Exploring the Holy City - Garfield and Tango Travel the Long and Winding Road - CycleBlaze

April 26, 2022

Exploring the Holy City

Charleston fun day

I thought we might do a tandem ride today but Don felt like his foot needed another day of rest. He offered to set up my bike so I could do something (which wouldn't be much as the only safe roads we've seen so far have been in the park). But then he suggested a different activity. When I had researched things to do in the area, I knew that I wanted to go to the downtown market as well as possibly take a carriage ride around the city. 

He found a place to park near the visitor center where you could catch a free shuttle to the market. At that point we could catch a carriage ride. That sounded like fun and I could always do a short ride after we got back.

We headed toward downtown and located the parking garage at the visitor center. As we didn't know exactly where to catch the bus, we went into the center to get a local map showing the bus stops. 

The next thing I knew we were hoofing it a couple of blocks to a bus stop. Neither of us knew if this was the one we needed or even the number for the bus but luckily a person waiting next to us confirmed that it was the correct stop and that the buses were free. 

But according to the bus schedule we had, we would be riding it for 20 minutes as it looped around town before stopping at the market. That didn't make me happy as I hadn't planned on a long ride or an all day excursion! It was already 11 am as we didn't get out of camp very early. 

The bus showed up within about 5 minutes and we found seats where we settled in for our first "tour". It was actually interesting seeing the different buildings, although it wasn't an official narrated tour. 

Eventually we made it to the historic market which was first built between 1804 and the 1830s. The low open sheds originally housed meat, produce and fish vendors, and stretched for 4 city blocks. 

In 1841, the current buildings were erected and now hold several hundred different booths with people selling all different things. 

We didn't see any carriages at this point, so decided to start walking through the market. One of the things I missed buying when we did our bike tour through here was a sweetgrass basket. I hoped to find one while in the area. 

The sweetgrass basket making tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century by way of West African slaves that were brought here to work in the plantations. The baskets were first woven with bulrush reeds found in marshes and were used for winnowing rice, as well as, holding vegetables, shellfish and cotton. The baskets were coiled so tightly that they held water and were very intricate in design.

In the 1900s, artists began to use sweetgrass which is also found in marshes along the rivers and coast. In addition, they started to incorporate pine needles and saw palmetto fronds into their designs. Sweetgrass is pale green in color and has a pleasant 'fresh hay' scent. ( and no, I didn't check that out) We saw both men and women making baskets in their booths. 

There were lots of vendors in the market - most selling accessories and crafty things that you could buy anywhere. A few booths carried food items like sacks of grits and rice. Don considered buying some but decided to see what he could find on Amazon. Prices were quite high for everything. 

I was pleased to find many sweetgrass sellers along with some VERY expensive baskets! They were so beautiful but I just couldn't stomach paying several hundred dollars for one. I ended up buying a pair of small earrings which were cheaper and very pretty.

Eventually we found the carriage ticket booths where we stopped to check on the costs and availability today. We had started to see the carriages which were quite full of riders which really made us uncomfortable. Being squeezed next to strangers, even in an open carriage didn't seem safe. 

One company also had private rides but they would have cost us $500! Ok, out of our price range. 

As we walked a little further we saw another company's booth so went over to see what they had. They said we could do a private ride which was a bit cheaper at $325 or we could buy out one row of seats on a public tour for an additional $80. So the total cost would be $180. And we could also select what row we wanted. 

After talking it over during lunch at a nearby cafe, we decided to go ahead and do a public tour but pay extra for our own row, and selected the first row at the front of the carriage. We only had to wait a few minutes for our tour so that was good timing!

It was a fun and interesting narrated historic tour that lasted about an hour. Our carriage was pulled by 'Chester' - a former Amish horse that the companies purchase when the farmers sell their stock. The carriage companies first train these work horses to pull these carriages on farms located outside of the city. Our driver/tour guide said he also worked as the trainer for Chester which he really enjoyed.

Our trip wound around the historic districts of town, past many beautiful old homes - some quite impressive with multiple balconies. Charleston is known as the 'Holy City' partially because of its many historic churches and we saw several while on our ride. When we had done our bike tour, we had ridden through some of these streets so this was a different way to view Charleston. 

The hour went quickly and we were soon back at the stables. I wanted to walk the market a little further, but we didn't see anything else worth purchasing. Now we needed to find a bus stop to get back to the truck.

I thought that Don knew where to go, but even though he was looking at a map, after a few blocks, it became clear that he didn't have a clue where he was taking us! Sheesh, he really has no sense of direction! Time for the stoker/navigator to take over.

I had a different map and got us onto the correct street where we still had to walk several more blocks to get to a bus stop. Both our feet were really sore by now after all of our walking today. I don't think I'll be doing any biking today!

We had to wait awhile for the next bus and I noticed a sweetgrass store next to us so I went over to see what she was selling. I found much cheaper prices here and ended up buying a nice pendant necklace that matches my earrings. Trudy even threw in a free saw palmetto rose for free (the market vendors were selling these for $4-5 each)!

She was such a nice lady, and I would have shopped and talked to her longer, but our bus came at this point. Maybe I'll come back another day. 

Eventually the bus made it back to the visitor center garage and our truck. But it was nearly 3:30 pm by the time we got home. Whew, it had sure been an interesting and fun day! All I wanted to do was put my feet up, grab a snack and cold drink. 

So that's what we both did for the rest of the evening. Hopefully Don didn't stress his foot and we can do a tandem ride tomorrow!

FYI - I took so many pictures today that I'll be posting them on different days. 

The historic Charleston Market.
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This mural on one building pays homage to the history of the market when they first had only vendors selling meat, fish and produce.
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The market goes on for several blocks with these open sides.
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These are some of the beautiful sweetgrass baskets we saw today.
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So intricate and beautiful but VERY expensive! Even the small baskets cost over $100. Sadly, I can't justify spending that much right now.
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This large basket was priced at $450!!!!
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This was one of 2 men we saw today making baskets. Notice the large baskets below and behind him. I didn't check their prices but I imagine that they're at least $1000. I wonder what someone would use them for? The one on the ground was really nice.
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Don bought me these sweetgrass earrings and necklace as an early birthday present. The earrings were also made with pine needles.
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