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Archive for the category “Meet Me In Charleston”

Post Card: Charleston, SC

Charleston, SC has become known as one of America’s top tourist destinations as well as a Top destination in the world (sorry Nat). I fell in love with the town 30 years ago. Funny, now that we have moved here, we don’t do all the touristy things anymore. But with the help of Dylan’s cousin Nikki and her family, who came down to visit and see her climb stairs, we had an opportunity to be a tourist this wonderful Saturday afternoon and go for a walk downtown.

Historic Charleston is a peninsula, at least the downtown historic part is. It is bordered by the Cooper River to the north and the Ashley River to the south. Both rivers converge with the Atlantic in Charleston’s Harbor. The tip of the peninsula is called the Battery. Here is where cannons aimed at a Union fort in the harbor, Fort Sumter, fired on it, starting America’s 4 year Civil War. But that is only a smidgen of the history that has took place is this beautiful historic town.

Charleston was home to much of the South’s super wealthy plantation owners, and cotton tycoons in the 1700 and 1800’s. Charleston was often a mecca for these rich families to live or ‘summer in’ where they can meet and socialize with much of the other upper crust in this new nation. Accordingly, the Charleston peninsula, was described to me as “2000 mansions side by side” on my first trip to the Holy City, or Chucktown as it is called locally.

So without further commentary let me take you on a walk from the historic Charleston Battery up East Bay Street on a sunny summer afternoon.

First, the Battery has always been one of my favorite places to run.

the Battery is the home to my favorite running course(s)

the Battery is the home to my favorite running course(s)

White Point Gardens at the Battery

the Battery Gardens and another wedding

the Battery Gardens and another wedding

So let’s go out to the water and take a left up East Bay Street and take a look at some magnificent houses..

Let's take a walk up East Bay Street from the Battery

Let’s take a walk up East Bay Street from the Battery

Virtually all these houses have some historical significance. If you like history you would find this place very interesting..

A nice little number with all the Square footage you could want

A nice little number with all the Square footage you could want

As I said, about 2000 mansions side by side…

..where the mansions are literally side by side

..where the mansions are literally side by side downtown

They range in all types of architectural styles….

Various styles of architecture to appreciate

Various styles of architecture to appreciate

..and colors!

A pink flamingo colored property, reminiscent of the plantation owners in the Caribbean

A pink flamingo colored property, reminiscent of the plantation owners in the Caribbean

The Charleston “Single House” and especially the porches, or Piazza’s. …

The front of the house is actually the side of the house

The front of the house is actually the side of the house

Wealthy homeowners could build massive mansions on narrow lots. But the idea for the Piazza’s is to capture the coastal breeze in the house (no a/c back then) as well as shade on their porches from the hot summer sun.

IMG_20150725_110419597But common tourists really pass by the real beauty of these homes if they simply drive or walk by. The detail each homeowner puts into their house to make it unique is what I love. If you take the time to look down manicured allies, or backyard or front gates (I’m such a nosy tourist) the love for Charleston can really kick in!

IMG_20150725_131648286Whether it is the landscaping…

IMG_20150725_131627733 1Iron gates…

IMG_20150725_131349141or private courtyards…

IMG_20150725_130837398 1Even curious signs warning too curious travelers…

Beware Ye Butt!

Beware Ye Butt!

Each home is really worth taking the time to see individually. It’s quite a nice neighborhood to visit!

Yea, its a nice neighborhood to call home.

Yes, it’s a nice neighborhood to call home.

 Here is a building worth seeing, the old Exchange and Provost Dungeon…all those flags have flown over it.

the Custom House and Provost Dungeon

the Old Exchange Provost Dungeon

It once was a prison (dungeon) holding American prisoners during our Revolutionary War; as well as famous (Blackbeard) and not so famous pirates. George Washington read a copy of the Declaration of Independence to  Charlestonians from it balcony. And it was used as an ammunition stock pile during our Civil War as well as many other uses over its 200+ year life.

We decided to take a side street…

taking a right down a side street to the Waterfront Park

taking a right down a side street to the Waterfront Park

Ahhhh…. shade in the summer afternoon sun!

Lots of shade at the Waterfront Park

Lots of shade at the Waterfront Park

The Waterfront park has been made famous (check these out) through pictures from its two fountains…

 a few water fountains at the Waterfront Park

a few water fountains at the Waterfront Park

Our kids found one that suited them…

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The park does face the Cooper River though as it meets the sea, where you can see two forts from our Civil War…

Castle Pinkney and Fort Sumter on the right, start of America's Civil War

Castle Pinkney and Fort Sumter on the right, start of America’s Civil War

More modern attractions can be seen at the port, including Cruise ships, the Cooper river Bridge, home to the very popular Cooper River Bridgerun 10K, and the retired aircraft carrier the USS Yorktown.

Carnival Fantasy, Cooper River Bridge (Arthur Ravenel Bridge), Yorktown battleship

Carnival Fantasy, Cooper River Bridge (Arthur Ravenel Bridge), USS Yorktown across the river

We then decided to get some lunch….

