The Kindness of Strangers … Thank You Charleston, South Carolina!


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London Perfect and Italy Perfect selected by Condé Nast as Villa Rental Specialists!

My sisters and I were incredibly honored to be selected as Villa Rental Specialists for London Perfect and Italy Perfect (Florence properties) by Condé Nast Traveler Magazine! We were invited to their prestigious Travel Summit in Charleston, South Carolina this week. My first trip to South Carolina and all I can say is — I’m coming back and bringing the family!!

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The Stunning Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island

Our first meetings were held at the beautiful Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island. Wow, what a warm welcome, beautiful reception, delicious food and, of course, the beach! Thank you to Nathalie Payne and team for making it such a wonderful experience.

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Lobby of the Charleston Place Hotel courtesy of Joe Vaughn

Then we went to the Charleston Place Hotel for the main conference, a stunning location in the center of Charleston. The graciousness of the staff and beauty of the surroundings make it a must-stay destination. Charleston was voted one of the top destinations in the USA, and the Charleston Visitor’s Bureau  is a role model for others.

But before returning ‘en famille’, will teach husband Philippe that Charleston is pronounced as two syllables instead of   “Char – les – tone” with a French touch.

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Three of the Byrne Girls at the Condé Nast Travel Summit. From Left to Right: Lisa, Pat and Madelyn (Sister Numbers: 6, 1 and 3)

I’m usually very organized, but have you ever had one of those weeks when you just can’t get on track?  Well, that was my week. For starters, I couldn’t keep these three cities straight: Charlottesville — where daughter Alexia attends UVA — from Charlotte, North Carolina and Charleston, South Carolina.

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Charlottesville, Virginia is NOT Charlotte North Carolina, nor is it Charleston, South Carolina …. First step into Bizarro World

I accidentally reserved and paid for a non refundable, non-changeable round trip ticket from London to Charlotte, North Carolina — only discovering my mistake the next day. Dilemma,  should I admit my mistake to Philippe, or rent a car in Charlotte, North Carolina and quietly drive to the correct city without telling him?

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I accidentally booked my flight to Charlotte North Carolina instead of Charleston. Should I tell Philippe I booked the wrong state and rent a car to drive to Charleston?

Philippe was an excellent heart surgeon who performed complex surgeries and triple checked his work; he applies the same same attention to detail in our business.  In short, he doesn’t always understand when I make a dumb mistake, like mistaking Charlotte for Charleston.  Happily, American Airlines understood and let me change my ticket from London to Charleston for $150 more.

Philippe may become slightly perturbed if he reads this blog. Shhh … don’t tell him, because the rest of the disaster just has to be told!

I made it to Charleston without any problems and met up with my sisters Lisa and Pat.  Lisa and I went for several power walks, enchanted by this beautiful town. Of course, only sisters will tell you the truth, and looking at my pictures I can see she was right — my skirt was too short.

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Maddy in Char-les-tone! Thank you sister Lisa for telling me my skirt was too short. That’s what sisters are for…

Disaster in Charleston:  After yesterday’s flights, I can say there is nothing like the kindness of strangers and the helpfulness of Southerners.

I had a late afternoon flight to Miami and, as ever, crammed too much into the hours before checkout. “Sure I can answer emails, get in a quick workout, shower, pack and be ready in half an hour!”  Nooooooooo!! Panic set in as the deadline to meet other rental specialists for the ride to the airport approached.  I threw everything into my suitcase and rushed to meet the others. Something kept nagging at me, but I checked my purse and pockets and had it all together. OK, I forgot to put on a belt, but who was going to notice saggy pants on an airplane?

Made it to the American check-in counter and shared my impressions with the friendly agents. “I’m having one of those days when you should check every pocket twice to be sure you haven’t lost your passport or wallet!” We had a good laugh … if only I knew.

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Made it thru check-in at Charleston and shared my anecdotes about a bizarro-world week. Maybe they were just being polite, but the AA agents thought I was funny.

Tout bon (All Good): Tickets, Wallet, Passport, Boarding Pass and finally Security through the gate. Whew!  With a few hours to kill before my flight, I treated myself to a Margarita at the café near Gate B4. Now that’s living!

I opened my carry-on to check emails and to my horror couldn’t find my computer.  I searched everywhere but finally admitted I really didn’t have it. How could I have been so stupid to leave at the hotel?? All of our recent family photos and personal info was on that computer!!

A server in the café saw my distress and asked if she could help. In tears, I explained what had happened, that I’d left my computer at the hotel and my phone was out of battery. Susan Callihan handed me her pink phone and said, “Here, use mine I have unlimited minutes!” I called the hotel, reached John in security, explained my predicament. He called me back on Susan’s phone ten minutes later. YES it had fallen under the bed!

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Susan kindly lent me her phone!

 John  contacted the hotel’s front desk who sent a young man named Matt (number scribbled on cocktail napkin) to deliver it to me at the curb.  But I’d already passed thru security. How was I going to retrieve my computer in time? Susan said to explain all to the security agents — and she was right. They were nice enough to let me out to collect it.

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These kind TSA officers let me out so I could wait for the car with my computer!

I was truly blessed. People stared as a white Chrysler pulled up and I started jumping up and down. Matt had my computer in the front seat and I hugged everyone! Matt, the security agents who let me out and back again and especially Susan.

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Matt arrived in time from the Charleston Place Hotel!

She and Matt tried to refuse my gratuity, but I wouldn’t budge; they deserved every possible thank you in the world!

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Got my computer back!!

Susan and I agreed that I deserved a second Margarita — but after the first one, we were worried I’d forget to board.

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Susan Callihan, you are wonderful!!

The Kindness of Strangers: Thank you, thank you Charleston Place Hotel, John in Security, Matt at the front desk, the two agents pictured above in Security AND Susan Callihan. I will never, ever forget your kindness and hope I can return it to you and to another stranger one day!

Warmest wishes, Maddy

3 Responses to “The Kindness of Strangers … Thank You Charleston, South Carolina!”

  1. Bonnie Curry Whitehead says:

    Hi Madelyn,
    As you know, I live in South Carolina and have had the great pleasure of staying at Charleston Place Hotel, too. Just like you, I left something dear to me in my room, and just like you, the wonderful folks from the Reception and Hotel Security retrieved my left-behind-item and MAILED it to me! I was just as impressed as you are with their trustworthiness and helpfulness. Charleston isn’t known as the FRIENDLIEST CITY IN THE US for nothing…
    Kindest Regards from a proud South Carolinian,
    Bonnie Curry Whitehead

  2. Madelyn says:

    Bonnie, You are absolutely right — Charleston is the friendliest city in the US and maybe anywhere!!

  3. Joan Willard says:

    I am so glad you visited our ‘Holy City’, known by that name because of the number of churches that we have here. Being a native Charlestonian (4 syllables), I am always proud and happy to hear that our friends from Paris have enjoyed our beautiful city like we enjoy yours. On another note, recently I booked some clients into one of your apartments, Cote de Beaune. They are looking forward to their visit in August. Thank you again for your kind remarks and I hope you are able to visit again soon.
    Joan Willard

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