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The many charms of Charleston


Fascinating history, elegant architecture and friendly faces make South Carolina’s oldest city an unforgettable destination, says self-confessed cruise addict David George

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Cobblestones and copper lanterns sum up Charleston’s magic for me. As soon as you step ashore, the warmth of Charleston embraces visitors despite the early morning chill.


There are insights into South Carolina’s history at every turn. After all, the opening shots of the Civil War were fired right here in 1861 and the abolition of slavery gathered pace from Charleston, or Charles Town as it was known until 1783. The people we met went out of their way to help us make the most of our time. When I asked a shop assistant in Meeting Street for directions, she left the counter and happily led us to the corner of the street we needed. Even drivers slow down for you to cross and in one backwater I saw signs reminding children that they are not allowed to play in the street on Sundays. Talk about a bygone era!


From the cruise terminal, we walked left towards East Bay Street and into the heart of the Historic District. Majestic mansions, whiter-than-white stucco complementing pink colonnades and verandas, command fine sea views and reflect Charleston’s colonial past and present prosperity. In tree-lined and cobbled side-streets there are pretty clapboard and brick townhouses to admire, each with gas-lit copper lanterns hanging in their porches and with gardens meticulously maintained.  


By midday there is warmth in the spring sunshine and it’s time to board a horse-drawn carriage to see more of the sights. Church steeples dot the horizon and add to the charm of a community at peace with itself. If you’re into retail therapy, Charleston is a shopper’s paradise. Yes, there are international names (no more than two storeys, naturally) but most are small independents and the service makes browsing a pleasure.


The indoor market right by our berth does brisk business, selling everything from antiques and paintings to handmade jewellery and sweetgrass baskets, but by now I’m ready for another coffee. Needless to say, we are spoilt for choice and in the end select a family-run café that served the American dream (and mine!): warm apple pie and ice cream. A cheerful local undergraduate looked after us and was as fascinated by our home lives as we were with his.


I’m sometimes asked where I would most like to live if I didn’t live in Chester. No prizes for guessing what my answer is. 



David George

David worked in BBC Radio as a producer before he retired. In his own words, he is now addicted to cruise holidays and enjoys writing independently about his experiences.

Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina

Magnolia Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina

Five fantastic shore excursions in Charleston

Get to know one of America’s friendliest cities with one of our entertaining and enlightening tours.


1. Charleston Carriage Ride – Tour the city’s streets and alleyways on this leisurely horse-drawn carriage ride.


2. Charleston Tea Plantation – Visit North America’s only tea plantation, enjoy a trolley ride and sample the plantation’s tea.


3. The Ghosts of Charleston Walking Tour – On a walk through the city’s Historic District, your guide will regale you with tales of ghostly goings-on and paranormal experiences.


4. Magnolia Gardens – Spend some time strolling the lush gardens that have been delighting Charleston’s residents for more than three centuries.


5. Patriots Point – Explore the world’s largest naval and maritime collection, including the Cold War Submarine Memorial and the USS Yorktown.



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