Friday, October 18, 2013

a day in charleston

After our weekend in Georgia, we took an extra day to make a quick visit to Charleston!
Sarah had been telling me how much I would love it, and I had heard from several other friends that it was a really charming city.
We had such a short time there, but I really feel like we were able to get a taste of it! I think ideally we would have spent three to four days there, and leisurely toured everything (and eaten a lot of great southern food), but we made great use of our time.

First on the docket was Sunday brunch at a restaurant I had found called Poogan's Porch!
As soon as I saw a picture of this two-story yellow southern mansion-turned-restaurant, I knew it was the place we were meant to brunch.



And oh, did we brunch. 

Once we stepped inside into the warm and creaky-floored house, we saw all the signed menus framed on the wall from various artists and celebrities. We also saw a picture of Poogan himself -- apparently it was the owner's dog, and thus the namesake of the restaurant!
After a short wait we were taken upstairs to a very charming room, where we sat and made ready for our delightful morning of coffee and biscuits and yums.











We had the most amazing breakfast - we started out with a plate of their biscuits and gravy, which I'm always hesitant about because my grandma makes the world's best, and I'll accept no arguments to the contrary.
When you've lived your life knowing something (eating something) of excellence, it's really hard to accept other versions or sad imitations.
While this was not a plate of grandma's best, it was most definitely a valiant contender. It was delicious!
But the main course was the truly ohmy. Texas Pete Blueberry Chicken and Waffles. Yeah.
Spicy, warm, flavorful blueberry sauce/syrup, drizzled majestically over flaky breaded chicken and warm waffles.
I mean, it was just okay.





Can we talk about the depressing Poogan memorial right outside? Gah!





After Poogan's, we decided to make our way to our hotel so we could change from the car ride and start touring the city!

We had a couple of points we wanted to see, so we parked on a side street and started with the one closest to us and just walked around from there.
The first stop was Macaroon Boutique - because, well. Macaroons (or more specifically, French macarons).





The owner was a lovely French woman, and we happily overpaid for a little baggie of macarons because, well. Macarons.



Next on the agenda was anything and everything The Notebook related.
A lot of the great scenes from that movie were filmed around Charleston, so we had a lot to see!
We walked right past the American theater, which was where Allie and Noah had their first date. It was magical.





Fin: Do you guys love each other?




As we continued to walk down the streets, we stopped into a couple cute shops...



...and ended up at the intersection of King and Mary.


Which, as you may know, is where Noah and Allie took a romantic stroll and ended up laying down in the middle of the intersection to watch the lights change.
Unfortunately there isn't actually an overhead stoplight here...so there isn't much to recognize, other than the amazing baby blue building.






It was so much fun to be standing there.
I don't know what it is about movie filming locations - I get all giddy about them.
Like that time we went to Lacock Abbey, where parts of Harry Potter were filmed.
I honestly can't imagine if we actually do my dream trip of going around France to all the filming locations of Ever After -- I might actually die of happiness.

After dreamily staring at the blue building and wishing it was nighttime and that traffic didn't exist so I could lie down in the road, we decided a proper cupcake was in order.





The rest of the day was pretty much a modge podge of picture taking, walking, sightseeing, and shopping.
We went all the way down King Street, stopping at the places that looked interesting (like Starbucks and stuff, ya know).
We shopped a little at Forever 21, and Dusty even got to go to the Apple store.
The only bummer about this day was that it was Sunday, so most of the unique/antique type shops were closed! I would have loved to visit some of family-owned stores that are so unique to Charleston.
Maybe next time. :)







I would always get excited when I saw streets or other city markers with the name "Calhoun" on it -- obviously it's not referring to Noah Calhoun from The Notebook, but we can pretend.







It was pretty hot and sticky, so it always felt amazing to duck into the stores.
Especially the Apple store - the doors opened and you were pelted with icy air.

We also got gelato and the little shop was giving out these amazing pins.
Obviously I put it on right then and there.



