MY fifties have overflowed with blessings; beloved friends, professional achievements, and global adventures. Who ever thought this scaredy-cat from Arlington, Virginia would swim with whale sharks off Cancun? Or photograph wild polar bears in Churchill Canada? Or chase penguins up glacier trails in Antarctica? My favorite travel experience of this decade: receiving a sacred blessing from a wise Mayan Shaman in a Mexican village, then meeting him again the next year on the same street in the same village, and receiving a second blessing.
Is that luck or divine intervention?
Anyway, as time hurtles forward I sadly waved goodbye to my fifties and hello to sixty. What I wanted for my birthday was a romantic evening at Charleston Place in Charleston, South Carolina and dinner out with my fiancée Kenny Baker and close friends.
Kenny and I waltzed into the elegant lobby. “Welcome and Happy Birthday,” smiled a beautiful receptionist named Colleen.
“You two are in 4G, a beautiful suite near our spa and indoor pool. We invite you to enjoy cocktails, appetizers, and breakfast tomorrow morning at our club lounge.”
Is that luck or divine intervention?
Suite 4G was awash in soothing buttercream yellow, with a comfy couch, dining room table, antique writing desk, and an inviting king bed. Classic southern elegance, with framed botanical prints, sunflower festooned drapes, and a marble bath with shower and soaking tub, plus fragrant lotions and soaps from Gilchrist & Soames in London. Out our window was Charleston’s elegant skyline and hundreds of clothing boutiques, plus gift and home décor shops.
The elevator whisked us to the 8th floor, where guests were enjoying happy hour cocktails, sushi, asparagus, spanakopita, and she crab gumbo. After sipping and grazing away our exhaustion, Ken suggested a pool dip before dinner.
Serious mistake. After splashing and laughing in the saltwater pool for an hour, gazing at Charleston’s rosy skyline from the outdoor terrace, then soaking in the hot tub, we padded back to our room in thick terry robes, so relaxed we could barely open the door.
The thoughtful hotel staff had delivered a bottle of Segura Viudas Sparkling wine and a decadent chocolate cake emblazoned with Happy Birthday Sharon. Charleston’s evening air wafted in, perfuming our heavenly room. Our friends called to cancel dinner out, promising to meet us the next day at the hotel for lunch. We kept on drinking, talking, and laughing. Never went to dinner. Never left our room. Perfect evening.
There’s so much to see in historic Charleston, you need at least a week.
Settled in 1680 by English colonists on land granted by King Charles, Charles Towne became a flourishing seaport. By the early 1800’s, it was one of the most fashionable cities in the new world, second in importance only to New York. Giant clipper ships laden with exotic cargo from China, Europe, the West Indies and Barbados regularly visited Charleston, exchanging foreign wares for indigo, prized Carolina rice and cotton.
Today, visitors wander through neighborhoods of antebellum homes, or listen to history from guides in horse drawn carriages clip clopping on cobblestoned streets. The Battery is a fine place to photograph harbour views and ancient live oak trees framing stately homes. Many of the homes are open for tours, like Calhoun Mansion, a 24,000 square foot beauty built by George Walton Williams in 1876, resplendent with a 75-foot ceiling, and a ballroom where the glass skylight is 45- feet high. Other homes with stunning architecture are the Edmonston-Alston House, and the Nathaniel Russell House. Take a boat out to Fort Sumter, which was occupied by Union troops when South Carolina seceded from the Union, and learn how Charleston witnessed the first shots of the Civil War in 1861.
After a day of touring this charming beautiful city, recharge like we did in Charleston Place’s pool and hot tub, or nap on the outdoor garden terrace. Or reward yourself with a spa treatment like Luxe 24 Karat Gold Facial or Champagne of the Sea Pedicure.
Ken and I decided on culinary pampering, so we made reservations for lunch at the chic airy Palmetto Café. The menu looked so tempting, with dishes like seafood tacos, crab/avocado salad, and strawberry sangria.
We arrived at 12:30 for our romantic lunch. Two dozen of my favourite Charleston friends and family were there to say Surprise! and sing Happy Birthday. My darling Ken had organised a wonderful party and what better place than Charleston Place Hotel, where the staff makes a huge effort to insure your happiness.
You just never know if all the wonderful serendipity in your life is because of luck or divine intervention. I think it’s both.