Holy City Getaway

Charleston just has a way of making you feel special. If you’re like me the moment you turn onto Meeting Street you feel so much better. The everyday world you left behind is just that. Behind. A 145-mile drive. That’s all it takes to get the feeling you’re in Europe.

Walking the Holy City’s streets provides a feast for the senses … beautiful buildings, beautiful people, the clop-clop-clop of horse-drawn carriages, tantalizing aromas from restaurants and lilting accents from the world over please the ear. Conde Nast’s readers declared Charleston the world’s number one tourist destination in 2012. History, restaurants, churches, old cemeteries and more make the Holy City a favored place. Five million tourists visit Charleston each year. They come to see one thing – and here’s the main point: Charleston is the attraction.

Is it ever. The city serves up delights at every turn. Excuse my long list, but what a list! Walled gardens, sweetgrass baskets, historic venues, the old market, Rainbow Row, cascading fountains, cobblestone streets, sumptuous restaurants, magnificent architecture, the Battery, gallant boutiques, old cannon, tolling bells, gas lamps, and everywhere you look you see historic societies, preservation societies and related foundations. The past is closely guarded here. And from where does the Holy City get its endearing sobriquet? Majestic steeples. You can’t walk 15 feet without encountering historic markers and plaques. The National Register of Historic Places works overtime here. The list can go on and on but let’s dot the “I” with that pleasure known as she-crab soup.

Many Southern cities are renowned for their wrought iron gates. Savannah comes to mind, but Charleston towers over others when it comes to wrought iron artistry. The incomparable artistry of the late Philip Simmons, a blacksmith, graces the Holy City from one end to the other.

Yes, the city is a pure delight. The glimmer of gas lamps brings a touch of ambience from the 1880s to homes and streets. Something as simple as watermelon-red crepe myrtle blossoms falling onto cobblestone streets says, “You’re in Charleston.” And what an irony that walking among its hauntingly beautiful old cemeteries makes you feel more alive than ever.

Summer makes for a great time to see this charming shrine of the South. Drive south and walk about. Sure, Rainbow Row gets a lot of glory but other streets have their charm. Walk down Queen Street. Looking a bit like Rainbow Row on East Bay Street it’s in the French Quarter and one of Charleston’s more photographed venues. Charleston has it all. Add the meticulously preserved architecture of renowned homes and a certain fort in the harbor where a war began and the Holy City steeps in history. Take a good camera, a keen appetite and comfortable shoes. Walk the Holy City and leave all things ordinary behind.

If You Go …

Make your way to I-26 East and follow it until the road ends on Meeting Street and do it soon.

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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