To fortify ourselves for what we anticipated would be a full day, we had dinner at Jestine’s Kitchen last night. Only a short walk from our hotel, The Restoration on King, Jestine’s is where Charlestonians go for the best fried chicken, mac and cheese, and bread pudding.
Before heading out across the Cooper River this morning, we debated on whether to drive our car or take a rickshaw from the hotel to catch the water taxi at the Aquarium to Patriots Point. Driving ourselves won out and we arrived in time to get tickets for the early tour boat to Fort Sumter. The tour boats also depart from the Aquarium, but we wanted to visit the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point as well so we made a day of it.
After a forty minute ride we reached Fort Sumter National Monument where we had an hour to explore the grounds (photo above, inside the fort). It’s a matter of Southern pride that the opening shots of the Civil War were fired here in 1861, at the fort named for South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Henry Sumter. More incredible though is that the Confederate soldiers at Fort Sumter were able to withstand siege and bombardment for twenty months until the fort was nearly pounded into rubble. They only evacuated the fort in 1865 when Sherman marched north from Savannah. While the fort no longer resembles the former structure—it was rebuilt after the Civil War—it’s possible to stand on the ramparts and marvel at its historic significance.
After lunch at the snack bar and a quick walk across the pier, we boarded the Aircraft Carrier USS Yorktown. There is an elevator, reserved for the mobility challenged and families with small children; however, in order to tour the ship and see most of the exhibits visitors must be able to ascend and descend steep and narrow stairs. In addition, there is only one spot on the ship with air conditioning (the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum), which could present problems for anyone with breathing difficulties in summer months.
We were fascinated as we walked from the hangar deck to see the living quarters, working areas, the flight deck, and bridge (pictured here). You could easily spend several hours or more just taking the six designated tours on board.
It was a long day of immersing ourselves in history. That’s what Charleston and the surrounding region is all about and we enjoyed every minute of it.