A bell tolls solemnly from the steeple of St. Philip's Church, much as it has for the past 164 years.
A woman offers a soft "Merry Christmas" as we pass each other along the stately Battery. The historic harbor is hushed and smooth as glass.
If there's an ideal time to stroll this fair city, a place increasingly swamped with visitors, it's the morning of December 25. And this Christmas, it is peaceful and slow and oozing with charm.
For the umpteenth time since my childhood, I return to Charleston, S.C., and can't stop myself from taking photos. For me, few things are as soothing and aesthetically pleasing as a lazy walk "South of Broad," particularly on a quiet and coldish morning when most everyone is someplace else.
The poet James Dickey put it well after one of his own pilgrimages to this beautiful bastion of the old south. "Wonderful trip to Charleston this weekend with family. The weather was lovely, the city was lovely, the houses and walled gardens were lovely. Everything was as lovely as it is possible for things to be in Charleston, and that is lovely indeed."