While it sometimes may seem like it, not all days in Charleston are filled with sun. When the fog rolls in, it adds a different layer of beauty to the city. Noises are muffled and the sound of the fog horns from the water traffic travel across the city with a bit more urgency. At night the spooky spots become even spookier and the history of the city become palpable. During the day, as seen below along the High Battery, it adds a layer of mystery, as you wonder what beauty will emerge as you travel down the walks and streets.
The City of Charleston is way more than just the historic district or even the peninsula. Encompassing a great deal of land in West Ashley (or “West of the Ashley” as some folks like to refer to it) and James Island (much to the consternation of some James Islanders), the beauty of Charleston includes amazing marshes, waterfront, parks and even some plantations. This view of the peninsula and across to the Ravenel Bridge is from Harbor View Road on James Island.
Anywhere along the Ashley River will give you spectacular views of the setting sun (there are lots of Glimpses that capture that). Sometimes lost in the magnificence of the combination of the sun and the water is the effect that the sun has on Charleston itself. As the sun was dipping below the horizon, some of the beautiful Live Oak trees in White Point Garden started to glow in the wonderful light created by that time of the evening.
When walking along the High Battery, there are many sights to see. From from the Ravenel (Cooper River) Bridge to Patriots Point, Fort Sumter and the homes on East Bay and East Battery, there are lots of land based things to look at. On the water, there is a whole other world — from dolphins and cormorants to boats of all shapes and size. Huge container ships steam through Charleston Harbor on their way to the port, kayaks paddle by and powerboats zips water-bound tourists along to check out the houses from that vantage point. And there a lots and lots of sailboats…here’s one heading out to open water.
These colorful houses are called the Three Sisters. Located on Meeting Street, the sisters are often mistakenly thought to be part of Rainbow Row (which is on East Bay Street) because of their bright colors. Myth has it that the colors represent the hair color of three sisters that lived in those houses. While that’s a nice story, the reality is that the nickname comes from their similar architectural styles.
Colonial Lake is one of the great spots in Charleston. It’s an active tidal pond that traces its history back to 1783, when the land was set aside for public use. The lake itself was created in 1869 and was fully enclosed with its cement walls in 1885. Currently it’s undergoing a year long major ($4 million+) improvement, which is going to result in a really spectacular park and a lake that is cleaner and healthier.
When the winds are not disturbing the surface of the lake, it becomes a wonderful mirror for the beautiful homes that surround it. And at Christmas time, the tree adds an additional bit of magic.
Nighttime in Charleston is a magical time. When walking the streets after dark, you can really sense the long history of the city and become that much more aware of the special smell of the marshes and sea. It’s not hard to imagine that the ghosts are about (Charleston is one of the most haunted spots in America) and there can be an eerie glow about the buildings. While the glow of this building (Hibernian Hall) was created for a special event, it does capture some of the magic of a Charleston night.
There are quite a few cobblestone streets in Charleston. The stones, which were brought by the early sailing trading ships (they were used as ballast on the voyage to Charleston and then discarded when they picked up their cargo), are now picturesque, but rough to drive on! The most famous cobblestone street in Charleston is Chalmers Street. Home to the “Pink House” — which is thought to be the oldest structure in Charleston (and one of the oldest in South Carolina), Chalmers is a must walk-through for anyone visiting Charleston.
Flower boxes are a really popular item all over Charleston. With many houses fronting directly on to the sidewalk, they almost act like the front yard to many people. This fantastic set caught my eye as I was going up Church Street, and then I noticed the beautiful blue bike (complete with red bell!). All the colors were a wonderful thing on a cool winter day.
One of the best things you can do when living or visiting Charleston is just walk and walk and walk. And when you are walking, you discover that there are alleys and “cut-throughs” that let you go where no car, carriage or rickshaw can take you. From these little paths you can get views of the houses and backyards that are inaccessible in any other way. One of my favorites is Stoll’s Alley, which connects East Bay Street to Church Street.