Road Trip Records: Sweet Carolina | Travel

Charlene Peters

A sweeping assault of humidity in Florida made me pack up in sweat to resume my road trip from California to Boston. On my drive to the Carolinas, I passed nine rolling bands of thunderstorms and arrived, with white knuckles, at Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

My four-legged travel buddy and I were ready for a serious layover. Nothing seemed more relaxing than gazing out into the harbor watching the sailboats pass by while we sat in Adirondack chairs on the balcony of our room at The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina.

This luxury coastal getaway is a bridge away from downtown Charleston. Its 90 rooms are designed with a variety of nautical touches and are equipped with a ceiling fan, fireplace and balcony with a great view of the harbor.

The only reason I rip myself out of this room was to kindle my craving for a great grouper dinner at the Charleston Harbor Fish House Resort. The dining room showcased its stunning up-close view of the waterfront with its view of the USS Laffey (DD-724), the once sunken American destroyer in World War II nicknamed the “Ship That Won’t Die.” Next to this ship is Yorktown, an aircraft carrier built during World War II for the US Navy.

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On the quayside of the resort is the J. Seward Walker, Jr. Complex. Sailing Center, attached to the College of Charleston Sailing, where guests can sign up for lessons. Off-pier is a spa and secluded beach next to the Beach Club Tiki Bar, bocce ball court and life-size chess pieces for you to take on as the Queen’s Gambit. For guests who want to visit downtown Charleston, the pier is where one can stop the water taxi.

Next, I traveled to downtown Charleston to stay at one of the newer hotels in the area, the Bennett Hotel. I was ignorant of its former status as the Charleston County Library when I entered the 18th-century Romanesque rotunda. I stopped in my tracks to admire its hand-painted murals, the chandelier in all its looming Lowcountry luster, and its grand staircase that leads into the ballroom space upstairs.

After several gasps, a departing guest approached me and asked if I would check in. “You’re going to get treatment,” she said. She was right.

To the left of the lobby was the gilded entrance to the Camellia, a champagne bar intentionally designed to look like a jewelry box on the outside, and on the inside, a decadent Faberge egg. The bar was designed in honor of Mr. Bennett’s mother, Virginia, who frequented the Woolworths Ladies’ Table during the old days when a woman could not enter the bar. The name is a reference to Charleston’s famous camellia flower.

In my fully automated room, my first act was to grab the remote control to lower the privacy blinds and then fill the bathtub in the bathroom suite. After the bathroom and after examining my room, I found my first clue as to the condition of the hotel’s former library – books were laid out on shelves in covers to match the room’s color décor.

Refreshed and ready to explore more of this wonderful Charleston discovery, I headed to the bustling rooftop bar, Fiat Luxe, where a goblet of pink flowers paired well with a stunning sunset. Before booking dinner at Gabrielle, I stopped at Camellias for a champagne-inspired cocktail with a plate of charcuterie and felt like I had been transported into a fairy tale.

And this is where I discovered my next guide on the hotel’s previous state as a library. Within this neo-baroque design is a pale pink marble strip and redesigned tablet PCs of the library facade.

An hour later, I walked to the right of the hallway, singing music from a grand piano on autopilot. I entered the open concept space and took my seat at Gabrielle’s, happily devouring my crunchy duck.

Dessert will have to wait until my next visit, as the restaurant ran out of Camellia’s signature cake.

The next morning, I sat on the outside patio to enjoy an unforgettable layer of eggs Bennett, served with a view of the garden. It wasn’t easy getting out of this five star experience, but my road trip resumed.

A rainy station in Wilmington, North Carolina, limited my exploration of the Wilmington Riverwalk, its restaurants, and shops. Dinner plans, scheduled on the patio, were moved indoors for a pub-style dinner at the Marina Grill.

By the time I finished dinner, the rain had stopped long enough for me to take a short stroll for an after-dinner glass of Tempranillo at The Fortunate Glass wine bar.

Before leaving the next morning, I wandered around Old Wilmington Pier on the Cape Fear River, passed a replica of the Nao Santa Maria that Christopher Columbus had sailed in 1492, and noticed the North Carolina warship across the river. Monument-sized dedication plaques stopped me in my tracks while touring the Riverwalk; I was grateful to the military for maintaining peace, liberty, and liberty for all.

Breakfast at Carolina Beach gave me time to stop at Café Malama, where a thick slice of toast with delicious berries and cream took my taste buds to a whole new level.

A few steps away, the entrance to the Beach Boardwalk Boardwalk led me on carnival rides to a white-sand beach dotted with brightly colored beach umbrellas. I finally stopped in for a lunch of fried fish at Stoked Restaurant, then hit the road to Pennsylvania.

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