14.05.2010 - 16.05.2010 87 °F
Room 257, Doubletree Hotel, Charleston, South Carolina, 7:43 pm, 15/5/10
Another amazing, incredible town. We can't believe we are in the USA, till you see the people. Full of tourists as it's weekend (though it's easy enough to get away from them and wander down a street which you have to yourselves). And lots of weddings going on. The air is ripe with the smell of the by-products of scores of horse-drawn carriages mixed with the scent of Confederate Jasmin and Magnolia trees along with the sound of Mockingbirds.
Bill Bryson (remember, he was responsible for our going to Savannah) said:-
I arrived in Charleston twelve minutes earlier than planned, which was good news. I had thought that Savannah was the most becoming American city I had ever seen, but it thumped into second place soon after my arrival in Charleston.
At its harbour end, the city tapers to a rounded promontory which is packed solid with beautiful old homes, lined up one after the other along straight, shady streets like oversized books on a crowded shelf. Some are of the most detailed Victorian ornateness, like fine lace, and some are plain white clapboard with black shutters, but all of them are at least three storeys high and imposing — all the more so as they loom up so near the road. Almost no one has any yard to speak of — though everywhere I looked there were Vietnamese gardeners minutely attending to patches of lawns the size of table-cloths — so children play on the street and women, all of them white, all of them young, all of them rich, gossip on the front steps. This isn't supposed to happen in America. Wealthy children in America don't play on the street; there isn't any need. They lounge beside the pool or sneak reefers in the $3,000 treehouse that daddy had built for them for their ninth birthday. And their mothers, when they wish to gossip with a neighbour, do it on the telephone or climb into their air-conditioned station wagons and drive a hundred yards.
It made me realise how much cars and suburbs — and indiscriminate wealth — have spoiled American life. Charleston had the climate and ambience of a Naples, but the wealth and style of a big American city. I was enchanted. I walked away the afternoon, up and clown the peaceful streets, secretly admiring all these impossibly happy and good-looking people and their wonderful homes and rich, perfect lives.
The promontory ended in a level park, where children wheeled and bounced on BMXs and young couples strolled hand in hand and Frisbees sailed through the long strips of dark and light caused by the lowering sun filtering through the magnolia trees. Every person was youthful, good-looking and well-scrubbed. It was like wandering into a Pepsi commercial. Beyond the park, a broad stone promenade overlooked the harbour, vast and shimmery and green. I went and peered over the edge. The water slapped the stone and smelled of fish. Two miles out you could see the island of Fort Sumter where the Civil War began. The promenade was crowded with cyclists and sweating joggers, who weaved expertly among the pedestrians and shuffling tourists. I turned around and walked back to the car, the sun warm on my back, and had the sneaking feeling that after such perfection, things were bound to be downhill from now on.
The place in pictures, as well as a couple taken on the way here. More about the city tomorrow. Just bear in mind there are just under a thousand of the grand houses, a sample of which are shown below. None seem to have more than one family in them. Wanna buy one? $3-10m should cover it. We thought our friend Paul would like pink and white one.
Coffee in Beaufort, SC, on the drive to Charleston:-
Lady Chablis, of "Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil" fame, still doing cabaret, but not for those without a sense of humour!:-
Even the Airfix models are big here! Bringing one home for Eric:-
Lobby, Doubletree Hotel, Charleston, South Carolina:-
Our "Room" following free upgrade and free breakfast too:-
But we have to go upstairs......
to go to bed!
I'll have to ask Brenda to sort out the "Victorias" from the "Neptunos" from this lot. Remember, there are nearly one thousand houses like these. It's just like wandering round Camposol.
Unbelievably, these houses are mostly 18th Century with a few being early 19th Century. The level of restoration and preservation is quite mind boggling.
A Gulla group we stumbled across last night. One of those magical moments that happen from time-to-time.