Friday, January 30, 2009

Charleston, the Belle of the South

Happy Thanksgiving from all the Gypsies to all our family, friends and loved ones - we hope you have a wonderful day filled with happiness and love. When you are together, make sure to raise a toast to us as we will surely be doing the same later today here on Gypsies in the Palace.

Tammy here...

Well its 7:30 in the morning this bright, cold South Carolina Thanksgiving Day - the sun is up and we are sitting peacefully at anchor in Tom's Point Creek (halfway between Charleston and Beaufort).
We plan on heading south to Beaufort later today - down here we are back to 7 foot tides, so the tides/current often dictate our timing now. We want to get into Beaufort where we are tying up at a marina for the night at slack tide to avoid any issue of "bumper boats". What this means is that unlike most Thanksgivings past, no bloody marys or mimosas for breakfast! We'll just have to be content with tea and coffee until we get to Beaufort this afternoon as safety always comes first on Gypsies.

Leaving Charleston yesterday was bittersweet for me - while I desperately want to go south to find the sun and warmth (Sun Pig is going through withdrawal here), I absolutely fell in love with Charleston. After we got back from our trip for my niece's wedding, we had several days to explore Charleston - and explore we did! We walked all over the city from the waterfront
to the business district, the shopping avenues, the Battery and the French Quarter - everything we saw was simply just charming. We saw open air markets, shops like Louis Vuitton and Saks 5th Avenue next door to mom and pop craft stores, horse drawn carriages, and upscale restaurants like the Noisy Oyster across the street from "dives" (and I use that in the best sense of the word) like Tbonz, Wild Wing Cafe and East Bay Crab Shack (guess which ones we frequented!).
The architecture of the city is also like nothing this yankee has ever seen - many of the pastel colored houses are very thin and face North or South with large porches off the front to avoid the direct heat;
most have quaint little brick walled gardens behind lacy iron gates filled with flowers, waterfalls and wrought iron furniture where you can just picture genteel southern ladies having tea;
and the large magnolia and palmetto trees that overhang the sidewalks and parks cast their shade on a city that obviously reflects its historical significance but also its thriving present.

Charleston's history is rich and varied - right off the Battery sits Fort Sumter whose bombing started the civil war. The fort was subject to a two year siege by Union forces (or the aggressors as they are called here in the south) until it was abandoned in 1865. A beautiful park down in the Battery houses a number of actual cannons salvaged from the bombing of Fort Sumter.
After the Civil War, Charleston was gripped in a depression which caused virtually no new building and even very little restoration of the city. As a result there are no real skyscrapers in the city - most of the buildings are low other than the numerous churches which dot the landscape. I'm not sure you can stand anywhere in Charleston and not see at least one beautifully crafted church steeple.
A devastating fire later would wipe out a large swath of the city. Thus Charleston's charm in part stems from the hard times the city underwent - there is a resilience and attitude to the city that is palpable in both its infrastructure and its people.

Yet Charleston today is also one of the most sophisticated southern cities - it is a thriving commercial port with cargo ships, tugs and barges constantly plying the harbor's waters, it has world class shopping, and first rate art and culture (including from what I heard, the best debutante balls anywhere - not that that means much to me being a yankee). Charleston was one of those handful of places that we all really wanted to see on this trip and for me at least, it has been one of the high points thus far. My only regret was not having more time to spend getting to know her, but there is no question in my mind that we will come back to Charleston again!

Charleston is also where Gypsies got her full crew back - running screaming from the cold, John arrived back from NH the other day. Its good to have the gang all together again - the boat kitties love it as there are more people to feed them treats and more laps to sit in. Puss decided John's lap was perfect last night as he was the one with the blanket!!

After a great dinner last night thanks to Colleen, we went out onto the back of the boat (Colleen was smoking a cigar!). Looking up at the night sky, we were treated to one of the most beautiful sights ever - a sky so full of stars you would swear there wasn't room for another. Without any ambient light, the night sky was lit up with a splendor you rarely get to see when in "civilization." Out here anchored in the middle of a small creek in South Carolina, we were as far from civilization as you can get, but last night looking up at that sky and seeing Orion in all his resplendent glory, we felt like the luckiest people in the universe. We have much to be thankful for!

Tomorrow we all vowed to bone up on our knowledge of the constellations....

For more Charleston pictures, click here.

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