Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Wishlist Travel: Charleston
Doesn't this just make you want to sing the theme song of Dawson's Creek? Wrong Carolina, I know, but still.
My New Year's Resolution for this year was to travel more around the U.S. since while I'm very good at traveling internationally, I've been a lousy in-country tourist. My rationale has always been that if I'm going to spend $1,500 on a trip, I want a stamp on my passport. Sometime last year I realized that there's a ton of beautiful things in the U.S. that deserve to be seen so I decided to travel more right here.
This year I've been to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples (Florida), New Orleans, Martha's Vineyard, Newport (Rhode Island) and a whole host of new places during my West Coast road trip. Not too shabby, right? Last weekend I was lucky enough to hit one of the places on my U.S. Cities Wishlist--Charleston, South Carolina.
It was a place I always wanted to visit when I lived in Atlanta, but never got the chance due to being an always-broke college student. So finally, 8 years after leaving Atlanta, I got the opportunity to visit Charleston for a friend's beautiful wedding.
To get in the right mood for the trip, I spent the summer (Yes, the summer, the book was 18 CDs long--the man is wordy) listening to Pat Conroy's South of Broad. One of the trade-offs for the extremely verbose writer's work is that it provided a wonderfully detailed picture of Charleston, which had me so excited to visit the city since I could picture it so clearly in my head.
My opinion of the city after visiting it? It lived up to every expectation. In the book, Conroy calls Charleston by its nickname--the Holy City. I don't think I've ever heard a more perfect nickname for a city. That's exactly the feeling you get when you walk around. It's not only the abundance of churches that gave the city its nickname, but there's something almost otherworldly about Charleston when you walk around it just as the sun starts to go down.*
With just about 4 days to explore the city, I got a whirlwind highlights tour of Charleston which means that I'll definitely have to make a trip back in the future. My friend and I spent most of our time (when not at the beautiful wedding) just walking around the city & sampling the way too many delicious food options. We wandered through the tiny little streets that hold some of the biggest houses I've ever seen, all around King Street for its magnificent shopping (where I got a $400 Cynthia Rowley LBD for $29--one of the joys of being a sample size), and, of course, we walked along the water which seemed to attract people young and old-splashing in the fountains and eating massive ice cream cones.
I loved that Charleston is not just one thing. It's not just a proper and refined Southern town. For every quiet and immaculate mansion there was a rowdy (and I do mean rowdy) bar filled with gaggles of happy brides-to-be celebrating the night before (Charleston is right after Vegas for most weddings in the U.S.). For every fancy restaurant that offered decadent Southern food, there was a little hole-in-wall place that offered $5 peel-n-eat shrimp.
Our appetizer of homemade potato chips covered in bleu cheese at the famous Magnolias Restaurant.
My time in Charleston went way too quickly, but it was a magical weekend. I got to watch two friends get married in a city that is so special to them, and I was lucky enough to experience some of the magic of Charleston myself.
*To be fair this could also be do to the magnificent Happy Hour every single bar in the city seems to have. After my 5th $2 Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka, everything seemed a little magical.