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(2012 - Spring/Summer Issue)


When the artist Alfred Hutty visited Charleston, South Carolina, in 1919, he immediately sent his wife a wire, “Come quickly. Found Heaven.”

On a day when sweet olives and roses scent the air and the skeins of ghostly Spanish moss trail from the live oak trees, it is easy to agree. In fact, Charleston was recently named by Condé Nast and Fodor’s as the top holiday city in America and one of the top three cities in the world.

Alfred Hutty had meanwhile founded the Charleston Renaissance art movement, works of which can be seen in the excellent Gibes Museum.

It is absurdly easy to enjoy yourself in Charleston. Not only is it a historic town with exquisite buildings and tempting shops but also its climate and position, lapped on three sides by water, makes for abundant fresh produce, which has encouraged many top chefs to open great restaurants.

It was this situation which attracted early colonists. Charles Towne was founded by the British in 1670, the first European settlement in the Carolinas and soon one of the richest due to its shipping trade and its vast plantations producing rice, cotton and indigo. When slavery was abolished, South Carolina ceded from the Union and it was here, at Fort Sumter, that the first shots of the Civil War were fired. By the time the confederate flag was lowered Charleston was in ruins and many of its leading families were penniless. They likened what had happened to their city to a Greek tragedy—but, in fact, it was because the city was “too poor to paint and too proud to whitewash” that the beautiful buildings of the Historic District remained unchanged.

Historic Inns

The Historic District is where to stay. Even before you reach your room at the luxurious Charleston Place Hotel the spacious marble lobby raises your expectations even higher than the four-metre chandelier that hangs there. The Market Pavilion Hotel is a smaller, newer, luxury boutique hotel where manager Gary Cohen dispenses true southern hospitality. Here in the Grill 225 you can experience the latest craze, literally the coolest drink around, the Nitrotini, a flavoured martini served smoking with  –195 C liquid nitrogen.

If, however, you’d prefer to stay in an authentic old building, Charleston is rich in historic inns and bed and breakfast establishments. Overlooking the sea at 21 East Battery, the carriage house behind the historic Edmonston-Alston House is in fact more of a smart self-catering option complete with maid service.

Dine in Style

Once you’ve settled in, a restaurant such as High Cotton will ease you effortlessly into the southern mood. Sitting on alligator-skin banquettes listening to live jazz, the motto, “this is livin’ large” seems perfect.

The latest hot ticket for southern food is Husk, which occupies a handsome white mansion on Queen Street. Here, “the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area,” using local and heirloom produce. Enormously popular, Bon Appétit named Husk one of the best restaurants in the USA.

Less elegant but great fun for lunch is Poogan’s Porch, a small dining establishment in an old wooden house, which serves traditional “lowcountry plates” such as flavoursome Carolina crab cakes served with hoppin’ johns and green beans.         

More Hidden Gems

Perhaps one of the greatest pleasures of the Historic District is simply strolling around. You’ll discover fine old churches, Greek Revival public buildings of great elegance and house-museums and gardens open to the public.

When ready for a pause, Fleet Landing, a building straddling the sea and used by the U.S. Navy in 1942 for off-loading sailors, is a good spot to enjoy a coffee or a mimosa while watching dolphins play.

For a glimpse of the “hidden” Charleston, the Homes and Gardens Tours organized in spring and autumn give access to the interiors of some outstanding private homes. Particularly magical are the tours at dusk when rows of candles guide you up garden paths and chandeliers sparkle within.

At other times you can “experience the essence of Old Charleston as a guest, not a tourist” by taking the Charleston Tea Party Private Tour. Laura Wichmann Hipp, a charming, helpful native Charlestonian, takes small groups into her friends’ homes and concludes the visit with “an elegant lunch of lowcountry cuisine served on 19th-century Cantonware” in her own house.

Three nearby plantations up the Ashley River—Magnolia, Drayton Hall and Middleton Place—give visitors a sense of how the Charleston elite once lived, while The Old Slave Mart Museum on Chambers Street is a potent reminder of the tragic history of slavery.

For aficionados of military history, a visit to Fort Sumter or Fort Moultrie, both of which played crucial roles in U.S. history, is a must.

Looking for Treasures

For shopping, just stroll up King Street, home to antique dealers, the big-name designer outlets and many quirky establishments. Ben Silver is a superb men’s wear shop. Alexandra AD is an antique shop full of picturesque distressed furniture and garden artifacts. Mary Norton, a designer who was inspired by a dream in which she wove flowers into handbags, sells girly shoes and feathery bags which have graced many a red carpet. 

The shop of the Historic Charleston Foundation sells quality reproductions of heirloom pieces and for those of practical bent. Charleston Cooks! Maverick Kitchen Store on East Bay Street not only sells high-performance kitchen tools but also offers one-day courses in lowcountry cuisine.

Duffers’ Paradise

Charleston is a golfer’s mecca. Home of the first-ever American Golf Club, the vicinity now boasts no less than 20 full-scale clubs and courses. Many have spectacular ocean vistas and some make use of the marshes and lagoons of the lowcountry terrain. Luxury Kiawah Island Golf Resort features five award-winning courses: The Ocean, host of the 2012 PGA Championships; Turtle Point designed by Jack Nicklaus; Osprey Point, a masterpiece of variety; Oak Point with undulating fairways and challenging greens; and Cougar Point, rated golf course of the year by the South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association.

Alternatively you can sail out to one of the Sea Islands, maybe take in some fishing, play more golf or simply relax on one of the stunning beaches.   

Y’all enjoy!

Travel Planner

For more information, visit:

Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau:

Charleston Place Hotel:

Market Pavilion Hotel:

The Mills House Hotel:

21 East Battery B&B:

High Cotton Charleston:

Husk Restaurant:

Poogan’s Porch:

Charleston Tea Party Private Tours:

South Carolina Golf Association:

South Carolina Golf Course Owners Association:

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