Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TRAVEL: Charlotte to Charleston

Casey and I love to travel.
And I have always, always wanted to visit the South and Southeast parts of the US....just ask my Mom.
I guess all those years of Anaheim Disneyland trips and Pirates of the Caribbean rides put a hankering in me to sit on a fire-fly buzzing porch, listen to crickets chirp in the Spanish Moss, and sip cold drinks. (Silly that Disneyland is my only previous connection to the South. And even more silly that I've mixed about 5 southern states and cultures into one stereotype dream. Oh well. It was time to see it for myself!)

So while we were in Calif this summer, our dreamy parents watched our kids for a whole week while Casey and I went on a southern adventure. It was gorgeous (and hot) but mostly gorgeous.
Beware: the South is very picturesque.
If I had traveled alone (rather than feeling guilty about stopping every 2 feet to snap photos of yet another white-wood trimmed porch) there would actually be twice as many photos in this post. Yikes.

But trust me, I've edited down as much as could to give you a grasp of how pretty the South is. So please enjoy the scenery. Hopefully you'll feel like you were walking the streets with us, eating pralines and fried green tomatoes.

Our first stop....Charlotte, NC.
Pretty from the sky.
We were only in-town for about 12 hours. But we managed to stay at one of the oldest spots in the city, The Dunhill Hotel. Totally recommend. And we ate our first plate of grits and collard greens (loved the grits, not the greens)
The Dunhill, by night and by day:

In the morning we had a special treat....we met up with blogging friend Jenn of Ambrosia Creative (she makes really cool stuff). We had crossed paths a couple times when we both lived in California. But I'd totally forgotten that she relocated to North Carolina. Hooray for Instagram! (you'll find me @danamadeit) She noticed I was in Charlotte, sent me an email, and that morning we were eating pastries together in the antique district, at a darling place called Amelie's French Bakery.
(we ate a lot on this trip. FYI)
And in a nutshell, that was our Charlotte visit.
It was a fast one.

Our longer stay was in the colorful city of Charleston, or as the locals call it--Chuck Town.
I like that.
This place is GORGEOUS.
Everywhere you look you want to soak it in, snap a photo, live in that house, eat at that restaurant, buy that trinket. It's one of those places.
Oozing with charm.
Ya see why this post is so long?
How could I say no to more photos of blue shutters and a pineapple fountain?
But what's also great about this city (aside from the buildings) is that it's a beach town. So you have the pretty harbor and beaches to relax on after sweating it out on the streets.
And for a real Saturday experience, walk and shop the streets. It's crazy packed at night!
Charleston is just a really great vacation spot.
Sheesh. I sound like I'm on the city's PR commission. Maybe they'll hire me.
Now traveling without kids (after having kids) is always an interesting dynamic. You totally look forward to alone time with your husband. But once you're there, it's hard not to glance around at your surroundings and imagine the fun things your kids would love to do if they were there too.....
(just looking at this photo they both asked, "what is that??? Can we go there?")

Maybe we should move there.
I could use an orange door in my life.
Of course after Zillow'ing the homes in the neighborhood, we only found one we could afford.
So we lived our dream at the Vendue Inn instead.
I loved this hotel.
(Btw, when traveling in the US or internationally, Casey and I prefer staying at boutique hotels and sometimes B&Bs. We often use Tripadvisor to find the top rated hotels and for reviews. We're rarely disappointed).
The Vendue Inn is just down the street from that cool water fountain above, it's near all the local stuff, and it's beautifully antique inside:
There was even a bottle of brandy on our fireplace mantle. We don't drink, but what Suthun hospitality is that??
There were free bikes in front of the hotel for cruising around town.
And the breakfast was tasty too. Mmmm. Stuffed banana french toast!
Funny enough one of you mentioned on Instagram that the photo on the left reminded you of a photo I took long ago on a previous trip to Atlanta (photo on the right). So true! 2 years apart but the same boyfriend Tees, same headbands, same happiness over yummy breakfast treats.
We went on a ghost tour one night....which was more silly than scary. It all depends on your tour guide. But I enjoyed seeing all that beautiful architecture at night
The next day we left the city using the gorgeous New Cooper River Bridge. I think they should call it the butterfly bridge. The effect as you drive through is so cool!
We drove through more beach towns and pretty homes....
Even the license plates in SC are cute.
Then came the highlight of the trip, visiting Boone Hall Plantation (trivia: where the Notebook was filmed). It started with that quintessential Southern tree-lined road. Spectacular.
We took a driving and walking tour of the still-working plantation. I never grew tired of that spanish moss in the trees (felt like a movie. Is that stuff real??)

And the trees were taller than I can explain. You don't get that stuff in Austin. Our trees are glorified bushes.
(This photo's for me. Just had to remember our awesome tour guide. Pure Carolina accent, great stories, bouncy jeep ride.)
The most touching part came at the end of the tour. We listened to a slave descendent tell the history and stories of real life on the plantation. I'm sure some of you have heard her before. Her words are powerful and leave you scratching your head. How did we live and treat others like this? There's nothing more real than hearing her sing "swing low, sweet chariot", while sitting under those huge trees, sweat pooling behind your knees. These fields were daily life for many men, women, and children.
These were the quarters for the house servants and some slaves.
I'm so glad we stopped by here.
Another highlight was the Angel Oak tree back in Charleston, believed to be between 500 and 1500 years old. It. Is. Massive! We got there after closing hours (lame). So we had to peek through the chain-link fence.
Still totally impressive! Any kids' climbing dream!
We spent most of our meals sampling as much mac and cheese as possible. And I ate fried green tomatoes for the first time! These had goat cheese and peach chutney on the side. Yummmm.
All from Poogan's Porch, which I would eat at again and again, anytime. Delish!
Fried green tomatoes again, iceberg wedge salad with bleu cheese and buttermilk biscuits, Mac 'n cheese with Gouda and ham, and shrimp and grits:
(btw, when looking for restaurants we always use Yelp or Urban Spoon for the top rated places in the area. And we love recommends on the blog and Instagram from you guys! Many of you recommended Poogans and you were spot on).

Of course we also had our share of treats....Charleston Chews on our hotel pillows at night, pralines on the street, chocolate covered anything. Somehow I lost a bunch of pics on my phone so this is all I have to show for it:
And eventually we made it to the actual shoreline.
I suddenly missed the kids again. They would have been in heaven.
Hard to tell but her surfboard cover is made of Oilcloth! And that's a two-day wrap on Chuck Town.
Thank you Charleston for a lovely, lovely stay. We hope to visit you again! For now, we're off to Savannah....(but that's another post)

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