Final Day in Charleston

Friday was our last vacation day in Charleston, we were both scheduled to fly out very early Saturday morning.   The heat was oppressive and we were tired from all of our excursions so we had a lazy morning at the hotel and didn’t head into the city until 10am.   We hit the City Market for some gifts for the men in our lives.  After walking in and out of the vendor stalls in the Market and on both sides of the street, we had a lovely lunch at one of the best restaurants in Charleston.

We did a bit more walking around the city, taking photo’s and leisurely soaking up all that Charleston had to offer.   We went back to the hotel to freshen up and went into downtown Charleston for our last meal.

It was the perfect way to wrap  up our vacation, with a nice, easy, relaxing day.   If you get the chance, I highly recommend putting Charleston on your list of places to visit.   I purchased a new camera lens the day before I left on vacation and had a blast taking photo’s in and around the city.  Here are some of my favorite shots.

Battery District Houses (4) Battery District Houses (10) Battery District Houses (17) Battery District Houses (30) Battery District Houses (46) Charleston, SC 259 Charleston, SC 278 Kitchen and Slave Quarters, Charleston

Day Two, Three, and Four in Charleston, SC

One thing I will say about Charleston in late June is it is hot….crushingly, horrifically, humidly, blindingly HOT.   We were originally going to go to Ft. Sumter on Tuesday afternoon but they were calling for massive thunderstorms and we didn’t think it was a great idea to be on a metal boat on the water during a thunderstorm.

Instead we got up early and walked the Magnolia Cemetery and then the City Market in the morning.  The cemetery was hauntingly beautiful.  Some of the stones are so old you can’t even read them anymore.  There are graves of confederate soldiers who parished during the battle of Gettysburg and were transported down to this cemetery to be interred.  There were so many unmarked confederate solder graves, I was awestruck.  The ladies of the city of Charleston raised the funds necessary to move the bodies, bury them, and buy head stones.

Magnolia Cemetary (3) Magnolia Cemetary (36) Magnolia Cemetary (35)

After the market, we toured the Old Provost Exchange and saw part of the original wall that surrounded the city of Charleston.  We learned about why the city of Charleston walled their city back in 1670, saw where they imprisoned their pirates, and how they kept a stash of gunpowder hidden under the noses of the British for two years during the occupation of Charleston at the time of the Revolutionary war.   The architecture of the site was incredibly impressive and still stands to this day.   If you have time, you should try to take the ghost tour of the dungeon, we didn’t have time, but I heard it is a fantastic tour.

Old Provost Exchange 2 Half Moon Battery Sea Wall, Old Provost Exchange

We then drove to Mt. Pleasant (a suburb of Charleston) and parked in Patriot’s Park.  We saw the USS Yorktowne in harbor and got information on the boat to Ft. Sumter for later in the week.   We headed back into downtown Charleston for a fantastic lunch at Magnolia Restaurant.  After stuffing ourselves silly, we went to one of the best farmer’s markets I have ever attended.  They had beautiful, lush produce, fresh made lemonade, locally made fresh loaves of bread, spice rubs, organic meat producers, honey, homemade pickles, and stands were you could grab a pre-made dinner to go.   One of my coworkers suggested it to us and he was so right, it is worth seeing!  I just wish we had a kitchen in our hotel so I could have grabbed some items and made us a wonderful dinner.

Since we were in the Mt. Pleasant area, we decided to check out Sullivan’s Island, to decide if this is where we would spend our beach day while in Charleston.   While we loved the town of Sullivan’s Island and had a fantastic dinner while there, it does not offer any amenities (beach chair rentals, changing rooms, restrooms, etc) for the day traveller and since we had both flown into Charleston, we didn’t have beach chairs, etc.  at our disposal.

I should tell you, it never did rain on Tuesday…..

Wednesday morning, we made arrangements for a walking historical tour of the city of Charleston with Al Ray from Walled City Tours.  Al is a 7th generation Charlestonian and has been a tour guide in the city since 1979.  He was funny, insightful, and gave us a wonderful tour.  We started at the Circular Church on Meeting Street.   We learned that Charleston has been a city of religious tolerance and diversity from day one.  There are over 400 churches in the city of Charleston, which is why it is apply nicknamed “The Holy City”.

