Charleston. The quintessential southern city. Southern magnolias, antebellum mansions, horse drawn carriages, secret gardens. Filled to the brim with history, the city calls to you to come and stay a spell. The peninsula, bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, although Charleston is what we know it as today. On my first visit to the city I did a self-guided walking tour using a book I borrowed from a friend. The book walked you to significant homes, churches, the market, restaurants, and other significant places in Charleston. My tip? Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen. I’ve been there several times since then, and each time I love it more.
They call Charleston the “Holy City” because of the number of churches. No matter what direction you look you will see massive steeples reaching towards the heavens. Throughout the day, the bells ring out a melody that is carried across the city on the breeze. I have a thing for churches and cemeteries. I also love history and architecture. The older and more juicy the history, the better. Fortunately there is no shortage of churches, cemeteries, gorgeous architecture, and history! The cemeteries in the city are old, filled with generations of families and a lot of history. People laid to rest eternally that were involved in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, politics, writers, artists-the list goes on. Since Charles Town was first a British colony to the present many important historical events have happened within the city.
Settled by British subjects and quickly turned into a port city, Charles Town was attacked by Native Americans, the French, the Spanish, and pirates. Today, Pirate’s Alley is a private residence steps from the French Huguenot Church and St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, but prior to that it was rumored to be a haven for pirates. As the city grew wealthy from its agriculture and shipping, was besieged by pirates, including Blackbeard. Walking down the cobbled streets a block from the Pirates Alley in the French Quarter you almost feel transported back in time; the clopping of horses hooves on the street brings a chill down your spine. During the onset of the American Revolution, the British unsuccessfully tried to seize the city in 1776. General Clinton did in fact take control of Charleston in 1780 after the Siege of Charles Town, handing the Americans a huge defeat. The British held the city for about 2 more years. When the Americans regained control in 1783 they renamed the city Charleston and the city has grown since then into the jewel it is today.
My favorite thing to do is walk around and peek down alleyways or look into the secret courtyard gardens beyond wrought iron gates. The gates themselves are worth viewing and have names such as the sword gate. Ornate, they allow a glimpse of lush greenery and an explosion of blooms just beyond your grasp. A little “peeper-ish” I suppose, but the gardens are so magnificent, it is hard not to look. Almost every house has the most glorious window box, as if they are trying to outdo the neighbor. One time while walking around looking at the houses and gardens I had a chance to watch a homeowner assemble his window boxes. As if he was a pro, he skillfully assembled his boxes with tropical plants and flowers in no time. It was neat to watch. I love to garden, so I found this very interesting.
A trip to the City Market is a must on your Charleston adventure. There are many vendors, some selling arts or crafts, food, soaps, or clothing. I always enjoy a visit to the Sea Island Jewelry lady. I’ve purchased garden gate jewelry for many people for Christmas or birthdays from her. The jewelry is in silver and replicates the numerous gates found throughout the city. Another treat at the market is watching one of the Gullah sweetgrass basket weavers. They use sweetgrass, found in the marshes in the area to weave baskets in the tradition of their ancestors from Africa. Each of the baskets are a work of art and highly sought after by tourists. I am lucky enough to own a small one and I’ve used it everyday since it was purchased.
Another locally made item I really enjoy is Rewined Candles. My favorites, Chardonnay and seasonal Spiked Cider are warm, buttery scents that evoke feelings of fall, although they can be enjoyed year-round. The best part? Besides being made locally in Charleston of soy and smelling heavenly, the containers are repurposed wine bottles, hence the name ReWined. Ingenious!!
Charleston. A city full of the hustle and bustle of life; a fantastic time for sure! Like most places in the south, it can be very hot in the summer, but with so much to see it is highly recommended. Looking for something to do? Hanging in the Holy City is a winner!