Downtown Discovered: The French Quarter

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Downtown Charleston, also known as the Historic District, offers a host of smaller neighborhoods within the city center, each with a unique personality and experience for visitors. Our previous post in this series had us exploring picturesque South of Broad and now the French Quarter, also known as the Art District, beckons.

Location:
Named the French Quarter in 1873, the area is roughly bordered by Market Street to the north, Broad Street to the south and extends from the Cooper River westward to Meeting Street. Most of the French Quarter is located within the area that comprised the original colonial walled city of Charles Town, the only walled city built by the English in North America.

Concierge Tip: The only above-ground portion of the city’s earliest defenses still visible is located on the site of the Old Powder Magazine, Located on Cumberland Street, this National Historic Landmark was completed in 1713 and housed the community’s store of gunpowder. Open Monday-Saturday for tours.

History:
The name “French Quarter” was derived in the 1800s when preservation efforts began to protect warehouse buildings on the Lodge Alley block, largely occupied by French Merchants. Local vendors also sold their wares, including meat, vegetables and fish, at the city market. Built between 1804 and 1830, the land was ceded to the city by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney for the express use that it remain as a public market for perpetuity. The current Market Hall was erected in 1841, after the previous building was destroyed by fire. Recognized as one of the oldest in the country, the Charleston City Market is a beloved institution for locals and visitors, especially since it’s home to more than 50 sweetgrass basket weavers who carry on this Lowcountry tradition.

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Concierge Tip: Following a $5.5 million makeover, the City Market now houses vendors and food purveyors. Grab lunch and then make your way down Church Street. One of the most photographed spots in the city, St. Philips Episcopal Church is home to the oldest congregation in the state of South Carolina. Notice the church’s foundation in the middle of Church Street. Locals say that the church was built this way so that even if you were not a believer, when you rode down Church Street you had to acknowledge the presence of God. Also worth a visit are the Circular Congregational Church and the French Huguenot Church, the only such congregation in the United States, both located on Meeting Street.

Places of Interest:
While the historic French Quarter is small, art and culture abound. The first building in the country designed for theatrical use, the Dock Street Theater, is located on Church Street. First opened in 1736, the theater still produces performances every year. The area is also home to numerous art galleries. Spend the afternoon browsing Gallery Row, located on Broad Street before visiting those located on Church and State Streets. Currently closed while it undergoes a multimillion dollar renovation, the Gibbes Museum of Art is slated to reopen in the spring of 2016 with a renewed focus on American Southern art.

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Concierge Tip: Our restaurants, The Palmetto Cafe and Charleston Grill, are filled with art by local artists, included notable painter Robert Lange. Lange’s studio is open daily, and private tours can be arranged here and at a variety of other studios. If you find yourself here on the first Friday of March, May, October or December, enjoy the French Quarter Art Walk which is free and open to the public. Galleries open their doors for patrons to mingle with artists over refreshments. Stroll among gas lit lanterns and discover the works of more than 500 artists of various styles and mediums.

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Meet the Staff: Brenna’s Favorite Things to do in the Holy City

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We recently had the chance to sit down with Brenna Emerson, the Travel Industry Sales Manager here at Belmond Charleston Place. Brenna has been with the hotel since 2012, first as the Front Office Supervisor and then the Reservations Manager. In her time at the Front Desk, Brenna worked very closely with the guests of the hotel, gladly offering her opinions of the best things to see and do while visiting. Her love for Charleston, and her appreciation for the finer things in life, has made Brenna a resident expert on how to make the most of your time in the Holy City. She shared with us some suggestions on must-see locales, as well as the best ways for you to explore while here. Consider this list your “Must Do” when taking your next trip to the Lowcountry.

Start the day with brunch
The city of Charleston boasts excellent food and rich history, and Brenna’s first recommendation combines a little bit of both. She believes that any great day in Charleston starts with brunch, and her favorite spot is Warehouse, located on Spring Street. While she does admit that it’s a little “off the beaten path,” she promises that it’s well worth it for the delicious food, and the hospitality she feels when visiting. The building itself has quite an interesting history, as it was originally an actual warehouse used to store dry goods and food. Brenna’s only requirement of visiting this spot is, “You absolutely must try the Truffle Tater Tots, they’re to die for!”

