fountain and park is beautifully situated along the waterfront, and is full of oak and palmetto trees that provide significant shade.

A tour of the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon was next. Previously a meeting place for local Patriots, the Exchange in 1788 hosted South Carolina leaders as they debated and approved the U. S. Constitution. Today, the Old Exchange Building is one of only four structures remaining where the nation’s founding document was originally ratified. Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the Exchange was Charleston’s most common destination for public slave auctions, making the site one of the most important in the history of the domestic slave trade.

One mistake we made was not making reservations for lunch. Restaurants were incredibly crowded all week. Fortunately we found seats at the bar at Millers All Day. Shelly had tomato soup and grilled cheese, Ken had chicken salad on a homemade croissant, and Kate had chicken salad on sourdough. All meals were delicious.

The tours after lunch started with the Old Slave Mart Museum. It is Charleston’s oldest museum of African American history and the first museum on the history of slavery in the United States. We learned about the slave trade (40% of enslaved people in the United States came through the port of Charleston). It's a dark and necessary history to learn from. Photographs were not allowed in this museum, but here's a photo of the building:

We then walked to Rainbow Row, a row of pastel-colored historic homes located on East Bay Street, just along the Battery. The houses were attractive, but a bit of a let-down. The tree-lined street made it difficult to see the houses and take photographs.

The Battery was our next stop and was very cool. We walked the streets along the waterfront and through the neighborhood comprised of huge and historic Antebellum mansions. These were the homes of the ultra-rich plantation and land owners, traders, governors, and others in high-society Charleston. The beauty was dampened a bit when we realized that enslaved people were the ones who built and serviced these homes.

The Nathaniel Russell House is in The Battery and offers a glimpse into the lives of the mercantile elite who flourished in the late Colonial and early Federal period, the artisans and craftspeople they hired to build and adorn their opulent homes, and the enslaved men and women whose forced labor made possible their lavish lifestyles. I did not take photographs of the house or inside.

The last stop of the day was to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist. The cornerstone of this was laid for the first Roman Catholic cathedral at the present site on July 30, 1850. Unfortunately, the cathedral was closed for cleaning and we could not enter.

Here are some photos of our walk to dinner:

We then walked to Poogan's Smokehouse for an early dinner. We were still a bit full from lunch, but we had to have some BBQ. Kate had pork, chicken and sausage sliders and potato salad, and Ken and Shelly shared pulled pork with potato salad and mac and cheese. Our meals were very good and satisfied our need for some BBQ.

Our day of touring was done and we headed back to the Airbnb for rest and relaxation, and an evening of chat. We logged about 6 miles of walking. It was a very enjoyable day and evening, and we reviewed Wanderlog to check our itinerary for tomorrow.

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