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LUXURY HOTELS: BELMOND CHARLESTON PLACE, S.C., USA 

The Scene: Located in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina’s historic district on the corner of King, Market and Meeting Streets, this lovely property continuously ranks among the best hotels in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure magazines.
Style: Pedigreed, thoroughbred Old South
Seen in the lobby: Beautifully-groomed and coiffed southern gentilwomen and their dashing escorts, seasoned with a smattering of toney internationals

REMINISCENT of a grand 18th century residence, the Belmond Charleston Place hotel may well be European-inspired, but it has a quality uniquely its own. This is tangible Deep South sophistication at its most impressive in a city renowned for its gentility, refinement and gracious southern hospitality. And while the hotel itself may not be an historic building, it echoes olde-worlde architectural style - part English, part French - in one of the best-preserved cities in the world. The hotel is so expertly and tastefully integrated in Charleston’s treasured historic setting, you can imagine the founding fathers’ nodding their approval.

Settled in 1680 by English colonists on land granted by King Charles 11, Charles Towne burgeoned into a thriving seaport for ships laden with exotic cargo from China, Europe and the West Indies. The cargoes were exchanged for highly-prized Carolina rice, cotton and indigo. Vast fortunes were made, and an aristocratic class with a taste for the finer things in life evolved. They built the finest town houses and antebellum mansions on their plantations that money (and slave labour) could buy. Then they furnished and decorated them with the finest of everything from the old world, and if they couldn't get it, they made it. The craftsmanship of Charleston’s home-grown artisans could easily hold their own in the courts of Kings.  

By the early 1800s, it was one of the most fashionable cities in the new world, and rated second-only to New York. To this day Charleston is regarded as one of North America’s most architecturally significant destinations and for history buffs, the city delivers in spades. It has profound links with the Revolutionary War, and here too, the first shots fired from Fort Sumter on Charleston’s Harbour signalled the beginning of America’s bloody Civil War.

But for fanciers of antiques, decorative and fine arts, fabulous food and jazz, Charleston is sheer heaven, and, as with other Belmond properties , when you stay at Belmond Charleston Place you are right in the thick of it. The city is delightfully pedestrian-friendly, despite the cobbles. You can always take a horse and carriage. Some of the must-see museum houses are Nathaniel Russell House, the Aiken-Rhett House, and the Edmonston Alston House.

Occupying pride of place in the hotel’s lobby is the Georgian, open arm staircase.
This architectural feature is a recurring one in elegant interiors and exteriors of grand Charleston residences. Many southerners believe the design established a tone of conduct for visitors to their homes. On the one hand, it was welcoming but also cautionary. Single men were not expected to follow ladies up the stairs in case they caught a glimpse of ‘something shocking’ such as a naked ankle. Hence men ascended one side of the staircase and ladies the other. 

Other eye-catching features in the lobby are the enormous Murano glass chandelier, extravagantly lovely floral arrangements and the Thoroughbred Club. In 1792 Charleston became home to the oldest Jockey Club in America. The Club champions Charleston’s horse racing past - reflected in all manner of equestrian memorabilia and features outstanding live jazz and some pretty steamy cocktails if that’s your choice. For the wine fancier however, there are 3 sommelier's on staff at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant Charleston Grill and an amazing bucket list wine program that will excite any oenophile. The Grill offers classy Contemporary Southern cuisine, overseen by the remarkably talented Michelle Weaver, and the Palmetto Café you can experience some of the best-ever Lowcountry* (lowcountry is run together as one word) cuisine imaginable. In lowcountry cuisine, seafood plays a big role, particularly crab, shrimp (prawns) and oysters, along with rice, grits, okra and collard greens.

The hotel has a fine full-service spa. Recreational pursuits such as golf, fishing, kayaking and beach picnics can be arranged.

The hotel has 435 luxurious guest rooms including 48 suites. Period fabrics are used where appropriate and the overall tone echoes the city’s heritage. The 72-room Club Floor offers private, personal concierge service, complimentary breakfast, an array of tasty treats for afternoon tea, hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, after dinner cordials and desserts. 

Most Indulgent Moment: enjoying the table-side tradition of pouring the creamy she-crab soup over the lumped blue crab meat in the centre of the bowl, then adding sherry to stir. Exquisite8
Insider Secrets: The Shops at Belmond Charleston Place include Gucci, Vuitton, Lacoste and others, but most arresting, is the signature VSOE shop which salutes the hotel’s sister property, the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express train. The shop is a replica of the legendary train’s amenities shop with convex windows, brass luggage racks, hardwood floors and marquetry panels. And of course a shoe-shine man out front.
The Little Things: The hotel concierge can arrange interesting tours such as treasure hunting at the best antique shops in the city with an appraiser, a history tour focused on architecture, a private lunch with the founder of The Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette - that focuses on etiquette and its history. (Charleston has been named the most mannerly city in the US for 11 years running).  
Luxury Hotels Linkwww.belmond.com/charleston-place/
 Maggy Oehlbeck 10/11/15
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