So that was Sullivan's Island, or Gilligan's Island, or whatever. I forget. Itzé and I returned to the car and drove back over the Grace Memorial Bridge, which was certainly impressive.

old American Ford car at Charleston

Charleston is actually one of the earliest planned towns in North America and was laid out in its present form in the mid 17th Century. The old part of Charleston, that protrudes like a finger between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers into Charleston Bay is an area that is really beautiful.

And of course, like anywhere you go to these days, some things are more beautiful than others. Like this old Ford, for one.

old American Ford car at Charleston

It's a Ford A, I reckon, and for some reason I have 1929 in my head. I don't know why, though.

It's nice to see some kind of period piece such as this gracing the historical part of the city just here.

You can't see in the photograph but while I was taking the pictures, a horse and carriage went past. There were a few of them around the city loaded up with tourists getting the scenic view of the city.

Fort Sumter

Itzé and I walked down past the bandstand to the edge of the Battery, and took another photo of Fort Sumter Oh for a digital camera with SLR facility and interchangeable telephoto lenses!. Over to the left of the Fort is Sullivan's Island, from where I took some photos that are on the previous page.

You can see just what a beautiful day it was, merely by looking at the reflection of the sun on the water. What you can't see, though, was the wind, which was making it just soooo disagreeable out here. That was a real shame.

So much so, in fact, that if I was going to spend more time this holiday at the seaside, I was going to buy myself a jumper. Most unlike me, that is.

Charleston - old town

Next part of the plan was to walk up along the sea wall of East Battery to take a look at the old merchant's houses. That is of course old houses belonging to merchants rather than houses belonging to old merchants.

Charleston - old town

And there are quite a few to see. The whole front is lined with them, as you can see here.

So Itzé and I had a good walk along the sea front of East Bay Street up towards what looked like a ferry pier.

Charleston - old town

To the inland side, as you can see from the photograph here on the left, there is a great number of small streets full of eighteenth century housing.

Charleston - old town

If you look at the plaque in the photograph on the right you can see a little piece that was written about the area of East Bay Street.

The area is apparently known as Rainbow Row due to the differing colours of the houses, and dates from the eighteenth Century. The area fell into decay in the early twentieth century and was threatened with demolition, but a spirited campaign led by a local woman, Susan Pringle Frost, led to their purchase and restoration.

Charleston - old town

A little bit further on, we turned off East Bay Street and walked down towards the Cooper River again. We were still in the Rainbow Row area, as you can see.

Charleston - old town

There is no doubt that this was really a beautiful area, certainly one of the nicest cities I'd been to in the USA, and out of the wind it was really warm. This was a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.

The Yorktown

By now we were back at the river.

Almost directly across from us was the Yorktown at Patriot's Point, as you can see in the photograph. It's hard to believe that the river is about 2 miles wide at this point. It gives you some idea of how large the ship is.

Sea front at Charleston - Cruise ship terminal Cooper River

Here you can see the ferry terminal, with the Arthur Ravenel Junior Bridge in the background. This is where the cruise ships set sail for the tour of the harbour and the visit to Fort Sumter.

We had another purpose for coming here, but the terminal was closed, so that ruled that out. No coffee! Drat! We can't go on like this.

From here we walked towards the town along Queen Street, and after about 100 yards or so came to a European-style café. I can't remember the name (like I said, one looks such a prat using one's dictaphone in the presence of a nice young woman) which was a shame, because it's worth a plug. Itzé was tempted by the enormous selection of artisan-style cakes and pastries, and I had the strongest coffee this side of the Atlantic Ocean. That really made my day. It was well worth the wait.

Charleston - old town

Having been duly fortified, we took to the streets again.

There were lots of nice buldings as you can see from the photos. Don't ask me what they are because, as I said, when one is in the company of nice young ladies of the female sex one doesn't go around looking for things like names of buildings.

If you can fill me in on any names and details, or any interesting snippetts of gossip or local colour, please . I like to interact with my audience.

Charleston - old town

What was really nice though was that whenever I stopped to take a photograph, people automatically cleared out of my field of vision. It happened just here as I was taking the photo on the left above, and it had happened in quite a few other places too.

Such a politeness makes a welcome change to me. I'm from Europe, remember. I'm not used to civility and common courtesy.

However, one thing we did notice, and that caused us an enormous amount of surprise, if not outright amusement. Some guy with a petrol-engined leaf blower was blowing the leaves from off the pavement outside his shop. Now, remember I told you that it was extremely windy that day?

Well, as he walked along blowing the leaves into the gutter, the wind picked them back up again, and blew them back again onto the pavement. I cannot believe that there could have been anyone as stupid as this carrying out such a pointless and futile occupation.

You can, therefore, imagine my amazement when I encountered someone else carrying out exactly the same task just a short way up the coast.

Charleston - old town

Our walk took us along Meeting Street and eventually across to King Street and back to the car. It was now just after midday, and we still had a lot to do.

