Photo by Srini Somanchi on Unsplash

Arts journalism graduate students from Syracuse University joined the City Paper during Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto to attend and cover the festivals’ events. During their two weeks in Charleston, they experienced many of the things Charleston has to offer. Here are some of their reactions to the Holy City.

Literally walking through history

Walking through the streets of Charleston, I was baffled when I saw legitimate cobblestones. Not bricks trying to pass as cobblestones, or stones placed in a “road” that is really just for pedestrians, but real-life cobblestones on a road that people regularly drive on in South Carolina. On the other side of the country in the significantly younger state of Washington, where I grew up, there isn’t anything all that old there. There are no cobblestones or churches that predate the United States, no historic buildings that have survived the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

I was absolutely flabbergasted as I walked through the city where so much history has happened. Up until a few weeks ago, I had only read about the Civil War in a history textbook, it felt like ancient history that was semi-removed from our current lives. When I came to Charleston, the reality of our history hit me in the face. It was a culture shock and a reality check. It’s humbling to walk over these cobblestones, and think about how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. — Riley Utley

The scoop on Charleston

I may not have eggs or bread regularly stocked in my kitchen, but I always have two or three pints of delicious ice cream in my freezer at all times (and a supply of Lactaid to combat my body’s rebellion to sweet, sweet dairy). What can I say? I have my priorities in order.

Visiting Jeni’s on King Street on my first night was a non-negotiable. The salty, buttery waffle cone piled high with Sweet Cream Biscuits & Peach Jam did more than hit the spot – it unleashed a quest to try every ice cream shop Charleston had to offer. It was a noble quest, but hey, someone had to do it.

The Holy City is a food destination, and arguably an ice cream destination, so I did not successfully hit every shop. But from the classic flavors of Kilwin’s to the miso-, peanut butter- and brownie-laced delight at Oddfellows to the decadent gelato of Carmella’s, each day has been filled with delicious scoops (sometimes twice in one day). Since I averaged about 5.95 miles a day walking around the city and needed to stay cool in the humid, sweltering heat, indulging in frozen sweet treats wasn’t a want. It was a necessity. — Katherine Kiessling

Charleston has the best food 

The food in Charleston is truly something else. I had oysters and lobster rolls at Delaney Oyster House twice — the seafood was so fresh and delicious. Pairing the seafood with a glass of champagne made it even better. If you go to 167 Raw Oyster Bar, give that expensive caviar a try. (I don’t regret it one bit.) I had the most incredible sushi and tuna tartare at O-Ku. The hummus at Husk was out of this world. Indaco served a great classic margherita pizza paired with wonderful pinot noir.

If you want good Indian food, go to Coterie; you’ll get your food very quickly, and the yellow lentils are exquisite. You’ll find the best burgers at Big Brown Deli. I had the Mission Impossible Burger with barbecue chips three times. Take a drive to Maya Del Sol in North Charleston for tacos. You’ll find great doughnuts at Hero. In just two weeks, I became a regular at Caviar and Bananas for breakfast and coffee in the morning. If you crave a good latte like me (three times a day) or even great matcha, this is the place for you. I would also recommend the bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam, or the croissant with egg and cheddar. 

Oh, and after dinner (or any meal, really), you will definitely want to go out for ice cream because:

1. it’s very humid in Charleston and you’ll need it; 
2. a lot of people eat ice-cream after dinner down here;
3. and the ice cream is really, really good.

I recommend Jeni’s and Off Track Ice Cream.

Being from Montreal, a food city, I missed the taste of real good food while at school in Syracuse, New York. Charleston did not disappoint. The food is expensive here, but it’s worth it. — Gabriel Veiga

Walking is impossible

Charleston is a fairly walkable city if you saunter along at a glacial pace, making room for every tree and lamppost taking up most of the wildly uneven and narrow walkways. Random stones protrude upward with some missing altogether, not to mention the countless amount of grates and access panels for the underworkings of the city. Just five minutes walking down the street hosts a number of people tripping, including myself, so watch out. 

As if the obstacle course of a sidewalk isn’t enough, the slow pace of walking is the number one cause of impatient Northerners like myself walking into oncoming traffic just to pass them. Swimming through humid air under the midday sun results in a sluggish trudge settling over the city. The only respite comes flowing from the open doors of air-conditioned boutiques along King Street. This, combined with couples walking arm-in-arm using the entire width of the ridiculously narrow sidewalks, will double that 10-minute walk promised by Google Maps.

But if you wait until after 10 p.m., the streets and sidewalks of the shopping district area on King Street turn into a literal ghost town in this city that definitely goes to sleep. — Nat Bono

In living color

Charleston glows with a candy-bright color palette. From the buildings to the fashion, it’s pastels as far as the eye can see. 

Far from the utilitarian gray or red-brick buildings that I’m used to in upstate New York, the historic architecture of Charleston is all soft shades of rainbow over stucco. The French Huguenot Church serves as a landmark, immediately recognizable in baby pink. The iconic Rainbow Row is like a church pew on Easter Sunday, robin’s egg blue and lilac and bubblegum pink shoulder to shoulder. As you walk along the bustling King Street, you’ll see restaurants and shops resplendent in shades of celery green and butter yellow.

Meanwhile, the fashion is in sync with the architecture. Whereas many of us up north favor black or muted color palettes, here the women’s outfits are bright pops of color. Shop windows feature cutout dresses and jumpsuits in gentle floral patterns and vivid shades. The signature aquamarines and fuchsias of Lilly Pulitzer are everywhere. This May and June, springtime was out in full force, with posses of bachelorette parties draped in lavender or lime. Even at nighttime, the city is aglow with brilliant bursts of color, floral skirts in candy hues swaying in the welcome breeze. — Ellen E. Mintzer

Walking alone in Charleston

Sometimes I need to be alone, without communication with people, and give my brain a break by walking through the city and window shopping the boutiques on King Street. Don’t forget to wear your earphones – music is your partner during this trip. See things through your eyes and feel the weather. 

The Farmers Market in Marion Square is a party for dogs every Saturday. I love Charleston partly because the residents here showed so much love for dogs: Most shops have a bowl filled with water outside the door. Seeing a dog get its free ice cream in a coffee shop on a hot afternoon is the loveliest thing I have seen here. The humidity is good; the sun is not burning; the trees are natural sunshade; everything is beautiful. — Tina Zhu


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