It’s Time

All good things must come to an end and that goes for our winter break to South Carolina. We hoped to escape the cold northeast but cool weather followed us…. at least in the mornings. We enjoyed a few 70° afternoons and lots of 60-something afternoons, but it was brrrrr brisk at dawn. We’re talking temperatures in the 30’s!

We are happy to be home tackling chores like the mountain of mail, pending commitments and greeting the grandchildren. All need immediate attention.

Over morning coffee, we talked about working off the extra padding we both added to our waistline from tempting southern cuisines. Too many BBQ sandwiches and fried hush puppies was my downfall. Lots of seafood and sauces for mister gardener. There was one restaurant all three of us agreed was the best of our gastronomical journey…. The Santa Fe Cafe, billed as Innovative Southwestern Cuisine. And, yes, it was.

Our son enjoyed the BBQ Chicken Taco and mister gardener tackled the Ribeye Burrito….both out of this world, they managed to say between bites. Unique, generous, and tasty.

On the other hand, I had possibly the best soup and definitely the most artistic soup I’ve ever been served. It was almost too pretty to eat. Take a look at the Painted Desert Soup, half red pepper and corn soup with ancho chile cream. We recommend this restaurant and anything served on the menu.

I really do think folks in New England eat a lot healthier than what sustained me in my southern upbringing. Sweet tea, something I had plenty of in SC, is not a thing up here.  Good thing, really. Lots of fried foods, like all those hush puppies or all the calories in those grilled pimiento cheese sandwiches I ordered a few times won’t be served around these parts. Collard greens was generally on the menu in SC, always infused with the tasty grease from bacon. Yep, bacon, butter, salt. Oh, and Hellmann’s REAL mayo. Lordy….

No need to speak French..

…to relax at the Parlez-Vous Lounge with light libation while you wait. Or you can wander over to the Ciné-Café for appetizers, entrees, gourmet coffee, and locally made ice cream. Or maybe put in an order and have it delivered.

Wait for what? Delivered where?

Delivered right to your theater seat in the funkiest, most fun movie theater I’ve ever experienced. And, lucky for us, the amazing south-end Park Plaza Cinema is just minutes from us on Hilton Head…close enough for repeat visits.

Park Plaza Cinema is a boutique theater, independently owned by Lucie and Larry Mann. Their creation, this wonderful theater, plays mainstream new releases and has luxurious reclining seats…. all powered by the touch of a button.

Lucie, an architect designer, and Larry, a builder, and their two adorable mini canines (dressed in their finest) all greet you at the door and welcome you as a guest into their domain. After refreshments you’ll want to order a little popcorn since it’s been voted #1 on the island.

Mann

Park Plaza Cinema makes going to the movies fun and if you go, you will be guaranteed to have a smile when you leave.

Cine-Cafe

According to Cosmopolitan Magazine, Park Plaza is the “coolest movie theater in South Carolina” in a 2017 article naming the coolest theater in every state. I do agree. It’s all thumbs up on this gem.

Stoney-Baynard Ruins

From Paleo-Indians and semi-nomadic Native Americans, to European explorers, and African slaves, to soldiers of several wars… all and more are a part of the history of Hilton Head Island.

During the plantation era, cotton and indigo were the major crops that grew on the island. I visited the site of one early cotton plantation very near me in Sea Pines, the Stoney-Baynard Ruins.

The one and a half story home was built with a fascinating technique called ‘tabby,’ masonry made by mixing burned crushed oyster shells with sand, whole shells and water that was then protected with a coating of stucco.

Tabby

Most plantation owners did not live on the island full-time due to the threat of diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. During this time Hilton Head was mainly populated by slaves who lived in quarters on the property.

Two slave families lived here in the cramped quarters below built on a tabby foundation, a sober reminder of our country’s past.

The tabby chimney below is all that is left of the plantation kitchen outbuilding. What happened to the tabby foundation blocks of the kitchen?

