“Cities were always like people, showing their varying personalities to the traveler….Only through travel can we know where we belong or not, where we are loved and where we are rejected.”
There are some amazing places in this world, many of which I’ve seen and loved, some still on my bucket list. When considering great cities, places like New York, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong……well those and many more come to mind. Having been to and loved all of them, I am compelled to add just one more – my humble home city of Charleston, South Carolina.
“The city does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand.”
Asked by Accor Hotels to participate in their Three Things I Love About My Favorite City competition, I thought about all of the places I’ve been and the amazing people and sites I’ve seen along the way. At the end of it all, I found myself still in love with my adopted home city, Charleston SC. What is it about Charleston that keeps me enthralled after 15 years? My challenge is not to come up with three things, rather it is to narrow my long list down to only three!
First, I suppose I would have to mention Charleston’s place in HISTORY.
“The city buildings in the distance are holding up the sky, it seems.”
Although Europeans and Asians would laugh at our view of history, in fact as US cities go, Charleston has quite a place of honor. We are the home of the first shot of the American Civil War, which at 750,000 deaths is still the deadliest US war. North fought South and brothers fought brothers, nearly tearing our country in two. One of the contributing issues was a radically different belief in the right to own slaves. As a major port city during those times, many Africans were first delivered via slave markets in Charleston. Today, the Gullah culture remains as a strong reminder of those African roots, carefully preserved by the descendents of those early slaves. The sweetgrass basket pictured previously is one of many traditional art forms which can be seen throughout the city. In addition, Charleston (known as the Holy City) is home to over 100 churches specifically because of her religious tolerance during a time when such freedom was hard to find. The city was an early home to Hugenots and Jews among others, fleeing persecution in their countries of birth. Many of their houses of worship remain today.
“A city is more than a place in space, it is a drama in time.”
Next, I would point to LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. Charleston is situated along the eastern seaboard of the southern US, on a peninsula formed by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Although our summers can be extremely hot and humid, ocean breezes provide relief from the worst of them. Tropical flowers like jessamine and oleander add color and fragrance to the air, and stately live oak trees with hanging Spanish moss shade many of our cobblestone streets. Graceful egrets and herons are plentiful year round, and friendly river dolphin are frequently seen meandering along our shores. Shrimping takes place from November through May, providing a delicious fresh catch to our many wonderful restaurants – contributing to Charleston’s reputation as a mecca among foodies nationwide.
“A city is not adorned by external things, but by the virtue of those who dwell in it.”
Finally, and most importantly, I submit there is no city anywhere more charming than Charleston. Yes, SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY is real, and very much alive here in Charleston. Our little city of roughly 125,000 people has received so many awards they are difficult to count. Among them, Friendliest City in the US, Top City in the US and Canada, Top Travel Destination in the World, Best Place to Retire – the list goes on and on. Why so many awards for a relatively inconsequential city? For so many reasons, but chief among them, I believe, the residents and their incredible southern charm. Here, the people smile and say hello as you walk down the street, they say please and thank you, they welcome you into their homes and businesses, they assume the best and cause you to deliver it back. I submit a small example from my personal experience. When I first moved to Charleston I was on my way to a large, sold out performance at a major downtown facility. When I realized I’d left my tickets at home and didn’t have time to retrieve them and still make the performance, I called the venue. I was told it would be no problem, simply report to the ticket counter upon arrival, show them my drivers license and they would show me to my seat. Try THAT in any of the other cities on the list and let me know how it goes!
“A city is not an accident but the result of coherent visions and aims.”