south of broad.

On our recent Charleston vacation, we stayed at the La Quinta Charleston Riverview, which is just across the Ashley River from the historic part of town.  Let me just say, this hotel was not great.  The traffic noise in our room was deafening, the hotel staff were awful (we had two hangers in our room and when we stopped at the front desk to ask for more we got a shrug and ‘I don’t know if we have any extra hangers’).  The included breakfast was so bad we only ate it once (and that was with a spoon because when we asked for forks we got another shrug and ‘we don’t have any forks’, apparently there is a hanger and fork shortage in the south).  I could go on, but suffice to say, I do not recommend staying at this hotel.  There must be better options out there.

That being said, we chose it because it was on the cheaper end … so I have to remind myself that you get what you pay for.  Lesson learned, it might be wise to pay a little more for your hotel.  I will say that it was in a pretty convenient location though if you have a car.  It was less than a 10 minute drive into the heart of historic downtown, and there was plenty of free parking at the hotel.  Although their website says that they have a free shuttle to downtown, when we arrived we were told that they no longer provide a shuttle.  Fortunately, we had rented a car and weren’t counting on their shuttle.

After our formal guided walking tour the previous day, on day two in Charleston we decided to just wander the historic district on our own.  We drove to an area called the Battery because my research told me that there was free parking to be had if you got there early.

  Since we’re early risers, and we were skipping that bad hotel breakfast, it was no problem to be parking the car in one of those free spots by 8 a.m.  Although it was overcast and the forecast called for rain, we never did get wet.

We walked along the battery towards Bakehouse Charleston where we knew we could get good coffee and some pastries (and FYI, their frozen mint lemonade is totally delicious too).

It’s a lovely walk where you can admire beautiful old antebellum houses along one side, and pretty water views along the other (and there are those free parking spaces in the foreground, as you can see they were filling up already).

This house along the Battery caught my eye.  It stood out because it was looking a little worse for the wear (this would have been a good one for your dad to fix up Connie), I wonder if it’s a popular stop on the many ghost tours that are offered in Charleston.

Check out that big ol’ crack in the foundation.  Yikes!  I can just imagine how expensive it is to maintain these old homes.  I’m so glad there are people out there willing to do it.  And FYI, this was the exception, not the rule.  For the most part the homes along here were in immaculate condition.

Once we were fortified with coffee and pastries, we headed out towards Waterfront Park.

This is where I found some of the only azaleas blooming for the entire trip (more on that in a future post).

This is also where you’ll find the Pineapple Fountain.

It’s a lovely place to just stroll around.

Just a sidebar note for any of my fellow cruisers out there, there was a Carnival ship docked right there at the pier.

So if you ever end up on a cruise that stops in Charleston, I can tell you that you are going to be docked right in the heart of the historic district and everything I’m sharing with you in this post is within easy walking distance of the ship.

And this brings me to one of the absolute highlights of our trip, for me at least.  Wandering through the neighborhood called South of Broad.

First off, if you want to avoid the crowds, this is one way to do it.  We did see the occasional horse drawn carriage full of tourists,

but for the most part Mr. Q and I had these streets all to ourselves except for the locals out walking their dogs, and the gardeners who were out cleaning up after the previous night’s storms.

My goal was simply to admire the houses …

and the gardens …

up close and personal-like (gosh I envy their boxwood!).  And there’s no better way to do that than on foot.

I’m fairly sure that Mr. Q deserves a medal of some kind for being OK with just wandering around this neighborhood for a couple of hours, stopping every 30 seconds so I could take another picture.

And even being willing to pose next to a giant planter to show the scale.  Seriously, that thing was huge.

Speaking of huge planters, check these out.

Aren’t they gorgeous?

Charleston is known for something called a single house, and there were quite a few examples in this neighborhood.

