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See North America's colonial heritage in all its splendour with an ultra-luxury cruise to the port of Charleston. This is a town that welcomes visitors with beautiful public spaces, varied local wildlife and gorgeous architecture that can take you right back in time. It's a town of opposites though, too – a beautiful and peaceful part of the world today, but once the site of the first conflict during the American Civil War.
Charleston's sightseeing is mainly focussed on its heritage as a site of conflict, and the part it played in America's slave-owning past. However, seeing these historical sites now may lend them a different context; where the buildings once built for war and slavery still stand, but are now devoted to educating their visitors on the mistakes of the past.
The squat, square Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbour was once the site of a battle that sparked the American Civil War. Here Confederate forces opened fire on the fortification, following increasing hostility between the Union states under Abraham Lincoln, and the southern Confederate states under Jefferson Davis. Visitors to the area can take a boat to tour the remains of the fortress itself, or head to the visitor centre in central Charleston to find out more about the fort and the Civil War.
Battery Park and White Point Gardens
This beautiful park is home to peaceful paths and historic monuments, particularly cannons and stacks of munitions which were once used in the Civil War. This serene public space is lined with the dark green of oak trees, making the perfect place to seek shade and relax on hot summer days. Here you'll find a charming colonial-style band stand, as well as several huge period homes in all their pillared, whitewashed splendour.
Pay a visit to Charleston and you may have the opportunity to visit the grounds and gardens of the stately Magnolia Plantation. Lush lawns, river walks and tree-lined paths stand in complete contrast to the period estate's dark past, and it's one you'll be able to find out all about with a tour of the plantation's slave quarters. You may well come across peacocks and alligators during your time wandering the grounds, as you stroll among rich plant life, colourful flowers and ancient oaks.
Antiques shoppers won't know where to start in Charleston, since the town's antiques quarter is considered by some to be the best of its kind in the country. Some shops specialise in furniture, crystal, silverware and china from centuries past, as well as elegant reproduction pieces to tempt you through the shop door. Alternatively, there's also a great choice of fashion and jewellery boutiques, as well as gift shops for something to remember your time in this beautiful town.
The southern states are famed for their food, especially when it comes to their generous portions – and you'll find no shortage of grills and elegant restaurants in Charleston. Try the town's seafood restaurants for a taste of the fresh local catch, especially the oysters; or pop into one of the many gourmet patisseries for chocolate, ice cream or a generous slice of pie.
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