on November 18, 2008
Had we not chosen to visit Charleston during a stationary front storm off the coast, I would’ve preferred to take a leisurely stroll through the city to enjoy the architecture and history. However, I wouldn’t have gotten to see as much laden with an umbrella over my head, so I thought I’d let someone else do the driving. As far as I can tell, there are two major horse-pulled tour companies in Charleston, and honestly, we’d planned to use the other one, because we had a coupon. However, we quickly grew tired of driving our rental car up and down the one-way streets looking for them, and we saw the sign for Palmetto Carriage Tours and the "Free Parking" sign and said, "Sold!" They then sold us our tickets ($20 each, if I recall) and directed us to their Big Red Barn to park. I was a bit disheartened to realize that we would be on a mule-drawn carriage with about 15 other people, rather than the private (and as I learned, more expensive) horse-drawn carriage (not that I’m prejudiced towards mules, just the crowd.) However, our mules – named Salt and Pepper – were good pullers and the guide was quite animated. He was a Charleston native, and told the history intertwined with corny jokes and anecdotes. We lucked out on our route, I think. There are so many horse- (and mule-) drawn carriages in downtown Charleston that there’s a lottery for which route they will take. The driver pulls up to lottery central, a draw decides which way we’ll go, and then we’re off. This keeps the horse and mule traffic from clogging the roads any more than the actual car traffic does. Our route took us past a few churches, beautiful homes, but most importantly, the Battery. With it’s beautiful architecture, pastel colors (which comes from being a colony of Barbados, in the city’s early years) and the sweeping porches, I could just envision myself with a hoop skirt and a gentleman caller. Then the need for indoor plumbing and air conditioning brought me back to reality, and I was able to get some nice photos for my scrapbook.We started our tour at 10 a.m., and ended at 11 a.m. (tours depart starting at 9 a.m. every 15 minutes or so.) The rain even managed to restrain itself to a sprinkle throughout the ride, so it turned out to be quite a pleasant experience. The starting and ending point of the tour is right next to the famed Charleston Market, so afterwards we headed there for some souvenir shopping. I would say our "accidental tourist" way of choosing our carriage company turned out to be a success. Though, in the busy season, I might suggest making a reservation for your preferred time.
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