By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
In these days of the coronavirus pandemic, heading out on the open roads can offer welcome relief from the every day. Driving Interstate 95 north from Palm Beach engenders a sort of visual solace, I find, as you pass palm trees and later — as you cross the state line — fir trees.
Yes, I put on my mask when stopping along the road for a refreshment. I love the pink- grapefruit sorbet I found in some great gas station grab-and-goes on the way to South Carolina during a recent road trip.
Arriving in Charleston, a check-in at the Mills House Wyndham Grand suits the weary traveler — and there is a swimming pool on the upper roof. If you book there, be sure to ask about a room that opens onto the pool deck.
You might also check out Zero George, a luxury boutique inn at 0 George Street that offers 16 chic guest rooms and studios in three restored residences and two brick carriage houses.
Charleston is, of course, a town for dreamers — so charming, with historic architecture and culinary delights. There are museums to see — The Gibbs Museum of Art is open again — and the shops along Key Street are happily showing their antiques. Always remember: Have your mask on before you enter.
Charleston also is a wonderful town for foodies. I recommend FIG and Chez Nous, for starters.
Some of the houses in Charleston date to the 1700s, and the most important of these is the Miles Brewton House, a private Georgian-style residence on lower King Street, a stone’s throw from The Battery.
A national historic landmark, the Miles Brewton House was built between 1765 and 1769 by Brewton himself. His portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, hangs over one of the many grand fireplace mantels in the residence.
The lady of the manor is Elizabeth Manigault, who dwells there with her two daughters. Elizabeth, known to her friends as Lee, has been described by one admirer as resembling someone in a Gainsborough portrait. She is a woman of stature, with a Columbia University background and a knowledge of the arts and culture and design. She sits on many of the city’s boards, including the Charleston Parks Conservancy.
Her family first came to Charleston in 1694, beginning with Pierre Manigault, who arrived after France’s King Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and kicked out all the Huguenots.
The home has been twice occupied by the military— once by Gen. Henry Clinton during the Revolutionary War and again by U.S. Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig during the Civil War.
My visit with Lee Manigault included a private tour of the residence, which focused on the beauty of the interiors. There’s the library, with aquamarine fabric-covered walls and windows overlooking the garden. The second-floor grand ballroom has handsome plaster-encrusted ceiling details. There are family portraits of yesterday as well as today.
Lee hails from New York’s horse country — Millbrook in Duchess County, to be exact — and her family, the Van Alens, have been socially prominent from way back. Her late father was an avid enthusiast of country life.
Lee is always exploring her love of decorating — re-upholstering and refurnishing as she looks after the house, preserving it for future generations who cherish America’s history.