King Charles Town

Charleston, SC Part II

After visiting Fort Moultrie Sylvia made Brian swear not to visit any more forts or historical sites for the remainder of the trip. Brian grudgingly agreed.

However, this would not really be possible since Charleston  — Travel and Leisure Magazine’s ‘World’s Best City” in 2016 — basically is one gigantic historical site. With apologies to the greatly overrated (in our opinion) Colonial Williamsburg, Charleston — named for King Charles of England — is by far the best-preserved historical city in the Southern US.

We began the day by strolling along the public beach at the Isle of Palms. Though the water here is not the clearest (Cape Hatteras is far nicer) we still like the less spoiled beaches here much better than sordid, overdeveloped Myrtle Beach to the north.

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A willet searches the incoming tide

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We saw several horseshoe crabs washed up on the beach here, possibly having been stirred up from mud beds in the marshes. Also many shore birds…a willet and some plovers. Further out to sea we saw many pelicans. The weather was just gorgeous

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After our stroll we returned to Charleston to take in the city. Charleston has no shortage of charming antebellum architecture. Some might think nearby Savanna, GA surpasses it, but our opinion is that Charleston’s overall vibe is better than Savanna, which often seems to be one street of noisy biker bars after another.

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Sylvia does not hedge in her approval of Charleston.

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Charleston’s history, good and bad, is fascinating, absorbing and compelling. It is the story of a diverse and enterprising community of people. Long a center of trade and seafaring, a chief port of the confederacy, the site of extraordinary heroism on both sides of a war, a major port of the repugnant episode of slavery, and major symbol of the newly re-risen south. Charleston is many things.

A word about history. Readers must excuse us, as some degree of editorializing will follow…

Not every aspect of Charleston’s history is to be liked. Some of it is in fact quite dark. And some part of it remains to a certain extent dark.

In June of 2015, a 21-year old white man named Dylan Roof walked into Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, pulled out  handgun and started firing. When he was through, nine people…including the pastor, who was a state senator…lay dead. It was later found that Roof, a disturbed young man with a history of white supremacist beliefs, had acted in the hopes of ‘starting a race war.’

The massacre helped turn public opinion against the public display of Confederate symbolism in the South. Less than a month later, the Republican controlled state legislature voted to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the South Carolina State House grounds. Almost overnight, what seemed to be hardened attitudes had changed.

There is an ongoing debate about the presence of public Confederate Monuments in the south, including our own home town of Raleigh, and (Brian writing here) I have lately shifted in my opinion of these monuments,

This one in Charleston still irks me. People sometimes will talk about ‘history’ and the dismantling of monuments being ‘erasing history,’ and this is often used as the defense or apology of many of these monuments.

Well, tell me…how is this particular monument ‘history’?

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Confederate War Monument on the Battery walk of Charleston

We have a portrayal of a symbolic Confederate soldier, posing heroically nude, with what appears to be an equally heroic (but fully clothed) female ‘Confederacy Goddess’ standing behind him. I know the Army of Northern Virginia was often poorly clothed and shod, but…how many Confederate soldiers actually went into battle nude, with a Goddess standing behind them?

To Brian, this seems less like history and more like a glorification of a dark period in our history. Not that he is for the wanton tearing down of monuments mind you…nor should the battlefield accomplishments of the Confederacy should be discounted or overlooked.

But to Brian, this is the example that more than any other changed his thinking on the subject, once and for all. There are values we should publicly memorialize…and there are values that it is very obvious and clear that we should not. There is simply no excuse for glorification of the Confederacy in the manner displayed here.

Anyhow…end editorial. Back to Charleston.

We took the obligatory carriage ride on our last visit, so this time we decided to walk about under out own power. We strolled along Charleston’s busy streets until we hit the waterfront. From here we strolled along the Battery.

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Sylvia willingly allows herself to be mortar-fied again.

Brian was just taking a picture when he heard a strange sound. When he looked up, Brian saw that a dolphin was surfacing just thirty feet away! Passersby hardly even gave it a second thought, so dolphins must be a pretty common sight here.

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Somebody obviously has given up the quest for the Tour de France.

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The palmetto palm is the State of South Carolina’s symbol for a reason.
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No pics and it didn’t happen? Well, here’s the pic…the dolphin happened.

Later we walked down along the shore to a fishing pier not far from Market Street and saw some more dolphins. The sunset was gorgeous.

 

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Another glimpse of the elusive dolphin, which Sylvia would later claim brought her ‘dolphin good luck.’

History is what it is…it cannot be changed, only interpreted and learned from. Like the history of my own native Boston, Charleston’s history is not always glamorous. Sometimes it is raw like a wound…other times, it is beautiful and a thing to be greatly admired. Either way it is undoubtedly authentic and true to itself. We really enjoy Charleston SC with all its wonderful history and scenic splendor, and plan to return here often.

Our favorite time to visit is late fall or winter when the crowds have gone, and one can usually get a far better deal at the normally expensive downtown hotels or the equally expensive surrounding resorts. Note that parking in downtown Charleston is very much at a premium…lots and garages typically fill up on weekends.

We’ll definitely be back to King Charles Town next year!

And…Happy Birthday to ever youthful Sylvia!!!!

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