I just read a series of articles in Southwest Airline’s in-flight magazine about Charleston, SC. It reminded me of my visit there three months ago, a trip that both allowed me to see the city, as well as my old friends Tom and Pat.
I quickly found there are plenty of things to do in Charleston, too much in fact, for the few days I spent there. Take the ferry to Fort Sumter National Monument out there smack in the middle of the harbor, visit the Old City Market, wander through museums and numerous galleries, and you’ll realize that you’ve barely scratched the surface. And if you’re addicted to architecture or history, you’ll notice so many Georgian, Federal, Adamesque, Greek Revival, Italianate, and Victorian homes that you wonder if they’ve left any for anyone else. Just bring some good walking shoes, and opt for a carriage ride to get a more personal perspective of the city.
But what’s really interesting about Charleston and the Lowcountry (one word, as I was chided in an email prior to arrival) are the plantations around the city. One good one is Boone Hall Plantation, one of the oldest working plantations in the U.S., about a half-hour north of downtown.
Touted as “America’s most photographed plantation,” the huge oaks along its entrance road give the impression that you’ve stepped into “Gone With the Wind” country even though you’re not in Georgia.
It a great and easy half-day trip out of the city, although they don’t allow you to tour the entire house, only the first floor. We took an interesting group tour on an open-air wagon/coach around the property and then headed over to the old slave houses.
There, on “Slave Street,” you can visit actual slave homes in their original condition, some of the very few that survive anywhere. Be sure, if you can, to time your visit when the docent at the top of the street gives the history talk. The talk we listened to was utterly fascinating for adults and children, a fascinating insight into a world that none of us, black or white, have ever experienced.
Another interesting Charleston site (at least for guys) is the USS Yorktown, the famous aircraft carrier from WWII, now moored at Patriot’s Point in Charleston Harbor. Tom brought me out to visit it one morning and, after climbing all over the ship, as we were walking along the flight deck to take a closer look at the aircraft parked there, a Japanese Zero zoomed by. It turned out to be one of the vintage planes heading to the city’s annual air show but it gave me a strange feeling, probably the result of watching too many Victory at Sea episodes as a kid.
The Yorktown also has a Medal of Honor Museum, and as you enter the museum you walk through a multimedia presentation of actual war photos and videos, complete with the sounds of war, a very moving exhibit. When we were there, unfortunately, a group of school kids were running amok all over the ship, and when they burst into the museum they turned the solemn atmosphere almost into a carnival.
Somewhere in Charleston there’s a mother and father that owe me a “thank you” for not throwing their 10-year old hoodlum son over the side.