"I feel like I just went from an R-rated movie to a PG movie."

One of my moot court teammates just summed up the sensation entailed in traveling from New Orleans to Charleston.

It's interesting because I've often heard the two cities compared to one another.  Along with Savannah, they're commonly grouped as the "true Southern cities" - or Southern Belles, I suppose.

Yes, there are the common features of pastel stucco, great restaurants, palms, live oaks, cypresses, and dense colonial architecture.  But I did notice a difference in overall mood.  Here, even the fast food joints are relatively clean and orderly.  And there are fast food joints and chain franchises.  And trendy young stores along King Street. There are fewer abandoned buildings.  There's an attractive lot orbiting the College of Charleston, gravitating toward the multiple nearby Starbucks.  The city, generally, feels a bit more safe and clean.  But also a bit more scripted - "empty at night...like a movie set," as another teammate observed.

That's not to say that my brief foray into downtown and the upper edges of the historic district are dispositive.  Closer to our hotel, we encountered some interesting characters in the afternoon drizzle near rows of shabbier old homes for rent.  Like an iron-haired woman I thought was quite possibly Flannery O'Connor.  And a black man with an eye patch who appeared near the bus stop.  No, we didn't have change.

I look forward to more rambling around the town, but, in the meantime, tomorrow morning brings competition.