Saturday, July 4, 2009

One Particular Harbour

OK - it's official - I have truly fallen head over heels in love with Charleston!! It was by far my favorite place on our trip down the coast but you know how it is with first love - everything is exciting and shiny and new - it remained to be seen whether Charleston could live up to such high expectations the second time around. Not only was the city as beautiful and charming as I had remembered it, but it cast its magical spell on us all over again - Doug and I even looked at each other and said, "You know, this is someplace we could live" (that is if we aren't cruising forever which remains a distinct possibility!) Charleston's captivating style comes from its history, its climate and its people, all of which are captured in the genteel homes, the hidden, flowering gardens, the beautifully landscaped parks and the funky bars and restaurants. Add to that warm and charming hospitality and you've got one amazing place!

After the decadence of the day/night before, on Wednesday we wanted to soak up some of Charleston's abundance of history so we went over to the Fort Sumter National Monument which is a museum down on the waterfront dedicated to the history of Charleston and its role in the Civil War.
The Fort Sumter National Monument
Charleston was a hotbed of secession fever and states' rights advocates in the early 1860's which in part may explain why it was treated so harshly towards the end of the Civil War. At Fort Sumter, which is named for the South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Sumter, the opening shots of the Civil War were fired on April 12, 1861 following South Carolina's secession from the Federal Union. When SC seceded, there were several Federal military installations around Charleston: Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney and Fort Johnson - SC demanded that the Federal government evacuate all of its fortifications in Charleston harbor (all were evacuated except Fort Sumter which was thought to be the most strategic and the most easily defended). When President Lincoln and Major Robert Anderson, who was in charge of the Federal troops at Fort Sumter, refused to evacuate after several such demands from Brig. Gen. G.T. Beauregard, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter by order of Capt. George S. James from across the harbor at Fort Johnson. The rest so they say is history!!

After walking through the museum we hopped on a boat
The Boat Ride to Fort Sumter
and half an hour later we were standing in Fort Sumter!!! Reading about history is one thing, but actually walking around the Fort made it come alive - the cannons and the flags made it seem very real to us!!
Bob and Doug Soak Up Some of the History
Some of the Cannons at Fort Sumter
I can only imagine how those Federal soldiers must have felt surrounded by canon fire from all sides, knowing that there was no relief coming and that there was nowhere to run or to hide. Most of the Fort was reduced to rubble before Maj. Anderson surrendered! I tried to picture how Anderson must have felt having lost Sumter to the Confederate States of America as the new southern provisional government was called, or how James must have felt ordering the first canon shot that was the signal to open fire on Sumter knowing full well that such shot would begin a war between the states - tough to imagine!! Walking around the top of the Fort you can see across to Fort Johnson, Fort Moultrie and other spots where the shots came from that rained down on Sumter that fateful morning (the shelling commenced at 4:20 am and continued for 34 hours until Anderson agreed to a truce) while residents of Charleston across the harbor had front row seats to the devastating fireworks display - you can only wonder what they were thinking and feeling!!! Despite the constant fire, no one was killed at Fort Sumter and only five Federal soldiers were injured, but nevertheless the damage was done - the Civil War had begun!!! Fort Sumter was reactivated in WW II when antiaircraft guns were installed but since 1948 it has been a national monument. Now atop Fort Sumter six flags fly - the United States flag flies the highest surrounded by the US flag in 1861 when there were 31 states, the First Confederate flag (also known as the stars and bars - when it was just the original six states that seceded SC, MS, FL, AL, GA and LA), the flag of the State of South Carolina, the Second Confederate Flag (adopted when the border states joined in secession), and the US flag in 1865 when there were 33 states.
Fort Sumter with It's Six Flags Flying

This sense of history permeates the city of Charleston - as you walk around especially in the historic district you see numerous monuments to Confederate war heroes and along the Battery (a section of town down by the waterfront) are replicas of canons used in the assault on Fort Sumter. But it is not all about the Civil War in Charleston - there are plaques on homes where George Washington and other famous dignitaries visited; there are historic homes and churches dating back to the 1700's; and Charleston is where the infamous "gentleman pirate" Stede Bonnet was captured and killed along with 29 of his men!! But what draws me the most to Charleston is the amazing colors and architecture of its genteel homes that harkens back to a bygone era - one with more charm and gentility, where chivalry still reigned and the pace of life was slower. The vibrant colors of the houses (although I must say the dog that was died pink to match the color of its master's home was a bit too much!!!), the beautiful gardens hidden behind wrought iron gates, the ever-burning gas lamps giving off their welcoming glow, and the aroma of blooming trees and bushes all meld together to cast a magical spell over the city! I'll let the pictures do the rest of my talking.......Doug and I spent most of Friday walking around the historic residential section of Charleston with our jaws hanging open at the surrounding beauty, majesty and architectural oddities! We even walked down Tradd Street where the fictional Cooper Main of North and South fame lived and found the home where Madelaine's father lived - we were living fictional history - if you've never read the North and South trilogy by John Jakes, I wholeheartedly recommend them - they truly made the Civil War and the South come alive for this northerner!!
Charleston Has Many Beautifully Flowering Trees
The Landscaping Around the Beautiful Homes is ExquisiteMore of the Beautiful Trees Line the Streets
The Calhoun MansionA Hugenot ChurchThe Pirate Garden - See the Pirate Flag FlyingMany of the Houses Had Beautiful GardensPresident George Washington was Entertained at this House During a Visit to CharlestonAnother Example of the Numerous GardensThe Landscaping Here Was Beautifully Laid OutA Horse Drawn Carriage on a City Tour Stops to Appreciate one of the Beautiful HousesSome of the Houses Had Ironwork Much Like the Houses in SavannahBalconies are Often More Decorative than UsefulAlthough Many Houses Had Large Full Length Balconies On Each FloorMany of the Houses Had Walls Around the GardensThis House is the Swordgate House - Note the Swords in the Gate at Waist LevelThe Miles Brewton HouseOne of the Fountains in the Park Along the WaterfrontDyeing the Dog Pink to Match Your House May be Carrying Things a Little Too FarThe Pink House Where the Pink Dog LivesWith Temperatures Nearing 100 Kids Play in the Fountains in the ParkRainbow Row in the BatteryTradd Street Where Cooper Main Lived

