HOSEK: The charms of historic Charleston |


As I walked down the sidewalk into Market Street, the raging waters enveloped my sandal foot, past my ankle, and threatened to knock me off my feet.

My wife, Kathy, stood under an awning hanging from her wind-whipped umbrella, wrapped in a free plastic trash bag, and waited for my estimate.

“We can do it,” I said, “But you’re going to get wet. “

“I’m already wet,” she said in obvious response.

So, we continued our joyful but soggy exploration of Charleston.

Hurricane Ida swept sideways through one of the oldest cities in the South and flooded it with torrential rains that threatened to submerge its sewage system barely above sea level. Yet with limited time to enjoy charms of the seaside city, we did not want to waste time holed up in a hotel room. So we crossed the aquatic artery and entered the old town market. According to the occupants of the carriage that passed us, we were not the only ones who did not want to be discouraged by a simple hurricane.

The historic Charleston City Market is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Local entrepreneurs sell a wide range of products, most of them made locally, at one of the oldest public markets in the country.

The sprawling four-block retail site has nearly 300 vendors selling beautiful crafts, though by that day it was obvious more than one had decided to sleep late.

The holy city

Our wet adventure had started three days earlier on a much drier afternoon when we landed in Charleston, SC to experience the allure of the skyline dotted with spiers, colonial houses and cobblestone streets. of the holy city.

The nickname “the holy city” seems to refer to the prolific amount of places of worship whose numerous spiers give it a distinctive appearance. It is said that no building can be built higher than the tallest church spire in Charleston.

We settled into the Harbor View Inn with its panoramic views of Charleston Harbor and Waterfront Park. The hostel’s rooftop terrace is one of the best places in town to take in the views.

Our late arrival on a busy Sunday afternoon without a reservation for one of the nearby restaurants on East Bay Street found us looking for an open table for some much needed meals. We stumbled out of the sunny day into Poogan’s smokehouse and found two chairs at the bar.

The 19th century exposed brick walls are bathed in a subtle note of scented smoke. With recommendations from our host, we opted for a few demanding local beers. Paired with their juicy pulled pork, chicken, smoked sausage, coleslaw and house fries, we felt we were off to a good start.

Then we walked to the waterfront, past the splash fountain filled with screaming children, onto the pier that stretches deep into the harbor, and joined several spectators as we watched the sailboats sail the waves. calm waters.

Take time

The morning found us on the rooftop terrace where we enjoyed our breakfast while watching the striking sunrise over the working harbor.

Charleston takes a slower pace, and this historic city’s Lower Peninsula provides an ideal location for a wonderfully after breakfast stroll.

We strolled south through Waterfront Park with its famous Pineapple Fountain, along cobbled streets past the famous Rainbow Row of pastel-colored houses and onto The Battery, a defensive sea wall and promenade located on the lower banks. from the Charleston promontory.

At the southern tip of the battery is White Point Garden. The park is located at the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper rivers which empty into the harbor. It has several monuments, a belvedere and massive cannons that date back to the Civil War. Its vast grassy areas shaded by old oak trees proved perfect for a midday respite from rising temperatures.

You don’t need a car in downtown Charleston; if you want to get up for an hour, you can always take a carriage ride. Call it touristy, but discovering Charleston’s history by horse-drawn carriage is one of the area’s most popular tours and, after all, we were tourists.

Along with Lilo & Boppy’s equestrian wife, Gay, our guide with Palmetto Carriage Works, highlighted Charleston’s famous and sometimes infamous homes with their unique architecture, including ornate wrought iron work decorating many homes.

Against a backdrop of thriving church spiers, past unique streets just 4 feet wide, we stopped as she regaled us with stories about the people who made Charleston and why Charleston’s detached homes with their wide squares are built as they are, the importance of earthquake-resistant bolts and much more.

It was easy to imagine us being led to one of those famous pre-war homes for a quiet afternoon in the south.

For dinner, we met at the Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar looking for a taste of the local fair. We discovered Crab Soup, a rich and creamy Charleston delight made with crab, eggs and a hint of sherry. Combined with platters of fried green tomatoes and oysters, we were in culinary heaven.

History and turtles

The next day we walked (and hiked… an Uber might have been appropriate that day) to the South Carolina Aquarium. Along with sharks, seahorses, waders, otters and fish of all colors, it is also home to the Sea Turtle Care Center, a hospital for the care of sick and injured sea turtles.

When a sea turtle is found stranded or injured off the coast of South Carolina, the animal is brought to the care center to be cared for by dedicated staff and volunteers. That day, there were half a dozen rescues requiring treatment for various illnesses, including injuries from a collision with a boat. Three of the patients were released the day after our visit.

History in Charleston is as thick as the humidity of a late summer day. Museums such as Forts Moultrie and Sumter surround the harbor, several grand homes of the Barons of Charleston are open to the public, and architectural treasures explore the deep history of the city’s past.

An enthusiastic guide in historical costume led us to make one, the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon. Built in 1771, it has a long history in Charleston’s past. George Washington had greeted a crowd of Charlestonians from his balcony. After the city was captured by the British in 1780, its basement was used as a military prison.

Walking around the eerie confines of the damp brick barrel vaulted rooms, where up to 120 prisoners were held, had a spectral quality. Some might say “haunting”.

You cannot ignore Charleston’s contribution to the slave trade, given that approximately 40% of the slaves brought to the United States passed through Charleston.

A few blocks from the Old Exchange, the Slave Mart Museum tells this fascinating story. Ryan’s Auction Mart opened on the site of this museum, and African Americans were owned and auctioned there between 1856 and 1863. The building has a heart-wrenching look that is hard to ignore.

Our last meal was at Slightly North of Broad, or “SNOB,” as the locals like to call it. Set in an old 18th century warehouse with burnished wood floors lit by elegant chandeliers, we started with marinated shrimp, then dipped into a bowl of shrimp and grits, a South Carolina specialty ever since. generations. Kathy enjoyed the pan-seared flounder over squash mash. It was epicurean magic for our last evening.

We fell in love with the charms of Charleston as we walked the neighborhoods, marveling at old world homes and enjoying the spectacular waterfront where hospitality and history came to life and embraced us.

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