by Dana Hazels Seith
Wanting to get away, my husband and I hurried together a Valentine's Day weekend trip. We needed to relax and were not too picky about destination. We knew we wanted something within 6 driving hours from our house, something somewhat historic, and a place preferably neither of us had seen.
The drive took just over 5 hours from Atlanta to Charleston -- not the most exciting drive, but the destination, not the journey, was the point. We checked into the Francis Marion Hotel and, upon entrance, felt transported into another century with the ageless glass chandeliers and vintage maps of a Southern port city just before it boomed. The rooms in the Francis Marion were small, yet full of character. And the hotel ballroom surely has seen many women dressed in flapper fringe and feathers dancing the dance of this city's namesake.
My husband and I have one vacation rule that we try to stick with: "Instinct dictates." If we feel like walking off the beaten path, we do. If we are sleepy, we nap or sleep late. If we want a bottle of Pinot Grigio at noon on a patio, cheers! Shortly after arriving in Charleston we were hungry, so we ate.
We ate a late lunch at a Greek restaurant called the Old Towne Grill and Seafood, which boasts of being the oldest restaurant in Charleston. They may be the oldest, but not the best. Neither food nor service was anything to recommend, but it did its job of nourishing us to roam the quaint streets on a full belly.
Charleston is a very walk-able city. Most of the sightseeing, from the
City Market to Rainbow Row to King Street, can all be done by foot. At
Waterfront Park you can sit on wooden swings and just stare out at the
water. A lovely place to watch the sunset and exactly what we did. On the
leisurely walk back to the Francis Marion, we gawked at the homes that
have likely been passed down for at least one hundred years. The roads
are a mix of brick and cobblestone. We could picture horse drawn
carriages delivering mail, women in long dresses with petticoats
underneath, men tipping their hats to ladies and offering them an arm
to make their way across the uneven streets. In our minds, nothing has
changed from the city's Revolutionary War history; Charleston is that
picturesque. Then, in an instant, you hear horns of cars in the
distance, mobile phones ringing, BlackBerrys and Sidekicks buzzing
with E-mails and you remember why you got away in the first place.
The three petite lobster tails that came with our surf and turf were incredible. Part of the joy for me with seafood meals is the time you invest to eat them. You have to crack the lobster tail, peel the shrimp, scoop out crabmeat with a tiny metal prong, all of which are time consuming and allow for words to cross the table as much as hollowed out crustacean shells. The meal was simply . . . perfect. The only thing that made us leave the table was the box of truffles and bottle of champagne back at the hotel.
The next day, we brunched at The Baker's Café. This, hands down, had
the best frittata I've ever eaten. They also have homemade jellies,
jams and croissants that are equally as delicious. After brunch, we
drove around the Citadel and neighboring islands. The Citadel is worth
seeing because it's such an interesting dichotomy to the city. Here
you have this cosmopolitan city, lively and kind against the Citadel's
bleached exterior with no individuality and a sameness in cadets that
would make Charleston scoff. Yet, they have coexisted for many
years and will for many more.
Charleston left us wanting more, and by taking such a short trip we
know we'll return. In my life and marriage I've come to realize that
not every day is going to be champagne and truffles, but my goodness,
sometimes you just have to cherish the days that actually are. And the
charm of Charleston is the perfect place to indulge in the sweet and
Dana Hazels Seith is a journalist and freelance writer.
Write her at Dana.Seith@gmail.com.
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