Thursday, January 14, 2016

Road Trip Diary: Chillin' in Charleston

After rolling into Charleston in the early evening hours, we dumped our bags in the hotel and immediately made our way down to Waterfront Park to have a quick look around, grab some beers, and watch the sunset.  





When driving downtown, I was struck by how beautiful Charleston is.   Its fine old colonial style houses, the humid temperature, the trees, and the relaxed pace are all the elements that have pulled me back to Savannah, Georgia, on numerous occasions and it was so fantastic to find another city that ticked all my boxes (so to speak..)

I love the American south and I do tend to favour the southern states above all others.  I’ve now visited 42 from 50, but the south is always first on my list when I’m heading stateside.  Apart from the relaxed way of life, people in the south are fantastically friendly and the accents are to die for.     

Apart from the world renowned Southern hospitality, Charleston is also famous for many other things; one of which is being it was the location of the start of the American Civil War, when South Carolina seceded from the Union and attacked a ship docked in the harbour.    Shortly after, they opened fire on the Union controlled Fort Sumter, which is located nearby, and so the Civil War began.    

I’m pleased to say that there was no warring during our visit and we stood on the waterfront, where the Rivers Ashley and Cooper meet to form an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, and enjoyed the glorious sunset.   Obviously, we took some time out to fool around with the photos, pretty much detracting from the colours with our attempts to look like we were holding the moon.   Tourists, eh?


Did I get it??  Did I get it??
Charleston is often referred to as the Holy City, which might well be to do with the sheer number of churches and places of worship.    This includes the beautiful Emanuel African Methodist Church, which is the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South and really is a sight to behold. 

The American opera ‘Porgy and Bess’ was also written by novelist Du Bose, along with composers, George and Ira Gershwin in 1934.   It’s also where jazz trumpeter extraordinaire, Louis Armstrong, first came to the wider public’s attention.  


Charleston is crammed with history.  Some good, some not so good – pretty much like everywhere else.   However, it is great to see so much history remembered and celebrated within the city.    As well as the buildings and the people, the mixtures of African, British, French and American influence on the local cuisine is not to be missed.   You can’t go far in Charleston without indulging in some seriously good food, which you can experience at the City Market, amongst other places. 

The Market is open daily and houses a fantastic range of individual vendors, including fine food and drink, shoes, hats, glass, and jewellery.     The market is also opened on a Friday and Saturday evening and the atmosphere is wonderful.     If you'd like to experience a true taste of Charleston, you can't go far wrong with a trip to the City Market.  



US Custom House


US Custom House is in the historic district and dates back to 1853.   The construction of the building was stopped prior to the Civil War and started again afterwards.   It is used to house government agencies and is a beautifully designed building, with its imposing pillars and lovely staircase, which is now used as seating for special events in the city.   

Fort Sumter, as mentioned earlier, was the location of the beginning of the American Civil War and is now a historic visitor attraction run by the US National Park Service.    Entrance is free, but is only accessible by boat as it is located on an island.   Swimming is not advised, obviously.    Due to transport restrictions, planning ahead is key to ensure that you're at the departure point at the correct time to get there and back.     During the Summer months, there's also a Sunset tour.

Boone Hall, like Magnolia, is a Southern plantation and brings alive the history of African Slaves and gives an insight into the 'Gullah' language and culture.    The plantation is huge and includes a butterfly pavilion, house tours, garden walks, and a self guided tour of Black History in America.   

Nathaniel Russell House Museum is a fine antebellum house located in the Downtown district of Charleston, and was the family home of Nathaniel Russell, a successful merchant of cotton, rice and other commodities.    The house is open to the public and tells the story of the Russell family and the slaves that served them during their time in the property. 
Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row (pictured above) is, as it says, a row of rainbow coloured houses.   13, to be precise, and the longest continuous row of Georgian houses in the US.    They are a major tourist attraction and included in pretty much every walking tour in the city.    It's easy to see why, with their colourful facades glinting in the sunlight of the leafy street.    

The Charleston Museum is also a wonderful spot for learning about the history of Charleston, the Civil War, the slave trade and the American Revolution, amongst others.   The Museum also offers joint entry to two other historic houses, the Heyward-Washington and Joseph Manigault, which both tell stories of more wealthy Charleston families and the slaves that served them. 


Charleston, aside from the mass of history it has preserved, is a thoroughly relaxing and welcoming city and I can't wait to go back and see what else it has to offer.


Have you visited Charleston?  What are your favourite sights?