GLORIA’S soulful voice travelled the long corridor of Avenue of the Oaks in Charleston’s Boone Hall Plantation, caressing fuzzy Spanish moss in the trees and causing vibrations in the still mid-summer air.
The rendition of Amazing Grace by the petite lady in her 70s transfixed us. Earlier, she had told a poignant story of her ancestors’ life as slaves.
Award-winning movies such as Gone With The Wind and 12 Years A Slave drew me to visit this plantation in this South Carolina city where the American Civil War started.
An embattled history
On April 12, 1861, the Confederate Army of the seven Southern states, advocating the right to expand slavery, fired on Fort Sumter in the harbour. It marked the beginning of the four-year war, which ended with the Confederate Army surrendering.
The first African slaves in the United States were brought to Virginia in 1619. The slave population grew gradually and accelerated 200 years later with the invention of cotton gin, a machine that sped up the separation of cotton fibres from their seeds. Charleston became one of the largest slave-trading cities in the US in the 1800s.
The 337-year-old, 300ha Boone Hall Plantation flourished due to cotton and indigo production in its early days, built on the backs of slaves. Today, the plantation produces crops such as berries, peaches and tomatoes.
Shadow of slavery
After passing a kilometre of 270-year old giant oaks along Avenue of the Oaks, a two-storey white mansion in a colonial revival style built in 1936 beckoned us with its imposing doric columns.
During a tour, I learnt about the history of the plantation and viewed some of the rooms. East of the mansion is The
Cotton Dock, a wooden building overlooking a marsh that has hosted many romantic weddings.
It was hard for me to imagine Boone Hall Plantation was once a purveyor for slavery. But right outside the mansion’s gate, nine original slave cabins served as a stark reminder of the past. Displays provided a rich narrative about the history of slavery in the country and the slaves’ way of life.
Life must not have been easy under the watchful eyes of the masters. Bottles and pottery were found under the floorboard of the cabins, where the slaves hid food and drinks.
Hungry to discover more stories about the South, I joined a walking tour of the historic district, where you can find government and residential buildings in various architectural styles from the early 1700s.
The colonial houses typically have full-length columned porches facing south-west to catch the sea wind. Some still have bolts protruding from the walls as a protection against earthquakes. Many porch ceilings are painted in a soft blue colour, locally known as haint blue, which the Southerners believe would ward off evil spirits.
The most well-known houses in Charleston are collectively referred to as the Rainbow Row. These fine examples of a Georgian townhouse in South Broad Street are painted in various pastel shades.
Facing the harbour are mansions built in the Renaissance, Art Deco and other styles.
Architecture enthusiasts will enjoy checking out several well-preserved house museums, such as the neoclassical Nathaniel Russel House. A National Historic Landmark completed in 1808 by a wealthy merchant, its unique feature is an elegant “flying” spiral staircase, unsupported by bolts. The master bedroom and a few more bedchambers were situated upstairs, so the inhabitants could escape from the pungent smell from the streets as sanitation was poor in 1800s.
At King Street, there are buildings numbered ½, typically with narrower doors. These buildings, many of which are now boutiques, were once home to slaves. The ½ referred to the annex of the main house, where slaves usually resided.
And so I was reminded of the city’s history in every corner of Charleston, and left with much admiration for its passion to preserve its past.
■ Take a horse-drawn carriage tour in downtown. Entertaining guides will share stories while ferrying you around 30 blocks.
■ Charlestown, a coastal city, is famous for its seafood dishes. I headed to Low Country Bistro that is popular with locals and tourists (49 S Market Street) to try the Charleston favourite she-crab soup, a creamy dish made with blue crab meat. Another must-have in Charleston is deep-fried cornbread, known as hush puppies, a side dish perfect with seafood.
■ Shop for souvenirs at the open-air Charleston City Market. The art of weaving Sweetgrass baskets has a history of more than 300 years. Each basket takes a week to complete by hand.
■ For more sophisticated shopping, head to King Street. The Preservation Society of Charleston is a classy gift shop selling items ranging from gentlemanly bowties made of peacock feather to cummerbunds made with 300 guinea feathers. Also, Savannah Bee Company offers various honey products from raw honeycomb to beeswax hand cream.
