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A Post-Christmas Treat: Charleston and Folly Beach

A Post-Christmas Treat: Charleston and Folly Beach

Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 10:20 AM
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A Post-Christmas Treat: Charleston and Folly Beach

Confession Time. We liked, but did not love Charleston. Folly Beach, though, gets smooches of love all around.

The Travelers. Myself, DH, DDog, and the three “children” (DH and his longtime GF, 20-somethings; and DD, 18). We drove the approximate 6 hours from Knoxville to Charleston in two vehicles: DDog and said “children” piled into in DH’s crossover; and DH and I played adults in my vehicle, an eco-friendly “luxury class” wagon. Without DDog’s hair all over the wagon it truly was a luxe ride, even if our planned “leisurely lunch” at a place without a drive-thru window did not transpire on either the outbound or inbound, as we were more interested in reaching our destinations than sitting for lunch somewhere along I-26.

The Lodging. With last-minuteish planning we could only be beggars, but the housing gods were on our side. Our darling three-bedroom bungalow just a couple minutes’ walk from Folly Beach was perfect, with plenty of room for all to spread out and seek a private spot to unwind after a long day of sightseeing and beachcombing, more so after the latter. The only calamity of the stay was minor: the dishwasher went Kaput on the second-to-final day, but the owner was super accommodating and everything worked itself out.

Where We Ate (and Did Not), and What We Ate.

Peninsula Grill. I so wanted to have a celebratory meal here, just because. 2019 was a Year of Change for us, with the two of us moving back to the U.S. (and a new city) from overseas; DD heading to university in Ireland; and DS getting the nod on his dream job. But I guess I am a snob in some respects. Peninsula Grill required a credit card hold for its reservation in the event we might cancel, and that irked me. I don’t queue for my meals; I don’t accept a “buzzer” to alert me when my table is ready; and I certainly don’t place a deposit for a table. So, we scrapped the celebratory meal and no one was worse for the decision.

Magnolias. A last minute lunch choice in the midst of sightseeing in Charleston proper, and a fab choice it was. Boiled Peanut Hummus and Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon to begin. I repeat, Candied Bacon. Around the table for lunch we savored Lowcountry Bouillabaisse; Shellfish and Grits; and Spicy Shrimp and Sausage over Grits. No words. The staff? They could slay the disgruntled Viennese in a heartbeat with their friendliness.

S.N.O.B. (Thank you, mama_mia!) DH and I were fortunate enough to snare an outdoor table here (the “children” were elsewhere) and relaxed with a bottle of a Kremstal Grüner Veltliner (the price of which made us wince…) To begin, Cornmeal Fried Oysters. So, so good. For the mains, DH opted for the fancy Tuna Melt and I, the lunch special of Lowcountry Gumbo. Glorious.

Ellis Creek Fish Camp. (Thank you, denisea!) Yes! A perfect setting for everyone, including DDog! The Portobello Fries and Fried Okra staved off the hangries until our lunch of fish tacos and Grouper sandwiches arrived. DDog, meanwhile, enjoyed the menu special of Doggo Beef Stew. We sat during high tide so the creek was not as lively with Ibis and Snowy Egret and the like, but we’ll take 70F and seafood even without the birds.

The Crab Shack, Folly Beach. I do not recall all of the ocean goodness that we consumed, except for my Crab and Avocado Salad, so you’ll just have to trust that it was all amazing.

Bert’s Market, Folly Beach. A combo old school-hipster-millennial joint, where the tiny parking lot is filled with golf carts and hybrid vehicles. We were not too keen on the $5 mangoes but found their (all organic, natch) chili dogs incredible. Their $22 Oregon wine (that I have purchased in Knoxville for $15), not so incredible, however.

Woody’s, Folly Beach. On the final night, with the dishwasher Kaput and energies waning after one final beach-combing episode, a round of pizzas was the unanimous vote. And delicious they were. The delivery time was 90 minutes; the take-away time, a mere 25. You can guess what we chose.

