South Carolina Getaway [Part 1]

Mister and I made it back from South Carolina just as the latest snow storm was hitting New York. It wasn’t the welcome back we were looking forward to, but after 8 days of traveling around it felt good to be snuggled up with our dogs on a cozy snow day.

This was part vacation, part family visit, and part Mister’s birthday present; we went to visit his parents [who split their time between Binghamton, NY and Surfside Beach, SC], with an added stop in Charleston to visit a friend while taking advantage of the cheaper flights through their versus Myrtle Beach.

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We ended up in downtown Charleston pretty late on Wednesday, and I was excited to see everything but also hungry and tired – add that to the fact that it was way colder than we were anticipating and I was getting a little bit cranky.

Mister spotted Poogan’s Smokehouse and it was exactly what we I needed.

Local IPA’s, live music, smokey pork belly, and a pile of BBQ. Two sticky thumbs up.

The next morning I made a quick trip to a local supermarket for yogurt, fruit, and muffins that made an easy breakfast. My biggest budget travel tip for anyone is don’t go to a restaurant for every meal – buy like you would at home. Bananas were a cheap snack that we could take with us, and smaller things like a box of granola bars and bringing reusable water bottles meant the snack/water break costs didn’t add up as fast.

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On our way from Charleston to Surfside Beach, we stopped at Drayton Hall. I’ve always had a love for visiting historic sites – particularly homes. Coming from New York, plantation houses have always been sort of a fascinating existence within the realm of history and Hollywood. While they are always associated with the dark history of human enslavement, they are also landmarks of a way of life, an era of American history, and a display of a culture I havn’t really gotten to “touch” in person before.

Drayton Hall is incredible in the sense that it is entirely preserved rather than restored. The building hasn’t been turned into a Disneyland approximation of how grand southern life was; its a house that holds so much history that even the vacant rooms breathe whispers of the lives that have passed through.

The preservation versus restoration issue was something that Mister didn’t quite understand; and coming from a History/Public History background, I wasn’t sure if it was something that didn’t really make sense to everyone else as well.

Preserve: They do the minimal amount necessary to maintain the house exactly as it was when it became a historic site. They interpret the paint colors as they were found, instead of repainting the house the original color from the first moment of construction. They point out where the outbuildings once stood, instead of rebuilding them for an easier tour.

Restoration: Bringing the building back to the way it looked when first built, or back to a specific time period. This includes furnishings being brought in or custom made, sometimes costumed interpreters, and often times erasing the changes that were made over time.

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Whenever visiting a historic site of this magnitude, I relish the opportunity to consider who built this house. Why? How? Where did the wood come from? Who made the bricks? Why was the house built in this exact place?

Imagine the first owners crossing the threshold. The last family to run down the stairs. The first tourists to open the door.

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After a few hours spent taking the formal tour and walking the grounds, we had to switch cars and found ourselves looking for food outside of town, in a highly commercialized area. It wasn’t looking promising.

I pulled up Yelp and did some serious reading before finding Boxcar Betty’s. Perfection. Small menu, specializing in chicken; fast, cheap, good.

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Weekend Indulgence

As I said a few times now, I’m usually in Albany on the weekends visiting Mister.  This makes every weekend a sort of mini-holiday.  For a while, this wasn’t so great for my wallet or waistline, but over time we’ve refined this vacation attitude to be a subdued indulgence.

We consistently find at least one activity or destination to get us out of the house, and give the weekend some structure.  (Mister and I aren’t great at sitting around in the house, which is part of why I’m in like with him for sure)

On Saturday, we did the Schenectady Wing Walk, which was a lot more fun than I was anticipating to be honest.  I was originally skeptical of the participating restaurants, and didn’t really think much of Schenectady as a destination beyond pastries, Proctors, and Perecca’s.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Wing Walk: for $10 you get a ballot, and one chicken wing at each of the participating restaurants.  There were 18 restaurants, and most gladly obliged in giving more than one wing if you asked politely.  When we started at 12 noon, there were no lines but by around 1:30/2pm, the lines started growing at each stop.  It had a fun, scavenger-hunt type vibe to the affair and I appreciated the opportunity to try some places that have been on my list.  Some were great (Bier Abbey, Cafe Nola, Mexican Radio, Taj Mahal Restaurant), some were really bad (Thai Thai Bistro, Aperitivo, The Grog Shoppe)  I get it, its hard to have hot, crispy, and flavorful wings for a crowd stretched over a few hours; but some were rubbery and without flavor, or in the case of Aperitivo, it was a “pork wing”, which I didn’t even realize until after I had bitten into it (don’t like surprise pork).  Total cost for the event for the two of us, $20.

We did stop at Cafe Italia for coffee and a cannoli, to break up the wing exhaustion, $6.

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Sunday, we had recovered from too many wings and indulged in some Manory’s for brunch.  I love sitting at the counter here, but be warned that your clothes might take on an eau de fryer if you stay for more than a cup of coffee.

I got the Power House Quesadilla (or something intimidatingly named like that, can’t really remember and the menu isn’t online).  Their pancakes always look/sound so insanely good, but remember that waistline people.  I’ve got dresses to fit into.

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When this showed up I almost forgot I had ordered what looked like the “sensible option.”  It was described as 3 egg whites, one yolk, ham, swiss cheese, peppers, onions, mushrooms grilled in a quesadilla.  Oh man.  This was seriously so good.  I ate half before calling it quits and taking the rest home (which I ate for dinner).  For two coffees, and two of the bigger entrees, we spent about $35 at Manorys.  You can easily get breakfast for two for $20 or under if you’re sticking to a budget.

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This tasted great reheated later, which I was actually surprised by.  I put each section in a hot pan, let it crisp for a moment before putting a lid over it to let everything reheat.  Then , when the cheese looked sufficiently melty, I removed the lid and flipped it over for some further crisping.

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Sunday night, I’ve made it a habit to prepare something to last both myself and Mister for the week.  For Mister I made slow cooker stroganoff, for myself I made a bean free, bison and butternut squash chili.  Everything was set and on the stove by 5pm, which was later than I would have liked, but c’est la vie.

This morning, I packed up my cooler tote (great investment) with four quarts of chili, and some other food and snack items, to be kept in the office for the week.  On Friday, the empty containers go back in the tote to be refilled on Sunday.  Routines are great.