Summer Southern Roadtrip Continues: South Carolina
It’s easy to drive 1,200 miles in 7 days when the highway is lined with 70 foot-tall thick lush greenery unlike any road you’ve ever seen, when occasional corn fields break up the miles and water towers proudly boast the names of the tiny towns we pass through. After three full days in North Carolina, we ventured further south to explore Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and visit one of my college cross country teammates on the South Carolina coast.
We didn’t make it much past the state line before it was time for another coffee stop. The touristy town of Myrtle Beach was the perfect place to stretch our legs and find local coffee shop #4 of the trip: Caffe Diem. This place was so unique! The coffee shop and bakery had freshly baked pastries but also a full lunch menu, with a shop offering locally bottled sauces and jams, funky handmade jewelry and trinkets as well as antiques and one of a kind decorations. Little white wooden tables and benches next to tall windows added a feminine touch (and perfect selfie lighting apparently ha!)
We couldn’t leave Myrtle Beach without touching the sand, so we jaywalked across the highway (not something I could say in California!) and walked two blocks until this gorgeous platform greeted us. I absolutely LOVE that the beach had pink and blue umbrellas and chairs sitting out for any day-trippers to use. And that wispy tall grass definitely doesn’t line the Pacific like it does here. I spent most of our time on Myrtle Beach playing photographer ;)
Soon enough we were back on the road and heading towards Charleston where the humidity really started to creep in. The sun was shining and our hotel was my favorite of the four we stayed in on this trip. The Courtyard Charleston Waterfront by Marriott Hotel was right on the marina, sitting a couple stories up so that even the first floor had an elevated view of the water and the marshland and the bridges. Our room was upgraded to a water-facing corner room with not one by TWO balconies and I broke a sweat in the hotel gym which I had all to myself. A huge balcony had corn hole and white rocking chairs for guests, which we used on the second morning to sit and watch the sunrise. Yes, I wake up before dawn even on vacation.
Charleston was every bit as charming, historic and picturesque as I pictured it to be! The hotel also offered a shuttle downtown which we took advantage of – no need for directions or parking! The Battery follows the water, which we walked along across from the 18th century plantation homes and civil war battle memorials. The pineapple fountain looked exactly as I’d seen on Instagram ;) Some streets were still made of cobblestone and it seemed like no two houses looked exactly the same. A Spanish-style home neighbored a colonial brick house which sat next to a white French home with black shutters. It’s a happy lookin’ place with so many bright colors!
The city market runs along Market St. (go figure!) for several blocks and had tons of fun local touristy vendors. I learned that sweet grass baskets are a popular thing in this area which is also referred to as lowcountry. We ate at the fittingly-named Lowcountry Bistro for hands-down the most southern meal of our trip:
Chicken & Waffle….but not just ANY chicken & waffle. A sweet potato bacon cornbread waffle with cinnamon pecan butter and bourbon maple reduction. Carolina Crab Cakes with Red Rice, Collard Greens, and Mac N Cheese. OH MY GOSH. I gave myself the “vacation mentality” for part of the week, in order to enjoy my time in the south and experience the culture without being too strict about workouts and nutrition for the entirety of the trip. This was so far from anything I’d typically eat but so common for the area we were in! We loved everything!
After finding King St., Rainbow Row, The Battery, and the City Market, we were completely soaked from the humidity and the heat. One of my teammates from college had moved the Charleston the month before with her boyfriend and his daughter, and they were hosting us for dinner and drinks in their new apartment. This was the first time I’d seen someone from college since I graduated and I was so excited! Its so funny to see each other in our “grown up life.” We had only known each other as students and runners. Here we were with full-time jobs. Lauren was living with a five year old and I was on a vacation I planned for myself. We drank wine and had zucchini lasagna and talked all about life in the south until it was time to head back to the hotel because the next morning we were watching THE SUN RISE! :)
I think the Magnolia Plantation was my favorite part of South Carolina….though not every moment was wonderful at the time. Peacocks and miniature ponies greeted us as we walked the plantation grounds with our morning iced coffees from local coffee shop #5 Kudu’s in Charleston. Again, thanks Mama Nature for the A+ weather! We booked the 9:30am tour of the Magnolia house, where we got a whole history lesson on the founding family (no pictures allowed inside, sadly.). Once the house tour was over, we were encouraged to explore the property which backs up to the Ashley River, contains a few swamps, miles of “trails”, beautiful gardens, bridges, and wildlife.
Our first (and second) alligator sighting occurred as we walked near the Ashley River looking for this elusive “Observation Tower” to get a better view of the plantation. The trails that guided us to this tower (which, I’ll just warn you now, we never made it to) were very narrow, and cut right through very tall and wild trees with many cobwebs. Earlier that morning, we saw two spiders that were bigger than any spider I’d ever seen. They were thick and black and giant….I can’t really describe them and we couldn’t get a good picture. I’d say they were easily the size of a pancake (I’m hungry and that is the only comparable measurement I could come up with, hah!). SO CREEPY. As we walked along the paths by ourselves, we felt webs on our arms. We stopped in front of a large web that sat eye-level, looking for the spider. There were TWO of the massive black spiders sitting in the corner. We were in total agreement that a damn observation tower was not in the cards for that day and immediately turned around. We walked back so cautious, waving our maps and protecting our face with our hands. City girls! ;)
Our time in South Carolina was brief but I saw everything I came to see and eagerly awaited Savannah, GA. I’ll save that for another day! :)