This unfortunately ruled out a longer walk around the city. This was a shame as we kept on coming across more and more splendid buildings, such as these ones on the left. But most of my voyages are mere flying visits, and I always vow to come back one day for a leisurely poke about. Somehow I never seem to manage it, but it doesn't stop me making the promise.

This was just another one of these occasions where we had to pile into the car and head off into the wild blue yonder (or in this case, the suburbs of Charleston). We or, at least, I. Poor Itzé didn't really get much say in the matter absolutely had to see the Hunley. People in Columbia had reckoned that I should go to see it during the week when I would have more time, but I recall reading somewhere that because of the restoration work, it was only possible to visit it Saturdays and Sundays.


Back at the Hunley. And, surprise, surprise, it was now open. Just as well too, because I was right about the "opening at weekend" bit. The museum itself is open on weekdays but the submarine isn't accessible as restoration work is taking place. It's only at the weekend when there is no restoration work that the public may actually see it. As for information about the submarine, I write about that elsewhere. Here, I'm just going to write about the museum.
I was glad I made the effort to see the Hunley. The bad news is that there's no photography in the tank room, and they actually confiscate your camera while you're in there. I suppose the reason is that the light might damage the delicate superstructure, although one might speculate as to how much of a reason things like "exclusivity" and "copyright" might bear upon their decision. Nevertheless, as I say, it was well worth visiting.
Tours are at regular intervals in groups of maybe 20 or 30 people. There's usually quite a queue so we had to pull a few foreign tourist-type strings to get into an early one. There's an interesting talk and then a climb up a set of ladders onto a platform. From here there is a view down into the water tank in which sits (or, rather, lies) the Hunley. It's lying canted over to one side, in the exact position in which it was found. They drain the water out in the week while they work on her, and fill it back up at weekends (with the same water) at weekends to keep her from corroding in the atmosphere.
She's a sort-of dark greenish colour and all covered in barnacles and was much smaller than ever I imagined it to be. How ever eight men got into it I just don't know. One thing is for certain that you wouldn't get me to go in it. It's all there, including the spar upon which the mine was located (this was found on the sea bed a short distance from the sub), which was even more surprising.
The talk was extremely interesting and very informative. They speculate that the cause of the sinking was that while the crew of the submarine was paused taking a breather with the hatches opened, they were swamped by the wake of a ship passing at speed to the aid of the Housatonic. This may well account for the fact that when the submarine was recovered, all the crewmembers were still sitting in their seats, so fast had been the sinking. On the other two occasions when the submarine had sunk, the crewmembers were discovered scrambling for the hatches.
And what of the Housatonic in all of this? Well, as it happens, her whereabouts are known. Unfortunately however she lay in the shipping lanes, as one would expect from a blockade vessel, so she was dynamited to break her up so that she no longer represented a hazard to shipping. There is talk, though, that an expedition may be made to salvage some of her remains to put on display here.

Mock up of the interior of the Hunley

So after the guided visit there was the traditional exhibitions, museum, activity sessions and souvenir stands to see.

In 1999 a film was made about the Hunley and its attempts to relieve the blockade of Charleston, and was panned by the critics. One review of the film commented on the "claustrophobic quarters" of the crew, and you can see here on the left from this cross-section of the mock-up used from the film just how claustrophobic they may have been.

comparison of the mock up and the actual size of the Hunley

However that is not the full story. If you look at the photo, you can see that there is a fibreglass ring next to the cross-section of the hull. This is actually a cast of the outside of the actual hull. There is a considerable difference in size, with the actual hull being a great deal smaller. At least one of the crew was 6 feet tall, and others were 5 feet 9 or 5 feet 10, which was quite a height in those days. Just imagine how claustrophobic it really was inside.
But of course, this leads me on to another point. If you have read some of my other pages concerning my travels you will note that I have another eternal gripe about the USA. Here, they have the exact dimensions of the submarine - after all, it's sitting in a tank in a room next door. So why not build a cross-section of a mock-up of the real thing, and put that on display, then visitors can get a real impression of the claustrophobia - maybe even put models of the crew inside (they have their dimesions from their remains too) to increase the effect? Instead - they just want to show a prop from a movie.
I get the impression that most Americans see real life as a reflection of Hollywood rather than the other way round. Disney, and Hollywood take events in history and then make films that represent them. Then all the Americans go off to visit real thing in honour of the film, rather than to remember the event itself.
As I have said before, most Americans think that history didn't exist unless Disney filmed it, and that it is the Disney version that is more important than the real event. I wonder how many Americans are expecting John Wayne and the 5th Cavalry to come to save them from annihilation in Iraq? Over 3300 soldiers killed so far, and they still haven't got the oil.

So, on that note, loaded up with souvenirs and t-shirts and the like, we left Charleston and headed back for Columbia. Why, you may well indeed ask.

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