Sea Oats

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Alluring Charleston

Alluring Charleston

Sightseeing by carriage in Charleston.
Some cities are just meant to be visited.  San Francisco, San Diego, Carson City, Nevada, Mackinac Island, Mystic Seaport, Savannah and of course, Charleston, South Carolina. No city I can think of embodies friendliness, charm and residential beauty more than that of Charleston. 

Years ago I described Charleston in article as the place where Rhett Butler meets Laura Ashley. You get off I-95 onto I-26 and then you slide gracefully in the 18th century. Cobblestone streets, homes built in the 1600’s painted in soft pastels, looming and imposing government buildings, some of which actually held pirates in their cellars. In addition, some of which had pirates in their offices disguised as public officials.

However, Charleston, more than any other southern city, is the quintessential home of southern grace and charm. As I made my way through the streets shooting pictures and admiring the flavor of the city, I found a house, which had some interesting shutters. As I stood on the sidewalk shooting, two people greeted me and said I was quite welcome to get up closer and to walk through the yard. I declined, saying I did not know the owners and did not feel it was right to trespass just to get the shot. They said it would be perfectly all right as they were the owners and had just returned from downtown where they had breakfast. They opened their house and their yard to me.

The town has a warm welcoming feel that is just hard to resist. You find yourself caught up in the gentility of the place.

I worked my way through the narrow streets and byways, shooting as I went. After roaming all morning, I made my way back to the Old Central Market. The sweetgrass straw baskets, hand woven, competed for your attention with clothing, preserves and art work. The Market has a past as a slave market, but from the mix of cultures present nowadays, it is hard to remember how horrible this place must have been for the people being sold there.

Charleston, bound by two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, nestles at the end of a peninsula. You can walk down just a few blocks from the Old Market and you will be at the Cooper River. Here there are ferries to ride out to Ft. Sumter, the place where the Civil War began . There are also harbor tours and across the way is the aircraft carrier Yorktown. Surprisingly, the waterfront looks more industrial than it need be. It is not till you move farther to the East that you get to the beautiful waterfront parks and homes. Rainbow Row, where multihued homes face the river, is now obscured somewhat by the trees that have grown and slightly spoil the view I had twenty years ago, but it still affords a beautiful view of the homes that line the street.

On the Ashley River are three of Charleston’s largest and best equipped marinas. The City Marina, the Ashley and the Bristol marinas. All have well laid out docking and fuel systems. The folks are helpful and knowledgeable. (At a future time I may go into cruising details, but for now, this is just a quick overfly of the area.)

Just outside Charleston live two well-known plantations. Magnolia and Boone Hall. I toured the Magnolia Plantation. Absolutely beautiful.  If you interested in the antebellum south, these are worth the drive out and you can stop and see Boone Hall on the same road.

I would go in February or March as the weather is normally good and the temperatures have not climbed to their soul killing best yet.

If you want to experience the South at its absolute best, Charleston is for you.

Where To Stay: I stayed at the La Quinta in in N. Charleston. Good rates, pretty clean and friendly staff. You can see my review on TripAdvisor. I go for good value. But I have to tell you, if you can do it, a great place to stay in town is the Francis Marion Hotel.

Of course there are other packages available including a La Quinta downtown.

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