|Kiawah Island HGTV Dream Home 2013|
My husband and I have been planning to visit Charleston for quite a while now, and we were finally able to get away for the Valentine's/Presidents' Day weekend. We left on Valentine's Day and arrived at our hotel late that afternoon. My best friend and her son, who live in Tallahassee, joined us on this trip -- all of us have been enduring rather trying times lately and we all felt the need for a diverting getaway. I can tell you right now that Charleston is the perfect choice!
We had a lovely Valentine's Day dinner at the hotel restaurant, and because I made our reservations quite early we had the best table, with a view of the Charleston harbor lights. The next day the weather was beautiful, sunny and not too cool. We took the free hotel shuttle into historic downtown Charleston and the City Market, and the shopping began! The Market stretched on and on, extending many blocks, with vendors too numerous to mention. There were several selling handmade sweetgrass baskets, very pricey but extremely well made. Crafts of all sorts were available -- pottery, jewelry, wooden and metal creations, all types of art, soaps, spices, toys, clothing -- I can't even remember half of what was there!
My usual shopping strategy is to go in with one or two specific search goals in mind, so I don't get overwhelmed. My goals for the day were crustaceans and Dalmatians, since my husband studies decapods and I love Dalmatians. While Charleston may not be known for Dalmatians, crustaceans are another story. The number of crustacean-themed objects was mind-boggling! Needless to say, I was overwhelmed, and I will describe our finds in more detail in a later post. The Charleston economy received a significant boost that day thanks to our efforts!
We then stopped at a nearby local chain eatery called TBonz for lunch. Two of us had a hankering for she-crab soup, which is a local specialty, so we ordered that, and I had to have the flash-fried Brussels sprouts because I love those tiny cabbage relatives. Lunch was delicious. Then, staggering under the weight of our recent purchases, we made our way to the South Carolina Aquarium on the waterfront, where the kind lady at the information center allowed us to leave our burden behind so that we could enjoy the exhibits. Here is a view from outside of the aquarium:
That is the spectacular Ravenal Bridge in the background, and I just love the giant frog statue resting peaceably on the bench (later in the day my friend's son sat next to him). I will post pictures of our aquarium visit at a later date, but this is what we saw as we left:
This humongous cargo ship laden with vehicles was coming up the harbor to the unloading dock next to the aquarium. It was so large that I could not get the entire ship in the picture! We watched as the tiny tug boats pushed valiantly at the side of this monster to keep it from reaching shore too soon, but didn't have time to watch the cargo being unloaded so I can't tell you exactly what the ship was carrying.
Dinner that night was at Hank's Seafood Restaurant, which served the best seafood I have ever eaten in my life. I had the special, which was triggerfish with a light blood orange-basil sauce. We all agreed that it was the best dish of the ones we ordered, although it was a tough call, since all of the food was excellent. My husband declared his roasted salmon to be the best he has ever eaten, and he orders salmon a lot -- even I liked it, and I don't care for salmon! And my friend raved about her seared scallops. Also, two epiphanies occurred in the restaurant that night. My husband ordered a Bloody Mary, which I had never tasted before because I never thought I would like a tomato juice-based cocktail. After one sip of his, however, I was sold, at least on the version created by Hank's bartender! And my friend's son, who had never had mussels before, tasted them for the first time as our appetizer and discovered that mussels are his new favorite seafood. I highly recommend dinner at Hank's Seafood Restaurant to anyone planning a trip to Charleston -- you may just have an epiphany as well! Oh, and lest I forget, the teenage boy in our group insisted on ordering dessert. He had the chocolate croissant bread pudding. I am not a fan of intensely chocolate desserts (what can I say, I'm just abnormal that way), but the other three dedicated chocoholics were in cocoa heaven! Not that the adults got much -- just you try prying dessert away from a teenage boy.