The tour is two hours long and you walk approximately 1 1/2 miles.  It was an amazing journey from 1670 until present day.   I learned that the city of Charleston was the third largest port in the United States and that after the War Between the States, it took Charleston 200 years to recover financially.   We toured the Powder Magazine, walked along Rainbow Row, and saw the last remaining slave market building in Charleston.  We just scratched the surface on the history of Charleston, there are so many interesting stories in this city. I highly recommend you take a tour from Al Ray if you have the time.  He does also offer a Home and Garden tour, daily at 1pm and a Slave Tour on the weekends.   If it wasn’t so flipping hot we would have taken his Home and Garden tour but dear lord by 12pm, I needed a long tall glass of iced tea and a restaurant with air conditioning!

After lunch, we headed to the Aquarium and took the boat to Ft. Sumter.   All I really knew before I took the tour was that it was the sight of the first shot fired in the Civil War.   I had no idea how long it took to build the fort (10 YEARS!) and that the original plans called for over 80,000 bricks.  It was a five sided, three-story fort with walls that are 5′ thick!  The fort you see today is vastly different from the fort of the Civil War but it is worth seeing and the cooling breeze on the island is worth the price of admission on a hot summer day. Fort Sumter (11) Fort Sumter (1)Fort Sumter (10)

Thursday was our beach day.  We started with a hearty breakfast and hit the highway!  We decided on the beach at the Isle of Palms, it is the only public beach in the area with restrooms, a snack bar, and on site beach chair/umbrella rentals.   We had a lovely day, hot but with a constant breeze.   The water was 80 degrees and the beach was not very crowded.  Early afternoon we experienced our first “beach dust devil”.  The heat from the sand forms a whirlwind which struck a very wide and long path on the beach.  We escaped without incident but some of our fellow beach goers were not so lucky.  It tossed beach chairs, umbrella’s, and toys down the length of the beach.   One gentleman was hit in the head by flying debris and had to be taken to the hospital for stitches.   It hit with no warning and lasted a few minutes but rained destruction while it lasted.

I love the beach, I could see myself retiring to a beach front home and being very, very happy.  Nothing is more relaxing that sitting in a low beach chair, feet in the sand, icy cold water in the cooler, a great book to read, while listening to the sound of waves crashing on the shore.   By the end of the day I was completely and totally stress free.  I am so glad the weather cooperated and we were able to have such a beautiful beach day!

Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC

I just came back from a week in Charleston with one of my girlfriends.   She used to live on the east coast but moved back home to the mid west three years ago.  I miss her terribly and don’t get to see her often so last year we decided to have a girls only vacation, once a year, to ensure that we get to see each other on a regular basis.   Last year I chose Denver as our city, this year she chose Charleston, SC.

What a beautiful city, so green, so colorful, the people were absolutely wonderful, friendly, and helpful.   I have never been to a city that had as much pride as Charleston, they love their city, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

There are so many things to do in and around Charleston, we did our best, but we didn’t make it to everything!  We arrived on Sunday afternoon and had a late lunch and went over the game plan for the week.   After checking into the hotel, we headed downtown to get a lay of the land and find a great place for dinner.  We found a beautiful little bistro, more on that later, I plan on a post just about the food of Charleston!

Monday morning we woke up bright and early because both of us are very early risers, ate breakfast at the hotel and headed to the Magnolia Plantation for the day.  There are so many plantations tours to choose from, you certainly can’t go wrong with any of them.   We bit the bullet and went for the all-inclusive tour, we had access to the gardens, the house, the swamps, the boat tour, and the slave cabin tour.

The first “tour” of the day was the nature tour but that didn’t take off until 9:30am so we had an hour in the gardens around the house.  We didn’t realize how extensive the gardens were and we almost missed our Nature Train tour!

It had rained quite a bit on Saturday so the swamps and marshes were full of water.   The alligators were very happy.  We saw over 25 alligators on the tour, thankfully, the plantation had installed wooden ramps in the swamps for the gators to sun themselves.  I couldn’t believe how close we were to live, untamed alligators.  Our guide wasn’t fazed at all, he said they weren’t that big and since it had rained, they were a happy bunch.

Gator 5 Gator 7 Gator 11 Gator 16 Gator 15

In addition to the gators we saw white egrets, turtles, lizards, and ducks.   Our guide explained the difference between a swamp and a marsh, and talked about all of the vegetation on the plantation like the spanish moss, live oaks, and crepe myrtle.  After departing the nature train, we got on the next train for the Slave Tour.

