There is a certain vibe that radiates from the cobblestone streets of Charleston. Wooden carriage wheels bounce to the trills of the red-and-white-striped coachmen ringing a bell through a shower of pollen being swung from hundred-year-old trees. The clatter of the horses making their way along the centuries-old streets is interrupted by their steady huffs in the 100-degree southern heat. A horse stops at a red light and shakes his silken mane, braided like a Han Dynasty warrior, as the calls of vendors hawking sweetgrass baskets bounces off the wood of turn-of-the-century manors. This kind of tangible energy is all over Charleston. From the echoes of history found at countryside plantations to the laughter, aroma, and flavors found at a hot new restaurant, Charleston is a city that all your senses will appreciate.
Nestled in the city’s Historic District, Belmond’s Charleston Place (205 Meeting St. Tel: 843-722-490. www.belmond.com) is the city’s go-to luxury hotel. While encompassing many blocks in the area, the main entrance is down a small alley where a fourhorse fountain greets guests before they enter the porte-cochère (where horse-drawn carriages can pull up). Inside, a hand-blown Venetian chandelier that looks like it belongs in a palace rather than a hotel, is 12 feet in diameter and in height, and comprises more than 3,000 individual pieces of glass, hand-blown in Murano, Italy. The buzzing hotel is filled with weddings, reunions, and families, providing a focal point of Charleston social life (some even credit it for revitalizing a major portion of the city). Opt for a room on one of the two club levels where guests have access to free beverages (including alcoholic drinks throughout the day) and breakfast, lunch, and tea.
My first night in Charleston, I head for a revitalizing facial in the hotel’s spa. The humidity in Charleston can kill your skin if you’re not used to it, and the therapist who treated my face knew just how to take care of this New Yorker’s skin. An all-natural exfoliation, cleansing, and protective, sweetgrass mask worked perfectly throughout the week.