Charming, South Carolina: A Charleston Chronicle

If – being British – you get into a car in Washington DC and take great care to drive on the right hand side of the freeway for about eight hours, down through Virginia, by the time you reach South Carolina the appeal of those great green forests and quaint all-American billboards will have lost its shine and you will be praying for something, anything, to break the monotony.

And all of a sudden the road obliges, and the trees part, and there is a great glistening expanse of water.

Did I say Charming? I meant, of course, Charleston, South Carolina. An ancient town, an America’s beginning, and as different from that great white stone city you have just left as it is possible to be.

We did just such a drive. And our gratefulness at the air conditioning of the hotel when we arrived was unbounded. We arrived, we showered, we rejoiced at our view of the marina. And we mailed Andra Watkins, author of books including the gripping To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, and her husband, Charleston architect Michael Maher, and we said: We’re here!

Andra had booked a restaurant. She had driven back from her writing retreat, leaving a book almost complete but not quite, four long hours, just to meet us.

Andra and Michael had meticulously planned a weekend in Charleston where we could see the town, meet the people, eat the food, and still have time for more.

The cab pulled up in King Street, Charleston, and we got out.

And the air was warm and kind, and the light soft rose, and the street? Well, the street had something of home about it, and then again something as fairy tale and exotic as Barbados and the warm breezes it sends to the Old South. And everyone was milling about outside, because of course, to most of the people in the street, this movie-set colonial authenticity, and its sublime climate, are everyday occurrences.

Where we got out we found the first of those houses, the Gone-With-The-Wind ones, with gated emerald-treed gardens and lavish pillared balconies to catch the sea breezes. We stood with our noses poking through the wrought iron gates and took it in.

We just sat in Fish – a rather wonderful fish restaurant – talking to chef Nico with foolish grins on our faces. We probably stood out a mile, but we were with the locals; and Andra prefaced our visit, there at the table, with a gift bag containing, among other things, Charleston plantation tea. I had arrived in a tea-loving part of the world once more.

I have several Charleston stories I’d like to try telling. But being jet-lagged, my pace is still sluggish. So for today, the pictures will have to talk.

Come along and see.





39 thoughts on “Charming, South Carolina: A Charleston Chronicle

  1. Our internet modem is in an on again-off again mood, so quick like a bunny, while it’s in a cooperative stage . . . I. Loved. This. I’m with Lou, if you ever want to live in Charleston, I’m sure the Chamber of Commerce would gladly hire you as ambassador! Glad your trip was wonderful and thanks so much for sharing great photos! Rest up; we want to hear more! 🙂

    1. Behind every word is the fact that Michael and Andra walked us through the city streets, interpreting its past and present, Karen. There is nothing better than being shown a place by people who really know what they are talking about. In just 48 hours we were able to appreciate so much about the life of Charleston, its inhabitants, what makes it tick and what comes next. Background like that colours a place. We were very lucky 🙂

  2. Your pictures speak volumes, Kate, and your words already have me “chomping” for more. I have, of course, followed Andra’s side of the visit, and can’t wait to hear more from you, as well. There is really nothing quite like such a personal tour, down the backstreets and through the front streets of someone(s) who “own” a town and region as much as MTM and Andra do. Rest up – and then, please, more as only the amazing Kate can tell.

    1. Penny, I have to confess I had to come home and do my research before writing a word: writing somewhere as well chronicled and loved as this city, with readers from the town, is a challenge. But there are stories on every corner, blown in by that hypnotic wind and sung by cicadas which set up singing – for what possible reason? – all of a sudden; stories told by great composers and writers and historians. Here ended some of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Each of the old houses is attributed, and very original owner has a story too. The question is, which way to turn?

  3. I love Charleston, and it sounds like y’all fell in love with it, too. The people are charming, the history rich and a little absurd and wonderful and sad all at the same time. I’m glad so much of it has been preserved, even some of the sadder memories, to serve as a reminder to us all how we can all overcome so much. Glad y’all enjoyed it =). A magical place.

    1. If you drive a few blocks, Michael, you just might jog your memory, Michael :-D. Really lovely to meet you last week. If you are ever in the UK please, seriously, look us up!

  4. I’ve never been there but have always wanted to visit. I’m sure it’s every bit as charming and interesting as everyone says. Lucky you, seeing it with a local.

  5. There is a strange sense of pleasure mixed with unreality at reading about the meeting of two people, whose blogs I avidly follow, from such different parts of the world. Rather a David Copperfield meets Sherlock Homes feeling.

  6. Lovely vistas, Kate. The only time we were in South Carolina was when we were driving thru to begin a new job in Melbourne, Florida. One restaurant in South Carolina spoiled me forever on ‘hush puppies.’ I don’t think I’ve had anything finer than the ones they served in Carolina. I look forward to your stories about this region. 😉

  7. Um, what happened to that little lizard looking dude? He looks like someone stepped on him…. By the way, I think this is the first time I’ve ever commented on your blog – please know that I really enjoy your blog.and love the history!

    1. Lori, the lizard was fine, just hot. He was standing nonchalantly on a vertical wall. He had no idea what all the fuss was about. We don’t have lizards at home. We get a bit over-excited by them…thank you for commenting! So lovely to ‘hear’ your voice after all your wonderful support 🙂

  8. What wonderful photos. I’m just sure your time was rich indeed! I have been to Charleston and love the city. My mother’s family is from the south and we visited so many times throughout my childhood and beyond. I so often think of my times there and wish I’d known Andra and MTM then! What fun that would have been. I have promised I will visit again. One of my closest friends just moved to Virginia and I’m asking her to give me a guided tour of D.C. and if I get that far, I must go on to Charleston. I’m so very glad you had this lovely travel experience, Kate.:-)

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