The next morning, three of us set off to visit Middleton Place, one of several restored plantations in the area open to tourists. My friend and I did the house tour (unfortunately no pictures were allowed) after dropping her fishing fanatic son off to try his luck in the nearby Ashley River. The house tour was impressive -- full of history, interesting facts about life on the plantation, and especially information about the Middletons, a fascinating family active in politics as well as farming, and even the sciences. The plantation was burned down near the end of the Civil War, but the family rebuilt from a surviving structure and even managed to recover many of their possessions to refurnish the house. I even learned what to do with a silver epergne, should I ever have the opportunity to use one! Unfortunately the weather turned nasty and cold, and my friend's son called begging us to go pick him up before he froze to death. We managed to get a quick look at the animals in the stableyard (one of the Guinea hogs was close to farrowing, and there was some concern that the weather would be too cold for the piglets -- I hope they are okay) but had no time to take pictures. We did have lunch at the plantation restaurant and once again had a great meal -- I recommend the four vegetable platter, and two cups of their hot chocolate warmed our boy right up.
Then it was back to the hotel to drop off my friend's son so he could continue to recover from his chilly fishing expedition, and the two of us left for Kiawah Island and the HGTV Dream Home 2013 tour. By this time the wind was whipping up a frenzy (driving across some of those bridges on the way was rather exciting) and rain was threatening. Even so, the drive to the island was easy and pleasant, and would have been gorgeous in better weather. We checked in at the gate, found a parking space at Night Heron Park, and made our way to the shuttle with no wait at all, thank goodness, since the rain was starting in earnest now. The shuttle driver explained how the proceeds from the house tour would benefit the nonprofit organization Communities in Schools, which provides support to students in the Charleston area in an effort to prevent school dropouts. Kiawah Island itself is picture perfect, and so lush and green despite the fact that it was the middle of winter. A short drive brought us to Indigo Park and the Dream Home itself, and it is an almost storybook-like scene, even in the middle of a nasty rain squall. It was too wet to get decent outdoor photos, but here is the best I could do:
We were instructed to go up the stairs and put blue booties on over our shoes (many of us, yours truly included, unfortunately suffered "booty fail", but eventually we all managed!). Then we entered the foyer, and the bad weather was totally forgotten. I love the entry hall, with its giant sea fan artwork and cozy but more than adequate built-in seating:
|(Sorry -- not my best photographic efforts! The skies got very dark while it was raining and the light was not so good for a while, which meant less than ideal conditions for photography.)|
Continuing the bathroom theme, the next stop was the master bathroom. One of the guides told us that you could throw a party in the roomy walk-in shower and not feel cramped for space. This was true:
|The WC door is to the left of the shower. This door and the WC wall adjoining the shower are made of opaque glass, which gives a less obtrusive feel and maintains privacy.|
I like the small chest and artwork next to the shower as well:
The luxurious tub is quite large, with windows on two sides (but are those semi-peekaboo blinds?):
The double sink vanity is so practical and I love the coastal theme artwork on the wall:
There is convenient access to the deck from the master bedroom, but it was raining so hard while we were there that the outdoor furniture cushions were brought into the room to keep them dry:
This made the room a little cramped but did not detract from its cozy feel:
I wish I could have gotten a better picture of the Ethan Allen bed in this room, as it was one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the house.
Next up was the dining room:
This sweetgrass basket is huge and very well made. My husband, who is an avid collector of many things including baskets, would be happy to win the Dream Home for this basket alone!
On to the kitchen (which has another large, platter-style sweetgrass basket on the island):
The pantry and laundry room are located behind the kitchen:
|I just love these dogs!|
|This is my poor attempt to show you the texture of the cabinet doors in the laundry room.|
Here is a view from the pantry door across the dining room to the living area at the back of the house:
And here is a view of the lap pool from the kitchen. The weather had turned quite stormy -- the winds were whipping up the water in the pool and actually creating waves!
This is the pair of gates hanging above that soaring fireplace in the great room:
And here are shots of the various seating options in the great room:
This completed our tour of the first floor, so it was on to the second floor, passing by some of my favorite art on the way:
Work by the same artist at the top of the stairs:
Now here is an odd little detail I don't remember hearing about anywhere else. Above the loft entry there was this full-sized door, about 10 to 12 feet over our heads:
Nobody really seemed to know what it was, although the tour guide thought it might be access to an HVAC system or some other utility. The really unusual aspect was that there is no visible way to reach this door! A ladder of some sort is definitely needed, but we didn't see one upstairs so hopefully access to this space is rarely required, as one would have to carry a ladder up, probably from the basement level. Even then it would be very awkward trying to swing that door open and then attempting to enter while perched on a ladder. If anyone has information about this space please share, as it sure is a puzzler to me!
