Southern Road Trip; Ghosts, Horses, and Fried Chicken, Oh My!

What would a vacation be without excursions and some anamzing food? Boring! LOL!

We sure did have a great time enjoying some sweet culinary delights while we were on vacation – I mean, the south is known for their comfort food, fried everything and hearty breakfasts and we enjoyed it all!

Our breakfasts in Charleston were enjoyed right around the corner from our Inn – they typically serve a home made breakfast on site, but because of COVID, they have teamed up with four local eateries to provide breakfast for their patrons. We LOVED Miller’s – the atmosphere, the food and they had a Bloody Mary selection that was fab (but you had to wait until 10am to get one)!

We loved the throwback feel of Millers All Day!

Our lunch was our standard picnic style meat and cheese…..

And dinner – well, let’s just say we had some fabulous food! Our favorites were The Charleston Grill (no pictures from this place because it was just TOO fancy – but I can tell you they had the most amazing foie gras in the universe!) and Husk – just a couple of blocks from our Inn. Aside from the dreamy setting – the food was spectacular!

This is Hearth Baked Skillet Cornbread, Benton’s Bacon Crumble.
Grilled Artisan Sourdough, Foie Gras-whipped Ricotta, Apples, Hakurei Turnips and Spiced Pecans. Delightful!
Southern Fried Manchester Farm Quail, Dirty Rice, Bradford Collards, and Louisiana Hot Sauce.
Warm apple cobbler with lavender ice cream….to DIE for!

Are you hungry yet?

Along with some great food, we also loved our carriage ride through historic Charleston.

And we also took a Ghost Tour Pub Crawl! We were treated to some spooky stories about the history of Charleston and enjoyed some beverages along the way!

We really had such a fabulous time on our trip! We really took advantage of all Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC had to offer in such a short visit and we really hope we have an opportunity to visit again!

And a road trip wouldn’t be complete without TRYING to get a photo at each state line!!! Here’s to over 2200 miles traveled in eight days and as many memories cherished and made!!!!

Southern Road Trip…Plantations – Days 5 and 7

This very cold day is making me think fondly about our plantation visits a couple of weeks ago! The weather was mild, the sun was out and watching the Spanish moss blow in the breeze was dreamy!

We visited Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place Rice Plantation. There were distinct differences between the two, but I would be hard pressed to pick which was my favorite!

Magnolia Plantation dates back to the 1600s. This is significant in its style – it has a much more romantic feel than its cousin, Middleton Place, up the river. The winding pathways through its freeform gardens make me dream of wind swept muslin gowns swishing around young ladies laughing at a garden party.

We toured the extensive gardens, the house (which is not the first main house on the property – between fires and retreating Union soldiers, these riverside plantations took a beating over the years), took a tram tour of the swamps and old rice flats and had a fabulous time in their lovely little zoo.

This plantation is absolutely gorgeous and a must see if you visit Charleston, in my opinion. When I lived in the area over 20 years ago, I remember visiting Magnolia and it is just as lovely as I remember!

Middleton Place (it used to be “Plantation”, but they thought the word had a negative connotation so they changed it to “Place” – a little too revisionist for me) was built largely in the 1700s and the style and layout reflected the “newer” techniques and agendas of the more modern version of Magnolia. Again, the house standing as the main house is not the original, like Magnolia, as they suffered the same fate.

The grounds of Middleton are glorious! They are not the meandering “romantic” style of Magnolia, but rather employ the fine lines and purposeful plantings like a traditional English or French garden of the times. The Live Oaks that line the passageways and Ashley River are wrapped in Spanish moss and southern charm, and alligators sun themselves on the shores.

This “Gone with the Wind” view of Plantation life is easy to fall in to, but the truth is, it was a harsh place – especially for those enslaved, who worked the land and cared for the people, livestock and estates. Between these two plantations, over time, thousands of people were owned and suffered under the institution of slavery. They suffered through swamp miasmas, harsh weather, dangerous creatures, poor living conditions, and treatment that folks today cannot fathom. Their knowledge, strength and forced participating in genteel life were the foundation of such extreme prosperity.

At both Magnolia and Middleton, Kelly and I took additional “tours” to learn about the enslaved peoples who were the backbone of these gorgeous estates. The dichotomy of the beauty of the place, verses the method in which it got that way, creates confusing feelings to say the least. But these places are worth the study and preservation. They provide lessons from which we, as modern people still navigating our way through the love of all peoples, can reflect. History is about the good, the bad, and the ugly, and plantations certainly have it all.

Here are some extra pictures of our two plantation visits. I hope you can feel the warm southern breezes wash over you as you look at them!

Southern Road Trip – Day 4; the trip to Charleston, SC

Some of you may not know this, but when I first graduated college with a teaching degree (in December of 1997), I came to Charleston to teach for the spring semester at a local middle school. The teaching was challenging and rewarding as all first teaching jobs should be, but one of my best memories of my six months here is how I fell in love with Charleston.

Charleston is STEEPED in history. To say it is one of American’s most historical cities would be an understatement. And for a history buff like me, this city really has my heart! I love the architecture of the city, the flora, the food, the hospitality, the art, the people and the action. These are parts of culture and history that are easy to love.

