Travel Photo Friday: Charleston

April 24, 2009

I found this image when I was going through photos a few days ago. It was from our trip to Charleston last April. It's not the typical image that comes to mind when one thinks of Charleston (frilly, southern homes, waterfront parks, azaleas, etc) but it is actually a good way to examine how we like to travel as a family. A nice reminder about why that weekend trip was so enjoyable for all of us.

Here's what usually happens. When we decide to take a trip, I immediately start to do research. I start gobbling up websites, checking out library books (fiction,non-fiction, and childrens books), and talking to others who have been there before. I usually love this stage of information gathering. Adam doesn't and that's a good thing. I sometimes get bogged down in all of the details: the desire to find the "perfect" family accommodations, the best kid friendly spots, etc.When I stay up too late reading travel reviews, he calmly walks me to bed and reminds me that things will be good,even if they aren't "perfect". And he's right.

I was becoming increasingly frustrated because I couldn't get a hotel reservation for that particular weekend. I had read that the visitor's center provided a room finding service (hotels update them with daily cancellations and availability). Adam suggested that we just take a chance and head to Charleston without a reservation in hopes of finding one through the visitor's center (we were within driving distance so we could have just turned the day into a long day trip). I reluctantly agreed (had this image in my head of a long weekend escape, not just a day trip). We got lucky. When we arrived, we headed straight to the visitor's center and got one of the last available rooms in the historic district. We checked in, parked our van, and spent the next two days exploring by foot and trolley.

Once I do all of my initial research, I usually make a list of things that sound appealing but I don't make a formal itinerary. It just never works for us. Our first day in Charleston is a good example of our preference for soaking up a new place by wandering. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We headed out of the hotel with the idea of having lunch at the Farmer's Market which we had passed on our hunt for the visitor's center. On our walk we discovered King Street which was filled with interesting shops. We had a great lunch at the Farmer's Market complete with kids activities, live Bluegrass music, very tasty, fresh food, and a lively crowd of locals. Feeling energized and revived from our time at the Market, we headed back onto King Street. Hit it a local art supply store, checked out a nice independent book store, admired the cupcake shop across the street, and saw a flyer advertising a local performance that evening of "Frog and Toad". We noted the theatre was within walking distance of our hotel and decided to try the evening show. Headed back to the hotel. Camille took a nap while Adam and Noah toured The Yorktown. We grabbed a quick dinner at a pita place before heading down the street to see the show. And ended the day with some gelato from the shop next to our hotel.

We didn't do any of the typical tourist things that had been highlighted in the books or at the visitor's center (except for the Yorktown). We didn't eat at any of the spectacular restaurants in town. We didn't even make it to the Children's Museum which was across the street from our hotel. We didn't take any of the typical tourist photos (got plenty the next day). Instead we watched our children run and dance with other little ones at the Market, we enjoyed wandering, and we took note of what we saw up and down King Stree
t. Turns out it was the perfect way to enjoy Charleston.
Monna said...

I loved the description of your process of preparing for a trip. I am the travel researcher in our family and I could totally relate to creating a list of interesting things to do/see (and places to eat) without creating a formal itinerary. It never works for us either. What's cool is that we often end up living more like a local even on short visits. We are much happier marching to the beat of our own (slightly odd) drums rather than zooming from place to place according to someone else's notion of what we should see and do.

Tara said...

Although I think it could be fun to do some research and make a plan before traveling- I prefer wandering too.

I'm glad the trip turned out so well for you :)

Dana said...

I used to be a lot like you, but I've loosened up a little, just a little, with the planning. I absolutely insist on a reservation and research options to a fault, an obsessive fault. Richard would rather just hop in the car and hope for the best. Also, since Maddy has joined us, we take a much more relaxed approach to travel. Most of our time is spent doing things similar to what you described (that's where I've loosened up -- the "must see, must do" list is gone). Our travel experiences are much richer as a result.
I am planning a short stay in Charleston this summer after our visit with the mouse, on our drive up the east coast to VA Beach to rendevous with family. We are super excited bc it will be our first vacation in the States ever. The yearly family visits do not count as vacation. . . not by a long shot.
Phewww. . . have a great weekend.

amida said...

I used to do that too -- all the initial research, all the planning and ideas. But it gets so overwhelming! Now I do a half planned/half wing it method. I get a general idea of stuff to do but don't plan anything until I get to the destination and check out the visitors brochures.

marina villatoro said...

I really want to go to Charleston. That is one southern city that I haven't visited yet. But it's high on my list, for sure.
Photo Friday - Banana Plantations In Action

The Q Family said...

Sometimes the best time during the vacation is the unplanned one. :) But I'm like you that I love the research part of the trip planning almost as much as the trip itself. Charleston is on our to-visit list this year so it's good to see your post.

-Amy @ The Q Family

Carolina said...

That almost looks like one of the Western towns.
So it sounds like the perfect day to me, I gobble up the travel books, but rarely get most of that stuff actually done.

Bridget Smith said...

What a perfect day! I also find that improvising can sometimes be way more relaxing and fun, especially with kids!

Lorraine said...

You just described the beauty of travel, all in one post.

Jen said...

We travel kind of the same way. It is neat to read how someone else plans their trips too. I like the list of things to do and then going from there!

On a side note, I saw your post on my blog about the Blue Angels. When I was a teen we knew the pilot for Fat Albert. Which jet does your friend fly? I will have to find him at the autograph session next time we go!

Dawn said...

Great post!
Love that door handle with the ice cream cone!
I am the researcher most of the time... reservations are about as far as we go for planning though... I like to have options available but fly by the seat of our pants a bit! Such a great way to get a feel for the local culture and find the little things off the beaten path.

itsasmallworldafterallfamily said...

Our family is like this too. I love travel planning and Steve is happy to leave it to me. I spend hours reading about our destination just because I enjoy it. I also read books to the children, watch Globe Trekker TV etc. When it comes to the trip itself, it depends on how long it's for etc - I usually book accomodation for the first week at least and then our days pan out depending on weather, energy levels etc etc. Planning is really fun, especially when you've a long wait until your next trip!

Dominique said...

We loved Charleston when we visited a couple of years ago. Spent a lot of time wandering around town taking photos of the beautiful houses...and we loved the Low Country food! I was particularly fascinated watching the sweetgrass basketmakers in the Market and made sure to bring a basket home with me.

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