Trip Start Sep 07, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2008

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Where I stayed
Oak Plantation Campground

Flag of United States  , South Carolina
Friday, November 14, 2008

We've gone from windswept beach to the oldest town in the U.S. (in terms of being original).   Charleston is like going back in time.  ALL the houses are what they were at the time they were built, and that goes back to 1700's, 1800's.  They have of course sealed the roads, but you'll still come across the old large cobblestones every now and then.

After we negotiated our way through the narrow streets, with low-hanging trees, we managed to park on a backstreet (at the invaluable advice of our soon-to-be tour guide).  We thought the easiest and most 'authentic' way to see this town (or that's what we say to ourselves anyway), was by horse and carriage, so after petting the animals, in no time at all we were 'trotting' away on a old carriage pulled by two 1100lb mares ; named Google and Yahoo.....  doesn't quite go with the old and authentic does it?

We passed the slavery markets, and yes, Charleston was the biggest slave trading city in the U.S., but these markets were not where they traded slaves, they were actually where the slaves worked, selling for their owners, eg: baskets, fruit, veg etc.   In fact, talking of baskets....  as you enter Charleston they are selling and weaving these baskets all along the main road;  the raw material is only found in this part of the country, and therefore makes it very unique to the area, and possibly a little pricey.

Anyway, getting back to the tour, I wondered why, as the tour started, our guide wasn't giving us more details eg: "this house was built in ...", OR  "this church started in ..."  and then I realized that EVERYTHING, ie: every shop, every street lamp, every church (yep all 127 of them), every home was built 300-400 years ago.   This is the 'rules'.  If you buy a property here, you have to maintain it in its original form - the materials can be modern but they must look authentic.  You cannot so much as take down a door or alter it in any way.   Very, very strict laws, but it keeps the homes in immaculate condition, thoroughly preserved and of course naturally it makes for expensive real estate.  

As I mentioned there is a great deal of churches!  But they are open well into the evening, and always with the doors swung open.  The are all very welcoming, and invite you, if not expect you to walk up the path, visit the graveyards, stop inside etc .    Now, these churches have gravestones dating back to: born 1660 and died 1701, kind of thing.  Almost unfathomable for us.  OK, now this is a little quiz for you .... What's the difference between a graveyard and a cemetery???   

At any rate this was a wealthy, playful city in its time, and it hasn't changed.   It's empowering as well as endearing, and its simple grid patterned streets, and brick homes are somewhat in contrast to its lavishness.  The white table cloth restaurants are in abundance and although we were tempted to indulge, we settled for the 'candy-floss' flavoured ice-cream on our way back.  

Before, I finish, I have to tell you about one thing we saw, which was really quite unique...   there was an advertisement painting on the outside of a corner shop.  It's the exact same painting, advertising what was a 'hat' shop, back in the 1800's.  It is of a man in a top hat, and every part of him, his ears, his nose etc is depicted as a hat of some sort.  Really original, but also amazing that it's still there, exactly as it was, centuries ago, they just keep giving it a touch up.

In fact, that probably sums up Charleston  perfectly ...  exactly as it was, centuries ago, just with another touch up.

Oh yes, and before I forget, here's two pieces of trivia for you:
1)      A graveyard is attached to a church, whereas a cemetery is not
2)      The only other city in the world that is 'older' than Charleston is Rome
mmm...... maybe Rome needs to be next on the agenda ......
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