Something is always brewing here...

Something is always brewing here…

At the Southend Brewery and head back to our car. Travelers remember, this is just walking up one street in Charleston. There are many other spectacular views on the other less traveled streets, side streets, and even allies. The town is really easy to fall in love with!

It was a great afternoon with family sightseeing, topping off a great morning when my daughter carted off two great awards from our Stairclimb…

stairclimbShe received the medal for winning her age group (there were only 2 7-year olds there) and the giant Hershey Bar for bringing in $500 to the Lung Association (thank again to all you showing her some love and support for a great cause). All the other $500 fundraisers got a bottle of Champagne.

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The Hershey bar promptly turned to soup in the car as we toured East Bay Street.

Today was a good day….

Christmas In Charleston

Weeks have all run together this fall and suddenly I myself past the build up and heading in to the grand crescendo of the Christmas season. If any of you have never been to Charleston, SC (a.k.a. the Holy City, US most polite city, Charm city, Chucktown) before I wanted to introduce you to our fair town, and bring you a little bit of Christmas In Charleston, with wrapping and bows bundling wishes for a very merry and memorable Holiday season to all of you.

Grab and egg nog, a hot chocolate, or Bailey’s, put your feet up and come join my family as we prepare for Christmas in Charleston.

Merry Christmas!

citymarket

Now if you are not familiar with Charleston, SC, it sits on the coast in the state of South Carolina in the US. Rich in our country’s history, it is known for its place in history, well-preserved architecture, distinguished restaurants, beaches and mannerly people.

Charleston was home for the wealthy plantation owners in America’s colonial time, where some 2000 mansions from that era still stand side by side on the waterfront. Battles have been fought on its shores in both the Revolutionary War and the War Between the States, where the first shot actually took place beginning our Civil War. Fort Wagner, made famous in the movie ‘Glory’, is on the banks of Charleston.

I have called Charleston home for the last 12 years and each Christmas season I look forward to many traditions  in our ‘Charm City‘. So I wanted to offer you a glimpse to what our town looks like during the colorful and festive Holiday season.

1) One of the first things that sets off the month-long Holiday for me is the Art Walk through the French Quarter of Charleston. There is a strong cultural and art history in Charleston and quarterly the many Art Galleries open their doors the first Friday for the popular Art Walk.

artwalkSome 30 galleries, all with in walking distance, participate in this ‘roaming party’ that my friends lovingly call the ‘Art Crawl’. Each gallery offers a fine selection of finger foods and free wine. It is a chance to visit some of the homes and businesses downtown that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit. DSCF0082Many locals mingle and migrate throughout the downtown, going from gallery to gallery, turning the event into a roaming party. People dress to see and be seen, with the Christmas holiday adding an even more stylish flair to the event. When you are done you find yourself on foot among the many great restaurants downtown like McCrady’s,  the Peninsula Grill,  or Carolina’s, seducing you to make an entire evening of it. I love it!

2) But I can’t make it too late of a night as the next morning is the annual Reindeer Run 5K in downtown Charleston. This is a fun, festive, pet friendly, yet still competitive 5K race with the proceeds benefiting a local children’s hospital in Charleston. Runners are asked to run in their favorite holiday gear as they tear around the streets of Charleston’s peninsula.

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The race starts and stops at a local brewery and BBQ smokehouse. Afterwards a street party takes place complete with games, jump castles, a live band as well as some tasty beverages to replace some lost fluids.

It a great way to have a lot of fun, for any runner and a different kind of Christmas party taking place on a Saturday morning.100_1102

3. Another favorite event of mine, Holiday chore list permitting, is Holiday Parade of Boats. Local, and not so local boat owners dress there personal yachts into brightly lit Christmas showpieces as they parade around the Charleston harbor from one end to the other.

Parade-of-Boats-150x150Temperatures in Charleston are usually still inviting at this time of year to make this outdoor event do’able for the whole family. (Today it was a balmy 65F degrees)

4. Another favorite Holiday activity for me is the annual Charleston Strolls Holiday Walking Tour where guides take you around the stylishly  decorated antebellum mansions downtown.

holiday-tour

Like I mentioned earlier, Charleston can play home to some of the South’s mega rich.  A downtown street, Broad Street, actually quasi divides the peninsula from the mega rich (actually called ‘SNOBS) to the disgustingly filthy rich on the tip of the Charleston peninsula.  … Sadly I don’t live either places. I actually live several miles inland in a far more middle class and affordable zip code.

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As you might imagine these families have the resources and taste to do some wonderful traditional Christmas decorations and a guided trip around the peninsula helps to point out the lights as well as some of the history behind the families that live there.

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A funny story floated around town a few years ago where a new family had moved to the Charleston peninsula earlier in the year. At Christmas time they kept getting notes on their door from some of their neighboring peers.

It seems the style of wreath hung on their door simply wasn’t acceptable downtown and the ‘old blood’ locals were kindly suggesting that the newcomers change the wreath to the accepted style or remove it. Snobs indeed!

