I’m going back to dignity and grace. I’m going back to Charleston, where I belong. ~ Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind
Staying on the outskirts of Charleston’s downtown left an impression not unlike the scenes from Gone With the Wind. Though the story was set in Georgia, Charleston is the historical destination along South Carolina’s coast where the Civil War began.*
The grounds surrounding The Inn at Middleton Place survived the battle, and just down the road, the sprawling Magnolia Plantation and Gardens could have been a setting from the period drama. Here, the Plantation House, “the core of which was built prior to the Revolutionary War near Summerville, South Carolina and floated down the Ashley River to Magnolia after the Civil War, is the third to grace the site in more than three centuries of Drayton family occupation.” With its wide porches fringed with flowering hanging pot plants, and an outlook over palatial gardens, it’s not hard to imagine how the likes of Scarlett O’Hara managed to navigate their way around with those voluminous skirts.
South Carolina’s low country provides a low-key, old world existence to those who live here. If you want to taste it, it helps to slow down, turn off the main highways, and you can step into a unique way of life. ~ Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel
This isn’t to say that Charleston’s downtown should be overlooked. Located along the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, its streets are decorated with palmetto trees. It’s an area infiltrated by a growing epicurean scene, despite being filled with rows of brand name stores interspersed with pricey plus star hotels. For the architecture buff, the residential area that abuts downtown is defined by gorgeous well-preserved homes in Georgian and Federal style. With some dating from the 18th C, their colourful exteriors, shutters, planter boxes, and ‘secret’ gardens are well worth a lengthy leisurely walk, even if its under the rain.
Here’s a tip: if you’re hankering for a piece of something sweet and buttery, head into the Peninsula Grill at the Planter’s Inn for their coconut cake. The hotel’s restaurant is so used to tourists stepping in to order a piece of Chef Carter’s multilayered cream sponge based on his grandmother’s recipe, that they have slices wrapped ready-to-go.
Lovers of history and southern elegance could find no better place than Charleston to spend a weekend or an extended vacation. This city truly has something for everyone. ~ L. Woodrow Ross, Anderson Independent Mail