Monday, April 20, 2009

History Lesson in Charleston

We took another walking tour, this one in Charleston, SC, a larger city than Beaufort
with another character. We really enjoy touring with one-person companies.

Marianne, a British transplant, came to Charleston in the 1960s and has been leading walking tours for 25 years. She is older than us, recently celebrated a birthday, and will not divulge her age. Can you guess from the photos? She's oh-so-proper with just-so make-up, a straw hat, her slim body in neat top and skirt, adorned with a double strand of pearls and matching earrings.

She too had a shipwreck story (so did Jon Smart,our tour guide in Beaufort and he milks it for all he can) but gave us only the briefest of detail -- it was off the coast of spain when she was 19.

Alan and I were her only strollers today and she lamented that April is usually very busy. Maybe it is the end of an era...this walking and talking. We saw a number of full horse-drawn buggy tours go by but they don't stop and go into gardens, churches, museums, etc.

Of course, the city history is full of rich white men, the slave trade, the churches (which are beautiful) and the natural disasters (hurricanes and earthquake).

Marianne is interestingly opinionated with first-hand knowledge from her experience with historical preservation projects and serving on local boards.
She, and we, were appalled that in the recent renovation of City Hall rather than restore it with Georgia marble, the city had it imported from Italy.
As part of the changing of the town she also related how she used to be invited into certain neighbors yards, whose inheritors are not so welcoming.

There's a hint of school marm when Marianne seems slightly disappointed that we can't correctly answer her southern history quiz-type questions and
she doesn't warm up to me, I don't charm her, probably less so the more I try.
Alan reassures me later it is her, she is very British

And an unplanned but serendipitous meeting along the way...
a woman in her side yard as we go by asks if we'd like to see her enclosed garden. Which we do and chat and then I ask her a few questions and from her answers can tell that she's probably an academic, maybe a writer which she is and then I figure out that many decades ago I was in a class with her sister-in-law at the
New School (taught by Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of MS magazine).

The tour ends with tea in her small courtyard garden. It has seen better days just like she has. Overgrown weeds and former hopes, shabby elegant.A real delight.

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