Friday, July 9, 2010

Southern delights, part I - Charleston

Last week I spent a glorious, although occasionally sweltering, six-ish days exploring Charleston and Savannah's offerings for three gals desperately in need of a summer vacation and some girl time.  Have I ever mentioned that I infinitely prefer taking vacation days to working for them?  You can rest assured that I will never, never max out my vacation time.  I'd much rather run low on free days available, because that means I'm actually escaping my cubicle and doing important things like digging my toes in the sand (see photographic evidence accompanying this paragraph), sipping wine (or frozen daiquiris or frosty beers or tasty cocktails...ok, and lots of water and iced tea in there, too, I promise) and kicking back with my girls, and exploring new places.  Let the recap commence!

Instead of battling the BW Parkway like last year to get to BWI, this year I put public transportation to use and Metro'd myself over to Union Station to catch Amtrak to the airport - yes, some waiting involved, but a pleasant experience that doesn't care at all what traffic is doing.  How refreshing.  AND Union Station has Starbucks to help you pass the wait AND I met Carolyn there!  It was nice having a mini-reunion and some airport company on this first leg of the journey - thanks for having extended family in the area, ctg.  A shuttle bus, two plane rides (one of which was on a tiny and slightly scary plane, I might add...some stomach-on-roller-coaster moments on that jump from Charlotte to Charleston, and flying doesn't usually faze me), and a taxi later...Kami reunion!!  Site of the reunion - we had one of the rather lovely townhouse suites at the Andrew Pinckney Inn, and other than the somewhat puzzling attitudes behind the front desk at times (we are in the land of Southern hospitality and charm, right?) it was a perfectly lovely homebase for our Charleston adventures.

We threw down our stuff and immediately set out on a walking exploration of the Charleston historic district, which is filled with adorableness and old stuff - cobblestone streets, bajillions of churches, beautiful old homes - and an abundance of greenery in the form of palm trees and pretty flowering things like crepe myrtle and magnolias (I simply CAN'T get enough of magnolias!).

On this particular June day it was also filled with blazing sunshine, excessive humidity, and a heat index of approximately 103 degrees (I mean, we knew this going in, but still), so of course we had to seek refuge at the waterfront park for some cooling breezes and harbor views...

...but that really wasn't enough, so we followed it up with additional cooling in the form of frozen daiquiris at the air-conditioned haven known as Wet Willie's.  Ahhhh, now that's refreshing.  Back to the hotel for a mandatory rest, refresh, and clothes change break, then out into the somewhat cooler evening hours to the Vendue Inn for a pre-dinner rooftop drink, lovely sunset, and foray into Southern culinary curiosities - pimento cheese, YUM.  I have memories of a tub of this stuff hanging out in the fridge and Dad making sandwiches out of it while the girls all made "ewww, really?" faces...but it's pretty dang tasty to me now.  Some refined palate, huh?  It goes quite nicely with a dark and stormy, although I'm guessing a lot of things go quite nicely with a dark and stormy.  After our rooftop time (did you know Charleston is remarkably short?  no tall buildings!  but many, many cute rooftops for the very purpose of eating and drinking - gets my stamp of approval), we walked over to Hyman's Seafood for dinner, where I enjoyed about twenty kinds of shrimp (ok, three) and we all had our first taste of boiled peanuts.  Now, I have to admit that it doesn't exactly sound that appealing (at least to me it doesn't), but these things are TASTY.  I think I would have been happy with a large bowl of these and only one kind of shrimp.  A little more rooftop time at Henry's on the way home, and count day one a success.

We spent the next morning exploring the city market (worth a walk through, but a little underwhelming and a whole lot touristy), making our way down Rainbow Row (longest cluster of intact Georgian rowhouses in the U.S., painted purdy pastel colors in the 1930s and 40s while being restored)...

...walking through the Battery (place for artillery in the Civil War and now a public park with pretty views of the harbor and massive, beautiful homes)...

...and sweating our way to a deli on Broad Street for lunch before we dropped from heat exhaustion and hunger.

Refreshed and supplied with iced tea, we walked back over to the waterfront park for a great vacation moment - an hour or so relaxing on a massive covered porch swing, watching the waves and the world go by, catching up on life and catching harbor breezes.  It's good to chill.

This could get a little lengthy, so I'm going to chop it up a bit for your reading comfort.  For alllllll the pictures, complete with semi-informative and occasionally pithy comments, check out the Picasa album, which includes multiple shots of the South Carolina's kinda purdy.

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