Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge
Ah, the Holy City, my current home. I’ve been living in the tourism capital that is Charleston for about a year and a half now, and I’ve got designs on staying a few more months. We welcome scads of visitors every year who arrive by the thousand via tour bus and cruise ship, eager to take in the beautiful architecture, rich history, and world-class food. The weather’s not bad, either. Truly, I run out of things to complain about. Founded in the 1670, it’s one of America’s oldest cities, and it’s still a functional port today. Though things have changed a lot here over the past few centuries, it remains a gorgeous city that is much more progressive, zanier, and more diverse than the rest of the state. Nicknamed the Holy City because of a nearly-embarrassing overabundance of churches, Charleston has played an important role in several faith traditions– Reform Judaism was born here, the country’s oldest Unitarian church is here, and it’s one of the most important cities in the Bahai’i faith.
A Charleston pocket park.
It’s also routinely listed as one of the best vacation destinations in the world, so we get a true cross section of the population visiting, though they seem to fall almost entirely into three distinct categories: people who want to look at the beach, people who want to eat our food, and people who want to interact with a friendly kind of slavery. I’m always happy to see the first two, but believe me: I am not sympathetic to your position that the Old Slave Mart was “a downer” or your weird obsession with plantations. If you’ve got a soft spot for John C. Calhoun or want to tell me how human bondage wasn’t so bad, please just stay at your house and do not give money to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
After the jump, check out some photos I’ve taken around town and get my recommendations for the best places to eat, drink, stay, shop, and do in my adopted hometown.
Despite Field Day being my least favorite day of the year in grade school, I’m voluntarily attending one today. If you’re luckier than me and spending this time in of doors and not playing Capture the Flag, enjoy some fancy reading materials.
- AN ANIMATED JOHNNY CASH INTERVIEW. He talks about his sideburns, touring life, and being ordained by God to sing “Ring of Fire.” PBS is the best.
- “What would you keep children for? So they can get you water on your deathbed?” Stay weird, Human Barbie, stay weird.
- SURPRISE! Tons of famous landmarks are in the middle of large cities. But no, for real, I had no idea the Pyramids of Giza looked like this, or that Stonehenge was part of the commute for some folks.
- Southerners: It’s not that we’re sorry, it’s that we’re sorry we got caught.
- We actually want to date ourselves.
- No, really.
- Being kayak-jacked is the hell I never knew I feared the most.
- Would anyone like to go treasure hunting with me? This is a real question. My contact info is in the About tab.
- Treat yourself to a decent towel.
- Here’s a visual guide to the best style of coffee to drink in each country. I can vouch for a couple, but now I just want to go to Asia to try all these odd combos I hadn’t previously considered.
An alarming number of people think that I moved to Charleston from Alabama. Like New Hampshire and Vermont, Mississippi and Alabama are both variations on a theme in terms of shape, and are exactly next to each other. As it turns out, most Americans are terrible at geography, and there’s no mnemonic device that helps you remember which one is which.
A view from the bar of the Redmont Hotel. I recommend skipping it, but the views cannot be beat.
Additional confusion comes into play when it turns out that I know Birmingham pretty well. I went there often as a kid, it was a midway point between Oxford and Atlanta, and I spent almost a week there this autumn for a business trip. I love that town, so I get excited any time there’s a chance to stop in. No one ever believes me when I say this; Birmingham gets no respect.
I hope you’re enjoying yourself as much as I am.
Oh, college. I remember you sometimes-fondly, often not-so-fondly. See, I was bad at going to college. I got good grades and had friends, but I loved Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson, and the idea of UVA more than I loved College: The Experience. Toward the end there, one of my peers described me as less a student and more a “townie who takes a lot of classes,” which I think was supposed to be an insult but was definitely true. I lived far from Grounds, worked far from Grounds, and cultivated relationships with long-time Charlottesvillians. I was glad I did that then, and I’m glad I did that now.
This guide grows out of an email I initially wrote to my friend Gill entitled “places for your to go and see and be and do in charlottesville, the nicest town in the entire world.” Gill was trying to impress his U.Va. grad wife by taking her to some places she hadn’t been in Charlottesville, and apparently this list helped.
This will be your face the whole time you’re there. It was my face for most of it.
I have virtually no photos from when I lived in Charlottesville that aren’t of my friends and me in younger, thinner, drunker, more beautiful days, because I left there in 2010, before the spread of smartphones. I’ve been back many, many times, but the photographs from those trips, too, are just a nostalgia binge. I’ve dug up a few good ones for you, and those are with the tips I’ve wrangled for you after the jump.
I usually do my travel guide on Mondays, but I’m about to move from Louisville, and I’m getting in my “last ______s” right now. People ask me about what to do in the city all the time, so maybe I’ll just make a list for you right now. It’s timely, right? You’re coming for the Derby, I hope.
Horses may be our civic religion, but there’s so much more than that here.
After the jump, there’s all I know of the place, condensed into a long-but-Reader’s-Digest-length list. Continue reading