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Over the course of the last week or so, instead of scouring the internet for great fashion finds, I went on vacation with my friends, Shannon and Raqui.  So, instead of finding ways for us to spend our hard-earned cash on clothes, shoes, jewelry and the like, I’m going to tell you a bit about my trip, and tempt you to go on a girls’ get-away for some relaxation and fun. 


Shannon, Raqui and I have traveled together a lot over the past few years, but it’s always been by air or on a cruise.  This time, a friend of mine offered the use of a timeshare at Hilton Head, S. Carolina for a week, so, naturally, I invited my “girls” to go on a road trip with me down South.


Now, just to let you know, we girls follow one main rule when we travel together, and it has worked for us thus far.  During the day, it’s every gal for herself.  Usually we do things together, but if someone would rather nap than sightsee, or sightsee instead of shop, it’s OK, and no hurt feelings or questions asked.  We generally meet up for dinner, or at least check in with one another, and we always end up back at the hotel together for the night.  We’ve all agreed that we love to meet new people and enjoy new experiences, but our motto on vacation is “safety first”, and the three of us pretty much stick together.


That being said, on with the tour.


Our first stop was Asheville, NC after a beautifully scenic drive through the Tennessee mountains.  I had ordered tickets to tour the Biltmore Estate, a mansion built by George Vanderbilt and situated on acres and acres of forested land and gardens.  (If you’re considering going, check out the website www.biltmore.com to get discounted tickets and to plan your day).  The home is huge, and tours are self-conducted at your own pace.  They also offer several specialized tours at an additional fee.  We stuck with the general house tour, visited the lovely gardens, and had a delicious lunch on-site at the Stable Café.  If you have time, don’t forget to visit the shops—not much for fashion, but there are some beautiful home furnishings, gift items and quality souvenirs.


The grounds are enormous, and, fortunately, they run a shuttle service from the house to the other main attractions, so you can save some of your energy to take in the other sights of this enjoyable Southern city.  We had only the one evening there, so we decided to just walk around the historic area and drink in the atmosphere.  We had been given a recommendation for dinner by a friend, and when we asked the doorman at our hotel for directions, he told us that Bouchon was his favorite eating place as well.  The only additional advice he gave us was to be sure and order a bottle of the excellent house wine.  Only a few blocks away, we walked to this fabulous little French hole-in-the-wall, and enjoyed a delicious dinner and, of course, we had to try the wine.  C’est magnifique!    


If you’re considering visiting the area,we stayed at the Rensaissance Asheville Hotel, and it was convenient, the room was lovely, and the staff was extremely helpful and accommodating.


The next morning we set off for Charleston, SC, about four to five hours away.  Our destination was another Rensaissance Hotel (gotta get those Marriott Rewards, you know), and, again, we were pleased with the accommodations, the excellent location in the historic district, and the Southern hospitality.


The remainder of our day and the following morning were filled with local sites, including a visit to the Town Market (block upon block of indoor stalls selling everything from local crafts to homemade candy, toys, tee-shirts, and just about everything in between).  We squeezed in a carriage ride to see the top historic sites and get an overview of the city, and even had time for a little shopping on King Street, the main shopping street in the area.  There were lots of nice boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Tommy Bahama, Juicy Couture, and some local shops, too.


A walk down to the riverfront, in sweltering heat and past the lovely pastel colored homes of “Rainbow Row” and beautiful pre-Civil War mansions (one of which we toured), history was all around us in the cobblestone streets and Ft. Sumter in the distance where the War Between the States began.


We were given a dinner recommendation here, too, and The Magnolia Restaurant on Bay Street didn’t disappoint.


These sightseeing days were wonderful, but now we were ready for the main event, and headed down to Hilton Head Island in the South Carolina Lowcountry, about a 2-1/2 hour drive away.


If you’ve never been to the Island, don’t expect the honky-tonk/boardwalk kind of atmosphere of some other coastal vacation spots.  This is a family-oriented area, beautiful and understated, with lots of large resorts, tons of fantastic restaurants, quaint little shops and galleries, all hidden discreetly away behind rows and rows of elegant trees and shrubbery.  No billboard-studded highways here.  Just acres and acres of beautifully manicured golf courses, tennis courts, bike paths, marinas, wetlands, and, of course, the beach and never-ending Atlantic Ocean.


Our timeshare was called Marriott’s Barony Bay, and was located in the Port Royal area of the island.  The resorts are in various sections or plantations, and located far off the main road in serene, scenic surroundings.  Bottom line is, while on the Island, we pretty much “vegged-out”.  Days at the pool or beach, bike rides, long walks (none of the three of us golf very well, and it was too hot for tennis for us).  The resort was gorgeous, with direct access to a wide, sandy beach and the ocean beyond, three pools, hot tubs, activities, a casual restaurant and bar, a market, games, crafts, bikes, golf and just about anything else you could want or need to relax completely.  They even provided a short tour of the island for just a few dollars.  Our villa was stunning, with two full bedrooms and baths, living/dining room, kitchen and porch.  It was great because we could put on our swimsuits in the morning, eat a bite on our porch, and then lay at the pool throughout the day with visits to our room or the bar/restaurant for snacks or drinks.  Oh, what a life!


And the array of exceptional seafood restaurants seems endless.  Some of our favorites were Hudson’s on the Docks, Scott’s Seafood Market, The Crazy Crab and The Old Oyster Factory.  Hudson’s is situated on a wetlands marsh, and the view is fantastic, and Scott’s is on a marina where we experienced an exquisite sunset and some equally exquisite frozen strawberry daiqueris.


There are numerous shops, galleries and boutiques interspersed throughout the various plantations, with one of the largest shopping areas at Sea Pines at the tip of the island where the iconic red and white lighthouse is located and open for tours.  We particularly liked the Wexford area where Shannon  got a fantastic deal on, what else?, shoes, and I picked up a really cute pair of boots at a bargain price.  Raqui stayed with fashion for her home and purchased a gorgeous print by a local artist.


We did go off the island on a couple of occasions, once to visit the factory outlet malls a couple of miles over the bridge, and for a full-day trip to Savannah, GA, about an hour away.  Savannah is a beautiful city of park-like squares and weathered buildings, cobblestone streets and historic mansions.  To see as much as possible in a short time, we boarded a hop-on, hop-off trolley tour that was narrated by a wonderfully knowledgeable  and wickedly amusing native of the city named Denise.  We enjoyed it immensely and saw such sites as the old jail, the waterfront, the market and dozens of historic homes.  A highlight of the day was lunch at The Lady & Sons, chef Paula Deen’s restaurant.  I’ve included a picture of my chicken pot pie, just to show you what a work of art is available from this kitchen diva’s establishment.  And it tasted as good as it looks!


The approximately ten and a half hour drive back to Cincinnati was not something we particularly looked forward to, but an overnight stop in the mountains about halfway gave us another opportunity for an impromptu “pajama party” and more “girl talk”, something we never seem to run out of.


Although it may not sound as glam as a cruise or a quick trip by air, don’t disregard the “road trip”.  It’s a relaxing way to spend some time with family or, in our case, friends who seem like family.  And, if you can survive a road trip together, I’d say you’re friends for life.


Bye for now.



Comments (1)

Posted By: carol | 9/26/2013 3:30:21 PM
sounds like fun.

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