We were so lucky to spend a few lovely days visiting friends in Charleston South Carolina. It’s a bonus when friends live in cities worth visiting and Charleston is definitely one of those. Charleston South Carolina oozes southern charm and hospitality – you just want to eat it up.
We had visited Charleston years ago, in fact about 27 years ago. Boy time does fly. And although the surrounding areas of Charleston proper including the town of Mount Pleasant where we were staying, have grown exponentially, historic Charleston has stayed much the same.
The oldest town in the American south, Charleston dates to 1718 and is named for King Charles II of England. Originally located north and founded in 1680 (location now known as Charles Town Landing), the town moved south to the strategic location where the confluence of the Wando and the Ashleigh Rivers meet Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.
The city today (population of the greater Charleston area about 775,000) is well-known for its beauty, colonial history, hospitality, exceptional restaurants, and surrounding recreational opportunities.
We spent our short time in the area enjoying the company of our friends, and several sites around the region. We did not go out to Fort Sumter, because we did that long ago. Instead we walked more than eight miles all over historic Charleston. Although the horse-drawn carriages are fun, Charleston is a pedestrian friendly town. It’s perfect for walking; flat, safe and beautiful. On our walk we enjoyed the magnificent historic churches (Charleston is nicknamed the Holy City because it has so many church spires) and cemeteries. The colonial historic homes are enchanting, each so perfectly coiffed and dressed as if going to a ball. The week we were visiting was the peak of the jasmine bloom – literally millions of jasmine blossoms on nearly every beautiful home, perfumed the air for miles around. We visited Battery Park where the herons were nesting in the giant oak trees overlooking Charleston Harbor. Of course we stopped for photos at Rainbow Row, the original commercial district and now the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the USA. Our walk took us to The Pink House, the oldest stone building in Charleston dated 1674.
I really enjoyed the Historic Charleston Market, stretching for four blocks it has been a market of one sort or another since 1790 and operates in the beautiful and historic market hall. Today the market is almost all arts and crafts, showcasing the region’s blend of Southern US, English, French and West African cultures. My favorite was the spectacular handmade reed baskets known as Sweetgrass Baskets. Made still today in the traditional manner by the descendants of West Africans, the baskets are works of art and sell for hundreds of dollars.
Shem Creek Park north of historic Charleston, has a lovely park and nature preserve made for walking and enjoying the birds and beauty of the area. This is also where you can see all the shrimp boats and pick up some fresh shrimp for dinner, which we did! Another beautiful walk is out the former bridge to Sullivan’s Island. When the new bridge opened the old bridge found new purpose as a wonderful pedestrian park across the estuary and perfect for kayak launching, bird watching, fishing and picnicking.
Boone Hall Plantation is definitely worth a visit even with the $25 entrance fee. Boone Hall has been a working plantation for more than 350 years. Although the current main house is not original (dates to 1936), it is beautiful and keeps to the authentic time period. The row of brick slave cabins were really interesting, with each one focusing on interpretive information about the slave life. Local docents offer short talks about the plantation and slavery, and a half an hour storytelling and singing presentation by a local Gullah woman was first-rate. I am so glad we visited beautiful Boone Hall.
I could write another entire blog about the delicious food of this region…but I’ll just end the post today with a shout out to pimento cheese and pork rinds, cheeseburger with fried green tomato, BBQ Brisket and coleslaw, scallops with pesto and mushrooms and fresh-off-the-boat shrimp. It’s a delicious city, one of its many, many charms.
Charleston South Carolina, a perfect little package of southern charm tied pretty with a hospitality bow. Visit soon.
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