The Hedonist: Charleston
What to see and where to be seen
Friday 02 March 2012
It's 5.30pm and time to check in at our grande dame hotel, Charleston Place (001 843 722 4900; charlestonplace.com). We are close to King Street, on the "fashion mile" – and there's no doubt that my spending will help the local economy. Despite being a small city, Charleston has all the big-name shops and quirky boutiques you could want. And they're all open until 8pm today, so there's plenty of time to have a quick look right now.
What's so special about this small city in South Carolina? Well, it's a handsome place; the people are pretty lovely – "y'all from England?" – and, best of all, British accents are few and far between. But chic? Surely not. Yet after we drop off a bumper batch of designer wares at the hotel, it's time to walk towards East Bay Street, where the trendiest bars and restaurants are to be found.
We head to the Pavilion Bar, on the rooftop of the Market Pavilion Hotel (001 843 723 0500; marketpavilion.com). With views of historic Charleston and the city's spectacular sunsets, a cascading pool, signature cocktails and eclectic cuisine, it's the perfect place to kick off proceedings, and we do so in style with the local speciality – a sweet tea martini. Made with local Firefly sweet tea vodka (definitely the find of the trip) and topped with southern lemonade, it was destined to be the drink of the night. And the first of many, naturally.
For dinner, we manage to snag a top table at Slightly North of Broad (001 843 723 3424; mavericksouthernkitchens.com) – or SNOB, as the locals call it. Located in a 19th-century brick warehouse just north of Broad Street, it gives us a taste of some of the South's best dishes: the stuffed Caroline quail breast and seared grouper are superb. And, of course, there's another opportunity to try a variation of the tea martini, appropriately named the Charleston, which appears to be the same as the previous one, but now with a hint of mint. Heady, hedonistic stuff indeed.
The night is still young, and there are plenty of places to check out before 2am, when everything shuts down. We start at the Social Wine Bar (001 843 577 5665; socialwinebar.com), as we want to see if it really has 4,000 bottles of wine on display. It looks like it probably does, though time constraints mean we manage only to try a few. Afterwards, we rock up at the Rooftop Bar at the Vendue Inn (001 843 577 7970; vendueinn.com) where we end the night – but not before trying the other Firefly vodka flavours: peach, mint and lemon. Enough to send anyone teetering dangerously close to the edge.
The next morning we rise (the spring in our step slightly strained, admittedly) bright and early to get to the beach and top up our tans. We choose Isle of Palms beach, less than half an hour away along the coast. There's nothing like a sun lounger and a couple of dips in the sea to cure hedonistic indulgence, and the Southern accent is always soothing on a hangover.
A Hedonist's Guide to ... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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