Monthly Archives: May 2014

Savannah, Georgia – Our Arrival

We left Charleston in the rain and that is how our spirits felt after such a great time in the Holy City, the nickname for Charleston, yet we were excited about what Savannah would show us. On our way out of Charleston we drove by Battery Park and Rainbow Row, the sights we didn’t see while on the carriage tour.  I’m sure it would have been great with a narrative on the carriage ride nevertheless, we were glad to see this part of the city.  We had intended to take a scenic tour to Savannah but with the rain, we decided to stick to the main routes.

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The drive didn’t take long, about an hour and we stopped at the Cider Market along the roadside for some great treats and drinks.  Once again, we decided to bite the bullet and stay in the historic district.  This time we stayed at the Country Inns and Suites, part of the Radisson chain and a hotel where I could earn Club Carlson points.  I thought I was being smart in making a separate reservation for each of the three nights we were there and doing it on the internet (2,000 points for internet booking if you are a Gold Elite; three stays since they were separate reservation numbers).  I found out later that Club Carlson revamped their elite program earlier this year and no longer gave points for booking online – oh well.  I still got credit for three stays though.  There was parking for about 15 cars under the hotel and we were lucky enough to find a space. If no spaces are available, there is a city parking lot  across the street where you will be given a pass by the hotel to park there for $10 per night payable to the hotel.

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There was nothing special about our room except for the gift basket of goodies because I am a Gold Elite courtesy of my Club Carlson VISA card.  We appreciated the snacks.   I thought we might have given a better location be cause of my status.  The room was directly across from the vending machines which were in the hallway as opposed to a room off the hallway).

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We went downstairs to speak with the concierge and she gave us maps as well as booked us on a trolley tour of the city and a boat tour on the Savannah River for the next day.  We then asked about a place to have dinner she swore by the Crystal Beer Saloon.  It didn’t sound like our type of restaurant but we decided to trust the concierge and perhaps have an adventure and what an adventure we had.  It is a bar when you walk in but the next room was the restaurant portion of the building.  It reminded me of an old Italian restaurant with black and white old time photos and red and white tablecloths.  We had an amazing meal – shrimp for me again.  The portions were quite large, so large that my friend “Louise” couldn’t finish her meal.  The manager came over thinking something was wrong with the meal.  She kept insisting that she just couldn’t finish, that the food was very good but he wasn’t buying it.  He decided to comp us their famous peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream.  This was by far the BEST peach cobbler I ever had.  The crust is what made it so delicious because it wasn’t soggy but instead crunchy, flavorful and delectable.  I asked for the recipe but it is a secret so no luck.  If I was to rate this restaurant, I would give it  5 stars.  It was just what we were looking for and it exceeded expectations.

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When we returned to the hotel it was “homemade cookies time” in the lobby which we thoroughly enjoyed as we sat by the fireplace watching television on the big screen.  Finally we went back to our room to rest up for our day of sightseeing.  I will say that I might not stay at this hotel again.  They seem to cater to tour buses – which I understand is probably their bread and butter but it is a little annoying when at 6:30 ish in the morning you hear all the luggage being rolled down the hallway to be loaded onto the waiting bus.  Additionally,  some nights the “cookies” were just for those getting off the tour bus and checking in – not for us regular guests.  Finally, since this hotel is in a city block, there is only room for two cars to fit in the area that was cut into the sidewalk for loading and unloading guests and luggage.  On our departure, a tour bus was sitting in this area and I had no place to put my car (I was in the public lot at this time).  The bus wasn’t idling;  the driver was just sitting on a step waiting for luggage.  In the half hour it took me to load my car, check out, etc not a single piece of luggage was brought down.  In my opinion, it would have been far better if he had waited somewhere else and then come to the hotel once the luggage actually made it down the stairs and the passengers were ready to move on.  It made it very difficult for those of us who were not with the tour group.  I became so frustrated with the situation that I complained at the hotel and then followed it up with a call to Club Carlson.  The end result – they gave me 5,000 points.  Still not sure if I would return to this hotel.

Next up – our tours of Savannah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sightseeing in Charleston, South Carolina

After we woke up at the Embassy Suites in Historic Charleston, we headed downstairs for our made to order eggs and breakfast.  This is one of perks that Embassy Suites has to draw people to their hotel – and it is worth it.  Other hotels claim a hot breakfast with a make your own waffles, or a casserole dish of rubbery scrambled eggs but Embassy Suites takes your order and cooks your eggs just the way you like it with any of the veggies you want.  I am not a scrambled egg person but I do love my fried egg with some sauteed onions so after having this breakfast, I was good to go.

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The Charleston Visitor Center was the block behind our hotel, one of the reasons we chose the Embassy Suites.  We walked over and looked at the many exhibits they had including a woman making a sweetgrass basket.  Her work was beautiful and worth every dollar she was asking for it (except that I couldn’t pay that much).  I do appreciate her workmanship and the skill level it takes for those fine row of sweetgrass and pine needles.

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Next we paid our $2 for the movie at the center about Charleston, the history and the geography.  I was a little surprised that we had to pay for a movie since most of the visitor centers I have been to show a movie without a charge.  While at the visitor center we purchased tickets for a harbor cruise and a horse drawn carriage ride through Charleston.  We decided to take the 1:30 cruise.  Since we had a few hours before the cruise, we took the trolley  to the city central area.  Yes, we could have walked, and we did walk home last night, but it was rainy and at times raining pretty hard.

