adventures in the low country part 1

 I’m going back to Charleston, back to where I belong.    ~Rhett.Butler~

 

charleston artist, paul silva. we saw his work 'live' and the internet photos cannot do it justice. stunning art.

Ooooh lawdy, Captain Butler. 

TAKE ME WITH YOU.

I feel compelled to preface my bloggity musings with the unequivocal fact that I have never, make that NEVER EVER, visited a more beautifully captivating city than Charleston, South Carolina. 

HONESTLY, I DON’T THINK SUCH A PLACE EXISTS. 

As we took in so much over the five days we were in the Low Country, I’m going to recall my memories day-by-day via separate blog entries.  I want to savor the trip in the re-telling to y’all because, quite frankly, there is much to appreciate.

Following a short, and blessedly uneventful, flight from Detroit to Myrtle Beach, combined with a three-hour drive down US 17 in our sweet little red Ford Focus courtesy of our friends at Budget, we arrived in Charleston late Wednesday afternoon. 

I was mildly, and somewhat unpleasantly, surprised that the 90-mile trek from Myrtle Beach to Charleston chewed up a total of three hours of our valuable time in the Low Country.  However, it appears that you cannot exceed 50 miles per hour on US 17 as it’s lined nearly the entire way with things to see and do. 

AND HOMEMADE SWEETGRASS BASKET ROAD-SIDE STANDS. 

EVERYWHERE.

Due to the abundance of fresh materials gleaned from the nearby marshes and the long-standing history of basket weaving by the Gullah people, (pronounced ‘gull’ as in sea gull, then ‘uh’) sweetgrass baskets are a major local tradition.  But listen y’all,  I’m here to tell you they are an EXPENSIVE PROPOSITION. 

Needless to say as much as I enjoyed watching the women skillfully weave these charming, intricate crafts and although I thoroughly delighted in the clean, crisp smell of the baskets, I could not puzzle out how I would explain to the Husband my reasoning behind dropping $150 on a dinner roll basket when I don’t even cook.

IMPOSSIBLE.

So.  We checked into our hotel and were relieved to see, having made online reservations based merely on glowing reviews from tripadvisor.com, we hadn’t been mislead. 

The Hampton Inn Historic District is a classy, yet reasonably-priced, hotel located on Meeting Street, kitty corner from The Charleston Museum and directly across the street from the Joseph Manigault House.  During our trip we visited both the museum and the house, which I’ll detail in another blog

BECAUSE THEY ARE UTTERLY BLOG-WORTHY.

hampton inn lobby, breakfast area

 

hampton inn, our suite

 

hampton inn suite, living room area

  

hampton inn courtyard where we ate our (complimentary) breakfasts. note the joseph manigault house is in the background, red brick structure, far right side of photo.

 

After we settled ourselves and our meager cache of luggage into our suite, opened all the free little soaps (just because), and perused the plethora of tri-fold pamphlets we plucked from the advertising stand in the hotel lobby, we ventured out to the streets of Charleston and over to the Big Red Barn, home of Palmetto Carriage Tours.

palmetto carriage tours, not pictured draft mules that pull the contraptions about the city

 
There are many ways to see the city sights, all of which were virtually walk-able from our hotel.  I know.  Walk-able is clearly not a ‘real’ word. 
 
PUTTING ASIDE SEMANTICS, I’LL CONTINUE.
 
So.  The great advantage in taking the carriage tour is that not only can you see the sights in a slow-paced, southern-style manner, but our tour guide was able to impart upon us non-Charlestonians an abundance of history we could never have gleaned from merely walking the streets blindly.  So.  We paid our $20 fare, hopped aboard the carriage, and had an incredibly relaxing and amazingly informative 60-minute tour about the town.  
 
As you can imagine, there are a myriad of carriage companies operating throughout the streets of Charleston.  What we liked most about the Palmetto Carriage Tours was that the guide was pure professionalism.  He knew his history inside out and didn’t crack a single cheesy joke.  For a place as stately as Charleston, his expert recital merely added to the ambiance of the experience.
 
After a long day of travel and having been sweetly mellowed by leisurely viewing 250-year old homes along East Bay Street and the quaint cobble-stoned alleyways of Charleston, my friend, ‘C’, and I decided it was time to think about taking a gander at dinner.  Early on in our trip planning, we had come to an agreement that because Charleston was notorious for succulent local cuisine, our trip would be a non-chain restaurant tour. 
 
ONE OF THE SMARTEST DECISIONS WE’D MAKE.
 
The Peninsula Grille at the Planters Inn came highly recommended by my boss who had just spent a long weekend in Charleston about a month ago.  Contrary to what he might believe, every now and then I take his words to heart and we walked down to North Market Street and into food paradise.
 

the peninsula grille, home of the most phenomenal food i've ever eaten (in my entire life)

 

When we arrived at the Peninsula Grill we were offered the choice of eating inside or in their lush courtyard.  As it was a very mild, lightly breezy evening, with the sun just beginning to set, we decided to eat outside.  I swear they could have served me corned beef hash (which, for the record, I absolutely loathe) and I would have found the whole experience life changing.

peninsula grill courtyard

 

On a side note, because of its irreplaceable history, Charleston has strict building, landscaping, and lighting codes to retain it’s authenticity.   Hence, as you can see from the photo above, all outside lighting is required to be gas-lit versus electric.  It’s hard to describe the ethereal sense you get walking through the streets at night, or conversely eating dinner in a quaint courtyard, in a place that’s steeped in so much attention to care and detail.

AMAZING.

I wish I had been able to take a photo of the Best Meal I’ve Ever Eaten but I couldn’t bring myself to pull out my cell phone like a Common Tourist and snap a shot of my plate.  However.  Shall I describe it for you?

 Pan roasted jumbo sea scallops, sauted butter lettuce,
diced lobster, garlic-chive potatoes and truffled lobster broth

TRUFFLED LOBSTER BROTH.  SEA SCALLOPS.  LAWDY.

And then, because we wanted to prolong our experience as much as humanly possible, coupled with the fact we had effectively been unable to move out of our dream-like bliss of our meal to rise from our seats, we ordered dessert.

The Peninsula Grill is home to world-famous coconut cake.  I’m not kidding.  Look it up on the internet.  When we returned home, we did.  And for $100, plus $75 shipping and handling, you can have your very own Peninsula Grill World-Famous coconut cake delivered to your doorstep.

DON’T THINK IT HASN’T CROSSED OUR MINDS.

Anyhoo.  As we were told a slice was as big as our heads (not by the waitress mind you because I don’t think she’d be so crass as to describe it’s width and breadth as such), we decided to split a slice.

YES.  I BECAME A COMMON TOURIST AND HAD TO SNAP A PHOTO.

absolutely incredible edible

 

Now.  For anyone with a large family (let’s say anything over one infant that’s still nursing), the Peninsula Grill is very pricey and not necessarily a place where you’d take the kids.  However.  It is also a place not to be missed. 

On that high, I shall bring this blog to an end. 

But before I do, and speaking of juvenile, I must share with you that once you are in the South you feel undescribably compelled to change your identity to fit in. 

YOU WHOLEHEARTEDLY WANT TO BE PART OF THE SOUTHERN EXPERIENCE

To that end, my friend, ‘C’, and I ascribed to ourselves our perfect Southern names. 
I shall henceforth be known as Beezus Lollitrop. 
She is the charming Suzy Honeypot.

FIDDLE-DEE-DEE.

Until next time when we speak of Plantations and the Gullah Nation,
I remain fondly yours,

Beezus

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