You Always Want What You Don’t Have
Hilton Head & Charleston, S.C.
Free Cheese, A Little Whine and Sticky Fingers
Charleston turned out to be a lovely place. We arrived after a two-hour drive from Hilton Head (I don’t know where Anne’s parents got four hours). It was pretty easy to get around the Historic District. It helped that I had looked at a map ahead of time and familiarized myself with the main streets, named King Street, Meeting Street, East Bay Street and Calhoun Street. Our hotel was the Renaissance Inn on Wentworth Street. I hadn’t been able to find any information on hostels in Charleston (there don’t seem to be any) and the only reason we were able to afford to stay in this hotel was because a friend who works for Marriott had gotten us an employee rate. Everyone there was very nice. The entire staff seemed to be about 20 years old. The only tiny complaint we had was that our room was right next to the icemaker, which sounded like a brick dispenser at four in the morning. Compared with staying in our usual cheap-as-possible hostel or B&B, however, this was luxury reserved for royalty.
After settling ourselves in to our room, it was time to go exploring. We arbitrarily decided to turn right and see where that would lead us. At that end of our block was King Street, which has the familiar American landscape of a mall, complete with Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Brookstone and the Gap, as well as the myriad of other typical shopping mall denizens. King Street is very prettily paved with red brick, obviously from a very recent renovation. The mall shops are interspersed here and there with stores hawking wares of local interest. At the upper end of the street, towards town, we found a number of nice-looking restaurants. Most of them proved to be a tad pricey, so we were grateful that they all have their menus posted prominently outside for our perusal.
The other end of our block met up with Meeting Street. There are a number of great restaurants and fewer shops here. Our journeys on this particular day took us to Sticky Fingers. Yes, I know it’s a chain, but some friends had given us a bottle of their barbecue sauce and since trying it, my wife had to have some of their ribs (which were terrific, by the way).
We spent the evening roaming around the city. My wife has taken up the hobby of collecting shampoos from different hotels. Not just the ones we stay in, mind you, but as many hotels as we can find. She and I will wander into a nice hotel and take the elevator up to one of the floors. When she sees a cleaning lady, she’ll ask for a couple of extra of those tiny little bottles of shampoo they put in your room. She tells them that the one in “our room” isn’t enough since she has so much hair (she really does have a lot of hair). The cleaning ladies are only too happy to help out, and we leave with handfuls of shampoo and conditioner. It’s a great ploy to use if you’re out of shampoo!
An additional thing we enjoyed about Charleston was the fact that we had apparently arrived for Wine and Cheese Day. Every hotel we went into had wine, cheese and crackers out for the hotel guests to try, and wine shops and restaurants had waiters out front with trays of samples! As experienced as we were at posing as guests, we were able to have a wonderful evening in several beautiful hotel lobbies, feasting on wine and cheese!
We wandered up Meeting Street until we got tired and started heading back to the hotel. On the way we passed the Outdoor Store and ducked in for a minute just to check out the hiking gear. How surprised was I when two seconds after walking in the clerk behind the counter offered me a beer! “Sure!” I exclaimed cheerily. If there’s anything I’ve learned in my travels, it’s to happily accept anything that is offered to you. It turns out that they were having their one-year anniversary party and were celebrating with beer, wine, desserts, cheese, cookies and various other delicacies for all their guests, and we were fortunate enough to find them during the festivities! I was really starting to like Charleston, especially with all the free food and drink being tossed about!
We were still tired from traveling so we turned in early, but stayed up till two watching TV. TV in bed is one of my wife’s weaknesses. At last we dropped off to sleep, only to be woken up a couple hours later by the loudest woman I have ever heard. She walked off the elevator cackling with some of her cronies, and then proceeded to shout after them in a nasty white-trash sort of accent down the hall until all her friends had all closed the doors to their rooms, presumably in embarrassment. After recovering from that trauma, we again drifted off to sleep, only to be awakened again a short time later, this time by the brick-o-matic in the next room. Those things aside, we slept the sweet sleep of the innocent all night, and most of the morning, interrupted only occasionally by those needing the clattering ice next door.