Anybody who's ever won big (Olympians, beauty queens, even lottery winners...) ought to have someone like Stephanie in their ear. "There's more to you than just fame." "This comes with responsibility..." " I know the real you—don't you forget it." God bless the centered soul who keeps you grounded, keeps you focused on the primo stuff that doesn't quite make it into the spotlight. This week, after the confetti had settled from our big, bad, best-in-the-world Conde Nast nod, she had wise words for us all—and for the readers of Conde Nast—about makes our old Southern city a choice place to live, not just to visit. Call it the Residents' Choice Award.
Conde Nast Traveler has crowned us again. Charleston may be “on top of the world” after being anointed the primo-premier destination in the ENTIRE WORLD to visit, but friends, we still wake up every morning down at sea level, which I hope will keep us humble. Cause there’s uno problemo, or two, with being numero uno (based on my extensive experience!). It means we’re set up for a fall. It means we’re scrutinized all the more closely (hello, Lance Armstrong). It means hotel rates will go up and King Street sidewalks will become even more crowded and the line at Hominy Grill will snake further around the corner.
But I’m not complaining. I’m one of the most relentlessly annoying Chucktown/Lowcountry ambassadors around. Heck, I’m a Duke Blue Devil; I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in being an obnoxious fan. I not only will tout Charleston’s many treasures, hotspots, quaint corners, and her endlessly fabulous history ad nauseam to friends who visit, I will gloat on and on to my kids: “Look at that garden! Check out that vista! Can you believe you live here?!” Yes, I’m “tickled pink” as Charlestonly.com pronounced; I’m pleased as St. Cecelia punch, happy as a Folly clam, jumping for Joe Riley joy.
And I’m also here to say that I’m not only proud of Charleston for being a tip-top tourist destination, but also for being a mighty fine place to call “home.”
To the tourism cheerleaders at Conde Nast and our tourism promoters at CVCB, Charleston’s Top Dog ranking is based on six categories: Atmosphere & Ambiance, Culture & Sites, Friendliness, Lodging, Restaurants and Shopping. But from a resident’s perspective, may I suggest some different categories that, to me, make Charleston’s communities such choice places to live:
1. Door-to-surf time Hospital emergency departments are evaluated on “door to balloon time,” meaning how quickly they can get a heart-attack patient to a potentially life-saving balloon angioplasty. For my family, the measure is how quickly you can get out the back door and into the Atlantic for a pre-work surf outing.
2. Shorts in December The fact that my kids (and I) can wear shorts year round simply makes me happy. Panty hose?? I’ve forgotten what they are.
3. Dynamo women The real, unequivocal secret to Charleston’s #1 ranking is that this city has a long and lovely history of incredible women who add leadership, flare, charm, depth, and a savvy radiance to every aspect of this city. Peatsy Hollings, God rest her soul, just one case in point.
4. October sunsets Nature’s Masterpiece Theatre, each evening, free.
5. Wowza windowboxes Gorgeousness abounds at every turn in Charleston. Never underestimate the power of beauty, the subtle touches of color, texture, natural wonder, fragile blossoms, even in February.
6. Steeples and cemeteries The Holy City’s plentiful spiritual spires add a sense “that we’re all working on it,” as Charlotte Beers said. And crumbling gravestones remind us that we’ve only got a short while to get it right. Forgiveness and hopefulness go hand in hand.
So bring on the tourists. Y’all are more than welcome to come mosey around our lovely town. And when you head home, I’ll be glad I already am.