Charleston, South Carolina, is steeped in history, its wonderful historic hotels and inns both comfortable and reasonably priced, its restaurants offering culinary delights and southern hospitality.
For history buffs Charleston, SC is a great place to spend some time. Just a few blocks from our hotel, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired. In April of 1861, the batteries of Brigadier General Pierre Beauregard began bombarding the Federal garrison of Fort Sumter. That intense battle forced the fort to surrender to the Confederates in less than thirty-six hours. While the rebels held it, it's estimated that the Union forces fired over seven million pounds of metal at them, trying to take it back.
As we explore the historic part of town, there seems to be a charming hotel on every side street in old Charleston, all of them elegant. Some of these magnificent inns were built as hotels. Many others were conversions of stately homes, built with old southern wealth. Almost at the bottom of Church Street, the George Eveleigh House has slanted concrete posts in front. This house, built around 1743, is one of the few to survive Civil War shelling. The posts were used to tie up boats, back when the water (now far off behind a seawall) came right to the door. This house has been in the same family since 1875.
With its lovely ante bellum architecture, moderate climate, and winding narrow streets, old Charleston is an easy place to love. It is also a great place to eat! When our focus shifts to much more immediate interests than those historical, we turn into the first Charleston restaurant we encounter on North Market Street, a two-block walk from our hotel.
The ambiance relaxes us, as armed with pints of draft Guinness, we await the arrival of lunch. Lots of warm wood, cozily lit by Tiffany lamps, housed in an old brick building that seems to have survived the shelling of Charleston. Posters advertise Harp Lager, and advise that; "... Guinness is good for you." (As though we didn't know!).
Our lunch sets the tone for meals we'll enjoy for the rest of the week. Shrimp and scallop pie, wonderfully seasoned, it is seafood at its best. We are later to discover that each meal in a Charleston restaurant will be better than the last, mediocrity being unknown in this city's eateries. Virtually every style of cuisine is available, French, Italian, Asian and of course Cajun, the restaurants in Charleston are some of the best we have experienced. Charleston, South Carolina hospitality is superb, much of it delivered in deep Southern accents.
After lunch, we head back to our hotel in Charleston SC. We walk south on Church Street, which runs right through historic Charleston, and past their most historic church. It doesn’t take long to discover that transportation in the old town often involves “four feet and a fringe”. There are a number of operators offering carriage tours in Charleston. It's a delightful way to explore this charming southern city.
Church Street ends at White Point Gardens, home to a rookery of yellow - crested night herons, right on the harbor. Walking under the trees here is a hazardous affair, due to the ongoing 'bird bombardment' along the Charleston waterfront.
Murray Boulevard to the west of the Gardens, and East Bay Street to the east, are each bounded by a wonderful paved walk along the seawall, home to bikers, hikers, and inline skaters. Today, Fort Sumter National Monument, much restored, is the star in the crown of Charleston, South Carolina's tourist attractions, with daily boat tours leaving from the SC Aquarium.
In Charleston SC, history buffs can explore naval artifacts that range from the Civil War to the modern era. On the night of 17 February, 1864, the H.L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, when she detonated 135 pounds of black powder that she had attached to the hull of the Housatonic, a Union blockade vessel lying just outside Charleston harbor. The resulting explosion sank the Housatonic, and most likely the Hunley herself, as she then vanished from history for 137 years.
In 1995, Clive Cussler's National Underwater and Marine Agency located the hulk of the hand-cranked, iron Hunley under three feet of silt, in twenty - eight feet of water, after a fifteen - year search. In 2000 she was raised, complete with her crew, and can now be viewed in her restoration tank at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where she is undergoing archeological research.
More modern fighting ships can be explored at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Chief among the exhibits is the 888 - foot Yorktown, an aircraft carrier commissioned in 1943 and in service until 1970. As well, this Charleston Museum features the Clamagore, a World War II diesel submarine, and the Laffey, a destroyer of the same era.
Eating breakfast in the warm South Carolina sunshine, in the roof garden of our Charleston hotel on the morning of our departure, we reflect on our wonderful week. We have dined at some of the best restaurants in Charleston, enjoyed a plantation visit, a walking tour of the historic district, photographed and sketched in the French Quarter, and explored the gun batteries at Fort Moultrie. No end of things to do, in Charleston SC.