Friday, June 22, 2012

Charleston, South Carolina

[Maryanne]After our first sail and first offshore passage with Begonia we spent much of a day at anchor, shared a good meal and a great night's sleep. We raised anchor with just the press of a button, how amazing an electric windlass is! Kyle had originally told me I'd be gifted an electric windlass for my 50th birthday (which has yet to come) - just like his guru Capt'n Fatty gave his wife for her 50th. Oh, my husband is a charmer all right! Luckily for me, Begonia came equipped with an electric windlass and so far Kyle hasn't had the heart to rip it out.

Moving Begonia to the Dock for the weekend

We took it easy and arrived in the nearby City Docks of Charleston for noon. Checked in and spent the remaining day between chores and being tourists. We walked all over town and got a feel for the place, ready to tackle it more methodically on the following day.

With a full day on the Saturday, we armed ourselves with a self-guided walking tour for the day, and a guided tour for the evening.

Old gas lamps add to the charm

Charleston is such a charming town. It's changed its reputation (just like Times Square in NY) from seedy and unsavoury, to quaint and family friendly, and as you walk around it is really hard to imagine there was a time (quite recently) when that might not have been such a safe or pleasant thing to do.

Charm and Fun in Charleston

The weather was fantastic being unseasonably cool (meaning not unbearably hot). The sun shone and the kids played in the public fountains, where kindly the city does not post 'no bathing' signs, but encourages such fun.

Charleston is famed for its Antebellum style where homes and buildings have classic balconies (for the breeze), and design and orientation to catch the breezes and keep the shade as much as possible. Still today (presumably for the quaintness rather than necessity) many of the homes have gas lit welcome lights for the porch.

We found a large park, empty the first day, now covered with stalls of the farmers market. As we wondered around we were tempted by local tourist gifts (Kyle found a keyring and a bracelet he could not leave behind), and freshly prepared food (We partook of the Greek Pita and followed up with freshly made, sweet, hot beignets from a different vendor - oh what bliss!

Farmers Markets and ubiquitous basket stalls.

Another thing Charleston seems famed for is the woven baskets made of sweetgrass or seagrass, and simple but beautiful palmetto roses (crafted from a few leaves from a single Palmetto palm frond) are readily found too. The baskets come in all shapes, sizes and designs, and in the past were traditionally made by African slaves. Now though you can barely afford to look. The smallest basket I found (maybe 1/2" by 3" was $15 (but what could you use it for?), and a small fruit bowl would likely set you back $500)... Wow, that was a memento we would not return to the boat with, despite the obvious skill required to make them.

So we ambled around town, deviating as we were distracted to some new sight, and often being passed by the horse driven coaches showing the sights to tourists not prepared to walk in the heat. Alleys, short cuts between streets, all had character, and may seemed to make you feel you were taking a trail in the jungle and so fun to pass through. We picked one of the many old homes that is open to the public to tour, and stood on balconies where Generals of the Civil war watched battles at sea. So much history for my average brain to recall. Of course there were regular intervals to sample roof top bars or fancy tavern fare.

Eventually we ended our final day with a Grand Mexican meal, followed by a guided walking tour with Mark Jones (part owner of Black Cats Walking Tours, and a more than little away from being Politically Correct!). The point of the tour was to highlight the seedier history of Charleston, where apparently Puritans never settled but plenty a prostitute made a living.

Ah, sweet Charleston. I really enjoyed seeing it. I had to depart early the following day for a flight back to reality, leaving Kyle to keep moving the boat towards her her summer home. In the mean time, I suspect I've used the word charm a few too many times, but just like the vocabulary in this post, Charlston is over flowing with it.

Charleston scenes

1 comment:

kate said...

I LOVE Charleston so I'm happy to hear you and Kyle had such a lovely visit there. Those sweetgrass baskets are beautiful, aren't they? Elaine bought one in the market there at a price too steep for me to consider doing the same. But Dianna Clark (at Trader, do you remember her?) was from Charleston, and she got a relative to send one to me - so sweet! Though Dianna claimed it was no big deal and they were all overpriced anyway (!). Loved looking at all your pictures. Makes me want to visit Charleston again - and soon!