Sightseeing tales to follow.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 01:53 PM
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fourfortravel, I'm enjoying your TR. Look forward to your next installment!
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Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 07:48 PM
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Staying tuned for more. Curious to see what made Charleston only a like for you while Folly Beach on the other hand was a love. I’m happy that you had some terrific meals—those mouthwatering dishes alone make me want to go back to the Low Country.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 05:17 AM
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Yes, I'd be interested in only "liking" Charleston, although comparing the beach to the city is really apples and oranges in a way on a short stay. I have always felt that Charleston might be our most European-like city being so walkable, historic and great food!
Our kids went to Folly in November and your bungalow could have been theirs--they did LOVE it.
"Their $22 Oregon wine (that I have purchased in Knoxville for $15), not so incredible, however." That's a pretty modest markup in the restaurant business anywhere!! LOL and just an FYI.

Although our DSIL (an owner in 3 restaurants in Charlotte) does not ask for a credit card etc. it isn't uncommon for high end places in big tourist areas with lots of choices and people who make 3 reservations for dinner and decide at 5 o'clock where they will go.. You weren't denied a wonderful meal by not partaking of their requirement which is a testament to the level of cuisine! ;o)

I had recommended the Ellis Creek resto to our kids when there also, thanks to the rec. They didn't get there but there's always another time.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 03:22 PM
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With so many of the plantation homes offering guided tours at specific times; and the sketchy weather forecast for two of our four days; plus our desire to soak in the restorative air of the beachfront, it was a challenge to put together a concrete itinerary. But that was just fine with us. Of course we bemoaned missing this and regretted missing that, but Charleston is only a 6 hour drive away from our home. We might return.

Sunrise on Folly Beach.


The Sightseeing

Charleston Tea Plantation. A hit with everyone, DDog included. The farm was delightfully not crowded; the introductory movie and the tram tour worth our time, we thought. Naturally several tea blends were purchased from the store, along with South Carolina BBQ sauce that DS and I tasted and agreed needed to be a part of our New Year’s Day Bowl Game fiesta plans. The Spanish Moss on the grounds was in fine form, too.


Charleston Market. We timed our morning arrival so as to avoid the tourists that clogged up the space later in the day, when I returned to not purchase a sweetgrass basket. We delighted in listening to the stories of the basketweavers in the market; in particular, I had decided on one basket during the morning visit (when the market was quiet), and was quoted a price of X by the artist, one with a certificate from the city attesting to the artist’s authenticity. When DH and I returned later in the day to purchase said basket, with the market overflowing with tourists, the vendor quoted a price of X+125USD. Hmmm. I appreciate the handiwork that goes into the baskets, but was entirely turned off by the upcharge, so a sale was not made.

Charleston, the City. We very much liked walking the streets and remarking on (and snapping) the architecture, but in general did not enjoy our fellow tourists who clogged up the pretty streets taking 10 photos of everyone in their group in the front of these beautiful structures, oblivious to those of us who were waiting patiently for our single snap.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. I had mixed feelings going into this based on some TA reviews, but those were quickly dispelled. Of course the gardens were not as, “in bloom” as they might be in warmer seasons, but the trails were delightful and fragrant with camellia (?); the Cypress looked dreamy in the ponds; I snapped an Anhinga stretching its wings; and we even spied several crocodiles!


Drayton Hall. We took a pass. We arrived after touring Magnolia only to learn that the next tour was not for more than an hour. We passed on Middleton Place, as well, for the same reason. No one seemed to mind.

Battery Wharf Homes. Wow. Just, Wow. On the morning before the Fort Sumter tour we wandered the streets, most notably the homes surrounding the park. Some people live well. We chuckled a bit at the Confederate statue at the battery point, wondering why the Woke Brigade hasn’t yet torn it down or otherwise defaced it.

Fort Sumter. This tour was planned because of the need to book the ferry tickets. On the particular tour afternoon the forecast called for something like an 80% chance of rain. Because Civil War history is not at all my thing I opted for the Aiken-Rhett House and a drive to Edisto Island. The group enjoyed the fort tour (the rain held out until the very end); but alas, no dolphins were spotted.

