One day in Charleston and it is easy to understand why this city continually garners accolades and tops many “Best of” charts, including Travel and Leisure World’s Best City 2016. Charleston is steeped in history and tradition. The city was founded in 1670 (which makes it old by U.S. standards) and is famous for its well-preserved architecture, distinctive cuisine and the locals’ deeply-ingrained hospitality. The best way to see Charleston is on foot, so pack your most comfortable walking shoes and allow hours each day to meander the cobblestoned streets and alleyways.
We immediately noticed that the “front” of most houses was actually on the side. This maximized cross-ventilation from the prevailing winds and greater enjoyment of the gardens.
Many houses have a door facing the street was left open when residents were “at home” and receiving visitors.
Common courtesy dictated that the north side of a house (on right above) had very few or no windows to afford privacy for its neighbors.
Pineapples have served as a symbol of hospitality and it is a motif seen throughout Charleston. The Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park is a great example and wading is not only allowed, it is encouraged – a boon when the temperatures rise and/or the feet are tired!
If you have time and the weather is fine, there are many options for seeing the city from the harbor. We went on a kayak tour which was wonderful. There are numerous cruises by catamaran and old fashioned steamships. You can take a water taxi or ferry across the harbor to Mount Pleasant, Sullivan’s Island and other beaches.
Before visiting, I hadn’t realized that Charleston is known as “The Holy City.” [I confess I thought this designation was reserved for places like Rome, Jerusalem and Mecca.] However, the sheer number of prominently located churches and other religious institutions is often cited as the reason.
St. Philip’s , located on the aptly named Church Street, is one of the more visible landmarks in the historic district. The current building dates to 1836, while the congregation was established in 1680, just ten years after the city was founded.
Barely a stone’s throw away, the French Huguenot Church is distinctive in style and my personal favorite. Originally, services were timed by the tides which enabled the planters to travel by boat from the outlying areas.
St. Michael’s Church is the oldest surviving religious structure in Charleston. It was built in the 1750s on the site previously occupied by St. Philip’s. Its churchyard houses the remains of illustrious Charlestonians including two signers of the United States Constitution.
The Unitarian Church’s cemetery has a delightful unkempt look. The pathways are maintained, but nature has taken over with wonderful results.
Also of note, it is rumored to be haunted by Annabel Lee, the subject of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works.
All this walking will work up an appetite, Foodie Friday | Charleston, SC has my suggestions for the best places to relax and restore your energy!
By the way, recent research suggests that “the Holy City” moniker has a more prosaic background. In short, Frank B. Gilbreath Jr., noted author (Cheaper by the Dozen) and “Doing the Charleston” columnist (as Ashley Cooper) wrote in 1955:
I can’t say who originated the phrase Holy City. I do know, though, that about 50 years ago Mr. Yates Snowden of the N&C staff used to employ the phrase… As to why and wherefore, I’d say the answer is pretty obvious. Any city that is full of sacred cows, worshipped by its inhabitants and envied by the rest of the world, would inevitably become known — I should think — as the Holy City.