A single house is one room wide, with a porch running the length of the house down the side.  That door you see in the photo above leads to stairs up to the porch.  The actual front door to the house is in the middle of the porch.  If you want to learn more about single houses, check out this informative article from

Another really cool detail on the houses in Charleston were the gas lanterns.  I initially thought the flickering flames they gave off were some kind of fancy light bulb, but I asked our guide on the Alley tour and he said they were genuinely gas fueled flames.  Since it was a rather dreary overcast day, those lanterns added a warm, cozy feel.  They also go a long way towards convincing you that you are visiting a bygone era somehow.

Now, get ready for some serious eye candy … well, at least for my fellow gardeners out there.  I totally stopped and drooled over every garden we passed by.  Some of them were front and center for everyone to see.

While others were tucked away behind wrought iron.

Wrought iron being another thing that Charleston is known for.

Is there any better combination than wrought iron and wisteria?

This planted staircase also caught my eye.

Isn’t that unique?  I don’t know that I could do anything like that here in Minnesota.  What plant would survive our winters in that little amount of soil?  And how would you clear a foot of snow off those steps without disturbing the plants?  Hmmmm.

I’m afraid I might be coming off as some kind of snoop here, peering through gates and over hedges (and just to be clear, I did not trespass.  I stayed on the public sidewalk or street the entire time).  But my philosophy on gardening is this; if you go to this much trouble to have a beautiful garden, you probably want other people to see and admire it too.

Tell me fellow gardeners, am I wrong?  Does anyone garden simply for their own enjoyment, unwilling to share the beauty with others?

I didn’t just admire the gardens, I drooled over the houses too.

Our self-guided tour was made even easier by the frequent presence of plaques giving the history of notable houses.

We saw quite a few of these, and they gave lots of interesting information.

So if those aren’t an invitation to snoop around, I don’t know what is.

If you ever get to Charleston, I absolutely recommend taking some time to just walk around this beautiful neighborhood.  Get some coffee to go at Bakehouse Charleston and then just stroll around.  While it’s easy to get turned around, the area is small enough that you never can actually get lost (kind of like Venice, right bff?!).  There always seems to be a glimpse of the water around the next corner to re-orient you.

Although I have some more posts coming up about some day trips we took from Charleston, this is the last one about Charleston proper.  Just in case any of you are planning a trip there, I can also recommend the following things we did:

Touring the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

This is a great way to learn about the history of Charleston.

Visiting the Gibbes museum of art.

The Gibbes is small (at least compared to our MIA here in Minneapolis), but really well done.  If you’re interested in furniture (um, you are, right?), it’s worth a quick visit.  My favorite exhibit was the miniature portraits though.  Definitely go see those.

Taking a food tour with Bulldog Tours.

This is a great way to learn a little bit about the cuisine in Charleston and how it was formed by the varied cultural influences of French Huguenot and English settlers, and of course the African slaves, combined with the local food sources available.  I admit, I never did quite understand where the banana pudding came into play, but it was delicious.

Eating amazing BBQ at Home Team BBQ.

They have a few different locations, we ate at the one on the Ashley River Road.  It’s fairly unassuming looking from the outside.  We just stumbled upon it when driving back to our hotel one afternoon.  Mr. Q had the BBQ nachos with pulled pork, and yes, he ate all of it!  I discovered my love of Carolina mustard based bbq sauce there.  Yum!

So, I’m curious.  What’s your favorite thing to do on vacation.  Would you also be content to walk around and admire beautiful houses and gardens?  Do you enjoy museums?  Are you interested in the local cuisine?  Or do you prefer more adventurous activities like rock climbing or skiing?  Or maybe you’d rather just a sit on a beach with a cocktail (don’t worry, that activity is coming up later too).  Leave a comment and let me know!

29 thoughts on “south of broad.

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston, and you’ve given me some great ideas for when I do! I love walking around neighborhoods when I travel and gawking at houses and gardens!


  2. This was the best ever review of Charleston!!! We get to see the beautiful streets and homes of the people living in Charleston. Thank you for sharing, now everyone is headed to Charleston!!!


  3. oh, somewhere we are kin…….I just love walking or driving around places we visit! loved your personal tour! hope to get to Charleston next spring!!


