Friday, March 25, 2016
"No Vacancy" in the Holy City
Yes, unfortunately, Charleston has been named Number 1 City to Travel to in America. Thanks, but we do not need this. The city is popular enough. Mini vans marked with out of state plates clog the narrow streets as their occupants look for an elusive parking space. The sidewalks at the market are jammed with fanny packing Yankee tourists lined up for carriage rides looking for the "old timey" Charleston they have read about.
Yes, the economy runs on the tourists (and the often forgotten Boeing, Volvo, and Mercedes). But we are full - as in "No Vacancy" for a while. Every time I find a great "little place" to eat, it is no time before it is written up in some foodie journal, soon swamped with tourists, and I find it impossible to get in. There is such an influx of people that it is not, like many cities, where if you wait a few weeks, the blush will be off the bloom and the "foodies" will move on to the newest best thing. There are too many more coming in who are looking for a good place to eat. Even with all the fine eating establishments, we still have to wait for seats.
Worse yet, when they read about the city and/or visit it - they want to live here. Now rents are sky high as is availability of housing. My apartment hunt in December showed me that. Traffic is insane. I work with folks who commute from Summerville, a straight 20 mile drive down the interstate that now takes them 90 minutes each way. Just crossing the Ravenel Bridge and going east of the Cooper river can take 45 minutes to get to Mt. Pleasant (yes, that same place one can see across the harbor.)
One asks why I was willing to live in an old refurbished iron foundry on the dodgy side of Meeting Street, on the edge of gentrification? Simple - a 7 minute commute to the Citadel against traffic on King Street with a left on Huger. This spares me the stress of road rage, the loss of time, and allows me to run home at lunch, walk the pups, and still have 20 minutes or so to do whatever else I need to do.
But, I digress a lot. Charleston is referred to as the "Holy City". The guides on the Carriage Tours, as well as snippets on the web, will opine that the moniker refers to the many steeples one can see in the Charleston skyline. Au contraire mon frere - it refers to the freedom of religion that Charleston has traditionally offered its citizens. If one were to look at the churches of all those steeples and the many other places of worship, one would find that aside from the numerous Episcopal churches the city is home to most of the standard protestant churches, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish Synagogues, Huguenot, Circular, Unitarian, and more. And, if one were to look further, they would see that most of these churches in the older part of the city (on the southern part of the peninsula) date back to the early days of the city itself. The city of has always welcomed freedom of religion. And in true religious freedom, it has never been a pious place.
So I guess, in true Charleston style and graciousness, we welcome those who worship the city herself. If she is to be truly the "Holy City" and open to free thinking and worship, it would be hypocritical to deny the tourists the same. Now when it comes to the cruise ships . . . don't get me started.