Friday, July 23, 2010

The Original Pub Tour of Charleston

At the end of last year, Steve and I took a weekend trip to Charleston for my birthday. This was my second time there and I absolutely love this city, but we wanted something different than one of the usual walking or carriage tours. After several unsuccessful Google searches, I finally came across the website for the Lesesne Tour Company and their Original Pub Tour of Charleston. One quick phone call and we were in...because the Lesesnes run this tour year-round and it being off season, we were able to book just a day or two in advance. (Note that I would not suggest waiting until so late if you are traveling in the spring/summer/early fall)

Awesome courtyard bar at The Blind Tiger
We chose the 7 PM Saturday evening tour and met with our guide at Tommy Condon's Irish Pub. We had Becca, one of the founders/owners of the tour company and she was immediately friendly and welcoming. A few minutes later the other couple that had booked this tour joined us. At first I thought that it wouldn't be as fun with such a small group, but in hindsight I'm glad that we went during the off season and had such an intimate experience. After enjoying a drink and some appetizers between the five of us, we moved to our next stop, The Blind Tiger, with Becca giving us a few history lessons on the way. It was a bit chilly out (being December) but we couldn't pass up the idea of sitting outside in the amazing courtyard at the pub, as we enjoyed another drink and some good conversation.

Our third stop was The Griffon, another great Charleston pub that just oozes atmosphere. We enjoyed some more appetizers--
because by the way, appetizers are included in the $30 per person price tag! This is mainly because by South Carolina state law, the tour guides can't buy drinks for their patrons. Sad but true.
Our bill (the one that is placed vertically near the center of this picture) on the wall of The Griffon
While at The Griffon, Becca also brought us some Sharpies and insisted that we leave our signed dollar bills on the wall. Hey, what better way to leave your mark than to deface US currency and paper a pub with it? Kidding, it's a really cool tradition and of course we participated!

Our final stop (with more history, local myths, and jokes told along the way) was Big John's, a dive bar opened in 1954 by former Giants linebacker "Big John" Canady. It was here that we enjoyed our final drinks as a group and said goodbye to our fellow tourists, as well as Becca and her husband Daniel, who also finished the night at this bar. But don't worry--they didn't leave without chatting with us for a bit and giving us some suggestions of nearby bars to check out. It was only about 9:30 PM, after all!

After stops at The Brick, Squeeze, and Tommy Condon's (again), we ended the night with some live music at Wild Wing Cafe. Just FYI, our pub tour led to several silly pictures of us. Like this one.
I have perused some of the reviews on Trip Advisor and it appears that the Lesesne Tour Company is now popular enough that they need guides other than Becca and Daniel, and I am so happy for them! However, I definitely suggest that if possible, you request one of these people...simply because they are the ones I can vouch for being amazing tour guides. Their love for their home city and lust for life truly shines on this tour, and we couldn't have asked for a better time.

Also, it appears that groups tend to be much bigger (a) on weekend tours, (b) on the 7 PM vs. 4 PM tour, and (c) during the busy travel/tourist season. So if you tend to visit Charleston often, I think it's probably best to hit this tour up during the off season as we did.

Ahh yes, one more thing--the night we participated on this tour was the same night as the big Santa Claus pub crawl in Charleston, but Becca did an amazing job of weaving us around the dozens of guys dressed as Santa Claus and girls dressed in nothing much at all, and she really deserves credit for that. The Griffon was probably the only truly crowded bar that we had to deal with and the entire tour--even the having to avoid the Santa Clauses--was handled in a professional manner and still, obviously, a total blast. I would not hesitate to do this tour (or their new Martini Tour!) every time I return to Charleston.

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