10 January 2013

2013 SOUTH & EAST COAST to Charleston, South Carolina 16 - Savannah vs. Charleston

Miles today 155 with driving time of 3'42". No hurries. We left a little later than we might have due to fog. Start temp 68 at 10:15 am with an expected high of 72 and low tonight 59. Winds max 10 mph. Gas fill up at Bluffton SC at $3.35 per gallon and average MPG on this tank of 47 even. The cooler we get the less MPG we get. Still happy though.

As we travel out of Savannah, we cross back over the Savannah River and again head north. We see the SCAD equestrian plantation on the way. Not sure what this has to do with "design," but pretty cool.

The country-side changing from tropical to more deciduous trees and a different kind of tall pines. These are very tall and straight, but have a lot longer pine needles. Continued Spanish moss, but getting less and less. Southern, but not beachy. Mint julep refreshers coming to mind.

First stop was Bluffton SC--a smallish, quaint town along the May River. Signs along the river said "don't feed the wild dolphins," but we didn't see any. Darn! Not sure what they would eat. Saw a lovely old wood church riverside.

We had the option of the Sipping Cow Café or the Squat & Gobble Restaurant for breakfast. We opted for S & G and an excellent choice. Mike trying another version of chicken fried steak and Deb enjoying a Greek omelet with grits.

Despite the name, this is a true gem in diners. Sisters (or possibly, as they say their dad was a truck driver) Terry and Jeannie were a hoot. Although the counter and table décor seemed quaint and ordinary, the accessory décor was unusual to say the least--waitress mannequin with a hook hand meeting you at the door; a deer head mounted next to a meat grinder; a deer butt with an eyeball in the "spot;" and witty, semi-sexy quotes here and there, hmmm. To boot, there was a his-n-hers bathroom with a toidy AND a urinal. Never saw that before! And happy to know I won't be sitting on some guy's "juice." Anyway, the food WAS great.

Next stop was Hilton Head Island. This was on our bucket list to see, but the island was a disappointment. We anticipated a lot of golf courses, tennis courts, and hoity toidy. But we also anticipated a little beachy town with quaint shoppes, cafes, and an historic lighthouse. We could did not find them. Once on the island, no directional signs to downtown or lighthouse (actually, I think there are two).

If you know us, you know we are not your typical tourists, we are intelligent and well-traveled. We know how to read maps, signs, icons, AAA guide books, and GPS. But none of these helped us. We did not see any tourist info places. Not even Siri could help. Seemed like mostly residential "resorts" and private, gated roads. We figured if we had to stop and ask for directions, it was not worth it. Just noticed, I did not even take one photo, so that says something!!! We gave up trying and continued to Charleston.

En route were tidal marshes bordering the road. It was low tide and marsh birds fed off the sand mounds. Sped through small towns. Little traffic to deal with. A few cool bridges along the way. We continue to see Evacuation Route signs. Fog and rain squalls as we arrived at our day's destination. Always worry about the hotel ahead of us went we book sight unseen. This time, the loveliest surprise. Read below in Best Ofs.

After a smooth check-in, needed to quench our thirst. Meandered through the City Market. This is the original produce market from years ago. It has been refurbished and used now to sell local Charleston goods, foods, souvenirs, etc. It is enclosed on to keep out the weather and quite classy.

We didn't buy anything (probably tomorrow), but headed straight toward The Noisy Oyster, recommended by the bell man. Deb ordered Myers and rum (her dyslectic name for Myers rum and Coke) and local beer for Mike. Of course, they put a menu before us and here we go. I ended up with a half pound of peel and eat beer boiled and chilled shrimp and Mike had a dozen oysters on the half shell. Won't bore you with another pix of that, but here is the Dungeness crab pot at the table next to us. Deb also had creamy, cheesey grits. Umm, good.

Mosied back "home" for the night, stopping at the hot sauce store. Bought some Tamarindo Bay sauce. Also, saw a bar that was also a bakery. Nice combo. Back in time to watch The Big Bang and play catch up on The Blog.

At this point, if we had to choose between Savannah vs. Charleston, we'd pick Charleston. It may be just the season or the moment, but Charleston seems more lively, more classy-casual, and less expensive. We'll take a city tour tomorrow, which might sway us differently, but that's the consensus at this moment.

Also, we like Charleston's water a lot better. It smelled like sulfur in Savannah.

We haven't mentioned many best of / worst ofs so far on this trip, but here are a few.

Best hotel so far on this trip and best Best Western ever on our travels is the BW Charleston St. Charles Inn. Excellent location for the price and "southern" décor including lace and ribbons on the extra roll of toilet paper. Comfy linens. Quality Gilchrist & Soames cosmetic amenities. Dark wood furniture. Crown moldings. Lots of granite surfaces and best "electronics hook-up" situation. Plenty of handy plugs by the desk. Luxurious at a great price.

Best Bellman on the trip - St Charles Inn, Charleston is the only place with a bell man since we started our "long" travels last September (even though we did not use him to lug our bags). He offered umbrellas for our walk due to rain, gave good directions to the City Market, and a great recommendation on the Noisy Oyster.

Best church structure was The Church of the Cross in Bluffton SC. Congregation established in 1767 and church built in 1854. Lovely wood structure. Reminded us of those we saw in Hawaii.

Best meal - Oh, so many good ones, hard to decide. Probably for Deb was the Half Shell Raw Bar in Key West. For Mike, the Pink House in Savannah. So far ... more to come.

Best grits at the Noisy Oyster, Charleston. These were cheesy and CREAMY. I've been eating grits here and there all along the way on this trip, and every time we veer South. These were the very best ever in my life.

Best Chicken fried steak at S & G. Mike said this tasted the best ever and, although I would never order this myself, it looked the best that I had seen.

Worst island (for us): Hilton Head Island (not named after the Hilton hotel family as I always imagined, but for Sir William Hilton, an English explorer). If you are a golf or tennis nut, you'd love it, but not the best for "historical appreciation" people like us.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.