They were moved! Archeologists have found evidence that Union troops moved the kitchen foundation blocks to higher ground to serve as footings for their tent.

The stories I heard about ghosts of previous owners roaming the site or witnessing a funeral procession is overstated. I saw nothing ghostly nor heard a thing but singing birds, but then I might change my tune if I visited after dark, flashlight in hand when you are most likely to encounter them. No thanks…

To learn more about the ruins and the history of the families who owned the plantation, visit this site.

Rain ☔️

It rained off and on today… a lovely light rain. I wouldn’t want rain every day on vacation but today it was a welcome change.

Clouds began to roll in yesterday and I took the opportunity for a beach walk before the heavens opened.

Hilton Head IslandIt was a solitary walk. I had a mile of beach all to myself… well, almost all to myself. There was plenty of bird life on the shore, in the air, and riding waves.

Gull riding waves on Hilton Head Island

But that wasn’t all. There was life from the sea caught on shore at low tide. The beach was littered with keyhole urchins or sand dollars, small animals that can’t live for very long out of water.

Sand dollar

These weren’t the white sand dollar skeletons you see sold in souvenir shops. These dark sand dollars could still be alive and they aren’t for collecting. There is hefty $500 fine for taking any live animal from South Carolina beaches.

sand dollar- Hilton Head Island

To make sure they were alive, I gently turned each over and touched the cilia, the fuzzy hairs beneath. Thankfully, the cilia moved on every one and all the animals I came across were returned to the water. It was a very good day.

sand dollar

At dawn today, a dense fog rolled in before the rain. I could see nothing on the water but could hear motors and foghorns as boat traffic navigated the sound. What a treat it was to sit outside with morning java and watch the condensation change the look of everything in the landscape. It doesn’t have to be sunny to be beautiful!

Fog on Hilton Head Island- 2018

The biggest reptile on the island

It’s been unseasonably cool in South Carolina… some mornings we’re shivering in our lightweight jackets. It’s also been a little cool for the local population of American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) that call Hilton Head home. As cold-blooded animals, their body temperature fluctuates with the outside temperature.  They’re slowly beginning to come out of hibernation to bask on the banks of waterways.

We were happy to enjoy several quite warm days when our youngest son visited us…. perfect weather, I thought, for encouraging alligators from hibernation. Driving around we saw only one huge one by a neighborhood pond. But then, while golfing, our son photographed a lot more just basking in the warm sun. They seem to prefer the quiet ponds and lakes and lagoons along fairways.

What surprised me was seeing his photos of alligators in people’s backyards. Residents and visitors alike are schooled in safety around these giants, but, safe or not, I’d definitely not grill outdoors if I spotted that guy below near my patio.

People are warned not to get closer than 60′ to these living relics. Although they don’t consider humans food, they are incredibly quick and unpredictable. There are strict rules against feeding them (big fines/jail time) or fishing with hot dogs, a fav food, and if one takes a fish you’ve hooked, don’t argue with the alligator. Cut your line. Our golfers were warned about retrieving a golf ball that lands too close to water. An alligator may see the golf ball as a delicious egg. They didn’t need to be told twice!

Alligators do see dogs as food. A little over a year ago an escaped 85-pound husky on the island was killed by an alligator when he stopped to have a drink from a pond. In spite of being protected by state and federal law, that alligator was deemed aggressive and had to be put down.

At the golf course pro shop, I found the perfect alligator for me… a safe one that was friendly and would never attack. I’d love to invite him to be a permanent fixture peeking out from beneath the rhododendrons in my garden at home!

From ICE to NICE

Although it was 31° on our first morning in South Carolina, it was a heck of a lot warmer than the 7° we left behind in New Hampshire.

Temperatures are unseasonably brisk here, reaching the high 40s or low 50s under sunny skies so far. Most people are sporting lightweight jackets and warm hats but not everyone. We do a double take when we spot the occasional brave soul in Bermuda shorts! “All are hardy Canadians,” say the locals.

