Thursday, February 15, 2024

Charleston, the belle of South Carolina, offers history, color, gentility

Charleston's marina is a busy but peaceful place with shops, restaurants, 17,000 linear feet of
dock space for both motorized boats and sailing vessels. It's a beautiful place to stroll, too.


This vintage home displays the popular and
time honored "haint blue" southern tradition.


CHARLESTON, South Carolina, is a city of contrasts. You'll find modern shopping centers and new hotels, skyscrapers, horse drawn carriages and genteel homes from the Civil War era.

It boasts a beautiful harbor, the fort where the Civil War began and a gaceful bridge, the Ravenel Bridge, named after Arthur Ravenel Jr., a successful South Carolina businessman who served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Christene (Cookie) Meyers and Bruce
 Keller at sunset under the Ravenel Bridge.
The spectacular bridge -- also known as the Cooper River Bridge, is one of many attractions to this attractive town of only 151,000. The bridge is cable-stayed, the third longest in the U.S., and connects downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. It is designed to carry 100,000 vehicles per day, a number experts say it will reach before 2030. Last count, more than 97,000 vehicles a day crossed the bridge, which includes a well shared bicycle and pedestrian path.

You'll likely transit it when you visit this charming port city, founded in 1670.

Charleston from the water at night, a pretty sight.
It is defined by its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and pastel antebellum houses, particularly in the elegant French Quarter and Battery districts. 
Both Battery Promenade and Waterfront Park overlook Charleston Harbor, while Fort Sumter, a federal stronghold where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, lies across the water. You'll see it on the harbor tour we recommend later.

The Charleston Princess gives
visitors a thorough look at
the harbor and coastline, from
Fort Sumter and the bridge.

about the significance of the many pale blue ceilings we saw on Charleston porches. Why that color? You'll find out on a Charleston city tour, as we did with our delightful guide, Alan Rosenfeld. He gives a unique and entertaining city tour, explaining that the color, known as "haint blue," is associated with the  Gullah Geechee people,
descendants of enslaved Africans in parts of Georgia and the Carolinas. The word derives from their language and means ghost.  The Gullah people have maintained a rich cultural heritage. Among their traditions was the belief that haint blue repels haints, or ghosts. You'll find the color on thousands of southern porches.
African inspired crafts are
part of the culture and often
seen at fairs and markets.
 Established as Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston adopted its present name in 1783.

Charleston's streets are defined by attractive,
tree lined boulevards and parks. 
St. Michael's Anglican Church is
one of the city's historic buildings.
THE CITY is  home to the Charleston Symphony and many arts related events including an annual Wine and Food Festival, Charleston Fashion Week, Festival of Houses and Gardens, Flowertown Festival, High Water Festival and the MOJA Arts Festival, celebrating black arts and culture. For 17 days and nights each spring, the famed Spoleto Festival USA fills Charleston's historic theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces
Piccolo Spoleto Festival and a well known Southeastern Wildlife Exposition are also popular events.
A FUN OPTION is a tour of Charleston's historic homes.  Conde Nast offers a good one, hitting the city's best known and nicely maintained relics of a bygone era. (Link at story's end.)
Discover Savannah's charms
The Citadel, Army National Guard, is on
a unique driving tour we enjoyed
Fort Sumter is on most visitor's "must see" lists. The attack on the fort began the  American Civil War which lasted four years and cost the lives of more than 620,000 Americans. It also freed 3.9 million enslaved people from bondage.
THE CITY made the news with another shooting for it is the scene of the 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.
The gunman, a white supremacist, entered the church,
stayed for the service, then killed nine parishioners. Racism exists in Charleston, and in every town in America. But our New Jersey born guide, who is happily transplanted and loves Charleston, considers it a welcoming place with a pleasant mix of people from around the country.
Cookie rings the bell of the Princess.
WE NOTICED very little overt racism, but chatting with people of color, we learned that there is still subtle discrimination. "Inevitable, I think," one waiter told us. "People and old ideas and ways are changing, slowly but surely."

Excellent tour guide
Alan Rosenfeld gives a
lively overview. Book him

Karole Foreman movingly captures the essence
of "Lady Day" -- Billie Holiday -- with Lanie
Robertson on piano in a fabulous two-person show
Fans of the great jazz singer Billie Holiday have just a few performances to catch Karole Foreman in the title role in "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill." Written by Lanie Robertson, it's at Cygnet Theatre in Old Town, San Diego. This stunning two-person show features virtuoso pianist Damon Carter as Jimmy Powers, Holiday's accompanist, friend and confidant, who keeps Billie on point while the tunes seamlessly roll. Carter is musical director for the show, which features Foreman singing many of the singer's best known songs with a running commentary on her loves, losses and the racism, drinking and drug abuse that shadowed her life. Foreman truly captures Holiday, with all her gifts, lip and demons. It's a stunning piece of theater which left us absolutely mesmerized for 90  minutes. Wren T. Brown directs, from Ebony Repertory Theatre of Los Angeles. Worth a trip to San Diego from wherever you are -- even the moon! 619-337-1525, Through Feb. 18.

SCAD's Museum of Art offers beautifully curated exhibitions,
including both famous and emerging artists. You'll want to spend
 several hours in this artful, open, beautifully curated space.
UP NEXT: SCAD. That's the word in Savannah if you are interested in art. Savannah College of Art and Design has an international reputation and attracts students and artists from around the globe.  We spent an entertaining afternoon at the the SCAD Museum of Art, a  premier contemporary art museum  featuring emerging and established international artists through commissioned works and rotating exhibitions. We'll take you there next week, with photos sure to draw a smile. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on art, music, travel, nature, family and more.   


  1. It's frun for us Charleston natives to catch your spin on our interesting town.

  2. We visit our parents every year and treat us all to the sunset boat trip.

  3. Drove to Atlanta then Savannah and Charleston last spring. Really enjoy the architecture of the South.

  4. We love boat tours. Will check this one out in spring visit.