Our guide had an incredible wealth of knowledge, not only about the history of slaves on this particular plantation, but the slave trade in general.  The cabinets were built in the 1850’s and were inhabited until the 1990’s.   The cabins never did have indoor plumbing but in 1969, they did install electric.   In the 1920’s they added a spigot outside for water.  The homes were very poorly insulated and each only had one room.   I can’t imagine what it was like to live there, among the snakes, mosquito’s, and gators on a blisteringly hot July day.   It was an educational and moving tour, I learned quite a bit about the conditions and treatment of slaves.  Our guide, Mr. Joseph McGill, is also involved in a project called The Slave Dwelling Project, in which he is trying to preserve the history of the slave trade through education but also by spending nights in former slave cabins.   Please check out his website, it is a wealth of information and he has started taking groups of students with him on his journey.

Slave Cabin 7 Water Source for Slave Cabins 2

After the slave tour, we did a walking tour of the plantation house, which was occupied by the family until 1975.  It is still owned by the Drayton family, but they no longer reside in the home.    They asked us not to take photo’s in the house, so I have a few of the gardens and the front/rear of the home.   It is a beautiful home, along the Ashley River with large single pane windows that afford you not only an incredible view of the grounds and river but were designed to capture the cooling breeze from the water.

Magnolia Plantation House, Front View 1

After the house tour, we had a quick lunch at the cafe on the grounds.  While eating lunch we watched a storm roll across the grounds, lightning and thunder followed by heavy, heavy rains.   The rest of our tours were canceled and we headed back to our hotel.  They did tell us we were welcome back to finish the boat and swamp tours any day that week but we just ran out of time and had far too many things to see and do!

Summer Vacation!

Whoo hoo! Last week we were on vacation in Ocean City, MD.  It was my first time in Ocean City, the hubby has been there before but that was years ago.  We rented a condo on the beach that had the greatest back deck.  It was so wide and deep and even had a roof!

This is the sight that greeted me when we walked into the condo

View from the Deck

View from the Deck

Sunrise, Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Sunrise

Sunday Morning Sunrise

We saw quite a bit of wildlife, horseshoe crabs, the horses at Assateague, but the most unusual were the red foxes that we saw on Wednesday morning.

Foxes on the Beach

Foxes on the Beach

Turns out that they live on the dunes and eat the rabbits that also inhabit the dunes.  This isn’t the greatest picture but I didn’t want to get too close and I didn’t bring the right camera lens for this type of photo.

We ate in most days, I have a severe shellfish allergy that really limits where we can go to eat at the shore, most restaurants have at least some kind of shellfish on the menu.

I tend to keep my meals simple when we cook at the shore.  This year we were not able to grill, condo rules, so everything had to be made in the oven or on the stove top.  The first night I brought down homemade coleslaw, pulled pork, rolls, and chips for dinner.  The stores are just too crowded for me on Saturday afternoons at the shore.

Sunday morning, bright and early, I hit Rick’s 64th Street Market.   I picked up some basic supplies and breakfast items.  Sunday night we kept it simple with steamed corn on the cob, baked chicken breasts marinated in italian dressing, and sautéed zucchini, onions, eggplant, garlic and tomatoes.

Monday was pasta with meatballs, Tuesday we went out to a sports bar/taproom.  I ended up with a really bad steak but it was the only thing on the menu that wasn’t cooked on the same grill/fryer/etc as shellfish.  Wednesday we had pork chops, roasted potatoes, and glazed carrots.

Thursday we went out for dinner at J/R’s Ribs.  The husband had a rack of baby back ribs, I went for the half BBQ Chicken Dinner.  Both were very good, the selection of sides was heavy on the starches and the atmosphere was very dated but our waitress was very nice and extremely attentive.

Breakfast is my husband’s favorite meal to go out for so Friday morning we tried Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli.  I had the corned beef hash with eggs, the hubby got the corned beef omelette.  Both were fantastic!  I was a bit disappointed with the potato latke but the rest of our breakfast was terrific.

Friday stayed on the beach until the lifeguards left.  We made a snack out of the leftover ribs and chicken from the night before.  Around 8pm, we were both a little hungry so we headed to Dead Freddies, which was right across the street from where we were staying.  It was a fun place, it was a tough place for me to eat because of the amount of shellfish on the menu, but the atmosphere was fun and most of the restaurant is outside on the bay.  I ended up with a tossed green salad, everything else either had shellfish, was cooked on the same grill as shellfish, or in the same fryer as shellfish.  The hubby had the Humdinger Burger and said it was great.  We saw an amazing sunset, had an adult beverage or two and enjoyed our last night at the beach.

We are home now and getting ready to head back to work after a relaxing week away. Sigh….. is there anything more relaxing than the sound of waves hitting the sand?