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We went first to the City Market  where we were protected from the rain.  This was where we could find everything we wanted and things we didn’t know that we needed.  I bought my sweetgrass basket, freshly made Pralines, a pair of earrings that is a design from one of the very many wrought iron gates around the homes in the city (intertwined hearts was my design).  Before we knew it, it was time to walk to the wharf to catch our 1:30 harbor cruise.  We were told it was only a 5 block walk but it took us 45 minutes and we were not walking slow.  While we were walking we passed a Carnival Cruise ship that was in port disembarking and embarking new passengers.  Traffic was crazy!

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The harbor cruise was great – one of my favorite things we did in Charleston.  It was a two hour tour.  We sailed up the Cooper River, around Forts Sumter , Moultrie and Johnson, the USS Yorktown, and many more places.  A relaxing time on the Cooper.  We even met a local celebrity (though we didn’t know it till he was announced).

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We decided we didn’t want to walk back downtown  and took a pedicab back downtown and had him take us to the Palmetto Carriage Tours part of our sightseeing package we purchased at the Visitors Center.  The interesting thing about this horse drawn tour is that there are about 3 different tours of the city and you have no choice in which tour you get – even your driver doesn’t know.  Once in your carriage, you stop at a city booth where through the luck of the bingo ball, you are given your route.  I was disappointed that we didn’t get Battery Park but instead got the homes and church route.  Not sure if I want to go on the carriage ride again since I could see the same sights.  Apparently the city does this to help with traffic flow but it still was a disappointment.

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With the ride over, it was time to eat again.  All through we day we asked many people where we could eat good seafood that wasn’t going to cost us an arm and a leg.  Of course some people loved Hymans, others thought it was too commercialized and really not that good.  Finally we came to a consensus with Fleet Landing – the only restaurant on the water n Charleston, or at least so we were told.  The wait was about 45 minutes, not bad.  We had a delicious meal of shrimp and hush puppies, and cole slaw.  Just what we wanted.

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To finish our evening, we took a pedicab back to the Embassy Suites and crashed in our room.  We had a wonderful time in Charleston and would visit it again, particularly north and south of the city along some of the beaches.  I’ve heard so much about Folly Beach and  Kiawah Beach that I would like to visit them on another trip to this Holy City.

 

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Plantations Along the Ashley River, Charleston, SC

 

After we had our breakfast at the Holiday Inn, we decided it was time to hit the road and visit a plantation.  We had narrowed our choices down to three – Magnolia, Middleton Place and Drayton.  It was difficult to narrow down which one we wanted to pay to visit but we finally chose Middleton Place.  Nevertheless, we wanted to stop in and see what we could of the other two plantations.  We first arrived at the closed gate of Drayton.  It was a beautiful entrance and the historical signage gave us some background:

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With the gate closed, we drove down a little further to Magnolia Plantation.  We would have paid to visit this plantation but it had no period furniture in the plantation.

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We were able to park, walk around, see the dazzling azaleas in full bloom.

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We were also able to see, from a distance, the manor home.  On the grounds is the Audubon Swamp Garden, which we didn’t visit.  If we had more time, we would have walked through the Swamp Garden.

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We continued down the road to Middleton Place:

P1000276We opted to purchase admission to the grounds ($24), a horse drawn carriage ride and commentary ($16) and admission to the home with a guided tour ($15).  As soon as our tickets were purchased, we went over to wait for our carriage ride.  You are assigned times and we had a wait of about 15 minutes.  We enjoyed getting an overview of the lands and gardens and hearing some of the history of the plantation.  When that was over, it was lunch time.  We chose to eat at their restaurant.  The choices were either their buffet ($18) or choices of salads.  We both chose the buffet and it was a very good choice, one we kept thinking about for a few days.  They served fried chicken, corn casserole, squash casserole, hopping johns, fresh salad with homemade salad dressing and a few more items that I have forgotten.  The chicken was lightly floured and not greasy and it was totally prepared on site.

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The house was furnished in period furnishings, many from the family.  This home has survived three major hurricanes in three different centuries, close to the epicenter of the famous earthquake of 1886 as well as being the staging grounds for both the northern and southern armies during the Civil War.  There are rice fields (different from rice paddies) on this property and we learned what hard work it was – much more difficult than any other work that was done on plantations.

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The tour guides were so knowledgeable that they added immensely to our time at Middleton.  All in all we had a great time there but now it was time to drive in Charleston and find our hotel, Embassy Suites.

Took us less than thirty minutes to make the drive.  The hotel is in the block next to the Visitors Center, which for us, was a great location.  It was also a pinkish-coral color hotel and the former site of the Citadel, which explains its architecture.

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The service was outstanding.  As soon as we pulled up in our car, a bellman was there to unpack our car as well as to valet park it.  We were in awe of the central atrium within the hotel.  It seems as though the rooms are in a ring around the atrium – we didn’t see any hallway although I am sure there were probably a few rooms that were in a hallway.

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Unfortunately for me, the room didn’t live up to the usual Embassy Suites that I have stayed in.  The bedroom had two queen size beds and they were basically against the wall.  Our room had two windows but with the architecture, only one window had a view and since there was only a few inches between the bed and the window, we could never enjoy the view.  The furnishings appeared to be dated though that didn’t prevent us from having a good nights sleep.  In the atrium, there were beautiful fountains, couches and chairs and had a very open feeling.  When I go again, I might look at the Hampton Inn or the Marriott and compare them to the Embassy Suites.

Next blog – carriage ride, harbor cruise, city market, dinner

 

 

 

 

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