A Week Down South. 

Brad was coming home for a couple weeks and we figured it would be a good idea to spend part of that time with our siblings. Because of this, we started our week in Atlanta. I arrived first, and decided that I would head to the car rental facility to try and get the ball rolling. Well as it turns out, it took almost 3 hours to get our rental car. Every company was out of cars, and Thrifty was extremely backed up. It was a very frustrating start to our journey.

Once we had our vehicle, we made our moves. We headed to our hotel, Hyatt Regency Suites, so that we could drop off our baggage & refresh… Brad took a quick shower to rinse off the international grime, and then we headed over to his brother’s house. We had dinner with him & his wife while watched our nephew run around all crazy and beg for attention. Dinner was delivered from Williamson Bros., and it was pretty good. The ribs were my favorite! The meat just melted off the bones & had an incredible smoked flavor!

We didn’t stay too late because we were both exhausted from long travel days. So, when we were ready we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.

The next morning we ended up sleeping in a bit, but not too late because we had to check out. With our bags packed and loaded up in the car, we headed to breakfast at J Christopher’s. Although I don’t remember the exact details of what we ordered, I remember that it was good, I remember that I thought that I would go back gladly if need be in the future.

iphone 177After breakfast, we explored the suburb of Marietta by car. We drove through the neighborhoods picking our perfect houses, which of course, all seemed to be in the millions.  We finally got a hold of his brother, and found out that our sister-in-law and nephew were at a birthday party, so, with the house mostly empty, we decided to stop at Starbucks to kill a little time. It was inevitable though, we finally just headed to his brother’s house with the intent to chill. Upon arrival, Brad’s brother was working so we decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood. It was one way to warm up in the cool spring air, and get in a little movement. (I’m one of those people that needs to move around quite a bit during the day, or I start getting moody and fidgety.)

We were excited that our sister-in-law & nephew were home when we got back to the house. We all ended up spending the bulk of the afternoon on their back porch while our nephew ran around like crazy and dressed up in costumes while pretending to attack his Uncle Brad. It was a lot of fun & good bonding time considering we don’t get to spend much time with them.

As the temperature dropped & the day began coming to a close we headed out to dinner at Camps Kitchen & Bar. It’s one of those restaurants that has a smaller menu, but a little bit of something for everyone. Our nephew was insistent on sitting between Brad & I, but eventually his wild nature got the better of him, and he had to move over to the other side with his parents. While we were there, I ordered a salad, and I wasn’t overly impressed. I think we mostly went here for convenience, but next time, I would want something a little bit better next time. Something that tickles the taste buds for sure.

iphone 184After paying the bill, and saying our long goodbyes, Brad & I climbed into our rented compact car & began our drive to Charleston. Technically, I was driving because of Brad’s jet-lag.  It was a long drive, at right around 5 hours. …and we had a few run ins with toll booths, which we were not prepared for. We were planning on getting in right around 12:30 AM. …and it was right around then that we were checking into The Dewberry in Charleston.  The cost was high, but it was so worth it. Everything about this hotel was stunning. The bed was comfortable, the room was clean, and the service was impeccable. Shortly after being escorted to our room, we were fast asleep.

2.jpgThe next morning was inevitable. We overslept. We were so tired from the last couple of day that sleeping in couldn’t be prevented. We did our best to get ready quickly so that we could make our way towards Boone Hall Plantation. However, we needed lunch first and decided to stop at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. I went with my usual pulled pork sandwich which to me tasted a bit gamey and dry. The mac n’cheese was nothing special, the noodles seemed a little overcooked… However, the hush puppies get two thumbs up, and the baked beans were some of the best I have ever had. I drum my meat up to a thing of chance. This place has almost a 5 star rating… You don’t get that by serving up older meat.

new 512After filling up on BBQ for the second time, we headed to the plantation. The cost of entry was $48 USD for both of us. We decided not to tour the house, but just to wander the stunning grounds. We enjoyed watching the wildlife wander around, strutting through the gardens, and we took the time to explore the old slave brick homes. In addition, I spent some time leaning up against the fence while watching the horses eat the grass. Towards the end, we decided to walk into the small butterfly pavilion, but there weren’t many butterflies inside. There were some very brightly colored lizards enjoying the small meals that resided within the cage.  From there, we checked out the small cafe/gift shop, but decided to move on.

We headed back to the car and took the long way out of the plantation down back roads that led us to the small farmer’s market. Then we decided to head to the Boone Hill Plantation market which was like a small boutique grocery store that had some yummy options from all over South Carolina, as well as main stream products.

