A Fourth of July in Charleston

love-opera-victoria-bakerImagine the following scene: the year is 1814 and you are a merchant trading in Charleston, South Carolina. The climate is sultry. Ships are lining the harbor loaded with cotton, Carolina rice and indigo.

You are perhaps from France and the buzzing of the cicadas, the Spanish moss and the spicy food all contribute to the exotic environment. As you enter some warehouse buildings close to the wharf you are surrounded by the busy sounds of an auctioneer as he excitedly drives the bids up on cotton. When he can drive the price no higher he yells out “vendue” the French word for “sold”.

Fast forward 200 years to the present day. The warehouses are gone. This hub of commerce has morphed into an elegant leisure spot. The ships have given way to sailboats.But the word “vendue” continues to resonate in the sultry Charleston air.

Those pre-civil war warehouses along the waterfront have endured various incarnations over the years as warehouse for blockade runners, a haven for weary sailors and now an uber luxury hotel that embodies the spirit of Charleston: The Vendue Inn. More information is available at www.thevendue.com

The Vendue has long been on my list of must-try hotels. For me, it was all about the location. Minutes from all the restaurants and steps from Waterfront Park, it sits right in the heart of the city.

In the evening I recommend watching the golden sunset from the unique vantage of a swing overlooking the harbor or just savoring the sweet air by one of the numerous pineapple shaped fountains, in the shade of an oak tree. The service is like the people of Charleston themselves: polite, courteous and always ready to help.

The hotel recently underwent a major renovation which was completed in March 2014. The new interiors retain all of their antebellum charm but infused with every luxury amenity and a modern finish.

To round out your summer visit, I recommend a boat ride on the harbor to fend off the heat. By far the best is a customized sailing experience onboard Prevailing Winds: a 27′ Stiletto Catamaran sailing daily from the Charleston Maritime Center.

Limited to just six passengers your intimate experience will most likely involve you seeing dolphin, birds, sea turtles and more. I did the afternoon dolphin sail but they also have sunset sails for a more romantic experience. Captain Brian Hoepker was knowledgeable and friendly: the perfect combination for a personalized boat ride. It’s highly recommended and you can find it at www.charlestonsailingadventures.com

If you’re still trying to make summer vacation plans, I recommend Charleston’s The Vendue. I went for the 4th of July weekend. It was hot but the harbor breezes made it pleasant and it was the best 4th of July I’ve ever had.

Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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