As a Deep South native, I’ve made it my mission to travel to most of the region’s renowned cities, including Atlanta, Birmingham, Mobile, Jackson and New Orleans. Apparently, though, there is one must-see city I’ve overlooked: Charleston, S.C. Everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing about it. My sister and her husband honeymooned there. My other sister and her husband stopped there on a cross-country drive. A few friends have vacationed there too. I’ve been hearing the buzz about Charleston for months, so when my March 2010 issue of Southern Living magazine arrived, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the cover. The featured theme? Charleston, of course!
From the city’s distinguished architecture and enchanting communities to the historic horticulture and classic cuisine, the magazine explored every nook and cranny of Charleston’s “romantic charm,” weaving stories throughout its travel, home, food and garden departments. Even the mayor (the nation’s longest running, at 33 years and counting!) gets a cameo. And Southern Living magazine wasn’t the only one to pick up on the allure of this centuries-old city. Ladies Home Journal magazine named Charleston as a “Great Romantic Getaway” (along with Sanibel Island, Fla.) in its March 2010 issue. And Charleston native and novelist Josephine Humphreys described the charms of her hometown in a narrative for Smithsonian magazine’s March 2009 issue.
So, what’s all the fuss about Charleston, and does it really deserve all this attention? According editor-in-chief Eleanor Griffin, Southern Living magazine chose to highlight it because, it’s a city you’ve told us you’re passionate about,” she writes, alluding to readers who’ve crowned
Charleston as their favorite Southern city in the Readers’ Choice Awards for several years running. After hearing friends and family rave about the restaurants, hotels, tours and shopping in Charleston, I was a bit skeptical. It sounded like a travel fad to me–or the workings of a very good PR person steering Charleston’s rise as the “it” destination! But, as Southern Living magazine’s tribute to the city illustrates, it’s what we’ve forgotten about Charleston–and what thousands of tourists rediscover when they visit–that captivate so many. Here are few things I was (pleasantly) surprised to learn about the city from Southern Living’s March issue:
- Best of the South: Window boxes are a signature of Charleston’s cobblestone streets; the mayor is a true gentleman; and you can buy everything here from a clutch made from vintage upholstery to a chic lamp fashioned from walnut wood.
- Travel: Hotels ooze with history (one housed a signer of the Constitution) and hospitality (another serves milk and cookies before bed).
- Homes: Rooms, from airy piazzas to elegant parlors, are rich with history and showcase a personal, collected style.
- Garden: Southern staples like azaleas, camellias, gardenias and crepe myrtles all have roots here. Who knew?
- Food: From shrimp and grits and bacon-fried okra to benne brittle and Hoppin’ John salad, Charleston offers some of the most savory tastes around.
If you can’t venture to Charleston, this issue offered plenty of recipes and gardening and decorating tips to help you bring a piece of Charleston style to your home. As for me, I hope to be making a visit very soon….