Explore and discover
In Brenna’s expert opinion, the best way to really see the city is to “strap on your tennis shoes” and just walk. You can discover quaint gardens and cobblestone paths by simply exploring the peninsula on foot. One of Brenna’s favorite spots is White Point Gardens, located at the Battery. The gardens are the perfect place to find a bench and take in all the sights and sounds of the Charleston harbor. She also loves to wander around the neighborhoods near the Battery and appreciates the stunning architectural details of the homes in the area. Insider tip: On the corner of Tradd and Legare Streets, there is a wall growing fresh rosemary that Brenna loves to show her friends when she’s on a downtown stroll. She says, “the smell is absolutely divine!”

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Grab a boost
Sometimes a long morning of exploring in Charleston calls for a much needed mid-day pick-me-up. Brenna recommends popping into Whisk on Meeting Street and grabbing a juice to fuel your adventures. She loves that the staff is friendly and warm, and her go-to order is the “beeting heart” with added ginger. Bonus: Whisk is located right next door to Belmond Charleston Place; it takes less than a minute to walk there.

Treat yourself
The best vacations call for plenty of rest and relaxation, and Brenna definitely appreciates the need to indulge in luxurious pampering. She loves to stop in to The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place and freshen up before dinner, or treat herself to a longer facial or massage when she has more time to spare. A visit to The Spa is the perfect way to look your best for a fun evening in Charleston, and she recommends booking an appointment in advance so that it’s already set up when you arrive in the city.

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Underground dinner
If you just happen to be in town at the right time, Brenna suggests trying to find the elusive underground dinner club named “Bad Bitches.” A pop-up dinner series hosted by women in the food and beverage industry, the location of the dinner changes each month, and the proceeds benefit women in the culinary industry. It’s such a fun event and one that Brenna loves to support.

Get your chocolate fix
After a scrumptious dinner in Charleston, if you are anything like Brenna, you may find yourself in search of something sweet to eat. She recommends that you look no further than Christophe Artisan Chocolatier, located on Society Street. Brenna admits that the price tag on these chocolate treats is a little hefty, but worth the splurge. Each piece is hand-crafted, and not only exquisite to look at, but also quite decadent to eat.

Catch a show
After dinner and a delightful dessert, the best way to end the night would be to catch a show at the Charleston Music Hall. As far as Brenna is concerned, the Music Hall is “the best music venue in the Southeast.” Located on John Street, and situated between King and Meeting Streets, the building has quite a fascinating history. It was originally known as the Tower Depot, a passenger station of the South Carolina Railroad, and was designed by Charleston architect Edward C. Jones to resemble a medieval castle.

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Evening stroll
And finally, on a cool, breezy evening in Charleston there is nothing better than to grab your best girlfriends and walk the Arthur J. Ravenel bridge. This is one of Brenna’s favorite ways to experience the charm of the city because the bridge has the best view of the harbor. Plus, it is a great way to enjoy Charleston’s mild weather. Insider tip: Look out for a friendly manatee that lives and swims under the bridge! Brenna has lovingly named the manatee “Barbara” and likes to say a friendly “hi” to her every time she visits.

 

BrennaTo find out what items almost made the list, or to know more about any of her recommendations, feel free to reach out to Brenna at 843 724 8136 or brenna.emerson@belmond.com. She is always available to help those who are visiting Charleston discover just why she loves the city so much!

 

 

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Discover Charleston’s Finest Art and Architecture

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This fall, Belmond Charleston Place invites you to uncover the city’s rich history with an exclusive Art and Architecture package. Discover the charming French Quarter on a 3-hour walking tour, which includes a 30-minute tour of the widely recognized Nathaniel Russell House. This exquisite home is located South of Broad and is known as one of America’s most important neoclassical townhouses. Immerse yourself in the Russell family’s luxurious lifestyle while exploring the restored three-story home and spacious gardens.

The tour concludes with a guided gallery tour of Robert Lange Studios, featuring the works of more than thirty artists. Enjoy a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne as you peruse contemporary realist art in the heart of the historic district. The Charleston City Paper voted Robert Lange Studios the Best Art Gallery in Charleston for the last four years. At the conclusion of your tour, receive a Charleston book as a memento of your time in the Holy City.

Belmond Charleston Place offers newly renovated, luxurious rooms and suites, Four Star dining, a full-service spa and unbeatable Southern hospitality.

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Art and Architecture Package:
• Luxury accommodations
• Three hour Art and Architecture walking tour
• Nathaniel Russell House tour
• Robert Lange Studios art gallery tour with Veuve Clicquot Champagne provided
• Charleston book amenity

Rates: From $520 per room, per night
Please note: Package is valid for travel September 17 – November 22, 2015. Two night minimum stay required. Book Online >

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