May 23 2009 by Sam Lowe
In my earlier years, I disdained the city tours. Upon arriving at a new destination, I always struck out on my own to see the sights for myself rather than have them pointed out by a guide wearing a neck microphone. But then there comes a time when ease of travel is nearly as important as the adventure itself. This usually happens when the knees weaken, the inhalations and exhalations quicken, and finding a place to sit for a spell takes on greater importance.
However, rather than give up my wandering ways entirely, my wife Lyn and I have formulated a method that combines my free-spirited younger days with my current need for resting weary bones that no longer share my enthusiasm.
So these days we take the city tours, but only as part of our master plan. Now we use them to earmark the places we'll go back and see by ourselves instead of craning our necks around all those other tourists who share the bus, trolley or horse-drawn carriage with us.
We put this approach to the test in Charleston, S.C., and it worked. Prior to boarding a tour bus, we received a map showing the route we'd be taking. As the bus wound its way through the streets, we selected the places we'd like to see close-up and Lyn marked them on the map. When the tour ended, we knew exactly where we wanted to go and then, without wasting any time looking for Points A and B, we went directly back to them and gave them our full gawk.
Charleston gets exceptionally high ratings in readership surveys by Conde Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure Magazine, among others. The accolades are well-deserved because it is a beautiful, walkable city. Architectural masterpieces and dining gems abound, from the Battery that fronts the harbor once blockaded by the pirate Blackbeard to the pastel colored row houses; from the ante bellum mansions to the souvenir shops along the Beach Boardwalk. It is comfortable. It is old without being stuffy; it is Southern without being arrogant. Most of all, it has charm, and the charm is reflected by the people you meet in the parks, on the streets, in the shops and eateries and along the waterfronts.
Need more? Contact the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-774-0006 or visit the website at www.CharlestonCVB.com.