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

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?

Scarlett O'Hara

See the frozen fountain?

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.

Note the 2nd story balconies - can you see Scarlett?

Note the 2nd story balconies – can you see Scarlett O’Hara fanning herself?

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.

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One of the original slaves marts in Charleston – don’t you hate it when an ugly car gets in your shot?

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.

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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.

Scarlett O'Hara

The slave mart – instituted in 1830

An Enigma

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.

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