Until the weather warms a little, we are concentrating on good food, especially the southern goodies I’ve missed…like those warm hush puppies I enjoyed at our first meal on Hilton Head.

Coligny Beach Park was a lunch destination yesterday followed by a walk on the beach…something we’d probably never choose to do in the high season due to the popularity of this wonderful beach.

Beach access takes you through the park on a boardwalk where you may stop to lounge on swings, benches or chairs in the sun or beneath gazebos. Outdoor showers, little changing rooms, restrooms, and free WiFi make it a perfect access for a beach day.

img_4546

Beach matting allows visitors to cross the wide expanse of soft sand down to the water’s edge where the few walkers and bikers are found.

Great place to work up an appetite for dinner!

A Tree House Vacay

Hilton Head is a small island, only 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, but full of championship golf courses, fine dining, tennis facilities, hotels, condos, and villas. It’s a busy place….lots of traffic and lots of visitors enjoying it all.  To fully unwind, we always gravitate toward the least traveled areas to relax within peaceful environs. In Sea Pines, we stayed at a unique hideaway, a virtual oasis, very secluded, yet amazingly close to civilization.

We felt like kids again as our oasis is a tree house overlooking Calibogue Sound. Called a Sea Loft, it’s perched high among the treetops of live oaks and majestic pines with a view across a salt marsh to the water.

our-sea-loft

Waiting for the sunset…

Each morning a variety of birds greet us at eye level, eating, chirping, and pecking away at berries and bark. There are cedar waxwings, brown headed nuthatches, bluebirds, hawks, an eagle, woodpeckers and others that have entertained us in the trees and sky from our breakfast table.

Beneath us, other visitors meander freely through the wooded area. We watched the tiniest deer resting in the wax myrtle and there are telltale signs of foraging raccoons beneath our tree house.

img_2706

Another visitor arrived on our doorstep and actually stepped indoors for a couple of minutes. Was he trying to sell a little Geico Insurance? Sorry, we weren’t buying….

img_3138

Really not a Geico gecko, but a Green Anole that came a’visiting…

We’re lucky that weather has cooperated enough to be graced with spectacular sunsets in the evenings.

img_3025Our location is just a four minute walk to Harbour Town where the well-known candy-striped lighthouse welcomes boats and visitors alike. We often pop into the little village on foot to enjoy delicious food, a variety of shops, late afternoon ice cream cones, and, of course, to climb the iconic lighthouse for a bird’s eye view, including one of the top ten golf courses in the states, Harbour Town Golf Links….

Click to enlarge:

Thanks to our hosts for allowing us to become eco-tourists in their Sea Loft for a short time. Time to pack up and head back to the land of ice and snow in New Hampshire. Sad to leave but fully refreshed.  Sigh…..

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Leaving on a Jet Plane…

With more snow and ice on the way for the northeast, we escaped just in time to bask in the warmth of a South Carolina sun on Hilton Head Island.


We are staying near Harbour Town at the toe of the island and much of what we’ve done so far is within walking distance…. especially the fantastic sunsets at night!


The first thing we do on the island is slow down. There are tons of bikers and walkers and we are learning to live the leisurely life style of the residents. It isn’t an island with lots of nightlife but an island laced with golf courses, tennis courts, bike rentals, walking trails, nature preserves, and 12 miles of glorious ocean beaches…. not to mention fabulous Lowcountry cuisine.

bikes-on-the-beach


If you love a live oak, this is the place to see an island full of them, covered with Spanish moss and full of resident bird life.


The island took a big hit from Hurricane Matthew and a remarkable clean up is underway on every street…including ours where we got to know one owner’s sweet pup. 


Cleanup has not interfered with island life. Roads are clear and residents are replanting.

We chose Hilton Head for just the right reasons: food, nature, relaxation. It’s a very good thing.

Save

Save

Save