Charleston and Scarlett O’Hara. I’m finally coming out of my road trip fog and accepting the fact that we are actually home and life goes on. I always have some delicious little what’s next travel plan in my head. I can’t help it, I’m always ready to go again. In the meantime though it’s time to get it in gear and get this Bed & Breakfast Inn of ours ready for guests and the upcoming season.
This is no small task but fortunately, Abi and I are both super organized people – some might say borderline obsessive – but it works for us and it sure makes our daily life a little less frantic when we’re in the full swing of things.
Charleston & Scarlett O’Hara
But let’s talk of other things, shall we? How about Charleston, South Carolina? Have you been? It’s one of the places I’ve kept in the forefront of my memories because I found it to be an enigma. It is a city full of charm and southern hospitality that surely Scarlett O’Hara would embrace, but it also has such a sordid history. Visiting Charleston left me with a basket full of mixed emotions.
Coldest Weather in History
Who knew we’d experience some of the coldest weather in the history of the south while traveling through, and the cold in Charleston kicked my butt. I’m not sure why though because we live in cold country. Maybe it was the fact that historic Charleston sits right at the water’s edge and the wind off of the water just added to the cold. Being the history nerd that I am I wanted to visit Ft. Sumter. I didn’t realize the fort sits on an island just off the coast of Charleston and it’s a ferry ride over to the island. Somehow, getting on a boat in the cold, just didn’t do it for me so I settled for the visitors’ center and was quite content to do so.
Historic Charleston is pretty much what you would imagine it to be, stately homes overlooking the water, exclusive neighborhoods, restaurants, shops, historic cemeteries, churches, etc. It’s all there and even on a freezing cold day with the sun shining in the bright blue, yet oh so cold sky, the gardens and homes were still beautiful. I can only imagine how pretty it must be in the spring and summer. Many of the large grand homes were built facing the same direction, I’m guessing in order to take advantage of a cool breeze during the hot and humid summer months, but I don’t really know. Do you?
As we strolled the neighborhoods I tried to forget about the cold and lose myself in the era of the southern genteel woman; I half expected to see Scarlett O’Hara passing by.
The Slave Mart
It was all a bit surreal, to be walking the cobblestone streets and feeling as if we’d been transported back in time. There was one thing in particular that drove home the point of contrast in that world; the wealthiest of the wealthy. Many of these homes were built by plantation owners, and the practice of slavery. We visited one of the original slave marts, yep, that’s right, a slave mart.
We Need to Witness
It is a small, but well-presented museum, in the actual building where slaves were kept locked up and readied for sale. I have a hard time just writing that sentence. The United States was certainly not the first country to hold slaves, the practice was rampant for generations in other parts of the world, but there’s nothing like standing in the path of those who walked before us to bring it to light. It’s one of those experiences I think we all need to witness to remind us of our history.
In Her Voice
One of the most moving testaments in the slave mart was an audio recording of a woman who was sold at the slave mart. If I remember right she was in her 90’s when she made the recording. She told the story of how her father asked his master to buy his daughter so they could be together. While on the slave block though, she told the master she would rather slit her throat than to be bought by him. He had a reputation for
mistreating abusing his slaves.
He didn’t buy her, so she was sold to another man who liked her spunk and she stayed with that family until she was freed. I cannot tell you how powerful it was to listen to her voice telling her story. How do you even begin to process such a thing? I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that freed slaves actually owned slaves of their own.
So while I enjoyed our visit, I found Charleston and the world of Scarlett O’Hara to be an enigma. The city represents a time of gentility, grace, southern charm and hospitality. At the same time though it was the hub of slave trade in the south. How do you balance that out? Yes, I know, it was a long time ago, but that’s why history has such a hold on me. We can step back in time for a bit. We can remember those who came before us, the good and the bad. Hopefully, future generations will learn from the past. We can’t move forward if we don’t pay tribute to the past. At least I don’t believe so.
Thanks for posting this. We’re thinking a road trip in the U.S. is in our future, and Charleston has always piqued my interest.
Great! We just completed a 2-month “See the USA” road trip and I’ll be posting stories from the road. I would definitely visit Charleston!
I have not been to Charleston yet but I’d really like to go. It looks so beautiful every time I see it in photos. I know there’s a lot of fascinating history there too.
Scott – Quirky Travel Guy recently posted…Zebras all up in my face: A visit to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch
Historic Charleston has a lot to offer in the way of architecture, history, food, waterfront, etc. Just go in the spring when it is warm but not yet suffering from the heat and humidity. I’m not sure which would be worse, the cold or the heat and humidity. But definitely worth visiting.
