Thursday, May 14, 2009

birthday weekend in south carolina

Nick and I were dying to get out of NYC for a long weekend and decided to take advantage of his credit card points by buying plane tickets to South Carolina for a visit a couple of weeks ago. One of my favorite people from high school lives in SC, and I was looking for an excuse to see her and visit her beautiful town.
Sid always hates it when I leave town. His new plan of attack when he sees me pull out my suitcase is to hide in my clothes. So cute. Makes it hard to leave!

I managed to elude the cat and Nick and I trekked out to beautiful Newark to catch our flight to Greenville. Since the flight was only an hour and a half long, we had the entire day to enjoy the town. We hit up one of the local spas, River Falls, and treated ourselves to a half day of pampering. I partake in massages fairly frequently and must admit that the massage I got at River Falls was by far the best I've ever experienced.

We wandered around town for the rest of the day, spending a chunk of time at the beautiful park located in downtown Greenville.
I mean, seriously. Who goes and puts a park with a gorgeous waterfall in the middle of a picturesque "Pleasantville" type town? The place was stunning.
We lucked out and had beautiful weather almost the entire time we were in South Carolina. The flowers and wildlife were all out and about in the park. Nick and I spent a huge chunk of time relaxing on the porch swings set up in key locations throughout the park.
We wrapped up the night with a laid-back dinner and drinks at a downtown spot. All in all, it was a fantastic (and relaxing!) way to celebrate my 29th birthday.

The next day, Nick and I decided to drive down to Charleston for his birthday. Neither one of us had ever been there before, and after a cold winter and rainy early spring in NYC, we were anxious to hit up a beach. But before we went to the water, we spent some time in historic downtown Charleston. After a big lunch where we ate loads of fresh seafood (raw oysters, shrimp and my new favorite, she-crab soup), we walked around the town for a bit and also took part in a horse-carriage ride.
I loved our tour guide. He was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the town + had a lot of interesting back stories that made each building we stopped at all the more interesting (Nick geeked out a bunch -- he loves history). The horse, Charlie, was even more amazing.
The horse was totally tough as nails. Every time a vehicle that was about his size or larger would come near him, he would pause, stare the vehicle down, crane his neck around to continue staring at the vehicle, and then would do a little skip step once the vehicle passed. This happened at least 5 different times on the trip. I kept watch on the guide and he didn't do anything -- he was apologetic about it, if anything! I immediately wanted to bring the horse with me back home. He'd do well in NYC.
We made a quick stop at the waterfront area near the downtown area. There were a number of sailboats out, and they had more of those porch swing things set up on the boardwalk. Really lovely and relaxing.
We drove out to the beach at the Isle of Palms next. It was exactly what we were looking for --- a sunny day, largely unpopulated beach, warm water, and cooling breeze.
Nick and I were clearly pumped to be at a beach. As born and raised Northwesterners, the whole "warm water at the beach" is a foreign concept. We openly embraced the change.
We also spent some time observing these kiteboarders on the water. They were doing AMAZING tricks out there --- they could catch an unbelievably crazy amount of air! My new obsession is finding a place where I can learn how to kiteboard. I need to do this while my joints are still functioning!

By the time we left the beach, the sun was starting to set. We decided to stop by a random restaurant near the beach to grab a quick bite to eat before hitting the road again. Luckily, we randomly stopped by Huck's Lowcountry Table for a few appetizers. The food was fantastic!
These shrimp hushpuppies were my favorite. Breaded perfectly, flavorful shrimp, slightly spicy corn aioli . . . . really lovely appetizer.
The crab cakes were almost equally as tasty. The crab flavor was spot-on, paired nicely with some kind of chipotle cream sauce and fried green tomatos.
I insisted on also trying the fish tacos, because I tend to love them. They were made with grilled mahi and also featured that yummy chipotle creme sauce. There must also be some kind of secret ingredient in them, because we inhaled this dish in just a few minutes!
This was the only dish I felt pretty "meh" about. I don't even remember what is was now, and it's only been a couple of weeks since our visit! Overall though, Nick and I loved the restaurant and wished we would have had more room in our stomachs to try more dishes.

After a long drive back to Greenville, we collapsed in a heap for awhile before having to wake up early to join a tour group (and our two Greenville buddies) on a full-day white water rafting trip on the Chattooga River. I would be amiss if I forgot to mention that at the very beginning of the rafting trip, once we'd split up into teams of 5 - 6 per boat, we slowly floated down the beginning the the course -- only to find a local, chewing on some kind of straw, strumming a banjo while perched on a rock in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention that the movie Deliverance was largely filmed on the Chattooga? I was ready to jump out of the boat if I heard another banjo playing with the first guy. Our guide pretended he never saw the local guy and never once made a reference to the movie . . . .
We didn't have much time to dwell upon our "welcome" to the river before we hit our first set of rapids. The course consisted mostly of Class 4 rapids, along with some Class 3s. It was very fast-paced and exciting. Our guide, Jeff, was great. He manuvered us through all kinds of stuff and fished us each out of the water when we got dumped in after hitting a rock at one point.

Below is a sequence of pictures illustrating our introduction to the "Chattooga River Swim Team." You'll note that I'm underwater in a chunk of the pictures! : )
Our guide was a rock star and ended up jumping into the water and literally throwing most of us back into the boat. It pays to have a guy who physically resembles a tough Viking as a river guide --- he was huge and getting us out of the water took just a couple of minutes!
We ended the day wet, exhausted and hungry --- but also extremely happy! The whitewater rafting was the highlight of our weekend. I'm already hoping to plan another trip down there to do it again. For our last night in SC, we took it easy after the rafting and had a nice evening of eating tacos, candy and ice cream + watching Deliverance. It made us feel extra-tough after the adventures of the day.

This turned out to be a really long post! But I must include one last picture. My friend's dog was another big highlight of the trip. He could be the world's friendliest and loving dog. I wish I could clone him and have one with me in NY!
For anyone looking to take a trip a bit off the beaten path, I highly recommend South Carolina! It's a beautiful state with lots of friendly people and plenty to do.
One last thing: After our flight back home on Sunday, we hightailed it over to Madison Square Garden for Pete Seeger's 90th Birthday party. The line-up was ridiculous -- Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, a couple of guys from Band of Horses, Dave Matthews, Joan Baez, John Mellencamp, Ani DiFranco, Taj Mahal . . . . A once-in-a-lifetime time show to cap off one of the best weekends we've had in a long time!


Justin said...

Yo, Danica! Happy birthday! Great pics. Looks like you had a fantastic trip. Rebecca and I just celebrated her 29th yesterday!

So, I didn't even know who Pete Seeger was until this weekend when we watched the documentary on him called "The Power of Song." (I recognized the songs but had never associated them with his name.) You're probably seen it, but if you haven't ... wow. I found it incredibly moving. Hope you're well.

Jen said...

What an awesome weekend!! Loved all of the pics! SC looks great!

Happy belated birthday!! xoxoxo

danica said...

Justin: Please tell Rebecca happy birthday for me! Hope you both did something fun to celebrate. Thanks for the documentary recommendation too -- they actually played some clips from it during the concert, and I'm dying to see the whole thing. Pete Seeger is an amazing man, it was such a treat to see him and many performers he inspired in person.

Hope you're well too!

Jen: You know I always love hearing from you -- thx for the good wishes!

stace said...

Hi Danica!
Happy Birthday!!! Great to see the pics that go with the crazy white water trip!!! Loved it...

Anonymous said...

happy belated birthday! that looks like one hell of a good trip.