We are staying here for four nights in probably the most historic building I have ever stayed in. We are staying at the Governor’s House Inn, former home to the Laurens Family (think Hamilton in pop culture and a LONG list of other accomplishments) and the Rutledge family (youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence, among other honors). This house has entertained George Washington and Gerald Ford!

In fact, we are staying in the Washington Suite; a converted Kitchen House and our home away from home.

The Kitchen House, Governor’s House Inn, Charleston, SC

During our stay, we will visit Magnolia Plantation, Middleton Rice Plantation, enjoy some fabulous meals, stroll endlessly admiring the historical homes of Charleston, tour mansions and walk miles. And while my romanticism with the south largely revolves around the PLACE, other parts of the south’s history are tougher to admire, but I honor the struggles, the hardships, the rebellions, the perseverance and the spirit that, through the decades, have taught ME a lot about humanity and have shaped my views on humankind and love. We cannot turn our backs on the hard parts of history or pretend they didn’t happen – what a disservice to those who have struggled to enlighten us. Instead, we have to wallow in our failures as a people and as a country in order to understand what we got wrong and what we got right.

Here are some of my favorite photos from strolling around Charleston.

Southern Road Trip Day 3; Biltmore Estate, Asheville, NC

I think travel professionals have the longest bucket lists. We see trips/destinations/experiences we never knew existed and we want to go/visit/experience them all.

One of my longest standing bucket list destinations has been Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. If you know me, you know I L.O.V.E. castles and mansions.

You know how, from a very young age, some girls dream of beautiful weddings, flowing gowns and big diamonds? Well, that wasn’t me! I dreamed of turrets, fireplaces, long stone passageways, grand ballrooms, huge four poster beds, secret rooms and draperies of velvet. I think to say that I dreamed of being a princess would be overstating it….I dreamed of being in a different time and the romanticism that must come from living in a “home” with 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces.

But let’s be honest – I would probably be a maid or servant in one of these households…but the allure is still there!

I have visited two other Vanderbilt homes – both in Rhode Island – namely The Breakers and Mable House – and I loved them both. They were summer “cottages” and while Biltmore was not lived in 365 days a year, it was a three season home and still remains the largest single family home in America. It was magnificent!

Before I bombard you with photos, let me say the whole grounds were amazing. The gardens, the conservatory (I have never seen such beautiful orchids), the stables and the house itself met all of my expectations. I only have a few interior photos to show – only because I was too busy gawking at everything!

In addition to the standard tour with audio guide, we also did the Back Stairs Tour – which highlighted the lives of some of the folks who kept Biltmore running like a clock. There were even some references to Downtown Abbey – YAY!!!

PS – If you are wondering what it is like to road trip during a pandemic – let me just say that I whole heartedly feel like all necessary precautions are being attended to. Indoors, masks are mandatory and enforced and physical distancing measures are obvious to all. Capacities are being honored in stores and restaurants and sanitation has been something we see happening everywhere – from plentiful hand sanitizer stations to having our temp checked before dining to extensive cleaning in our hotels and inns and other high traffic areas. The crowds are low, the hospitality is wonderful, and we could not have picked a better time to travel and explore the US!

Southern Road Trip – Days 1 & 2

As we have been navigating the 2020 travel scene, we have been trying to figure out what our husband/wife vacation was going to look like this year.

Plan A was a river boat cruise in Europe, Plan B was an all inclusive trip to Costa Rica, and when those fell through for one reason or another, Plan C emerged and the Smith Southern Road Trip was born.

We sure love a good old fashioned American Road Trip! And I have always wanted to get my husband to Charleston, SC….so Plan C became Plan Charleston!

We departed on Saturday at 6:30am (only 30 minutes late after discovering that in the 13 degree weather, our furnace had stopped working over night – after trouble shooting, replacing the filter, and making sure it was up and running, we hit the road).

Our first stop along the way was Winchester, Virginia. We used this destination as great hold over location and stayed at The George Washington. This was fabulously located just a block from the pedestrian zone and being that few people are traveling, we got a great rate!

We arrived near 5pm after 9 states and nearly 600 miles.

We enjoyed a lovely stroll (seeing lots of masked trick or treaters) and a great dinner al fresco!

Sunday morning we were at it again, headed to Asheville, North Carolina. We hit the road around 6:30am and our plan was to take the Blue Ridge Parkway from Staunton, VA to Roanoke. As we approached Staunton, the weather turned pretty nasty with winds, heavy rain and fog…..but we persevered!

In spite of the crazy weather, the sun broke through finally as we approached the end of our trek on the Blue Ridge, but even through the fog, wind and rain, the beauty of the area was evident and we are so glad we stayed the course!

We arrived in Asheville around 4pm (after purposely taking some wrong turns through the valleys and hills of the Great Smokey Mountains) just in time to unpack and get ready to meet up with some friends we haven’t seen since our Eleuthera winters! We cherish friendships that pick up right where we left them and would have taken pictures but we were too busy laughing, reminiscing and eating at Tupelo Honey!

Day 3 is our visit to a bucket list destination for me….Biltmore Estate!