Yes, I can see Scarlett fanning herself on that balcony. 🙂 I took a walk through Charleston’s historic district not long ago. The building really do have that “Old South” grandeur. I would have liked to spend some time in museum, but couldn’t fit it in. History — the good and the bad — important to know it all.
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You would have thought we would have gone inside a museum to stay warm, but we decided to just take in as much as we could in 1 full day, cuz I pretty much knew I couldn’t freeze my way through a 2nd. The homes by the waterfront were even more grand, but for some reason we didn’t stop to take photos, we were trying to find our way somewhere and focused on the destination.
I’m not surprised you almost expected to see Scarlet O’Hara with that architecture surrounding you!
The souls of people linger in homes like that and to hear the voice of a slave to one of those home owner ‘masters’ I found quite chilling to read.
Linda ~ Journey Jottings recently posted…A Stairway to Heaven – leading to the Garden of Eden in Kings Canyon
Chilling is a good way to describe it – to hear the actual words of how she stood defiantly on the slave block was incredibly moving. Charleston does have a rich – and sordid – history.
I love Charleston! I went to school there and miss it so much. I actually had the same problem you did. I remember it being a warm gorgeous coastal southern town, and while most of that is true, I took my boyfriend to show him around for the first time in November and it was freezing! Colder than I ever remembered it being the entire time I lived there! I’m glad that didn’t ruin it for you. Charleston is beautiful and full of so much great (though often disturbing) history. You should go back when it warms up and try to make it out to Fort Sumter.
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I think one day we do need to return, definitely when it is warm, maybe in the spring. We stayed outside of historic Charleston and if we do make it back I’d like to stay in the historic area so we could walk everywhere – and yes, I’d like to take the ferry out to Ft. Sumter. I’d also like to stroll along the waterside and try some of the restaurants. My husband was more game to taking on the cold, but I wimped out so we didn’t not stay as long as we planned. And now look at the weather! We actually did well all things considered.
Your post brought back a lot of memories of my visit to Charleston. Such a beautiful city!
Thanks Marilyn, I’m glad!
As a life long northeasterner (albeit a well traveled one), I must confessed that I always feel slightly uneasy in the South. A few years ago we went on a “get me outta here” winter cruise that left from Charleston — partly because my husband had never been there and wanted to see it before we departed for warmer temps in the Caribbean. On the cruise, there were a lot of South Carolinians. We were the only people at the table who didn’t own guns and I thought one of the guys was going to choke when I told him I voted for Obama. He was teasing me about the War of Northern Aggression. At least I think he was just teasing.
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I completely understand. While in D.C. we had a random conversation with a young woman from Mississippi. We told her we were traveling and she told us, “When you get to Mississippi, set the cruise control and don’t stop.” We all had a good laugh but she was actually pretty serious – and she could say it because she was from Mississippi. When talking about guns, wait until you read what we witnessed in Austin, TX!
I really want to go to Charleston for the history (including architecture) and the food. Love the photos here- those are places I’d love to see!
santafetraveler recently posted…Photo of the week: ARTFeast Santa Fe
I think, maybe, I’d like to go back to Charleston one day – but when it’s spring and not freezing. The architecture of the historic homes is really something. And then I could visit Ft. Sumter.
What a beautiful walk…I didn’t get to visit this museum, I loved how you shared that story of the 90 year old lady…what an experience!
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Thanks Noel. If you find yourself in Charleston, visiting the slave mart is a very moving experience.
Patti, I had no clue that some of the free slaves owned slaves themselves??? That is difficult to understand. Maybe for some it was the notion of by doing so it was “protecting” others from somebody worse? It sounds like a very powerful experience and would have loved to listen to the interviews. Hope that the 2014 season brings lots of new adventures 🙂
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I know Kerri, it just boggles the mind and we were so surprised – but then I think about life 200+ years ago and I can’t even begin to take it all in. It’s definitely a fascinating period in history.
It’s so difficult to imagine living in that era. The idea of a slave being freed and then becoming a slave owner is intriguing. I’d like to hear that and so many other stories. Gosh, I love history.
The only thing I can figure is that slavery was such an ingrained mindset – it was somewhat “normal,” it’s just so difficult for us to fathom such things. Thanks for stopping by!
I absolutely love those old colonial homes as to me they truly represent “the South”. So gorgeous! I would have liked to see Scarlett…I looked in the pic! Darnit. That audio recording had to be amazing, Patti. No kidding on how powerful the testament would be. Good post 🙂
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It was Mike. The museum had 3 such recordings, all of them were so moving. I think one day I’d like to return to Charleston, in the spring, so I can take my time and absorb more of the local vibe without worrying about freezing! 😉