Charleston, S.C. is one of my favorite cities. So is Savannah, Ga. (which will be a separate post.) What I love about both cities are their deep sense of history, character, reverence AND hedonistic charm - it all mixes together and permeates the air, the streets and the people. While both are deeply southern, Charleston is a bit more upscale, Savannah a little grittier, but no less welcoming.
In Charleston, the main strip is sandwiched between King Street and Meeting Street, an area packed block-to-block with only-in-the-South-type cafes, boutiques, restaurants, markets, museums, historic sites and other things-to-do-and-see. One truly needs at least a week - if not more time - to uncover all that Charleston offers.
Charleston's side streets are even more interesting, and are quickly being filled with shops that you need to just drive around and discover on your own, on a whim. The less touristy sections will also give you a chance to see some incredible historic homes, where you can peer in through the wrought iron gates at the dressed up entryways and secret gardens.
I was in Charleston in May, and only had two full days to spend there this go-round. I've visited a few times before, so fortunately I could point myself in the right direction. But the city - much like any desirable city - changes year to year. Even still, when I arrived, I made a beeline for the Battery, where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers converge at Charleston Harbor. White Point Garden, a live oak-filled waterfront park, and Rainbow Row, a cluster of famously colorful antebellum homes, are also located here at the tip of the peninsula.
Later, I returned to King Street because, quite frankly, I wanted to shop. Because of my affinity for baked goods, I made sure I allocated time for a hard-target bakery spree - if there was a bake or sandwich shop (because, like Liz Lemon, I love a good sandwich) within a reasonable radius and time allotment, I was there. The hit list included Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts, Callie's Hot Little Biscuit, Cupcake Down South, Queen Street Grocery and Bull Street Market (which I knew of before, and LOVE). I missed Butcher & Bee, and Saffron Bakery, and apparently several others, this time around. And yes, I did visit Southern Season in Mount Pleasant to stock up on local brews (like this lovely Gose, a German-style sour wheat beer from Westbrook Brewing Co.).
I only had a chance to visit one restaurant while there (because the wait was short, and we were hungry dammit). Those "Best Charleston Restaurant" lists have been compiled but others and you can find them here and here if you need guidance on where to get your grub on.
In addition to sight-seeing and bakery-escapading, the rest of my time in Charleston was spent meandering the back streets, gazing at the mansions and architecture, or exploring Sullivan's Island.
Charleston has a lot in common with Richmond. . . motor down Monument Avenue or take a walk along East Grace Street in Church Hill anytime and - except for the lack of palmettos and Spanish moss - it feels like you could be in the Holy City. Looking forward to a return visit.
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