On a side note, when we went to Forever 21, I refrained from buying anything. I find this a rather large personal victory.
Also, I convinced Dusty to buy a faux leather jacket.
Why is that important, you might ask?
Well, let me tell you. Dusty had developed a rather significant phobia of leather jackets - I've come to the conclusion that it must be a common ailment of men wanting to maintain a certain level of cool. 
He associated them with a nerdy, fedora-wearing person with a desire to imitate Indiana Jones.
Luckily, with the help of several other girl friends that I texted repeatedly to gather their opinions (which were all in favor of him purchasing the jacket), he bought it. And oh my, is he studly.



I should win an award.


Anywho...
After we had walked about halfway down King Street toward the water, we turned around to grab our car to drive the rest of the way. We didn't want to walk allllll the way down there, and then have to walk all the way back after dark!

The waterfront is a pretty amazing spectacle. I believe this is the area a lot of people refer to as The Battery.
There are rows and rows of gargantuan plantation-style houses, with 3 and 4 stories of front porches.
They were pretty incredible! We spent a lot of our time just ogling at them, and walking down the more historic neighborhoods.




















On one of the prettiest streets we walked down, nearly every house had amazing porches and flickering gas lamps flanking the front door. It was very whimsical.

















I was enamored with the details. Seeing graveyards with dates from the 16 and 17 hundreds, seeing the gorgeous ironwork, the flickering lanterns, the history of every house and every tree. It's a pretty incredible feeling, wondrous and sad all at once.




Before dinner we made it down to the waterfront to walk along the water, and to look at Fort Sumter in the distance. The very far distance!


And of course, the houses right next to the water were the most glorious.





 Pretty sure I could save up money for my entire life and never be able to afford these.

As we walked along, we found some cute little spots, like this rainbow road and a pretty little park along the water.





 We spent some time just sitting, talking, resting from the day's events.





 Once we made it back to our car, the sun was setting and everything was sweet and golden.






Soon afterwards we jumped in the car and blasted the AC, then drove back to the hotel.
Once we parked in the 24 hour parking lot we had to stay there (or pay $20 each time we exited and entered again), so we knew we needed to find somewhere within walking distance to eat.
We parked and went back to the room for a bit to shower and clean up from the day's stickiness.

Then, there was quite the debacle: where should we eat?
Long story short, we couldn't decide. We checked out a steakhouse with a rooftop restaurant, but it was a really casual cabana type situation.
(Although, admittedly, pretty cool).




We finally decided on walking down the street to a place called Toast!, which I had seen online beforehand.
I'm just gonna go ahead and admit defeat on this one.
My bad. It was quite the disappointment. It was like a bland diner, kind of old-folksy, and there was only one other couple there. The place was empty and quite sad.


The food was fine...like, Cracker Barrel fine. Nothing spectacular. Certainly not what I was hoping for for our only dinner time in Charleston. I felt pretty defeated.
I tried to have a good attitude, because honestly, it was all my fault! I had all these expectations and restaurant names in my head, and I should have just winged it. We should've eaten at a fancy steak place, or something of the sort. I wanted too badly to go to an "it" restaurant of Charleston, that I forced it, and it failed.

After we ate we were walking back to the hotel, and I was pretty bummed. We always have a great time together, but sometimes you just want something perfect, something romantic and one-of-a-kind.

Then this happened:




What is this secret garden path?
Where did it come from?

Well, from the heavens. Because the Lord knew I needed a secret garden. 




On a whim, we followed it -- and ended up in the most magical little courtyard.
It was actually a really fancy hotel restaurant with outdoor seating, but to us it was destiny.
We walked inside and there was man in a beautifully tailored suit waiting for us -- he smiled, nodded, knowing we had finally arrived. We asked if we could have a table outside, and he said, "but of course!" like Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast. Or maybe that was just my imagination.










We then proceeded to have that romantic, one-of-a-kind evening I was hoping for.
There was a warm breeze, there was a coffee. There was mood lighting, coconut cake, and banana pudding.






