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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

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RalphKramden

I'm a tactless northerner, so I'm not going to feel bad at all for hijacking this thread. Well, a little bad, but that's it.

I'm trying to use this online community in a very mundane, pedestrian way. Tourist/Retirement advice. If that's too boring, sorry for the interruption, just ignore this comment.

I'm a liberal northerner (NJ/Mass) getting within sniffing distance of retirement. My family is going to vacation in Charleston,SC in about a month. My wife and I spent a week down there a couple of years ago and absolutely loved it. I found this blog by Googling "charleston blog". I love xkcd. Looked at the Xark FAQ. Seemed to be my neighborhood. (I'm RalphKramden on DailyKos but I'm not active much.)

So can y'all (and I use the term advisedly) tell me:
- if you have a week in Charleston, what should I absolutely not miss?
- if you're a blue-ish transplanted northerner, how is life in a red state?
- is there a drinking liberally in Charleston? (yeah, right)

Thanks for any wisdom you can share!

Heather

There is a Drinking Liberally:
# Every Friday, 5:30ish until
# Buffalo South, 1409 Folly Rd (On Folly Rd just past Fort Johnson Rd.) (map)
# Hosted by Christine Wilkerson, Nick Thetford, Paul Hedden, Kozmas Pentakalos and Sue Edward, follybeach (at) drinkingliberally.org

I'm not a member, I just knew someone who would pass along the newsletter.

Daniel

Hi Ralph:

You don't seem tactless to me. Thanks for just saying what you were interested in -- lets us respond to it properly.

What to do in Charleston? Depends on what you like. A tour is a good thing -- a carriage tour is fun, but they're randomly assigned one of several tour routes, so you never know what you're gonna get.

Specialized tours are available in multiple flavors, and if you're willing to hoof it and hire your own guide you can get exactly what you want.

The No. 1 thing to do in Charleston (and I think most of the locals would agree) is to eat. Lots of good restaurants, and there are some very nice ones that aren't overly expensive. Let us know what you like and we can make suggestions.

Like the beach? Sullivan's Island is unique (seriously) and Folly Beach is funky and fun, with more of a commercial district.

People like to tour the plantations along the Ashley River. They're kinda expensive ($30+) but they can be worth it. Middleton Place is a fairly remarkable artifact, and the garden is special. Bring a camera.

The locals really like to tour each other's homes, so there are periodic "house tours" where you get to walk through historic houses where people live. It's weird, but you might like it. There's a 5 to 10 percent chance your visit (randomly timed) will coincide with an organized house tour. Check around.

If you're here during Spoleto/Piccolo Spoleto (May 23-June 8) you'll have great art events to attend from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. I once did 13 festival events in a single day, just to establish a new arts-intake record.

But the one thing I wouldn't miss in Charleston? Look, y'all bring or rent some bicycles, and spend the day riding around the historic part of the peninsula. You'll see more than you would on foot (and have more fun), but you'll SEE more than if you tried to drive around. Be sure to catch a meal at G&M Fast & French on Broad Street (but avoid lunch hour during the week, when the tiny little place is packed cheek-to-jowl with Broad Street lawyers yammering away on Blackberries).

Blue life in a red state? It's a closely guarded secret here (even the news media don't seem to know it), but peninsular Charleston (the "old city") has been absolutely purple for the past two presidential cycles and will likely vote Democratic this year. Peninsular Charleston and Folly Beach were the only two areas in the state to vote against the anti-gay marriage referendum a couple years back.

So if you can live in an urban neighborhood (like ours, north of the Crosstown) you can live in a racially mixed, politically mixed, culturally vibrant place in the midst of a sea of red. But if you live in a suburb or a gated beach community or a retirement village, well... good luck with that. You can get into North Central or Wagener Terrace with a decent house these days for about $300-$350k.

Drinking liberally? As Heather says, we've got that. We've also got a Green Drinks Charleston for the eco-minded (every 2nd Tuesday of the month).

You know, I'd be happy to meet you and your wife for coffee downtown during your vacation and answer any questions you might have.

Ralph Kramden

Thank you Daniel and Heather!

We're going to be staying out on Folly, so the beach is the main agenda. We were out there a couple of years ago, but around the first week of May, so it was not at all crowded. We're going to be there about a month later this year so we expect more in the way of "wild life". It's a real slice of heaven out there, and we *really* like the funkiness. It's the best beach community we've found north of the Caribbean.

Yes, I've noticed Spoleto, so my opera-singer daughter and I will probably see "Amistad" at the very least. And Friday at Buffalo South sounds very tempting indeed! (Now, I've been to Buffalo, and I've been to Charleston. Why one would like to bring a little bit of Buffalo *to* Charleston, I have no idea. Except for the wings.)

Thanks for the food recommendations! The food is certainly wonderful down there. (Except for the boiled peanuts - what's up with that? :-)

Have you ever done one of the harbor tours?

We've thought seriously of retiring down there, but we wouldn't like to own anything on Folly - the housing there is too vulnerable and a lot of the construction on the dunes would be considered almost immoral in Massachusetts. That doesn't stop us from renting it and enjoying, though, so it would be hypocritical to complain (not to mention impolite).

In fact, I bet all of Charleston is pretty vulnerable to rising sea levels and more turbulent weather patterns, which is a real shame. It's a jewel of a city, with a youthful vitality. Reminds me of a clean New Orleans. Ideally we'd want to retire to just such a place - a walkable town with college students to guarantee an artsy flavor. It's considerably more affordable than up here, too.

Website recommendations (other than this one)? Radio station recommendations? I've been listening to Radio Free Charleston on the web - is it also over the air? Between RFC and WMVY (Martha's Vineyard), I'm REALLY jonesing for the beach!

Once again, thanks for the tips! I can't wait to get there!

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