The bunk bed niche is perfect for children. My friend's son had just mentioned the day before that the family of one of his friends had a vacation home with a bunk room for children, which he called "awesome", so I'm sure this space would be a hit with any child:
I just knew there had to be gators somewhere in this house, and there they are on the bunk bed pillow and on the green dresser!
For a small dog or cat there is a cute palm tree pet bed (South Carolina is the Palmetto State, after all):
And for a petless family (hopefully only a temporary situation!) there is this little cutie:
And now we come to my favorite spot in the house -- the loft! This is surprising to me because blue is not one of my favorite colors. But there are so many seating options here (I am obsessed with comfortable niches for curling up with a good book), and the artwork in this space is my favorite:
Here are some shots of the twin suite bedroom:
And this is the adjacent bathroom:
Pay special attention to the window:
This window style is all through the house and it is unique. With the handle in the down position as shown, the window is locked. Turn the handle ninety degrees to the side, and the window opens casement-style (swings in from the side). Turn the handle all the way up and the window opens transom-style (swings in from the top). This last position is especially useful for letting warm air out, and the window is less likely to be jostled about when the wind is blowing. I wish our current house had these windows (or any energy-efficient window, for that matter!).
The final stop on the second floor is the guest suite. This was my favorite bedroom, and I can guarantee guests are not going to want to leave once they stay in this room (that's a good thing, right?):
And the guest bathroom:
We then made our way down to the basement level. Here I got to meet a fellow HGTV Dream Home blog follower, who was born and raised in Charleston and was one of the guides for the afternoon. We got to chat for a while and she told me a number of great anecdotes about growing up in Charleston. Unfortunately our shuttle bus pulled up all too soon and I was forced to cut our conversation short. I also did not get any photos, except for this:
Luckily my friend was able to get a few more. I've asked her to send me copies and I will post those as soon as she does. Of course the weather began clearing up as soon as we left -- my two outdoor photos were actually taken as we were leaving.
After our far-too-short tour of the Dream Home (I hope everyone entered the giveaway!) we returned to our hotel. All of us were ready for dinner. Unfortunately we had forgotten to make reservations at any of the downtown Charleston restaurants. It was a holiday weekend, and also the weekend of the 31st Annual Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE). This is a major event in the city and, according to our waiter at dinner the night before, signals the start of tourist season in Charleston, which runs pretty much nonstop until Thanksgiving. There was not a table to be had, and the waiting lists were long. Fortunately, there are a number of waterfront locales in the vicinity that are only a short drive away and were not crowded (although I am sure when beach weather arrives these areas are just as packed). We ended up in Folly Beach at the BLU Restaurant, and thanks to my friend's son's epiphany of the night before we once again ordered mussels as an appetizer. If possible these were even better! The teen boy ate about half of the large plate of mussels, but the rest of us got our fill as well. The tomato-based sauce with chorizo was so flavorful, and the grilled bread served with the dish was perfect for dipping. I even dunked some of the cooked kale garnish in the sauce, and it was heavenly. All of us loved our entrées, but for me the mussels were the absolute best part of the meal.
The next morning we packed up and prepared to return home, but not before stopping for brunch at the Hominy Grill which was recommended by my dear blogger friend. Once again we had an excellent meal (try the shrimp and grits, or the "big nasty biscuit" if you dare!). Then we all hit the road and headed home. We only got a little bit lost -- Charleston has a lot of one-way streets so you have to keep an eye on them! We did finally find our route and the rest of the drive home was easy. The only remarkable thing about that drive was the occasional car with several inches of snow on top. The weekend had turned incredibly cold and wet on Saturday, so there was snow in the Carolina mountains. Even though Sunday morning was sunny and beautiful (but cold!), anyone venturing down from the mountains onto the interstate still had that snow with them. It was obvious who had driven down from the higher elevations, since there was nary a flake along our interstate route.
Of course we only got to experience a fraction of Charleston's attractions. We are already planning a return trip. And I did mention that my friend lives in Tallahassee. She has relatives who live in the Jacksonville area, so we will most likely head on out there to visit the 2013 Smart Home in a few months! I feel so lucky to live in such close proximity to all of these lovely homes -- I am finally getting out and about to visit all sorts of places I have wanted to see for a while now. I hope that the next round of HGTV homes will be in your vicinity and that you will have the same opportunity!