My Home away from Home - Charleston, SC
When I decided to go to a tiny university in the small town of Florence, South Carolina, I was convinced that there would not be much going on. I was sure that coming from a large city like Toronto that this place would feel quiet, empty and boring. It wasn’t until I agreed to stay the weekend in nearby Charleston, at one of my friend’s homes, that I realized there was so much more to this state than I realized.
I instantly fell in love with the distinctive architecture, friendly community, historical landmarks and seemingly endless options of where to eat. It seems I’m not the only one in love with Charleston, as I just recently found out that the city was ranked both Top U.S. City and Top City in the World by Condé Nast Traveler 2012 Readers' Choice Awards. Since my first visit, I go back to this wonderful city every chance I get.
At the top of my list of local recommendations is the City Market, which stretches out for a good four blocks. Now used as a place to browse and purchase a variety of jewelry and knickknacks, the Market Hall was once a place for the locals to gather and socialize in the 17th century, and today remains a significant landmark. You will find that the Gullah sweetgrass baskets are very popular and sold not only here, but on almost every corner of downtown Charleston!
Hyman’s is a place where everyone needs to eat, at least once. This seafood restaurant has been located on Meeting Street since 1987, but the Hyman family themselves have been here for over 112 years. Before this well-loved restaurant was established, they had a wholesale dry goods store in this exact spot. I have to say I was not very fond of eating fish until I experienced this place. Not only was the food great but the service was terrific. They sure know how to eat in the South, and I’m not complaining about the large portions.Folly Beach is one of my favourite places - so quiet and peaceful. When my boyfriend and I went, we were the only ones on the entire beach for miles (actually the man in the picture was the only other person we saw). It was a little too cold to swimsince we were there in October, but it was a nice experience nevertheless. If I were able to go there whenever I wanted I would bring a book or journal and sit out there all day enjoying the cool, refreshing breeze.
Another place you must go if you like being near the water is The Battery. This seawall stretches all along the Charleston peninsula. It is bordered by beautiful antebellum homes. The Ashley and Cooper rivers are connected to the Battery where they meet to create the Charleston Harbor.
If you need to know where the shopping is at - King Street is just your place, ladies. It’s divided into three different shopping districts. The first one is the Upper King Street Design and Dining District; in the middle, King Street Fashion District and the Lower King Street Antiques District. Here you can find anything you want, including places to stay overnight.
We stayed in the Historic District, which is right in the middle of everything. We were able to walk to all of the sites and shops we wanted to see. There are number of options for lodging in the area. Even staying just outside of downtown Charleston leaves quick 10 minute cab ride to just about anywhere.
For breakfast, take a stroll down King Street to a donut and coffee shop called Glazed. They have every flavour of donut you can imagine! This place is so popular there are always people waiting outside the doors before it opens. I can tell you from experience that yes, it is that good, and worth the sugar overload we had that morning.
When it comes to dining, there are so many restaurant options. If you are looking for a romantic spot there are plenty of smaller, less busy restaurants along King Street. From lounges and bars, to candle lit diners, there are plenty of scenes to suit any mood you’re in.
My new favourite place to grab a bite is called Five Loaves Café. Located at 43 Canon Street, it is a cozy soup and sandwich place. It’s healthy options are endless and the service is wonderful. My personal favourite sandwich is the Sweet Chili Glazed Eggplant Wrap. They offer daily specials, as well as an entrée menu with even more tasty options.
What I enjoy most about Charleston is that you can walk anywhere. The city is just so beautiful and it provides me a comfort that even Toronto, my home, cannot give me. It is quiet and the people are more friendly. You can do all your shopping, including groceries, on the same street. Charleston is somewhere I could happily live every day. I highly recommend you give this place a visit. I know you won’t regret it!