      1. We really are “kin” and both Ronnie and I enjoy doing just what you and Mr.Q did, checking out the local real estate and the lay of the land. If the hotel breakfast is decent we usually will eat at the hotel, but after that it is always local mom and pops and where the locals refer us for dinner…always trying to end the evening with ice cream of some sort (the Moe’s love their ice cream!!!)…but I would rather have a good dill pickle! Thanks for sharing your Charleston trip with all of us and I think you have found another calling…travel blogs!😉🥰


  4. What a gorgeous post and all the information. Totally loving all that green. We spent three days in the Charleston area…and it is simply gorgeous, as is Savannah. Some of the history isn’t pleasant—but that is our history isn’t it. PHOTOS are STUNNING. The Ivy wall and bench view—I would love to make in doll size for photos—I wonder where I can find 10,000 mini ivy leaves, lol. Thanks for the tour! Sandi


    1. So, funny tidbit regarding mini’s. As we were driving around one day I nearly crashed the rental car as we drove past a dollhouse shop. I wanted to slam on the brakes and check it out, but ultimately it was closed. Drat. And now that I’m home and have looked it up online (could only find this article, they don’t seem to have a website), I’m disappointed to have missed it.


  5. My favorite activity is also walking around looking at houses and gardens, especially on Mackinac Island. I NEVER tire of looking at them. Luckily my husband is somewhat patient about doing that in other cities. Madison, IN is also a favorite, also Harbor Springs, MI – I just love looking (gawking) at old houses! I have heard that Charleston is a wonderful place to visit…maybe someday!


    1. I’d love to get to Mackinac one day for their garden tours. One of my old co-workers was from near there and has told me all about their gorgeous gardens.


  6. Beautiful photos. South of Broad is immortalized by Pat Conroy, one of my favorite authors and all of Charleston is written about by Anne Rivers Siddons, another favorite writer. You just brought the place to life with your gorgeous photos. I love scenic, quiet vacations. So your photos accomplished that for me. But I also love going to local thrift shops while I’m on vacation!


    1. I love reading fiction that is set in an area I’m going to visit, so I had googled before I left. Pat Conroy came up, as did a bunch of others. I thought Pat Conroy might be a bit heavy for vacation reading. But maybe now that I’m back home … any particular recommendations?


  7. This was a great way to armchair thru gardens and beautiful houses. I noticed the topiary ( Is this right term?) behind the giant planter in the picture of Mr. Q…I can’t wrap my head around how they can groom these bushes to look like that. Sounds like and looks like, a beautiful vacation spot – but upgrade on the hotel next time! Lol


    1. Actually, that topiary is in the planter (not behind it). I don’t really know how they prune them initially, but you can purchase them already shaped (at Gertens, for example) and then just give it periodic haircuts to keep its shape.


  8. Yes I love those tours that are like yours. Reading about the homes and seeing all the beautiful old gables and extras they built on homes back then. I’ve taken tours of old mansions in different states and museums of old furniture that was used in rooms long ago.


  9. I’ve been enjoying these posts so much! Miss Quandie in Charleston, it just tickles me! And I love how compatible you and Mr. Q are 😀 And that humidity? In March and April? That is nothing! My father had business friends from around the world and they would never be invited for July or August……they would take their life in their hands! Just not survivable unless you grew up in it……hahahahaha……I haven’t heard the expression “south of Broad” in such a long time. Thank you Miss Quandie 🙂


  10. Thank you for the lovely tour and just to let you know, I would not be upset for a bit more Charleston proper if you have it! 😜 As for my vacay preferences, I’m a cocktails, shopping, sight seeing and museums girl. 🤣


  11. Oh wow, thank you so much for sharing the snaps of these incredible gardens! The growing staircase has blown me away, and the urns, wisteria and wrought iron are all just gorgeous. I love following your travels! Thank you.


    1. You’re welcome Sarah! I’m glad I can ‘take you along’ with me. Those urns! So fabulous. After seeing them, I had the crazy idea that maybe I would splurge on some fabulous planters when I got back home. Then I looked at prices. Yikes! For now I will just stick with my faux rusty planters 😉


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