Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Destination Deviation: Charleston, South Carolina - Part II

In Charleston one of the best ways to get a little bit of history and a lay of the land is to take a carriage ride. There are a number of carriage tour companies to choose from. I went on the the Olde Towne Carriage Company tour. The carriage companies are located on streets surrounding the market. Olde Towne is located on Anson Street.

Larry the Belgian Draft Horse

The carriage companies in Charleston employ a lottery system for tour routes, so you never know which of the three tour routes you may go on. This system is in place so that the number of carriages on any given route is controlled so as to not interfere with auto traffic nor to endanger the horses and their cargo. The guides provide a general history of Charleston, as well as specific information about the buildings and other sights along your tour route.

The Old City Jail is said to be the most haunted building in Charleston.

The carriage companies are located on the streets near the market. While in the vicinity, definitely visit the old market. The market is filled on a daily basis with vendors selling a variety of wares. You can find sweetgrass baskets throughtout the market, as well as typical tourist souveniers, photography and other artwork, food items, and those items typically found in a flea market (pashminas, sunglasses, and more).

The area below the white paint in the above photo shows the high water mark from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The coastal South Carolina area near Charleston is called the Low Country due to much of it being near or below sea level. The nearby tidal areas can often be under water at high tide. Due to the low land level, the market area is prone to flooding.

Besides carriage tours, there are a variety of companies that offer walking tours of Charleston. If you don't want to take a walking tour during the day, these same tour companies offer ghost tours in the evening as Charleston is supposed to be one of the most haunted cities in the U.S. I've been on ghost walks in Charleston twice, on this most recent visit I went on the Bulldog Tours' Charleston Ghost & Graveyard Tour. The tour guide takes you to some of the most haunted spots in Charleston, including a graveyard or two. Our guide, Anna, told some of the history of Charleston, as well as the stories behind the alleged hauntings on our tour stops. The tours are conducted in small groups and advance reservations are definitely recommended. While it was kind of creepy walking through a graveyard at night (after 9 PM), we did not see any ghosts, nor did I capture any with my camera.

Bulldog Tours is the only company that actually takes you on a tour of the Old City Jail. The Old City Jail is said to be the most haunted location in Charleston. Apparently there are only three tour guides who actually conduct this tour. I did not go on the jail tour (I'm kind of a wimp in that regard), but a couple who was on the graveyard tour with me said that the jail tour was much better and seemed to have some activity. They caught a number of orbs on their tour, especially around the gallows.