Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Holy City-Charleston

The Holy City, Chucktown, Charleston, whatever you want to call it has a special magic to those who visit. Everyone ends up wanting to live here after an afternoon strolling through the cobblestone streets looking at houses with unbelievable gardens behind wrought iron fences, beautifully preserved landmarks, old churches whose cemetaries are final resting places for some very famous people we all read about in American History back in High School. Today was rather gloomy, and Charleston did not photograph as well as it would in the sun and with flowers in bloom. Sorry about that!! But it was, as it always is, packed with tourists everywhere we went on our quick little tour. We didn't make it to all the famous tourist photo ops, like the Pineapple Fountain, but the weather was iffy, and we didn't want to push it.

Tommie mentioned her husband went to The Citadel. So, we made that our first destination.

This is a VERY prestigious school here in the Lowcountry. It has an interesting past as well. The original mission of the school when it was established in 1842 was to train and educate young men whose duty was to protect Charleston from threats of slave rebellions. Despite a legal scandal over allowing female cadets at the school in the mid 1990s, The Citadel has come through, and still remains a highly respected school in the South, with male AND female graduates. As you can see, the Bulldog is the mascot for The Citadel. I assured Monkey that he was only a statue and wouldn't bite!!

This bigger one is in front of the football stadium...

Our next stop was Battery Park. This area is well known for several reasons. During the Civil War, artillery was kept there. Also, from the upper stories of the antebellum homes, the wealthy of Charleston had a good view of the beginning of the Civil War, as Fort Sumter was bombarded. Nearby in Whitepoint Gardens, a monument commemorates the hanging of pirate Captain Stede Bonnet and nearly 30 0f his men. Many of the barrier islands around Charleston are said to hide pirate treasure. The Battery is also the location of gorgeous and pricey real estate. Cars are usually parked along the Battery, and people are known to fish in the Harbor, go running with their dogs, and tourists flock because of the Harbor, the monuments, and the mansions. Monkey was mostly interested in more stories about pirate treasure...

Here, Monkey sits astride a cannon.

I've heard the Civil War being referred to as "The War of Northern Aggression" by many Southerners. South Carolina is one of about a dozen or so states that observes "Confederate Memorial Day". South and North Carolina both observe it on May 10th.

A new monument to William Moultrie, a general in the American Revolutionary War, and later a Governor of South Carolina. He also has a Fort named in his honor, Fort Moultrie on nearby Sullivan's Island.

Here Monkey checks out the most popular location for weddings in Charleston, the gazebo. During the Spring and Summer months, you almost always see a wedding ceremony taking place here.

All that history is making Monkey TIRED!!

He perked up when I told him that one of the most popular places to spend a couple's wedding night was right across the street. 2 Meeting Street Inn. My husband and I stayed there for our fifth wedding anniversary and stayed in room five. The home was originally a wedding gift from a father to his daughter. Monkey thought that was a pretty darn nice gift alright!!

Monkey saw a beautiful home with two pig statues at the base of the stairs. He wondered the same thing I often wondered when I first moved to the area. What is with the pigs? Someone finally told the that the owner of the Piggly Wiggly Market grocery stores lives in the home. Makes sense now, but I bet many a person has either walked or driven by wondering out of all the statuary you could have in your yard, why two pigs??

There are many brightly colored homes in Charleston. This one, I was told, is pink because it was once owned by a dentist and he wanted people to think of pink healthy gums. I don't know if that is true, but it sure made Monkey want to brush and floss!!

Speaking of colorful homes, behind Monkey in this picture is Rainbow Row, probably one of the most photographed parts of Charleston. The buildings may be repainted when needed, but they must be these exact colors, since they are historical and a huge tourist attraction. And it wouldn't be Rainbow Row if someone moved in, and went all Beige on us all, now would it??

Pink, green, if it's colorful and happy, people in Charleston LOVE it!!
Here stands Monkey at the "Four Corners of Law", with St. Michael's Episcopal Church behind him. This particular intersection is so nicknamed because of the buildings, St. Michael's (canon law), plus Federal , State, and municipal law being represented in the U.S. Post Office, the Courthouse, and City Hall.

St. Michael's is kind of close to our hearts since we are members and our little Emi was baptized there. It is built on the site of the first Anglican Church in South Carolina. The current church was opened for services in 1761. George Washington once worshipped there, and depending on when you get to Church, you can sit in the same pew he once sat in. The pews actually have doors. I told Monkey it was to keep naughty Monkeys in their seats during ultra long services!! Monkey was also interested to find out that two signers of the U.S. Constitution are buried in St. Michael's churchyard, Charles Pinckney and John Rutledge. He was held up for me to photograph by one of the sweet basket weavers I'm going to talk about in a minute.
Across the street there is a park, and Monkey was interested to see a monument to Andrew Jackson's (seventh President) mother, Elizabeth. She died of cholera while nursing Continental Soldiers.

These super ladies ( a mother and daughter team) are Sweetgrass Basket Weavers. The basket weaving is a skill that has been passed down for generations and originates in Africa, that is still practiced by the Gullah community here in the Lowcountry. Unfortunately, Charleston was once the most important port for Atlantic slave trade. There are many plantations still standing in and around Charleston, and where slave quarters survive, it is a bleak reminder of a sad time in American history. Hopefully the careful preservation of slave relics and this wonderful art of basketweaving will serve as inspiration and remind people that the great plantations would not have been nearly as profitable had they not been created on the backs of enslaved men, women and children. My daughter is lucky enough to have one of these baskets which we use each year for her Easter basket. I'd recommend a basket as an investment if you ever happen to visit Charleston. Warning, don't fall over when you pick up a basket and you see the price. They aren't cheap. I've seen some pieces run into several hundreds of dollars. You can pick up little pieces inexpensively, however.

Whew! Enough gloomy history!! Next up was King Street. If you like fine antiques and high end stores, you've ARRIVED!! With stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, and Bob Ellis where you can get your Choos, Blahniks, and Louboutins on, get ready to drop some serious coin. Of course there is Palm Avenue to feed your Lilly addiction. They were having a sale, but alas, much to Monkey's disappointment, we did not stop in.

I showed Monkey the store that makes me crazier than a new dress from Lilly ever could. Williams Sonoma. When I walk through these doors...

I almost hear an angelic "Ahhhhhhh!" After a couple of purchases, we followed our noses to Andolinis Pizza, and had a slice.
Monkey was dining with two of Emi's good friends, Hoops and Yoyo.
After our excursion, Monkey happily hitched a ride in the WS shopping bag.

Whew! It was quite a day. We didn't get to see half of what Charleston has to offer, but I hope Monkey had a good time anyway. Monday morning, he will be taking a trip to the UPS office and embarking on the next leg of his journey, Savannah. Thanks for stopping in Monkey! Come back for sweet tea anytime!!


Mona said...

What a wonderful tour of Charleston! Thanks so much!!

tommie said...

So many fun memories!

We stayed at 2 Meeting Street for our honeymoon.

Now I am Jonesing for some shrimp and grits. I might have to make some this week.

lisagh said...

This is absolutely fantastic! I really do want to go to Charleston one day now ... what a beautiful place with such a rich and interesting history. Amazing amazing amazing. Thank you so much for showing us around, Mel!

Kelly said...

I loved your tour of Charleston!! Hubby and I lived there for several years and LOVED every second of it! Too bad family was so far away!

Ryan Ashley Scott@Opitimistic Cyicism said...

I "HEART" Charleston. Loved the pics! We vaca at Isle of Palms, but would love to live in town someday. Lucas Belgian Chocolates and Angel Oak are two of our "always" stops.