We spent the second week of April at James Island State Park in Charleston County. As we have heard from everyone who has visited Charleston, it is in fact charming in every way. We explored the downtown area on foot via a series of informal self-guided tours using the top 10 list of “Things To Do” on TripAdvisor (which never lets us down). We ate great BBQ at Poogan’s Smokehouse, snapped pics of Rainbow Row, shopped at the Charleston City Market, and based on the recommendation of a friend of Johan’s, took a horse-drawn carriage ride. The five of you who actually read this blog are probably thinking, it’s really unlike Johan and Kiki to go on (read: pay for) a carriage ride, and you are absolutely right. The most interesting thing that happened in Charleston is how we unexpectedly agreed to spend 90 minutes on a Tuesday morning earning ourselves a free carriage ride AND a free plantation tour AND a hundred bucks! While wandering around downtown and trying to figure out what to do next, we stopped in one of the many open air “storefronts”, which appeared to have flyers on local attractions, tour coupons, and a couple of guys advising people where to go for great drinks (are there bad drinks?). We poked our heads in and a gentleman asked what he could do to help. We explained we had enjoyed our tour of McLeod Plantation, had eaten some awesome cornbread, and had liked the Pineapple Fountain but weren’t sure if we should leave Charleston before taking a carriage ride. His response surprised us: how did we book our travel plans to Charleston, using the internet? Well yes, duh. Who doesn’t use the internet to make travel plans in 2018. So he asked if we wanted to spend an hour or so learning about a “new way” to book travel. He compared the “new way” to using Expedia or Travelocity. We didn’t have to buy anything and in return he would give us tickets to two tours of our choice and money to buy lunch anywhere in town. Um, OKAY! So we gave him a $20 deposit guaranteeing we would show up the next day promptly at 9am, signed a piece of paper with many tiny words on it, but largely at the top and in all caps it read: THIS IS NOT A TIMESHARE. And in my head I thought, of course it’s not a timeshare, it’s a new way to book travel!
We arrived the next morning at five minutes to nine and sat through a 90-minute presentation about timeshares. To their credit, the presentation was so compelling that we nearly fought over which one of us could pull our our credit card faster to pay the $6,995.00 membership fee (reduced for THAT DAY ONLY to $5,995.00) until we googled reviews of the company (which I will respectfully leave unnamed). After a bit of debate, we decided we should look a little deeper into the reviews while spending our hard-earned lunch money and assumed they would honor today’s special sale price just a little later in the afternoon. Of seven couples we were the only one who walked out without signing a contract and in their defense, they very kindly said goodbye and told us our tickets could be picked up at the front desk on our way out. No hard sale, no pressure, no dirty looks, no heckling noises or words hurled at us as we walked out. I’ll refrain from saying whether or not we are glad to have walked away without joining the club, but I will say that we gleefully hopped on the carriage ride after finding – to our surprise – that the tickets were legit. And at the end of the carriage ride we concluded that we were glad we didn’t pay for it.
Now if we can just find this timeshare scam (err, travel company) that gives out free tickets in every city…
On our last day we used our second free ticket to visit Magnolia Plantation; the lovely gardens and white bridge will be recognizable to you from Gone with the Wind. The home is sort of so-so, nothing incredibly exciting, but we learned that the original furniture (which is still in the master bedroom) tipped off historians to the financial status of the original owners. Apparently the wood it is made from is “cheap” for the late 1600’s. If Thomas and Ann Drayton were to redecorate today you might find them with several unidentified pieces of plywood laid out on the floor, looking confused at a single page of useless assembly directions from IKEA.