Charleston, South Carolina, Is Awesome

Early in May, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, won back his old Congressional seat. The district is gerrymandered along the coastal resort areas of the state to nearly guarantee a Republican win, no matter who the Republican or what his personal problems might be. Some of the reaction – from outraged out-of-state Republicans and Democrats (both) has included recommendations to boycott the vacation destinations in protest – especially Charleston. Don’t bother, folks. It won’t do any good in the right places or pocketbooks.

And besides, you’ll just deprive yourself of one of the nicest and most wonderful vacations ever if you decide to skip Charleston. Here are a few reasons why:

Charleston is historic … as in the place oozes its charming past and the fusion of cultures that clashed and eventually reconciled here. It was founded in 1670 and was the foremost port of the infamous Middle Passage – the slave trade. Cobbled streets wander all over the center of town – wear comfortable shoes! Wonderful gardens burgeon behind hand-wrought-iron gates. Horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs carry tourists when their legs give out.

The history of Charleston, of course, includes the beginning of the Civil War. One can take the ferry out to Ft. Sumter to experience the remains out on the island and to imagine what it might have been like to be isolated out there, without resupply and with the guns of the South trained upon your little fort from The Battery. Walk along The Battery – now occupied by magnolias and mansions – and see the scenario from the other side.

Politicians behaving badly are nothing new to Charleston. John C. Calhoun’s mansion is open to tourists as is the Charles Pinkney Historic Site. Judge James L. Petigru got it right when he famously remarked (somewhere around 150 years ago) that the state is too small to be its own republic and too large to be an insane asylum. Politically, that adage has never been more true.

Charleston, however, carries on in its own inimitable fashion. Spoleto Festival attracts artists, performers and their fans and followers from all over the world, every year, for a three-week period at the end of May through the beginning of June. Concerts, performances, recitals, and shows run nearly continuously and are almost always sold-out. The local artists are always active: Gallery Row is a famous downtown destination, chock full of art galleries, boutiques and antique dealers.

With French, Dutch, Spanish, English, Native American, African and Creole/Jamaican roots, low-country cuisine – not to mention seafood fresh out of the Atlantic Ocean – is to die for in Charleston. Restaurants feature every type of cooking: down-home, Gullah, soulfood, fusion, sushi (you haven’t lived until you’ve fused sushi with creole flavors), French, Italian … just walk down King Street and a wonderful gustatory experience awaits. The low country’s signature dish is Shrimp’n’grits. Don’t let the grits scare you off. Grits are coarse-ground corn meal – think polenta. They can be served either creamy or fried up, cake-style. The creole spices for the shrimp, vegetables and smoked or hot sausage chunks served over the grits will set your taste buds twerkin’ and jookin’. Every chef has his/her own special touch with shrimp’n’grits – just as they do with crab cakes. A culinary quest to find the best might – under the best of circumstances – never end. Ah, Charleston!