Aiken-Rhett House. I absolutely loved this tour, and I think it should be the standard for touring these old plantations and historic homes. With my ear piece I could wander at my own pace; wait for others to clear to take my snaps without disrupting the flow; and otherwise listen to the additional stories included on the audio. After leaving the house I had planned to drive to Edisto Island for photos but the rain had begun to fall heavily, so instead I returned to the cottage and curled up with a book that Santa had brought me (Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem) until the family returned.

Charleston Museum. The desk clerk was a bit salty with us, I do have to write. With two students in our group I inquired about student tickets and was haughtily told, “That’s only for Charleston students.” Okay, then. She also sighed audibly after asking us from what city we were from when I answered with four different locations.

The museum was exceptionally well done. Well, almost exceptionally well done. The Low Country history galleries were quite informative, but the history more or less dropped off with the end of the Civil War, wherein we all found ourselves suddenly in the natural history section of the museum, staring at ancient rocks. From our time in Austria DH and I would occasionally stumble across a history museum that “ended” with WWI, or skipped over the years 1937-1945, but we weren’t expecting that denial to play out in Charleston.

Joseph-Manigault House. This home, and the Heyward-Washington House were on a combinationl ticket with the Charleston Museum. DH and I opted for this ticket; the “children” went off shopping or something. Now, I have a strong dislike for structured tours, not just because I like to tour at my own pace, but also because there is inevitably someone in the group who either 1) asks stupid questions; or 2) tries to show off with their “knowledge.” Often the overlap of these two groups is strong, as was the case on these tours. At the Manigault house an Obnoxious Jerk asked (knowing full well the answer) about the paint colors. He even sought to correct the guide, who was incredible. She is pursuing a Master’s thesis on some decorative purpose of the period and has toured the Manigault’s private residence as part of her research. She really knew her stuff and made the tour delightful with insider stories and little anecdotes, and put Obnoxious Jerk politely in his place. Her tour contrasted sharply with the second one at the Heyward-Washington House.

Our guide at the Heyward-Washington House recited from memory her talking points with little enthusiasm, stealing glances at her watch as if she was going off shift soon. Yet another reason to dislike mandatory tours. In between, the same Obnoxious Jerk from the Manigault tour asked questions, like, “I know this isn’t Gilbert Stuart’s painting (of Washington in the House), but is it true that Dolly Madison saved the real painting during the Revolutionary War?” I would like to think he felt my epic eye-rolling through the back of his head. These were not his only transgressions.

Beachcombing. A highlight. DH and I rose each morning before dawn, snapped the lead onto DDog and walked the beach for at least an hour. Such bliss. The tide was still coming in during our morning wanders, but in the mid-to-late afternoon we were treated with low tide shelling. When we lived in the U.S. previously we spent a week on Cape Cod annually, with shelling being an important part of the holiday. This holiday was no different. There is just something so completely restorative about the salt air lofting off the waves, the roar of the tide rolling in, and the peaceful feeling it conveys. Amongst my treasures on the beach, the South Carolina State Shell (the Lettered Olive); ginormous Atlantic Cockles; shark teeth; intact (tiny and large) Knobbed Whelk; Scallops; Arks; and unfortunately a bite on my ankle from some sea creature. On our first day I found a chipped Sand Dollar and kept it for luck, but was not able to find an unbroken one on this holiday. Sigh.

So, to wrap up this holiday, I think what turned us off about Charleston was the structured tours of the historic homes and plantations, along with the exorbitant (we thought) entry ticket prices. Plus the basket weaver perceived scam in the Market and the tourists who don't appreciate that they are not the only ones visiting the city. We’re not budget travelers, and are perfectly comfortable spending posted ticket costs or menu prices to enjoy our holiday. But…$32 for entry to Drayton Hall is ridiculous, especially to be cattle-pushed through in 30 or so minutes. (For goodness sakes, Louvre tickets are barely $20 and one can hang out all day.) Magnolia Gardens was something like $20, but at least we were able to wander at our own pace. The Charleston Museum combination ticket was reasonable at $25, but as it happened our guides for the homes were hit-and-miss.