中欧航旅（ASA Holidays）在7月份迈入10周年纪念，在明天起至星期日举行的NATAS旅游展，推出多项崭新旅游配套及大赠送系列，包括胜安航空包机直飞柬埔寨、桂林、三亚九州、冲绳岛、台湾及泰国；以及与著名艺人郑各评、陈天文、陈罗密欧及方伟杰，分别展开畅游不丹、皇家加勒比国际游轮圣诞节海上游、柬埔 寨及台湾的快乐旅程。NATAS旅游展优惠
●订购欧洲、美国、新西兰及异国风情旅游配套，赠送樟宜机场SATS Premier Lounge贵宾室使用券。
你知道不丹在哪里吗？她位于印度与中国两块古老大陆之间，巍峨的喜马拉雅山像一道巨大的屏障将她和世界隔离，到今天她依然是一块尚未问世的净土。留学英国 的不丹国王推崇“国民的快乐总值”比“国民生产总值”重要，因此不丹是世界上快乐指数最高的国家。今年，不丹为纪念父王吉格梅·辛格·旺楚克诞生60周 年，推出“2015不丹幸福旅游年”，中欧航旅在不丹旅游局赞助下，隆重推介不丹航空（Bhutan Airlines）包机，从新加机直飞不丹王国（Kingdom of Bhutan），与艺人郑各评同游幸福国度，所有参
五／六／七天行程畅游首都廷布、旧首都普纳卡古都、第二大城帕罗，包括国家纪念碑、皇宫扎西却宗、章岗拉康寺庙、金刚座釋迦牟尼佛像、民间遗产博物馆、普 纳卡城堡、父母亲河、楚克旺耶纪念碑108座佛塔、古老的凯奇拉康寺庙、建在悬崖峭壁的“虎穴”－塔桑寺、工艺品市集、周末市场、射击学校，以及国家艺术 学院了解造纸、织布等传统技能。独家安排：观赏不丹“国宝”动物——Takin；不丹民族服饰体验+观赏传统歌舞表演；特别出发：11月15日；其他出 发： 11月16、21、26日、12月1、6、11、16及21日。
年终学校假期举家出游，乘坐胜安包机直飞台中，乘坐子弹快车到台南，游览高雄旗津岛、六合夜市、逢甲夜市、走马濑农场、北门水晶教堂、井仔脚瓦盘盐田；乘 船游日月潭、文武庙；到南投青青草原、金勇DIY 休闲农场、六福村主题乐园、苗栗巧克力庄园、九份、淡水老街和台北101。安排住宿走马濑农场、清境农场、温泉酒店，以及从房内落地窗可观赏到动物的关西 六福庄；品尝担仔面、台式料理、云庄欧式料理、稻草人风味及民宿风味等。特别出发：11月29日。
以一首自创歌曲“Un...Un...Unbelievable”在网络爆红的陈天文，将与你登上皇家加勒比国际游轮旗下十大游轮之一的“海洋水手号” （Mariner of the Seas），度过一个“Un...Unbelievable”的圣诞佳节！
乘坐胜安包机直飞柬埔寨西南部的西哈努克市（Sihanoukville），畅游蛇屋、山顶佛寺；前往金边参观皇宫、银宝塔、独立纪念牌塔、金界娱乐城、 国家博物馆、波博罪恶博物馆、杀人场、吴哥艺术学院、乘船游洞里萨湖，以及游览世界七大奇迹之一的吴哥窟，它是高棉王国从9世纪到15世纪建造的都城和寺 庙，王朝迁都金边后，逐渐荒芜被淹没于热带灌木雨林之中，直到19世纪末才被重新发现。特别出发：12月1日。
Where waterfalls cascaded from fjordsides
Wu Shangyuan meets the famous — and venomous — inhabitants of Komodo National Park
Suriati Jamil offers eight reasons to experience It’s The Ship, the largest festival at sea in Asia
Jonathan Tan heads to Greece for a week of history, culture and some of the best seaside views in the world