I dunno about you, but I've always loved banana pudding. It's one of those southern treats that never gets old, and my grandma makes a mean batch of the stuff (yeah, I know, I already bragged about her biscuits and gravy but lets just assume she's the queen of food making, mmk?).
But this was...how do I say this? Decadent? Fancy, delicate, powerful, magnificent? It was a masterpiece of spun sugar, creamy chocolate, melt-in-your-mouth pudding and caramelized bananas.
On my first bite of the stuff, I closed my eyes and just let it sit there while my mouth hung open in awe. Guaranteed it wasn't a pretty sight but Dusty got the idea. "That good, eh?"


All that to say...it was perfect. Like a dream.
We held hands, savored our treats, sipped our java. Thanks, secret garden.
Otherwise known as Peninsula Grill.





The next morning dawned bright and sticky once more, so we got ready for our last little bit of sightseeing!
Dusty had an intramural soccer game that evening, so we needed to leave right after lunchtime.
We decided there were only a few things on our "must do" list: the historic market, a great lunch, and Cypress Gardens (also known as "the boat scene" location from The Notebook!).

We started out with some coffee at the market!



One of our favorite things to do is buy Christmas ornaments from our travels.
There's nothing like opening up those boxes of Christmas decorations, and pulling out each ornament and reminiscing about where and when we bought it together, somewhere strange and fun and unique.

Luckily for us, there was a giant Christmas shop in the middle of the market!
We took a little bit of time and chose a great Charleston-y ornament that will hang on our tree forever and always.




The rest of the market was really fun.
There are tons of artisans (and tons of sweetgrass basket weavers!)






We ended up buying a really cute little sweetgrass wreath from a nice lady at one of the booths. I couldn't resist it!
(It's now hanging in our guest room here, above the lamp...


...just ignore Luna.)


After we finished the whole stretch of the market, we decided to walk back towards our hotel on the outside.
While walking we saw this funky general store, so we decided to pop in for a coke!














This makes me realize that one of my dreamiest of dreams is to be a spokesperson for Coke in some capacity.
Because...that would be stupendous.




As we were walking back to the hotel to get ready to check out and go to lunch, we spotted the lines of carriage rides.
There was a moment where we both started to slow down and stare, longingly, at the friendly horses and their happy tour guides.
I'm not sure when we decided we were going on a tour, but it was very last-minute.
We had to run to the hotel to beg the front desk for an extension on our check-out time, then we ran back to our carriage ride with Nice Lady and Jake, the horse.
(The reason why I remember the horse's name but not the tour guide's is just because...I don't know. Animal lover?)




As we started going, we stopped by this little shack, where a woman came out and pushed a button on a raffle-type machine. The kind you'd see for the lottery or something.
A colored ball popped out of the top, and that's how they decided which route we were going to take!
Apparently the city has laws about how many carriage tours can be going on at once throughout different routes in the city, so they spread them out. So you never know which tour you're going to get!



One of the first things we passed was Toast!, the huge disappointment from the night before.
Turns out, it's best as a breakfast joint.
There was a line outside, and it was packed inside! Go figure. 




I won't try and replicate all of the information we gleaned from the tour, but we just kind of sat back and enjoyed. It was incredible to learn about all of the oldest buildings and the intricate details of why houses were built the way they were.
We learned about the origin of the Charleston (as in, the dance), which you should definitely look up.
She told us about the battle damage, the first settlers of Charleston, the horrible fires that destroyed so much of the city. So much history!





We ended up back at the market, and went straight back to the hotel to check out.
The place we wanted to go for lunch was recommended by some friends for some really good seafood, and luckily it was right across the street!
We went to the parking garage and dropped our stuff off, then went over to Hyman's Seafood.


There was a bit of a wait, and we realized we were cutting it really close to make it back for Dusty's game.
Dusty, being the gloriously generous man that he is, decided he was going to miss it so that we could properly enjoy the afternoon.
I was so excited...mostly because I was starving and didn't want to have to skip lunch, but also because it was such a sweet thing for him to do and I was so looking forward to these last few adventurous hours.