Will we return? Perhaps. I would like to tour McLeod Plantation (on a tour, I know); Edisto Island; Boone Hall; and eat so much more of the delicious Low Country cuisine. Of course we would stay on Folly Beach again. But touring Charleston proper would not be on our itinerary.

Thank you for reading.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Gretchen View Post
Yes, I'd be interested in only "liking" Charleston, although comparing the beach to the city is really apples and oranges in a way on a short stay. I have always felt that Charleston might be our most European-like city being so walkable, historic and great food!
Our kids went to Folly in November and your bungalow could have been theirs--they did LOVE it.
"Their $22 Oregon wine (that I have purchased in Knoxville for $15), not so incredible, however." That's a pretty modest markup in the restaurant business anywhere!! LOL and just an FYI.

Although our DSIL (an owner in 3 restaurants in Charlotte) does not ask for a credit card etc. it isn't uncommon for high end places in big tourist areas with lots of choices and people who make 3 reservations for dinner and decide at 5 o'clock where they will go.. You weren't denied a wonderful meal by not partaking of their requirement which is a testament to the level of cuisine! ;o)

I had recommended the Ellis Creek resto to our kids when there also, thanks to the rec. They didn't get there but there's always another time.

Gretchen, perhaps we have not (re)adjusted to America yet. Or perhaps we never will. We just don't align with placing a deposit for our dinner reservation. Ellis Creek was totally delish, though, with no reservations necessary.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel_Williams View Post
Staying tuned for more. Curious to see what made Charleston only a like for you while Folly Beach on the other hand was a love. I’m happy that you had some terrific meals—those mouthwatering dishes alone make me want to go back to the Low Country.

Daniel, the food was everything we imagined. Folly Beach's restaurants just offered more of the laid-back atmosphere (and incredible seafood) that we were seeking. Naturally, our opinions might vary during high season, but in late December we all loved the beach scene.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by fourfortravel View Post
Gretchen, perhaps we have not (re)adjusted to America yet. Or perhaps we never will. We just don't align with placing a deposit for our dinner reservation. Ellis Creek was totally delish, though, with no reservations necessary.
I think that may be the case. The US doesn't seem to match your expectations.

The cc deposit is not unusual in high demand areas, but there are certainly enough restaurants to choose from that do not require reservations at all.

Savannah is often mentioned as an alternative and/or in addition to Charleston, but there's no guarantee that you will like it better. Most find it more casual/ less stuffy than Charleston, but it is a matter of personal preference. There is a college there as well so the same may be true of student discounts.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 03:45 PM
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"I think that may be the case. The US doesn't seem to match your expectations.

The cc deposit is not unusual in high demand areas, but there are certainly enough restaurants to choose from that do not require reservations at all."


Perhaps this is about expectations. If so, we won't play. Today DH and I dropped into a roadside diner following an outing into the Smokies and figuratively slobbered over our lunch of Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Yes, Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Light and crispy, with delicate Fried Tomatoes on the side. No reservation necessary. No deposit required. Just exceptional food, though the Unsweetened Tea was a little lacking.

Last edited by fourfortravel; Jan 4th, 2020 at 03:47 PM.
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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by fourfortravel View Post
...and figuratively slobbered over our lunch of Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Yes, Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Light and crispy, with delicate Fried Tomatoes on the side. No reservation necessary. No deposit required. Just exceptional food, though the Unsweetened Tea was a little lacking.
"Slobbered"? Ugh.

Yes, as mentioned before, the vast majority of restaurants don't require a reservation, much less a deposit. You can easily skip any restaurant that has a policy you don't agree with, even in Charleston.

