What a Trip: House and history hunters in Charleston


One of the best ways to explore Charleston, N.C.’s historic district is on foot. But a horse-drawn carriage, commanded by a guide providing a house-by-house history and maybe some local ghost lore, can be a lot cooler on a hot day. (Sam Alcorn)
August 7

Our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Sam (the author) and Susan Alcorn of Washington.

Where, when, why: Charleston, S.C., July 18-21. To celebrate Susan’s 60th birthday, we wanted a long weekend in a place that had long been on our “gotta get there sometime” list.

Highlights and high points: Charleston is wrapped in history: pirate, British colonial, Revolutionary, Civil War and religious. For example, who knew that Charleston was a long-standing center of Judaism in North America or that it was the birthplace of U.S. Reform Judaism? In Charleston Harbor, the 1861 shelling of Fort Sumter signaled the start of the Civil War. A tour guide on one of our many walks spoke of the 500-plus day shelling of Charleston, which destroyed or damaged 2,000 homes and buildings. One, too, can imagine the miserable parade of slave ships arriving from Sierra Leone and the human cargo being unloaded at the foot of what is now a market for souvenirs and the like. We also poked around cemeteries and found heroes from the Revolutionary War.

Biggest laugh or cry: If it’s fried, it has to be good, right? Fried green tomatoes? Yes. Fried okra? Yes. Fried pickles? Definitely, yes. Fried chicken? Do you have to ask? If fried chicken and biscuits with white sausage gravy don’t start your morning train, try it with hot honey glaze. We missed the banana pudding and regretted that even in Charleston, there are but three meals a day to savor.

How unexpected: The homes — especially those south of Broad Street, the rough dividing line between “historic” Charleston and the rest of town — were stunning. They were bathed in a rainbow of pastel colors, with cut fan-glass window workmanship, wrought-iron craftsmanship and side entrances beneath airy sleeping porches for when the summer air is what one local said was “oh so close.” Many also featured beautiful hidden gardens, which can be spied through sidewalk gates — with discretion. Each afternoon, we picked a few streets to explore on foot and were not disappointed. The walks in the summer heat gave new meaning to Charleston being a “two-shower-a-day” town.

Fondest memento or memory: Charleston is mostly back from 1989’s Category 4 Hurricane Hugo, a direct hit. But hearing about the high-water mark that topped trees and homes back then, we wondered whether Charleston can survive any more.

To tell us about your own trip, go to www.washingtonpost.com/travel and fill out the What a Trip form with your fondest memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

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