Let me explain the headline here. Imagine my day yesterday was a sandwich with moldy bread but a great piece of BBQ brisket in the middle. That was my day in Charleston.
When I finished writing up yesterday’s post to finalize NYC, I headed upstairs, and while Kathleen was in the shower, I heard what I believed to be the pilot boat outside our verandah. So I grabbed my camera and went out to shoot photos. What I saw might have been a harbinger of what our day would be like—two tugboats—actually pushing and pulling the ship. In all our years of cruising, I have never seen the wind so bad that it took two tugboats (one pushing, one pulling) and the ship’s thrusters to get us on the dock. Added to that bad wind was driving rain. And I was going to go out and walk in that as soon as we docked.
Here was our plan at that point. I had rented a mini-van from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Their office was 1.9 miles from the cruise terminal. I was going to take a walk with my camera on a beautiful sunny day, get the car, and then come back and pick everyone else up for a day of planned activities. Then, at the end of the day, I would drop everyone off, return the car and walk back to the ship.
Problem one: It was not a beautiful, sunny day. The rain was coming down sideways, and the wind was at (according to the ship’s info on our TV) 34 knots. But I had a job to do, and I was going to do it. So I grabbed the big golf umbrella that Oceania puts in every stateroom, and I headed out to go get the car. The walk was not pleasant. The umbrella reversed itself in the wind about every 10 steps until I got away from the port, where I was better protected from the wind. By the time I got less than 500 yards from the ship, I was pretty much soaked from the waist down. The spray from cars going by hitting big puddles didn’t help either. But I mustered on. And after a long, wet, dreary slog, I got to the car rental place. Except the sign at right is what I found.
I had made the rental car reservation with Enterprise in February when Mike and I were planning excursions. We each took some ports, and I had taken Charleston because we had been here before and loved the city. In all the time since April 28th, when the sign in the window states that this office closed…permanently, you would have thought that Enterprise would have bothered to let me know this pretty important fact? Did they? NO! In fact, they had sent me an e-mail reminder about my rental two days prior showing this address. In fact, if you go online to Enterprise right now, you can still book a car at this address. WTH???
To say I was upset with Enterprise at this point was probably one of the biggest understatments of this century. I was screaming, cursing, soaking wet, standing in front of a closed store. So I call the number on the sign. I was put on hold by their automated system for five minutes and then told that their voicemail was full and hung up on. Did this three times before I finally decided to call their 800 number, which put me in touch with another Enterprise agency about a 20-minute drive away from where I was. Notice I said drive.
At this point, I have to give this Enterprise agency (they are a franchise) full credit. Their manager jumped in and sent an Uber for me, got me to her store, had the car I had reserved ready and waiting and had me on my way back (a 30-minute drive) to the ship in no time. By now, it has been almost two hours since I set out, and I am just getting back to pick up the rest of the gang—minus Kathleen, who had caught Jocelyn’s cold—and get started on our day.
Our original plan had been for me to drive the group downtown, where we would grab a horse-drawn surrey and take the tour around the older parts of the city and the waterfront. Not only had we lost the time to do this, but the horse-drawn surreys were covered to protect people from the sun, but those covers would do nothing to stop us from getting soaked by the wind-driven, sideways-falling rain. So we bagged that idea, and I drove the group around the old section of town that Kathleen and I had visited in 2016.
Our plan for the day continued with an early lunch at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. When I was here in 2016 to teach a workshop, I met James Roller, a great guy who owns and runs a website called DestinationBBQ.com. He is something of an authority on the vinegar-based BBQ that is all around this state. I asked him then what BBQ place was the best in Charleston, and he said, “Hands down, it’s Rodney Scott Whole Hog BBQ.” So I went and tried it, and he was right! I mean, this place has a James Beard award for BBQ. That has to say something. And I love going to eat someplace that someone tells me is the best, and it is. So, when I came back with friends to Charleston, I had to take them there. If you go, and you eat meat, you should go there too.
We had the MOST amazing lunch. To me, this lunch was the best thing I ate on the entire trip. Or at least it tied with our meal in Toscana (on the ship) for the best meal. It was so good I have to describe it to you. I ordered the two-meat combo, and the two meats I chose were the “whole hog” and the brisket. Each order comes with two sides and a slab of cornbread. I got the collared greens and the onion rings. Topped that off with a local IPA, and I was in HOG HEAVEN! The meat was melt-in-your-mouth, and the sides were perfect. If you are ever in Charleston, this should be your one must-eat place…unless you happen to be a vegan.
Our next stop was a drive out of town to the Magnolia Plantation. We had booked three different 45-minute tours there in advance. The first started at 1:00 p.m., and we arrived right on time. The first tour is entitled Slavery to Freedom. We met up with our guide for this tour, the wonderful Vanessa (who had recently moved here from Seattle), and she shared with us the life of slaves on the Magnolia Plantation from the mid-1600s through the present day. I am ashamed I did not get a photo of Melissa, but my buddy Mike did, and I will let you know when his review comes online in about three weeks or so. That way, you can see what she (and the other guides I forgot to take photos of) look like. Her tour was definitely the best of the day as she did a presentation, and then we toured four historical slave/free man quarters. See my photos below.