Try the sweet tea next time. It's usually better. Definitely more "southern". If it's too sweet, ask for half and half.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 05:04 AM
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"No reservation necessary. No deposit required. Just exceptional food, though the Unsweetened Tea was a little lacking." Oh, c'mon. Really? Reservations/CC? And as to the tea, don't be surprised if you go to a fish camp and they don't even serve unsweetened tea!! It's a southern thang. LOL

When next you go, if you do, go up on Route 17 in Mt. Pleasant and shop at the sweetgrass basket vendors along the roadside. I personally do not step foot in the Market for anything. No guarantee that it will be cheaper--or what you want. The baskets are now a national treasure craft. I have several and one that was my mother's sewing basket that is now at least 90 years old. What you experienced in the Market house isn't unusual--I suspect it could even happen in some European market. My mantra when shopping markets anywhere is--if you see it at a price you want get it then.

The history of the Charleston houses is interesting. We are fortunate to have much of Charleston "intact" because it was headed for urban renewal about 40 years ago. The mayor at the time, Richard Riley, literally saved Charleston's historicity and kept historic homes from being destroyed.
I hope you'll go back when the gardens are in bloom and particularly Middleton.
And the beaches on up the coast from Charleston are beautiful. We have a place at Litchfield. Georgetown is a Revolutionary War era town that is just charming.

I am always mildly amused when travel board people criticize "tourists" for their clogging the aisles manners when as Pogo says, "we have met the enemy and it is us". We are ALL tourists when visiting!! ;o)

Last edited by Gretchen; Jan 5th, 2020 at 05:08 AM.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 06:03 AM
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""Slobbered"? Ugh." A bit harsh, starrs. Are you a fried bologna sandwich snob? I ordered it hoping that it would be a reasonable facsimile to a Leberkäse Semmel, which I happened to enjoy once in awhile. And it was. But Sweet Tea? No can do. "Southern Thing" or not, I just don't like it.

"We are ALL tourists when visiting!! " I mostly agree, Gretchen, but that doesn't condone rude behavior. Some tourists were taking time to talk to the basket weavers; others were simply taking not-so-discreet prohibited photos. And the tourists who glommed onto the front doorways of private homes bugged me, too. Discretion is the better part of valor, or something like that.

I forgot to add Middleton Place to the list of places to which I'd like to return. In the Magnolia Plantation gift shop I was admiring reproductions of some of the MP art, but there was nothing unframed that I wanted, and the framed pieces were not complimentary to our decor style. Perhaps there might be more choices at Middleton Place proper.

More Southern sampling is ahead, as DD is still home from university for two weeks. Chattanooga, perhaps; Asheville, maybe. Huntsville, if the weather cooperates. North Corbin and the original KFC, most likely. The Western Art Museum in Cartersville, GA looks like fun, too. But no Sweet Tea.

Last edited by fourfortravel; Jan 5th, 2020 at 06:05 AM.
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 08:15 AM
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Thanks fourtotravel for an interesting trip report!

I’m glad you enjoyed the Aiken-Rhett House and that your group got to experience Fort Sumter and appreciated it even minus the dolphins. I even enjoyed the boat ride, appreciating Charleston from the vantage point of the water. Glad the rain only arrived late.

Know that there was no judgment on my part that you only liked Charleston. I don’t even know whether I would use the word love or like for Charleston, although I did love the architecture, vegetation and food and had a delightful, memorable trip. From your description, it sounds a bit more crowded than when I went *gasp* 8 years ago. I find differing opinions on places sometimes fascinating; my brother & cousin, who I love dearly and with whom I tend to agree on so much, they both absolutely hated New Orleans, yet for me, it’s one of my favourite US cities!
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 05:28 AM
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Since Asheville might be on your radar--and it IS worth a visit for sure--here is a bit of Americana that you won't get a lot of places. Appalachian cuisine.
Benne looks terrific also.
The Southern Highlands Craft Guild shop is just outside of town.

https://www.exploreasheville.com/art...st/summer2019/

And this was in the Sunday Times which I am considering a road trip to. Not far from Knoxville or Asheville

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/03/a...gtype=Homepage

Last edited by Gretchen; Jan 6th, 2020 at 05:32 AM.
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 06:33 AM
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Thanks for the TR and to other posters for their comments. My husband's brother and his wife just moved to the Charleston area and we are hoping to visit them this spring.