We had barbecue shrimp, buffalo shrimp, fried okra, caribbean jerk mahi mahi, and a rather delectable crab cake.
It was so good, I'm kind of upset that I'm not eating this right now.

The entire restaurant is fun, covered wall to wall with celebrities that have eaten here and other notable accomplishments. It was a great choice!




Bellies full of sea creatures, we waddled back to the car and made ready for our drive to Cypress Gardens!

On our way out we swung by High Cotton, one of the other Notebook related spots.
Recognize this agonizing moment?



Ugh. Me too.

It all went down on these streets, in these windows.











The drive to Cypress Gardens was lovely.
It wasn't too far, around half an hour. We arrived and it was basically a ghost town.
There was one other group of people ahead of us when we found our way to the little store/check-in counter, but that was it.
I could hear swampy noises, and knew the famous lake was close -- all we could see were trees at the moment.

Once we checked in and paid our $10 per person charge to walk around and basically do whatever we wanted, the woman told us we had an option to row a boat on the water ourselves, or to pay an extra $5 for a guide.
Sarah had told us about the boats -- she also told us this swamp was full of alligators. So. Ya know.

We thanked the woman and made our way around the path and found this. 



Which looked familiar because of this. 




Holy mama jamma. 




Despite my immense, near-paralyzing fear of dying via alligator attack, we (I) nervously scrambled into a flimsy wooden boat because, romance. 



I decided that if this was the place I would die from a ferocious beast, it was probably the most beautiful death location I could've picked. So there's that.

Maybe this sounds a bit dramatic to you (and to Dusty), but it's hard to communicate how dark this water was. I know you can kind of see it, but the boat sinks a mere handful of inches from the water's surface, and I was positive I was going to look over the side and see an alligator face.






Luckily for me, the only creature we saw was this cute little turtle trying to climb onto a log.



Most likely there are 50 alligators surrounding this boat, camouflaged by the random greenery and the deep, dark waters of hell.





We went further and further, winding around the trees. It was so quiet.
There were little wooden white arrows showing you the way.
There was only one other boat on the water, a woman being led by a tour guide.







video


I will say it was one of the most exhilarating and peaceful and lovely experiences of my life.
Exhilarating because of the very real possibility of death (ok, so the guy at the dock said there had been zero attacks, and seemed to think it was funny that I asked), and peaceful because it was so quiet, so beautiful, so surreal. 




Dusty did most of the paddling, and I took pictures and we chatted quietly.
At one point there was a strange growl noise and a splash, and Dusty stated that it was an alligator coming over to us.
I couldn't decide whether to scream or faint, so I just said, "Nuh uh! Shut up!"

This is one of those pictures they would have posted in the article about us.
"The last picture of them alive."

Me being wimpy and scared, and biting my nails.


I'm honestly being dramatic. (Surprised?)
We had such an amazing time. It was so romantic, I could practically feel Ryan Gosling's unsightly beard and hear the thunder in the distance. 
It was beautiful and stunning and I didn't want it to end.

Once we made the returning loop and settled back on dry land, I shakily climbed out of the boat and stood, proud of my fear-facing accomplishments. 
The guy at the dock said smirkily, "Well, ya made it!"

Just then, the other guide (that had been ahead of us, with the woman) came over. 
"So, didja see them?" he asked.
"See who?" I said.
"No, we didn't see any!" Dusty answered, bummed, realizing he was asking about alligators.
The tour guide tsk tsked, "Aw, we saw 3 or 4!"
Enter panicked shriek here.





Real life.





We needed to get on the road pretty soon, so we wouldn't get home too late.
Before we did, we did a quick walk around the rest of the gardens.
We went into the butterfly house.






There was a sad duck bird in a prison of koi fish.
And weird little creatures called Chinese Quail. I want one.

So now that you've wasted most of your day reading this ridiculously long post about a single day and a half, I will conclude that it was a wonderful trip. A pretty big highlight of the end of summer!



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