My week in Denver

So I just got home from a week in Denver, a little girl time with a wonderful friend who I haven’t seen in two and a half years.

The sites were awe inspiring……Rocky Mountain National Park, Red Rock amphitheater, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls, Boulder and their amazing Flat Iron Rocks.  Spending a week reconnecting with a friend surrounded by such spectacular sites, you couldn’t ask for a better week.

The Rocky Mountains still have snow!

The Rocky Mountains still have snow!

The totally unexpected and wonderful surprise was the food in Denver.   We ate wonderful meals at amazing restaurants.

We worked up quite an appetite walking the 16th Street Mall and stopped at Rialto Cafe for lunch, we sat at the bar, because the place was packed.  We ended up sitting next to the sales rep for Sam Adams Beer Company so we asked what his favorite place to eat dinner was.  He suggested Lola in the Highlands section of Denver. Great choice, it is a Mexican inspired restaurant with an open kitchen and a great staff.  We split the Lola Guacamole, prepared tableside, I had the Baked Poblano Relleno and my friend went with the Carne Asada.  If you are looking for truly authentic mexican, this isn’t the place for you, but if you want great food, inspired by Mexico, this is a great choice!

The next night we went back to the Highlands section again for dinner at Linger  Linger bills itself as a farm to street restaurant with a spin on ethnic eats.   The plates are all designed to share, the waitress recommended 3-4 plates for a table of two.  We started with the carrot and lentil falafel.  They were served in a butter lettuce leaf with a lemon tahini yogurt sauce on the side.  The flavors were subtle and blended together beautifully, but my favorite part was the  house made zucchini pickle under the falafel, it was the perfect complement to the dish, gave you a dash of acid to balance the rest of the vegetables, herbs, and spices. Our second plate was the Sesame BBQ Taco’s – Kobe beef short ribs, slow cooked and tender, napa slaw, radish, avocado and lime, bold flavors that paired exquisitely together!  Our last course was the Popper Breakdown, an intriguing take on a deconstructed jalapeno popper.  The bottom of the dish contained breaded, deep-fried cheddar cheese curds, topped with roasted shishito peppers and a side of orange Habanero jam.  The curds were so yummy!  I liked that the peppers were not too hot, so you could add as much or as little heat as you desired with the jam.  The jam was a perfect balance of sweet and hot, the orange was such a wonderful foil for the Habanero.  I think I might try to make some at home, wish me luck!

We decided to try another farm to table restaurant the next night, The Kitchen, in downtown Denver.  This was by far, our best meal of the week.  We split the Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, the beets were warm and slightly melted the goat cheese over a lovely selection of greens.  The salad was dressed to perfection, you know when you go into some restaurants and they drown their greens in dressing?   Here they were lightly tossed and perfectly seasoned.   My friend went with the Wisdom Farm Chicken, a half chicken, tossed in harissa, cumin and yogurt and served over a salad of cous cous, cucumber, and almond.  The chicken was brined for several  hours and was the most moist, delicious chicken I have had in a long time.  I chose the House Made Tagliatelle in a Mushroom, Marjoram Cream Sauce.  The pasta was tossed with a delicate sauce, and served with a mound of freshly grated parmesan cheese in the center.  They topped the entire dish with fresh marjoram leaves.  It is hard to describe just how light the dish was, considering it was a cream sauce, a delightful meal on a hot summer night.

If you find yourself in Denver on a Monday night, try The Kitchen’s Community Night.  They serve a family style dinner at 7pm, $ 35.00 per person, not including beverages, tax, or tip, and 20% of the proceeds are donated to plant gardens in the Denver Public Schools.  You will be served a great meal, using the finest, freshest ingredients, and help to conquer childhood obesity in one fell swoop.  The more kids learn about food and nutrition, the better we will all  be as a society.

We ended our week at Cru, a wine bar, in the Lower Downtown section of Denver.  It has been a hot, hot, hot week and neither of us was really hungry for dinner but we both love a nice glass of wine and a great cheese plate.  Cru specializes in flights of wine, I choose the Spice Rack, Intense Reds with Hints of Earth and Spice.  My friend had the European Vacation, a delicious selection of Old World Wines.  We shared the Great American Cheese plate, three amazing selections of goat cheese.  Humboldt Fog, Vermont Creamery, and a Laura Chenel’s Chevre from Sonoma.  By far, our favorite was the Vermont Creamery, the texture was similar to a brie with a slightly tangy flavor from the goat’s milk.

It was so nice to be so surprised by the food scene in Denver, I can’t wait to go back and see what other delights the city has to offer!