I have to say, I'm intrigued by the fact that I did not take a ton of photos while we were in Charleston. I think there were several reasons for this, not least of which was that I just needed to sink in and have some fun. We had some fun. I thought first I'd tell you about the houses, and then about the food and then maybe about some other stuff (If I haven't lost you all by then), and sometime this week or next you might get to enjoy a guest post by a certain 12-year-old who also enjoyed Charleston very much. But as I show you around and tell you about my own particular connection with the city, well "Please enjoy the view from the street."
This is what it looks like beyond that gate. As you can imagine, Neel got lots of ideas!
I grew up coming here for family vacations many, many summers in my childhood. Not Charleston specifically, but Isle of Palms, South Carolina, which is about 20 minutes from the city. Beach vacations were perfect for my family. We love nothing more than a stack of books tipped alongside our beach chair, a sturdy umbrella for when the sun gets too hot and an inflatable float for bobbing on the waves. (I married a man for whom this is less appealing, but we're both learning to adapt.) Our typical routine was to rent a kitchenette in a quirky, run-down beach front hotel (The kitchenette was good for making ham and cheese sandwiches at lunch time.), spend most of our days by the ocean, and go into Charleston in the evenings or one or two days during our stay. Just to mix things up.
Callum is actually now a third-generation Charleston vacationer.
Famously, and I say famously because you know how these kinds of things can go down in a family's lore, my mom came to Charleston when she was 13 with her Aunt Kitty and Uncle Wally. When I came to Charleston with my mom and dad when I was 13, we heard a lot about my mom's visit. My dad and I teased her mercilessly for all her reminiscing. I won't lie. Callum's bumping against 13, and I took care not to hark back on my childhood visits too, too much. But it's hard! I feel your pain, Mom. We had lunch with friends before leaving town on Saturday, and the wife of this couple reminisced about her parents bringing her to the Mills House Hotel when she was a kid. Once we were in the car, Callum pointed out, "See Momma, even Megan does it!"
When you had wonderful times, you want to remember them and share them.
The stately, historic neighborhoods of Charleston lie facing the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, along what's called the Battery. Charleston was once a walled city, and the Battery is the protective seawall and park where the rivers meet. The houses in the above photos face the Battery.
It's not a bad view.
Some of my photos are from my trip in December, but I couldn't not show you! Aren't they stunning? And huge. The fronts face the street, and they stretch back and back and back. Just ginormous.
While grand, those houses weren't my favorites. I loved better the tucked-away houses and the secret gardens of the side streets that lead down to the Battery. We took a carriage ride (more on that later in the week), and I honestly could have spent days behind the slow clop-clop of our horse Jasper, looking at these beautiful houses. This photo is of Charleston's famous Rainbow Row. Located on East Bay Street, they were originally constructed as merchant buildings in the 1700s and are now private residences. These houses stand out for their Caribbean color scheme–which keeps the buildings cooler during Charleston's sweltering summers.
My hands-down favorite was the single house. And this is where I'm kicking myself for not picking up my camera more. There were single houses everywhere, and I only really have this awkward photo from our carriage ride. Here's how they work: Single houses are one room wide (When I was in Charleston when I was 13, I remember them being called "shotgun houses" because you could fire a shotgun and the bullet could travel from front to back of the house.), with a two-story front porch running the length of the house. This set up provides great cross ventilation and takes advantage of the breezes off the river. The door you see above is not the front door to the house, rather it's the door to the porch.
Here's the porch side of the same house. You can see the front door to the house on the far right. But why a solid door to the porch? Well, Charleston gets hot (Neel refuses to travel back there this summer.) and ladies are modest. If you close the door to your porch, you can still sit out there and peel off a layer or two.
The view into these gardens isn't too shabby either.
When I was 13, and we went to Charleston we went on a carriage ride (did that), took a tour of Fort Sumter (did that) and wandered around the city (did that too). My mom and I toured a house in town, and we went to a plantation outside of the city. We missed those on this trip, but we have lots of reasons to go back. In the spring or fall. I'm hooked.