As soon as I saw they offer horse drawn carriage rides in Charleston, there was no need to review other options, as this would be top of Judi’s wish list. Billed as a carriage ride around historic downtown Charleston led by an informative guide, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Having just spent 2 days in New York City this was the perfect contrast, a quiet and laid back city, where the residents are renowned as being the friendliest in the United States.
On disembarking Sea Princess we were led ashore to the parking lot, where the horses and carriages awaited our arrival.
This was our carriage and guide, which we boarded once they manoeuvred alongside the loading steps. It was a tight fit, with four rows of four for a total of 16 pax in each carriage. The guide was amazing, providing a constant steam of information in his unmistakable Southern drawl. Once loaded, we departed the parking lot for a circuitous route through downtown and then right on E Bay Street. They have numerous routes to minimise the impact on traffic, so it looks like we are heading to the mega homes of Battery Park.
Proceeding out to Battery Park along one of the many tree lined streets.
House next to Rainbow Row on E Bay Street that is well shaded by flowering trees. I will provide a description of Rainbow Row houses later, during my subsequent walking tour of downtown.
One of the many tree lined and cobble stoned side streets off E Bay Street
At the end of E Bay Street we entered multi-millionaire row, which has waterfront views over the seawall promenade to Charleston Bay. Being on the left side of the carriage I didn’t have a good view of the large and stately homes, so I will present them later during my walking tour. We continued until reaching Battery Park and then turned back towards downtown along Meeting Street.
Meandering slowly along tree lined Meeting Street, where we stopped in front of many homes for the guide to provide the historic information relevant to the home.
One of the more expensive homes on Meeting Street as we returned towards downtown.
The first Protestant Church, which is one of many downtown churches.
Another cobble stoned and tree lined side street in downtown.
Intricate iron railing on one of the homes.
On completion of the tour he initially returned to the ship, where we had the option to disembark or stay aboard for the journey to their stable. Approaching the stable, the guide advised regarding the medical checks given to the horses at the start of the da,y and the metrics they use to ensure they are sufficiently healthy to work. He also explained the work/rest ratio, three weeks of 5 days a week working, followed by a week of grazing at the farm. During the day they get water between each ride for at least 15 minutes to a 1/2 hr.
We still had about 6 hours left in Charleston and I was interested in re-walking the tour route and some additional streets, while Judi was interested in the shops, as her back wouldn’t survive a 3 hour walk at a fairly good pace. So we split up, agreeing to meet back on the ship before 15:00. I headed back down to E Bay Street, which closer to the ship has many small cafes, restaurants and pubs.
This is a shop I found appealing, seats in the shade, with refreshments provided, while the boss is out shopping.
Another of my favourite stores, an old Brewery. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring a wallet, so had no funds to sample some of their wares. The next street to the left headed down to the waterfront, with a spray park and fishing pier.
Tree lined park running parallel to the sea wall promenade. This is a really peaceful spot to come and spend a few hours with a picnic.
Spray park and wading pool at the end of the street heading down from E Bay Street, which is also the entry to the fishing pier ahead of Sea Princess.
Sea Princess alongside her berth from the adjacent fishing pier. Having spent a few minutes exploring the waterfront, I returned back up to E Bay Street and headed for multi-millionaire row and Battery Park.
An array of vivid coloured houses on a cobble stoned side street heading from E Bay Street down to the waterfront.
This is actually a new block of apartments, which local building codes require to blend in with the existing architecture. Therefore, the historic downtown area has no modern looking buildings.
This is a row of homes known as Rainbow Row, which stretch from 83 to 105 East Bay Street. This is the largest cluster of intact Georgian homes in the United States, which were built in 1680 and based on the then current city plan of 1670 to 1680. The buildings faced the many warehouses along the banks of the Cooper River and initially served as shops and homes for notable merchants and planters. They also fronted the Eastern portion of the city wall, which was constructed in 1704. A number of the original homes were damaged or destroyed by fire, with the current structures built between 1720 and 1790. Further damage was sustained from artillery fire during the War between the States. The War and decades of neglect resulted in the homes being reduced to little more than slums. To prevent their demolition, Susan Pringle Frost founder of the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, purchased a number of buildings in the 1920’s. The name “Rainbow Row” appeared as the homes were renovated in the 1930’s and 40’s and painted in the current pastel colours.
Multiple apartments on E Bay Street with one of the carriages stopped while the guide provides an explanation.
The home of Thomas Smith, a planter, merchant and surgeon, who arrived in Charleston in 1684, eventually serving as Governor of Carolina from 1693 – 1694.
Looking along the sea wall promenade, with multi-million dollar waterfront homes on the other side of the road with spectacular views of Charleston Bay.
One of the smaller mega-million waterfront homes.
Add a few more zeros to the price of this 3-storey beautiful home.
As I walked along the street the homes kept increasing in size and obviously value. I heard a guide quote $10 million as the list price on one of the smaller homes.
Cannons of Battery Park protecting the city from water based attack. On departing the park, I retraced the tour along Meeting Street, which also has some mega homes.
One of the largest homes on Meeting Street, but like the others did not have any historical information.
An older home with intricate iron railings.
Gas lamps, which are a common sight as street lights and are also found at the door to many homes. Our guide advised they are always lit, as the gas burned is cheaper than employing a lamp lighter.
Calhoun Mansion, which dates from 1876 and is Charleston’s largest private residence, although the house is also operated as a museum (Calhounmansion.net)
Getting closer to downtown the homes became more modest in size, although more were adorned with historical information boards on the front of the house.
This is one of the red paver block streets leading between Meeting Street and E Bay Street that has older more modest homes.
Each one of these homes was listed and had a historical information board. Returning back to downtown I passed the church and US Post Office and Court Building, as seen below.
Heading out of town I spotted this church, so headed in that direction.
St John the Baptist Cathedral.
I continued meandering through a number of street on the opposite side of downtown from the mega homes and Battery Park. They contained much more modest homes, but even a fixer-upper was listed for about $500K.
An example of a more modest row of homes in historic downtown Charleston. I continued for another hour, returning to the ship shortly after 14:00, when I headed to the Horizon Court for a good sized plate of refreshing fresh melon, cantaloupe and pineapple.
Judi wandered through the market place picking up a few souvenirs, found a Hagen-Daz store, had lunch in the Irish Pub then headed to the grocery store at the edge of downtown. With her back complaining bitterly, she elected for a taxi ride, rather than walking back to the ship.
In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Charleston; wow, what an extremely pleasant change from the hustle, bustle, filth and noise of our previous port NYC. The general consensus aboard the ship is that the residents are amazing, super friendly, with that typically welcoming southern drawl. On departing the port, the first thing we noted was the cleanliness, everything was clean and well maintained, there was no smell and all gardens, trees and shrubs were well tended. It is little wonder that Charleston routinely wins the designation as America’s most friendly city.
It’s a good drive from Vancouver, but we will be back some day with the RV.