From there, it was on to our tour of the plantation house. The photo of the outside of the house is here because we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. Our tour guide was Millie, and again, you will have to wait for Mike’s review to see what she looks like. (BTW: I will post the link when Mike’s review is done, so you if follow me, you will get it when it is ready.) It was a very nice tour, and Millie (a retired teacher) was an excellent guide. The house is very nice.
Our last tour started just outside the house when we boarded a tram and were taken on a tour of the grounds to see how they farmed rice in the 1850s when the plantation was in full production. It was a nice tour, but since the driver who did the tour was two cars in front of us, I never got his name. This tour was just “fine,” and we all decided that if we were to do the tours again, we would skip this one. It’s just not enough to see beyond some swamp and some far-away baby alligators.
At this point, our plan was that I would drive the rest of the crowd back to either downtown or the ship, and then I would go and return the car and walk back. Well, you know I couldn’t walk back. This presented another problem. We were 28 minutes from the ship, the rental car return was 25 minutes from the ship, and I needed to have the car back by 5:00. We left the plantation at 3:55. YIKES! Not only that, but if I got the car back by 5:00, they would give me a ride back to the ship. After that time, they would be closed, and I would be on my own. Needless to say, it was one of the longest, most stressful drives of my life. I did get the group back to the ship, knowing full well that I was going to have to turn around and go back out to the rental agency. And as we drove to the ship, we just happened to notice that the road I had to drive back out on was SLAMMED WITH TRAFFIC! I was not in a good place. The ship wasn’t sailing until 6:30, but I was beginning to doubt I would be able to get back in time. I was sure I would never get back to the rental agency by 5:00, so I would be on my own to find an Uber to bring me back to the ship. While waiting at a light on the way back, I checked, and the nearest Uber could not even get to the agency to pick me up for 45 minutes, and the ride would cost (surge pricing at rush hour) $64.
But thanks to the Apple Maps app that routed me around all the traffic on some back country roads that made me think I was lost the entire time, I made it to the agency at 4:58. They had their van going out with the incredible Linda driving it, so she took me back to the ship. And she even found a way to get me back on board by 5:45. She is my Charleston hero. I was sure I was going to have to call my friend who lives in nearby Mount Pleasant and get him to let me spend the night and then fly to Miami today. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
So now you can see why I said yesterday was like a moldy bread sandwich with great filler in between. Our lunch and tour were excellent, but getting there and getting back were not.
With all of this going on, I did manage to get some pics so here they are. Don’t forget; if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…
This is what I thought was the pilot boat but turned out to be a tugboat.
And the swells were pretty high as well.
The wind was horrendous.
One of the tugs pushing on Vista.
While the other attached a cable and pulled in the opposite direction.
One of the slave cabins on the Slavery to Freedom Tour.
There were four restored cabins left.
Originally there had been 11. Each cabin had two sides and each housed a family in one room.
Interior shots of some of the cabins.
Loved this one with the newspaper insulation…as a photo.
This cabin was from a later time than the first one as it was now one family to the building with two rooms.
An early bed.
An early fireplace, used for cooking and warmth.
A giant live oak. These are everywhere you look in the Low Country.
Mike always gets asked to take group photos for people. I guess he looks friendlier than I do.
The tram tour featured this alligator trying to get warm on a raised platform.
And these former rice paddies.
And some more live oaks.
That about covers one of the MOST STRESSFUL DAYS of travel I have ever not had the pleasure to experience. Loved the lunch, liked the plantation, and I will NEVER rent from Enterprise Rental Cars again. The idea that they never told me that location closed or that they are still showing it open on their website is just WRONG!
Just a quick note about the rest of this review of our Oceania Vista cruise. We are on our last full day today. We are at sea, headed to Miami (where it is predicted to be raining and 99 degrees—how fun) tomorrow to disembark. After we tell Mike and Cathy goodbye (they live in South Florida, so they just need a car ride to get home) we will execute a plan to get the rest of us to the Fort Lauderdale airport at different times. I will also be renting a car there (but thankfully from Avis—and you can believe I checked on it) and driving. Steve and Jamie to catch their 2:51 flight back to Orange County, and then Kathleen, Jocelyn and I will grab lunch before we return the car and get on our 5:40 p.m. Alaska Air flight to Seattle.
My plan is to finish the review at home, where I will do a quick post on disembarkation (probably tomorrow at the airport) and then, sometime in the next few days, do a major post (with photos) about the public rooms on Vista followed up by my last post summing up and reviewing the cruise itself with a comparison with Viking Ocean. I hope you will stick around for the last couple of posts.
Charleston is one of the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable cities that I have ever seen. —Marquise de Lafayette