We headed back across the bridge to our hotel,  dropped off our car at the hotel valet, and then we headed back out on foot in search of Thai food. We stopped at Tasty Thai & Sushi for Pad Thai & sushi, which proved to be worthwhile. As we cruised the main road, we stopped in at a small chocolate shop for some treats, and then proceeded on our way. We decided to head toward the coast, where we took in some lovely views of Fort Sumter,  and watch the ferries pass back and forth.

latest iphone 002In the spirit of relaxation, we headed back inland and made a stop in a souvenir/home good shop called Indigo. They had everything from cook books to baseball caps. It was a fun place to stop in for some small goodies. We kept moving and stumbled upon Carmella’s dessert bar where we proceeded to have the most moist, delectable, addicting, and delighting mini chocolate fudge cake. …and it was pretty to look at, too!  In pure satisfaction, we pressed on again. We found our way into a small park that was home to a statue of George Washington. We sat their for a little while, just enjoying each others company before we headed back to the hotel. It was a relaxing night together, that ended in a deep nights sleep.

iphone 181The next morning we did our best to be up by 9 AM. We got our bags packed up, and left them at the front desk while we headed out in search of breakfast. I wanted a juice bar, which felt like a wild goose chase. As we walked around that morning, the air was warm and the sun was bright, which made us somewhat uncomfortable. I was feeling moody, as I couldn’t get what I really wanted. Our only option was to just try to find a place to grab a quick brunch. We ended up at Caviar & Bananas, a multi-station grab and go type of place.  I got a breakfast sandwich & Brad got a french dip. We were both satisfied with our options, but I still wanted juice & Brad wanted coffee. As we made our way back toward the main road, we stopped in at Tricera Coffee so that Brad could get a quick cold brew, and then along the way I found Beech, which served up pre-bottled pressed juices ready to go. It was refreshing, and exactly what my body had been craving!

We decided it would be a good idea to head toward the Charleston City Market.  We took our sweet time wandering through, looking at everything from cooking supplies to Christmas ornaments. The only thing we left with was a sweet and delicious cup of freshly squeezed lemonade that knocked my socks off…

As the day continued on, we found ourselves wandering back down the main shopping road (Kings Street) as we passed by Savannah Bee Company. The shop looked incredibly enticing, as the bottles glowed from inside, and a tasting station lured us in. Little did we know that we would be tasting all sorts of different honeys… Who knew there could be so many types, with so many subtleties! We had a great time sampling all the products, and wandering through the shop.

As we made our way back toward our part of town we began craving lunch. Brad had a call to take around 1 PM, so we made it goal to be back to the hotel about 20 til so that he could prepare. On our way there, I picked up my two-tone South Carolina baseball cap, and we stopped for lunch at Moe’s Southwest Grill. We  decided to split some nachos which were no more than marginal. Please keep in mind that when I say this… I say this as an Arizonan who grew up on Mexican food, so I am a bit biased.

While Brad made his call, I decided to just wander and shop. I basically killed my time in Madewell, before heading back to meet Brad. At this point, we grabbed our bags from the front desk, put them in the car, and began our two hour drive to Charlotte to visit my sister.

1-2When we got into the city we headed directly into downtown to our hotel, the Hyatt House.  We had some time to spare before we headed over to my sister’s apartment. She wanted to take us around to a couple of bars and then to dinner.  Once we had all convened for the evening, we walked over to Legion Brewing to grab a couple of beers for Erica & Brad, and for myself, a cup of water from the tap in the wall… Yes, they have water on tap! We hung out for a little while before heading over to Peculiar Rabbit, where we sat on the rooftop where we could watch the sun set over the Charlotte skyline. We got some incredible appetizers here to accompany our beverages. We were having a lot of fun here, and I would have been down to order more food, but my sister was insistent on taking Brad to Soul Gastro Lounge, just down the street, for a variety of scrumptious tapas. Here, the conversation got a bit heated as politics came into debate. We had a great time, and there were many laughs. I enjoyed watching my two favorite people link arms and stroll down the street ahead of me, as we headed back to my sister’s apartment to say our goodbyes until the following morning.

iphone 185When we got up the next morning, we had slept in just a little later than anticipated, but it wasn’t a big deal. We were planning on meeting my sister for breakfast, but she decided to opt out since I wanted to take Brad to Amelie’s. Naturally, when we arrived, my sister called to let us know she was on her way. She got the fear… the fear of missing out! After a couple of delicious breakfast sandwiches  & chocolate croissants, we began plotting our day. We had been planning on visiting the U.S. National Whitewater Center that afternoon, but we weren’t 100% sure on what to do first. My sister decided that she wanted to show us around on foot, so we took a long walk through her neighborhood, which took a stop at Target for bottles of water and sunblock. From there, we turned back to my sister’s apartment so that we could just chill for a little bit before heading to the Whitewater Center.