5. Even before we lived in Charleston we would make the drive to its historic Dock Street Theater to catch the Holiday showing of The Christmas Carol.

christmas CAROL

The Dock Street Theater was the first building in America designed for use as a theater, built in circa 1809. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.The popular cocktail ‘Planters Punch‘ is thought to have been created there, back when the theater catered to many of the Plantation owners in the area, prior to America’s Civil War.

Photos of Dock Street Theater, Charleston
This photo of Dock Street Theater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The theater is smallish and quaint and yet well-preserved, to where there is simply not a bad seat in the house.The Dicken’s classic is always well done and can’t compare to similar versions on TV. It is an annual Christmas tradition here for all.

Photos of Dock Street Theater, Charleston
This photo of Dock Street Theater is courtesy of TripAdvisor

6. What is Christmas with out Christmas shopping? Downtown Charleston has one shopping district known as King Street. Among the many shops of King Street lay many of the local shops that carry practically anything.

Stores range from mom and pop convenience stores and eateries to large Macy’s, Banana Republic and many other high-end stores.

Three weeks prior to Christmas, King Street is closed off to traffic. A large Christmas tree and benches are placed in the middle of the district and free parking passes are distributed around the city.

king stretIf you want to do some Christmas shopping in the historic downtown King Street is the place to be, where you can find almost anything there…except…

snow

7. One final destination our family does every year is the Holiday Festival Of Lights display found at the James Island County Park.

1This is a three-mile trip around the park at night where no area is spared of some huge and magical display of lights. Many displays are sponsored by area businesses. The three-mile rotation probably takes close to an hour to complete.

HFOLSLIDE20123When you are finished there are stores and shops in order to help you ‘stretch your legs’. And it wouldn’t be Christmas to our family if we didn’t get out and roast some marshmallows and bake some s’mores before we leave. It’s a great activity for the whole family!

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So there are some my family’s favorite Christmas traditions here in Charleston. Certainly every one has their own set of favorites.

In trying to do my due-diligence for this post (steal some photos I did some local research on Christmas traditions here in Charleston and found some interesting ones that I can totally buy into!

So if I haven’t lost you yet here are just a few more local Holiday traditions that have been preserved in our historic town over the years.

she crab soup

1. Often called Charleston’s signature dish, She Crab soup is an evolution of Scottish seafood bisque. (OMG! .. oh wait). I’m on a diet) A rich-in-flavor recipe that melds succulent blue crab meat with a hearty cream soup that is finished with a dash of dry sherry. The dish dates to the early 1700s. Synonymous with special occasions, She Crab soup often appears on local’s Christmas Day dinner menus.

I personally think any trip to a downtown Charleston restaurant is not complete without trying their version of the She Crab soup. We actually went about town one summer trying to decide exactly who had the best She Crab soup. Such a chore! Certainly any chilly Christmasy sightseeing night is not complete without a tasty bowl to warm you up. shrimpgrits2. Shrimp and Grits is a quintessential Charleston recipe. Originally served as a hardy breakfast during the plantation era, contemporary interpretations of the dish are popular for both brunch and supper—and especially during festive holiday gatherings.There is not a single restaurant downtown in the popular Culinary area that does not offer their interpretation of Shrimp and Grits

Thanks to Chef Frank Lee of Slightly North of Broad (SNOBs), who shares his favorite shrimp and grits recipe here! (Serves two)  You can adopt this taste of Charleston as your own at your future holiday gatherings. punch3. Historic Street Cecilia Punch. Formal balls, a revered social ritual in the past of Charleston, traditionally took place at Christmastime, when the plantation aristocracy historically arrived in town for debutante season. The custom of presenting a signature punch dates back to the 1700s, and many of the recipes—Planter’s Punch, Tradd Alley Punch and St. Cecilia Punch—remain the toast of contemporary parties.

If vintage cocktails are in vogue where you live, why not offer a centuries-old libation to your guests this holiday season? Click here for this ritzy recipe.

poinsettia4. The Poinsettia, the flower affiliated with Christmas, is native to Mexico, but its geographical destiny came by a Charlestonian named Joel Roberts Poinsett.

In 1828, Poinsett was dispatched as the first ambassador to Mexico. The vibrant red flower of  Mexico fascinated the amateur botanist, and he carried clippings home to the Charleston. After successfully cultivating the plant in his greenhouse, Poinsett began sharing the exotic flower with friends and family.

Today the “painted leaf” flower is synonymous with the Christmas season across the country and is officially celebrated every December 12th, the Congressionally designated National Poinsettia Day that commemorates Poinsett’s work.

So that is some Christmas in Charleston my friends. I hope you have the brightest of Christmas’s this year.

I invite you to share some of your favorite Holiday traditions or recipes here in the Comments. Or make a travel date and come down and share some with us in Charm City (CHS).  Merry Christmas!

retail_respite_holiday_package_the_elliott_house_inn

Thanks to ‘Christmas In Charleston’ web site for supplying many of the ideas, recipes and many of the pictures for this post.

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