I am not a good traveler.
As much as my heart may desire to explore other places, I am a creature that thrives on routines. My sanity is held together by very specific sleep habits (a fan for white noise, complete silence and no lights or electronics), access to soft, furry mammals, and my beloved tea kettle. With the requisite conditions mentioned above and a good 8-9 hours of sleep, I am Mary Poppins in the morning. Anything less and I become an awful human, disinterested in the world at large and feared by my husband.
Needless to say, I was a bit hesitant when we embarked on our first vacation in years. I brought everything necessary for comfort (including my four year old poodle, Bobbi) and we set out for Bluffton, South Carolina.
Bluffton, South Carolina is a small town west of Hilton Head. Bluffton is home to many retirees, including my in-laws. It is a perfect combination of old and new, with a charming historic district and new construction communities filled with cookie-cutter homes. Geographically speaking, it is a 30 minute drive from Savannah and Beaufort, and about two hours away from Charleston. Mark and I always feel like we have entered a bucolic daydream, happily escaping the frenzied and abrasive lifestyle of South Florida.
Highlights of our fall sojourn included:
Binge listening to Serial podcasts in the car.
Enjoying Pepper Chicken Stew, which my mother-in-law prepared for our tummies
Exploring Beaufort on a horse drawn carriage tour,which included learning more about its history, architectural wonders, and relevance in pop culture. Movies such as Forrest Gump, The Big Chill and Prince of Tides have been filmed in Beaufort. Beautiful homes in historically accurate colors line the streets, with porch roofs painted in haint blue, a Gullah tradition said to ward off evil spirits. Mark and I visited the grave of Robert Smalls. We ended our day by exploring the graveyard at St. Helena’s, a parish established in 1712.
Sunday was devoted to my favorite southern city, Savannah. Savannah is eclectic. Bull Street is where you will find Oglethorpe’s squares and quaint storefronts. Savannah is great for artists, history buffs, foodies, and city dwellers. I dream of one day owning a Victorian jewel, complete with a porch for reading and sweet tea sipping.
My husband’s desire was to tour the Mercer Williams House, made infamous in the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I was tickled by the fact that the house is still inhabited by Dr. Kingery and her cat. In fact, I spotted a cat toy underneath one of the antique furniture pieces.
Besides our tour, we enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite Savannah spots, Goose Feathers Cafe. I had the Bird’s Nest, which is grits topped with two poached eggs, salsa, and surrounded with a “nest” of cheddar. After lunch, we made a stop at The Book Lady Bookstore (which is quite possibly the most charming used bookstore ever). Mark picked up a signed copy of Mike Doughty’s book, while I stumbled across a Savannah local’s work, The Woman Who Spilled Words All Over Herself.
We stood in line for ice cream at Leopold’s. I had a scoop of honey-almond and Mark ordered a banana split. We wrapped up our day at the marketplace, where my husband bought way too many pralines.
On Halloween, we joined Mark’s parents in Charleston. It was a bad day to be in downtown Charleston due to the start of a well-known trial. Instead, we opted to head west, eating lunch at The Glass Onion. It is a very, very good thing that this restaurant is far away from me. I would eat there everyday and that would be unfortunate for my waistline. The menu changes daily. I ordered the shrimp po’boy, which was buttery and flavorful; Mark dined on the clam po’boy. The iced tea was crisp and refreshing. The mashed potatoes were rich and lumpy. It was the yummiest.
After lunch, Mark and I traveled to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. I wanted to see a plantation, specifically from the slave’s perspective. Magnolia is one of the first plantations to offer tours of the slave quarters. Our tour guide, Joseph McGill, was extremely knowledgable. He is an advocate, working with The Slave Dwelling Project. It was humbling to see the small cabins which families shared and inhabited until 1990. (That’s not a typo….descendants really lived there until 1990). Magnolia’s main crop was Carolina gold rice. Flooding rice fields meant pestilence and hard, manual labor.
As we were leaving, we saw the plantation’s cat, Sylvester. He is 21 years old and very friendly. The plantation was both beautiful and eerie.
If you are still with me, I am impressed with your dedication. Our vacation was the perfect blend of southern comfort, and it left me with the slightest feeling of wanderlust. I am already pestering Mark about where our next road trip will take us. In the meantime, I have good books to take me to faraway places.