7 Charms of Charleston.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In the summer of 2013, I packed up my car and moved six states away to a city I had never been to before for an internship. From the second I arrived to the sad day I had to leave, Charleston South Carolina had me falling in love on a daily basis.

Let me count the ways...

1. History
One of the things I've always been a bit jealous of compared to other countries is that while the U.S. has it's own unique and interesting history, it's just not as...old. As silly as that sounds, I always found that the modern looking buildings and suburban neighbourhoods just never held the same magic as a building that had seen centuries. I think the oldest buildings in my hometown date back to the 1920s - practically a newborn in the eyes of Europe! With its East Coast location and especially thanks to the harbour, Charleston is one of the lucky U.S. cities that has been around nearly since the beginning. The building codes are so strict that even if a house is brand new, it will be designed to fit the aesthetics of the classic Charleston-style homes of the 1700s. The city was founded in 1670 by King Charles II of England and boasts plenty of history - the Civil War began here and played an important role throughout American history.

2. The food 
"If you don't leave Charleston a few pounds heavier, you did something wrong." Has been my promise to all who have asked me for tips. With a new restaurant every time you blink your eye and a pop up market or food truck around every corner, you will not go hungry here. You'd guess that Charleston is home to great Southern food (and you'd be 100% correct), but what you don't expect is the mind blowing seafood, steaks, crepes, donuts, brunch, sushi, innovative/experimental dishes, the best cocktails you'll ever drink - I could go on and on. The Lowcountry region - the low lying, coastal areas in South Carolina including Charleston - is especially famous for shrimp 'n grits and you can NOT leave without trying it. While my list of favourite restaurants could fill an encyclopaedia, the MVPS have to go to Poogan's Porch for an excellent Southern meal, Hominy Grill or Lowcountry Bistro for the best of the Lowcountry cuisine, Black Tap for coffee, Caviar & Bananas for picnic supplies, and Folly Beach Crab Shack for some seafood and a beer post-beach time. Agh, that was agonising to narrow down.

3. Natural beauty
Charleston is a full-fledged city, but even on the busiest of days downtown, you'll never feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed. With parks every few blocks, flower boxes beneath every windowsill, palm trees, sweeping Spanish moss dotted every few steps, and the ocean a stone's throw away, you feel like you're on constant vacation. A short drive out of the peninsula will land you at a number of beaches, forests, acres of gardens, and hidden gems like the Angel Oak tree.

4. Plantation houses
While they appreciate their grandeur, some people feel uncomfortable about the idea of visiting Plantation homes and I understand why. South Carolina has a deep history intertwined with slavery and the slave trade due to its important harbour, and the thought of prancing around a beautiful building where people were so horribly enslaved can feel odd. I think Charleston and its historians have done a great job of not only preserving the history of these homes and the prominent families that lived there, but pay homage to the nitty gritty of the reality that went alongside them. In particular, Boone Hall has still-standing slave cabins that they have transformed into an educational and very moving memorial space to learn about the humans that lived, worked, and died there. A few of my top plantation houses to visit in addition to Boone Hall are Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Middleton Place, and Drayton Hall.

5. Outta control sunsets
Before you think *groan* "Sunsets - really? Isn't that so Instagram circa 2011?" There are sunsets and then there are sunsets. Come sundown, the Charleston sky turns into a brilliant watercolour painting of oranges, blues, and pink. My pick for watching a sunset over the Chucktown? Head to the South West corner of Sullivan's Island's and snag a spot on the beach. Be sure to stop by Poe's Tavern on your way out for the best burger on the island!

6. Quaint cobbled roads
There's just something about tiny cobbled streets. After living in Texas my whole life, land of the giant asphalt or dirt roads, stumbling upon these adorable roads and alleyways in downtown Charleston during runs or walks was an unexpected joy. The downside of these little streets is what has been fondly coined "The Charleston Shuffle" - enduring the constant tripping, stumbling, and stubbed toes due to the uneven and bumpy roads, particularly on your way home following a night out after a drink or...two.

7. The joy of walking
My #1 bit of advice I tell people who are visiting Charleston is to simply take the time to walk. Strolling around the streets of the Peninsula south of Calhoun Street, or better yet - South of Broad Street in the evenings, with the smell of magnolias floating in the air is hands-down my favourite activity in Charleston. You will see the most beautiful, charming homes full of detail and Southern beauty you will have ever seen in your life. It's hard not to want to jump across the fence and explore the perfectly manicured backyards.

Have you ever visited Charleston? 

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