By the way, be warned that the tickets for the Biltmore estate in Asheville are very expensive, truly in the "exorbitant" range IMO.
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 07:07 AM
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The Booth Museum in Cartersville is lovely -
https://boothmuseum.org/exhibitions/
As the Tellus Science museum is fun -
https://tellusmuseum.org/our-events/...xoC4Z8QAvD_BwE

The tour of the Biltmore house IS expensive. You can get discounted tickets via AAA before you go from the offices, but not AAA discounts at the house. The Downton Abbey exhibit is there through the spring, and the spring garden is gorgeous.
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 07:38 AM
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"Know that there was no judgment on my part that you only liked Charleston." No judgment perceived, Daniel. The "children" hopped over to New Orleans for a couple of days last week (the GF had a conference and so DD and DS went along to explore). The out-briefing is that a fantastic (and culinarily spectacular) time was had by all.

Gretchen, I ran across something about the School of Luthiery in my research for these next two weeks and mentioned it to DD, who plays violin. We're looking at the weather and how to add this in with the North Corbin (KFC) visit.

starrs, we're keen on trying to make the Booth Museum work; the weather might be a factor. If not now, then certainly in the spring when DD is home again as part of a longer trip to include Birmingham. Asheville (and Biltmore) are out for this trip. We decided to go in better weather, and when DH can join. So Asheville has been bumped to spring, as well.

Tomorrow morning we depart for an overnight in Huntsville! The Marshall Space Center is top on our budding astrophysicist's list. On the Wednesday return we're planning a drop in to the Unclaimed Baggage Center. That should be fun!
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Old Jan 6th, 2020, 08:46 AM
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If you are going through Chattanooga on your drive, I highly recommend the Chanticleer Inn on Lookout Mountain -
https://stayatchanticleer.com/?gclid...xoCytUQAvD_BwE

You can drive the "back side" of "the mountain" (Lookout) towards Alabama. Cloudland Canyon SP is a nice stop. You can continue on to Huntsville, with Scottsboro on the way.

Drive time = just a few minutes over 2 hours. Pretty countryside.

Last edited by starrs; Jan 6th, 2020 at 08:50 AM.
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Old Jan 8th, 2020, 12:48 PM
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starrs, thank you. Chatanooga will have to wait until the spring, too. DD heads to D.C. early next week to visit her brother and friends for a few days before flying across the pond.

We turned the Huntsville overnight into a last minute day trip (as in, canceled the hotel with 8 minutes to spare before losing the fee). Four hours were spent at the Space Center, and afterward we were not as wowed by Huntsville's downtown, it being rather sleepy on a weekday afternoon, so we hurriedly canceled the hotel reservation and motored home. The Space Center was everything DD imagined, and I loved it as well.

She and I even found time on the inbound for a visit to the Unclaimed Baggage Center, having left Knoxville early and benefitting from the time difference. DD picked up a Patagonia windbreaker at an extraordinary price. Fun!
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Old Jan 9th, 2020, 06:06 AM
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Thanks for the report - took me a while to find it. Sorry you weren't wowed by Charleston (but it's been many years since I was there). It is America, not Europe, although if the problem was too many tourists, the last time I was in Vienna I could not believe how many tourists were there, at least inside the Ringstrasse. I was nearly trampled in the Stephansdom.

I don't get the angst over a restaurant wanting a credit card with your reservation. It's my understanding that it is a direct result of a significant increase in the number of people making reservations and then neither keeping nor canceling them. Seems a reasonable reaction to me. You're not making a deposit, you're providing a guarantee that either you will show up, or the restaurant won't take a loss on the booking. Do you also object to hotels wanting your credit card when you check in, even though you have paid for accommodation, in case you charge something during your stay?
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