Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning….and especially on a morning when you are arriving into Charleston's bustling harbor on the fourth day of a glorious Silversea cruise. Our cruise, on Silversea's Silver Shadow, had just sailed us 80 nautical miles along the Atlantic Coast of the South's fabled Low Country…from Savannah, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina.
SILVER SHADOW DOCKED IN CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
The city, serenely located at the tip of a peninsula formed by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, is known for its rich history, well-preserved architecture, a celebrated restaurant community and mannerly people. Local lore has it that the two rivers meet in Charleston Harbor to form the Atlantic Ocean. Quintessential exaggeration, but fun!
With its rich 300-year history, Charleston (locals drop the "r" and pronounce it Chows-ton) may well be America's most beautifully preserved architectural and historical treasure.
After disembarking from Silversea's Silver Shadow, I went to the Visitors Center where I would board a tour bus for the 90-minute Absolutely Charleston Tour of the city. (You can ride the free DASH Trolley to the Visitor's Center.)
START YOUR TOUR AT THE CHARLESTON VISITOR CENTER
From the tour, I learned "Native Americans came to Charleston first, and the Spanish passed through on occasion. However, starting in 1670, it was the English who made the most impact on area. Charles Towne, as it was known then, was first situated a few miles up the Ashley River, but the lure of the peninsula was too great, and the inhabitants relocated after about ten years.
With one of the most successful economies in the New World, the citizenry laid out a series of broad, elegant boulevards according to a British model plan and fashioned a city that came be known as Little London. They looked back across the Atlantic to Mother England for correct taste and style in clothing, furnishings, and the arts. They became a leader in the Colonies, establishing the oldest landscaped gardens in North America…the first public library… the first municipal college...the first theatre...and the continent's first museum."
REPLICA OF H.L. HUNLEY SUBMARINE OUTSIDE CHARLESTON MUSEUM
Several points of interest in this veritable living museum, paved with cobblestone streets and framed by beautifully preserved antebellum mansions, include the following:
THE CITADEL, THE MILITARY COLLEGE OF SOUTH CAROLINA, is commonly referred to simply as The Citadel. For the fourth consecutive year, The Citadel has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the top public college in the south for institutions granting up to a master's degree. The internationally renowned South Carolina Corps of Cadets is the traditional centerpiece of the college. Their program combines academics, physical challenges and military discipline, and the South Carolina Corps of Cadets is one of the largest uniformed student bodies in the United States.
CADETS IN FRONT OF PADGETT-THOMAS BARRACKS
The bulldog is the citadel's mascot. Many bulldogs have served as Citadel mascots over the years. The main duty of the bulldog is to provide morale for the Corps of Cadets, faculty and staff and all of the Bulldog athletic teams. Other duties include barking at opposing teams, eating numerous dog biscuits throughout the day and being pampered by the cadets help take care of them while school is in session.
THE BULLDOG MASCOT SCULPTURE FROM THE CLASS OF 1968
The Citadel Cadet Class Ring has symbolized outstanding accomplishments both by the Corps of Cadets and South Carolina. Perhaps the most popular feature of the ring is the Star of the West, which commemorates the firing on a Union supply steamer by a detachment of Citadel cadets in January 1861. This action was the powder keg that set off the War Between the States. Every aspect of the ring is symbolic of the history and tradition of the Cadet Corps. The right to wear the Citadel class ring ("The Ring") must be earned by study, great sacrifice and loyal service.
SCULPTURE OF THE CITADEL CLASS RING
CHARLESTON CITY MARKET has been the cultural heart of Charleston since 1804. This historic market is Charleston's #1 most visited attraction. If you are to buy only one memento of your visit to Charleston, head straight to the market's "basket ladies" and purchase a sweetgrass basket. Made from indigenous bulrush, sweetgrass baskets are now among the nation's most prized cultural souvenirs.
HAND WEAVING A SWEETGRASS BASKET
ARTHUR RAVENEL JR. BRIDGE is America's longest cable-stayed bridge, ranking 63rd in the world. (A cable-stayed bridge has one or more towers, or pylons, from which cablessupport the bridge deck.) This cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper Riveropened to traffic in 2005 and connects downtown Charlestonto Mount Pleasant.
RAINBOW ROW is the area named for a series of thirteen colorful historic houses on East Bay Street. This picturesque section of town got its name from the pastel colors in which the homes were painted. Rainbow Row represents the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
HOMES ALONG RAINBOW ROW
THE FOUR CORNERS OF LAW, also known as Court House Square, is the intersection of Meeting and Broad Streets. Robert Ripley, an American cartoonist and entrepreneur who created Ripley's Believe It Or Not, coined that term in the 1930s. St. Michael's Episcopal Church, Charleston City Hall, Charleston County Courthouse, and the United States Post Office/Federal Courthouse occupy the four corners.
BATTERY SEA WALL, the landmark area bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, stretches along the lower shores of the Charleston Peninsula. When the two rivers meet they form the Charleston Harbor. The Battery is known for its stately antebellum homes. Among the grandest of the houses are the Louis DeSaussure House, the Roper House, the Charles Drayton House, the Villa Margherita House, and the Edmonston Alston House.
MIDDLETON PLACE, a National Historic Landmark and home to America's oldest formal gardens has been called "the most important and most interesting garden in America". My fellow passengers on the Silver Shadow, who opted for Silversea's shore excursion to Middleton Place, were rewarded with a special behind the scene glimpse of the Middleton House Museum which is furnished with heirlooms from the Middleton family.
FORT SUMTER, another of Silversea's interesting shore excursions, gave Silver Shadow passengers a step back in time to the 1860s and a historical glimpse of the Civil War in Charleston. Visitors to Fort Sumter can tour the fort's bastion and museum. Standing on the ramparts, one can almost hear the tread of marching feet and the rumble of distant cannon fire.
Before re-boarding the Silver Shadow, there was time for a delicious Fried Green Tomato Stack, Layered with Tarragon Crab Salad, washed down with a Dark and Stormy (rum and ginger beer), at Fleet Landing, adjacent to the ship's doc
SILVERSEA SILVER SHADOW DOCKED ADJACENT TO FLEET'S LANDING RESTAURANT
Charleston (or "Chucktown", as some call it) is a city of infinite grace and dignity. There is a bewitching soft-edged beauty to this old city. It is a national treasure where the priceless heritage of the past is preserved for the future.
SAIL-AWAY PARTY ON SILVER SHADOW
As our glorious Silversea Silver Shadow sailed from the Carolina coast, an orange sunset was followed by a hint of golden moonrise. Visions of Scarlet O'Hara danced in my head and I could almost hear Perry Como crooning, "Carolina moon keep shining…dreamy Carolina moon."
JANET STEINBERG is an International Travel Consultant, Travel Writer, and the winner of 40 National Travel Writer Awards.