Charleston || The Nathaniel Russell House

The one with the stunning, free-flying staircase that will have you stand there gawking for a long moment, at least until your guide rushes you on to the next room, to make space for the next group. There are quite a few magnificent mansions in Charleston but if you only have time for one, the Nathaniel Russel House is your absolute must-see.

”A National Historic Landmark, the Nathaniel Russell House Museum was built over a five-year period and completed in 1808 by Charleston merchant Nathaniel Russell. The house cost $80,000 to build, at a time when the average value of a home was $262. The home’s graceful, free-flying, three-story staircase is an architectural marvel with each cantilevered step supporting the one above and below it.” [source]

Charleston, SC

April 11th, 2018

Charleston || Aiken-Rhett House

If these walls could talk…

… they’d tell you a compelling tale of urban life in antebellum Charleston through the eyes of the powerful and wealthy Governor and Mrs. William Aiken, Jr. and the enslaved Africans who maintained their house, property, and way of life.

The place you are about to see belonged to the Aiken family for 142 years before being turned into a Museum, in 1975. Its current owners, the Historic Charleston Foundation that took over in 1995, adopted a preserved-as-found approach, which means all the rooms and surviving furnishings, including the slave quarters, have been preserved – as opposed to restored – and have not been altered since the mid 19th century.

The Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston, SC

April 10th, 2018

Charleston || A welcoming city

Which one do you prefer?… is the inevitable question every time the trip to Savannah and Charleston comes up.

Well, none…, I mean BOTH!… is my answer because, honestly, these two shouldn’t be compared; I’d rather see them as an old couple, harmoniously complementing each other.

Indeed, if Savannah were a lady of a certain age and of the Victorian era, Charleston would have been an American Gentleman nearing retirement, extremely wealthy, aristocratic, with impeccable taste, elegantly sipping his spiked sweet tea from a crystal glass on his mansion’s porch – a mellow man.

There is a masculine quality about Charleston, I think you will agree, evident as we will walk past some of the city’s glorious mansions, visit a couple of impeccably preserved historic homes and learn about Charleston’s earliest colonial history as we walk through the first permanent English settlement in Carolina.

But, for now, our first impressions: an early afternoon walk on an unexpectedly cool day, through the Historic City Market to the Waterfront and its famous pineapple fountain. Surprised at first, it didn’t take long to learn that, through time, the pineapple became a symbol of friendship and hospitality, a sign often repeated throughout the city as a token of welcome.

Charleston, SC

April 9th, 2018

Savannah || Foxy Loxy Cool

A coffee shop that doubles up as a Tex-Mex cantina? A strange combination that shouldn’t work, yet in Foxy Loxy it does very well, thank you.

Off the touristy historic district, Foxy Loxy has everything going for it: a quirky interior, delicious offerings, decent coffee and a prime location in Thomas Square, a trendy neighbourhood with antique shops, vintage stores, gastropubs and fine late 19th century homes in various architectural styles. No wonder it is a favourite among locals and SCAD students. And, for the short time we stayed in Savannah, ours too.

And if that’s not enough, the cafe sits right next to the Gingerbread House, an incredible example of Steamboat Gothic architecture, the only one we found in Savannah (scroll down to the last two photos)!

Foxy Loxy Cafe, Savannah

April 2018

Savannah || Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters

Remember the third site of the Telfair Museums, which we had yet to see? Here it is, in all its grand splendour, starting from the humblest, the slaves’ quarters, walking our way through the garden and into the mansion.

We enter through a magnificent entrance hall into the largest room of the house, which is none other than the formal dining room; we work our way up an elegant staircase which rises to a landing, splits into two flights and, most interestingly, forms a bridge that connects the front and rear portions of the second floor – a rather unique feature, one we have never seen before (or since) in any of the mansions we visited; we peek into the various, lavishly decorated rooms, and the less-than-lavish service ones, in the front and rear halls of the second floor.

The two quarters could not have been more different.

You can find more information about the history, architecture and owners of the Owens-Thomas House, on the museum’s website.

April 5th, 2018

Savannah || The Gryphon

Speaking of old school charm, southern hospitality and the touch of SCAD being evident all over the historic centre,  this is where it all comes together: the Gryphon. SCAD’s upscale tea room that occupies the ground floor of the Scottish Rite building on Madison Square. Add the mystery of Freemasonry and the fact that the building is still the meeting place for various Masonic lodges, and your afternoon tea acquires that ”something extra” that goes beyond cucumber sandwiches and scones (although I would have been happy with just the scones).

Gryphon

April 5th, 2018