We spent Inauguration Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, partly because it was crowded and cold in NoVa, partly because we had a four-day weekend, but mostly because we had always wanted to visit Charleston. Vicky was here with the Girl Scouts 10 years ago, but she spent her visit with sailors on the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier moored in the harbor. (I suspect that’s where she must have picked up her salty tongue – it certainly wasn’t from me.)
“Why would Kim write an article about visiting Charleston in his Northern Virginia real estate blog?” you may well ask. And I will tell you:
- There is real estate in Charleston. Really expensive real estate.
- Parallels may be drawn between Charleston real estate and that of Northern Virginia areas such as Old Town Alexandria (barely).
- The interesting and entertaining blog article will attract visitors to my blog, and may cause them to read other informative articles, which will impress them with my knowledge, ability and personality to such an extent that they will develop a deep-seated and entirely understandable desire to contract with me to use my real estate services, and to tell all their friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues to do the same. At least, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.
- Thus, the trip will be largely tax-deductible.
First, a word about the accommodations. I am a big fan of Trip Advisor, because it has a wealth of traveler-supplied information (to which vendors may respond), so my first go-to when planning a trip is that website for hotel opinions. Though Charleston is rife with hotels – about 6 dozen hotels and B & Bs in and around the historic area – the Holiday Inn Historic District was ranked #3 by travelers. A Holiday Inn! Not because of the rooms, or the food, or the view, or the location – it’s not as close to the district as many others – but because of the concierge, Kevin McQuade.
Wow! I coulda had a concierge!
I will admit that I am not into asking strangers to guide me. I much prefer to do my own research and preparation, or ask knowledgeable friends. Thus I tend to walk right past the concierge in most hotels, barely acknowledging his or her existence. (Plenty of people think that about real estate agents, dontcha know? Allow me to publicly slap myself upside the head. Ow.) Nonetheless, because I was intrigued by Kevin’s press clippings, they got our business. Recent examples (there are scores):
- “We had an amazing time in Charleston and it was made all possible by the suggestions of Kevin McQuade.”
- “Everything that has been said about Kevin is dead on!”
- “Kevin clearly loves to share his city with his guests. If there seems to be a wait to talk to him, don’t worry. The wait is worth it.”
It was a brilliant move on my part, thank you very much.
2 Meeting Street Victorian B & B
We’d prebooked Magnolia’s online on a friend’s recommendation, but Kevin changed the reservation so we could go to Virginia’s On King on a night they were open. He got us into Cru Cafe that Saturday evening by pulling a reservation out of his pocket. He set up two walking tours (see below) and made some other recommendations we turned down because of the weather (it was relatively cold and threatened rain – and we will get back). He suggested several other restaurants we might like to try if we got a chance, and two we did – Hominy Grill for breakfast (twice) – and Poogan’s Porch for brunch. He whipped out menus from the restaurants, and gave us cards with walking and driving directions and his personal favorite meal suggestions on the back. By the way, we nearly ate ourselves into oblivion – this is a terrific restaurant town.
Chevaux-de-Frise is an iron bar projecting wicked-looking iron spikes. It was used on many of Charleston's gates and fences after the Denmark Vesey slave revolt conspiracy of 1822.
I imagine other concierges have tricks like this up their sleeves, too. But they won’t then tell you how unique Charleston is at night, and offer to take you on a private tour (he can’t do this for everyone, obviously, so he has to guess which visitors might be “hard-core” enough). They won’t meet you at 10:30 PM and walk you through practically deserted residential streets and alleys for two hours pointing out the lit gardens and courtyards, and the Chevaux-de-Frise. They won’t lie on their backs on the ground to get a photo of you standing in front of a romantic Victorian B & B. They won’t interrupt their conversation with another client the next evening to catch you getting on the elevator to ask how your day’s tour was. And they sure as hell won’t refuse your offer of payment.
The Holiday Inn facilities were certainly nice enough (breakfast was kinda ordinary), and all of the staff were very friendly and competent . . . but Kevin McQuade is truly something special. If my clients were as happy with me as we are with Kevin, I’d be a very wealthy real estate agent. I must have some work to do in that respect, because there don’t appear to be scores of reviews online telling everyone how spectacularly fabulous I am . . . yet.
So, we were up at 4:15 AM, on the road by 5:30, and walking the streets of Charleston with Kevin at midnight, having dined well at Cru – the mac and cheese is wonderful – and into bed ASAP, because the next morning we were going for a long walk with Ed Grimball. Ed is a Charleston native of 60+ who’s been doing his tour for about 15 years and really knows his stuff – and loves questions. He meandered with our small group around the historic part of Charleston focusing partly on history and partly on architecture, for the better part of three hours.
We learned a bit about the colorful Rainbow Row, how the Charleston piazzas – not pizzas – are oriented to shade the homes, the history and wealth of The Battery, and how Charleston came to be the city it is today. Turns out that 20 influential and determined people in 1931 managed to get a law – now The Law – passed, requiring any building reaching the ripe old age of 75 years to be preserved (or something to that effect). Sort of a gigantic and powerful HOA, which has turned out pretty well for Charleston, it seems to me.
Piazza - Colonnaded Porch or Walkway
The next day we met up with Tommy Dew, who took us around the same area for two more hours. However – and Kevin clearly knew this when he booked both of them – Tommy’s focus was on political history with additional insights on geology and climate. Our walk with Tommy was filled with commentary on how the events leading up to the Civil War (in Charleston – as in much of the South – it’s not the Civil War, but the War Between The States, Mr. Lincoln’s War, or the Late Unpleasantness), the war itself, and the aftermath of the war shaped Charleston as it is today. Sometimes provocative, always well-spoken, Tommy’s Southern perspective is rarely heard north of Richmond.
Porcher-Simonds House on The Battery
We’re going back, that’s for sure. We didn’t get to any of the plantation homes or gardens, Fort Sumter, or the Morris Island lighthouse, among many potential sights; and there are at least a hundred restaurants remaining to be reviewed. Janet hit the local shops while I wandered into Starbucks and located a nest of College of Charleston coeds, amongst which I happily cocooned until Janet returned to “rescue” me.
Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
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