And to top it all off, you can drink in church!!! Seriously - down by the City Market which is this wonderful open air collection of funky market stalls, there is a former Episcopal church that has been turned into a lively and really fun bar with a great happy hour (they also have a great slogan - saving souls 12 ounces at a time!). While in Charleston, I piously attended daily mass - for those of you that know me, I bet you never thought that would happen!!! There are so many funky little bars around town (including a great waterfront bar in an old navy warehouse where we did stop for a quick cocktail) that despite giving it the ole college try, we didn't have a chance to try them all out - I guess that is just another reason we'll have to go back!!

Before leaving Charleston, we took the water taxi across the harbor to the City Marina at Patriot's Point where our friends Bart and Ellie Franey have their beautiful boat, Dewlap. Now boat names can either be very clever, or downright stupid or way over-used (can you say Carpe Diem...) but theirs is truly original!! Dewlap is the term for the fold of loose skin hanging from the neck of a Bassett Hound and Reggie is the latest in what sounds like a long line of wonderful Bassett Hounds that they have loved!
We had a wonderful time on their boat catching up and consuming adult beverages and some great appetizers before heading over to Shem Creek for dinner.
The Crew Prepares to Go Into Dinner - Stephanie, Bob, Bart, Ellie and Doug
Shem Creek as it turns out is a really happening place with lots of shrimp boats, lively bars and restaurants, and a boat parade in the narrow creek reminiscent of ego alley in Annapolis!!
Shem Creek
Shrimp Boat in Shem Creek
We'll definitely have to spend some more time over there our next visit to the city!! We had last seen Bart and Ellie at the DeFever rendezvous in February - at one event they sat behind us and we overheard Ellie tell Bart that he should grow his hair like Doug's (Doug hasn't cut his hair since September 2007!!! and has a ponytail down his back!) Well, seems like Bart took it to heart and he looks great!! Thanks so much for your hospitality guys - it was great to see you and can't wait to see you out on the waterways again soon!!
Bart's Hair is Getting There But Still Has a Ways to Go

As all good things must come to end (so better things can happen....), we left Charleston yesterday morning for a steam up the ICW to Georgetown, SC where we will celebrate the 4th! It was a beautiful day on the water although very shallow in spots - we were traveling at low tide and when the chart says mudflats, it really means it!!
A Blue Heron Walks Along the MudflatA White Heron Walks In the Shallows
The Pelicans Rest on the Mudflats After a Hard Day Fishing
But that also usually means great wildlife - in this case we saw an alligator swimming along the shore of the river and tons of herons, pelicans, laughing gulls and plenty of birds we can't even name!!
An Alligator Swims Along the Edge of the ICW
A Bird Checks Out the Electrical Work on Marker 29
A Dolphin Swims Along in Our Wake
A Playful Dolphin Swims on His Back and Winks at Tammy
Arriving at the marina in Georgetown, the dockmaster, a genuine good ole boy bubba, greeted us as I radioed in for our slip with "does the captain on your boat know how to dock or did you just get it last week (read this with a very heavy southern ole boy accent for the full effect)!!!! Seeing red I wanted to run over him on the dock, but discretion being the better part of valor and all...... Here's his picture - now if he's not a dead ringer for Bill Murray in Caddyshack I don't know who is - the only thing that saved him as we were docking is that I was laughing too hard!!!
Dave - Alias, Bill Murray

Yesterday afternoon we headed into town to meet up with Stephanie and Bob who had gone ahead - we looked for them in the candy/ice cream store - they looked for us in a dive bar - they won!! Having passed up the more upscale bar along the main drag, we had found the Buzz's Roost - a true dive bar that fronted out on the water and were sipping several cold malt beverages when September Song arrived!
The Crew at Buzz's Roost
They joined us for several cocktails and a dozen of the largest oysters I have ever seen (I couldn't even watch them eat them although I closed my eyes and took Bob's picture just as he was about to munch on one of the largest!!!)
Boy, That's A Big Oyster
We called it a night after watching an amazing sunset over the harbor!
Sunset in Georgetown
Today we plan on exploring the town a little and then we have reservations for dinner on September Song (it's tough to get in, but if you do, the food and the ambience are spectacular!) which will also give us a great vantage point to watch the fireworks!! Happy 4th to all our family and friends!!!

Click here to see a Google map of our location at Harborwalk Marina in Georgetown

1 comment:

  1. Great pictures!

    Thanks for mentioning Shem Creek, you can keep track of us on - hope to see you on your next visit!