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When we got there, this includes my sister’s friend Kara, we all decided to take to the paddle board. We paid our fee, signed our waivers, got our life vests & headed down the river. This was my first time, and I was both surprised by the level of ease and difficulty. I was so worried about falling into the river if I lost my balance, and I didn’t! …but I was also surprised by how much of workout it really is. At several times, my muscles were burning, and I would do what I could to sit on the board without falling in during the process. We headed down the river and then turned back around after wandering down one of the side streams. It was such a serene day for the outing. I wish I could have brought my camera, but I was too nervous about falling in with it. You can check out some of the river photos here.

2-2Afterwards, we all went our separate ways to clean up for dinner before heading back out. We met at my sister’s apartment & made our way to Midwood Smokehouse, my favorite place to go for BBQ in Charlotte. It never disappoints. I ordered my usual, a pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac n’ cheese. We also, brought in a side of fries and baked beans, which are the bomb! This is my place to carbo-load… Just kidding… That’s all I do when I eat in Charlotte because everything is so good.

We were so exhausted that day, that we called it a night after dinner. We just wanted to head back, especially me since I wasn’t feeling well.

3The next morning, we all did our own thing for breakfast, which meant Brad & I were hitting up out complimentary hotel breakfast which turned out to be one of the grossest hotel breakfasts that I’ve ever head… The eggs didn’t taste like they were freshly scrambled.. They seemed like they may have come from powdered eggs… and well, just know that the complimentary breakfast here sucks big time.  After a quick bite to eat, we waited on the street corner for my sister & her roommate, Lauren, to pick us up. We were going to Carowinds for the day! FUN FACT: Carowinds is the theme park that sits on the NC & SC border & has some badass roller coasters.

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When we paid our admission & entered the park we grabbed some quick drinks from Starbucks & made our bathroom runs. We were all in to hit up one of the most intense rides first… Nighthawk..  As soon as you are buckled in, and just before take off, this ride turns you on your back, so in other words, you get flipped all over.  When we came back in from the wild ride, I didn’t know which way was up. I was so disoriented, and Brad & I both ended up with an intense dose of motion sickness (we normally don’t have issues), that basically ruined us for the rest of the day.. There were rides that Brad opted out of, but most of them, I muscled through.  For lunch, we stopped in to one of the dining halls & proceeded to have some nasty pizza. Honestly, we were hoping it would just help settle our stomachs, but it did no such thing. We were incredibly disappointed later on when we saw the Chik-fil-A and realized that we could have had a significantly better quality meal just a little ways away. Too late now! TIP If you are a coaster enthusiast… be sure to ride FURY. (FACT: this is one of the tallest and fastest coasters in the world.) Despite my motion sickness, I rode this one three times because it was so fun!!! You can’t help but laugh and scream!  Carowinds is a great place to spend a day or an afternoon. Depending on the time of year, you may have light crowds, in which case take advantage of the short lines, and embrace your inner kid… but save Nighthawk for last. 

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Erica & Lauren dropped us off at the hotel, so that we could break before we met back up for dinner. Brad & I were wrecked.  We both took quick showers & ended up taking an hour nap which helped to reset our bodies! We were officially behind schedule, but we didn’t worry about it. We called Erica, and let her know that we would just meet them at Tupelo Honey (if you have read my previous Charlotte post, you know how much I love Tupelo). When we got there, iphone 194we were able to get a table on the patio, so we could enjoy the pleasant weather. Much was ordered… We started with a couple plates of the fried green tomatoes and the fried okra (must-haves there). I die every time I eat those… Those two items are actually the only reasons I go  to Tupelo. Brad & I were wise & opted to split the fried chicken which is also divine. Our taste buds were in true nirvana, especially after all the god-awful garbage we had eaten earlier that day. A yummy meal was definitely welcome.

4We wrapped up dinner, and decided to head to a local brewery for trivia night. We all sipped on our drinks, and did our best to answer all the questions in all nine rounds perfectly, but despite our best efforts we ended up in 4th place, not too bad considering we are convinced team number one cheated.

It was a really fun way to wrap up our evening and our trip. We ended up bringing the girls back to their apartment building, and offered up our long goodbyes. The next morning we were headed back home to Phoenix!


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The Compulsive Traveler

out to see the world, and snap beautiful photos while doing so.

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