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Hello friends, as we face down a new work week, I am still thinking about this past weekend. As a belated Mother’s Day gift, my mom and I made an overnight trip down to Ybor City to visit with my Aunt and Uncle and stopped at Weeki Wachee Springs on the way back to meet the mermaids.
I was able to get Friday off from work, so we woke up a little later than normal, loaded the car, and then hit the road. In honor of meeting the mermaids, we made Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes and decorated them with shimmery white chocolate mermaid tales to bring to my Aunt and Uncle. We arrived around 2pm, spent some time playing with my fur-cousin Rosie, and then had an early dinner at the historic Columbia Restaurant. I’ve been to their St. Augustine location before, but the one in Ybor is the original and I’d never managed to go even though I grew up only an hour away. After a bit of shopping, we checked into our AirBnB tiny house, which is my favorite tiny house I’ve stayed in to date, and called it an evening. The next morning we were up bright an early to grab breakfast at the Tropicana – my mom always has to have Cuban toast, a deviled crab, and a cafe con leche from them every time she is in town – and hit the Saturday Market right across the street.
We were lucky enough to see plenty of the famous Ybor Chickens; they are protected by the city, and this time of year there are plenty of little chicks to be seen foraging with their parents and running around in the bushes. The roosters are very keen to make their presence known; they strut around crowing to make sure nobody forgets who these spaces really belong to. This guy was following me around the market. I think he liked my hair. On our way out of town, we stopped at La Segunda Central Bakery to stock up on loaves of Cuban bread and pastries for the road. You guys know while I love baked goods, I can be a bit of a snob, but everything I have ever tried from these guys has been incredible. My only complaint is that they’re so far away from Tallahassee. If you’re ever in Ybor, do yourself a favor and put this place on your list of things to see.
After seeing the mermaids (more on that later) and having one last meal with my Aunt and Uncle, we headed back to Tallahassee and spent Sunday running errands and trying to rest up a bit. A fantastic weekend, and it was over far too soon. I am already trying to get Andy to agree to a longer trip later on this year. Maybe in the late fall when things have cooled down a bit. I managed to make it through our adventure without a sunburn, but Florida has only started to get into her summer swing.
Driving around a city you’ve never visited before can be a little daunting; throw in an out of date GPS map and an epic crap-ton of construction, and you have the makings for a truly frustrating adventure. Our journey to track down Gnome Cafe was probably the worst part of our time in Charleston. Finally, we broke down and called the cafe, and the owner, who is such a sweet person, helped us make sense of all of the detours and construction and guided us safely to their parking lot.
I felt so optimistic just standing outside of this place. Everything was clean and crisp, inviting, and a touch whimsical. I knew it was going to make all of the driving drama worth it. Something you have to understand about people with dietary restrictions is that we don’t often have more than two or three options to choose from when dining out. So when you find a place that has a menu where you can eat anything you want, your brain short circuits a bit. This was the glorious situation we found ourselves in at The Gnome.
Everything on the menu was vegan, and let me tell you it felt down right decadent to leisurely peruse and decide how we wanted to start our day. On our way to the table, we were distracted by the baked goods. After a very short discussion, we decided that we would in fact be getting dessert to go and quickly purchased a Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oreo Cookie and a piece of their Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake. *Spoiler Alert* They were AMAZING!!!! While sipping my London Fog (Earl Grey Latte with Almond Milk), I took mental stock of the decor, loving the contrasting black and white theme that continued inside the restaurant and appreciating how they softened what could have been a very cold color combo with tons of green plants and bowls of fresh produce. When our food arrived… man, it was so difficult to remember that we needed to take picutres before diving in. We both went for an Everything Bagel Sandwich with scrambled tofu, shitake bacon, and the most delicious melty vegan cheese I have ever encountered. The potato hash was awesome, cheddar grits were some of the best I’ve ever had. We cleaned our plates and thanked God that we’d had the foresight to wear yoga pants. I didn’t want to over do it with the pictures, but we also went back the next morning just to try the Southern Grit Bowl and the house made Sausage Biscuit. Just as delicious as what we’d had the day before. The other thing I thought was cool was that the place wasn’t just full of vegans: the gentlemen behind us in line were discussing meat lover’s pizza, and the couple at the next table were talking about getting BarBQ later. It’s a true testament to the quality of the food. I would hit this place for breakfast every morning if I lived in Charleston.
After leaving Bottany Bay, we headed to the final destination on our Frienaversary trip, a place neither of us had visited before: Charleston, South Carolina.The excitement level going over this cable bridge was ridiculous. We crossed it twice because we were lost, and it was completely awesome both times. The first place we hit up Friday morning was the Charleston City Market. This place was recommended in every guide book, blog, and website I visited during our trip planning. To be completely honest, it was a bit of a let down. The idea was cool, but it was straight up tourist with very little local flair. When we were telling our Air BnB hostess about it later that day, she recommended going to the night market instead next time. She said that was when the local artisans sold more of their goods. After we finished up at the market, we walked around the surrounding area a bit, lots of kitschy little shops. Still pretty touristy, but a lot closer to the Charleston we’d wanted to see. Our Air BnB hostess was amazing; we had the best time hanging out with her and her adorable pups Mia & Loretta Lynn. This is going to sound really strange, but one of my favorite parts about her home was the outdoor shower. It was absolutely wonderful, and I really want one of my own now. Her backyard also had a cute seating area and a fire pit. There has already been some discussion about staying here again in cooler months so we can take advantage of the backyard. For our first ever pedicab ride, we hit the jackpot with our driver Lee. He was super sweet and very helpful when we told him that we only had a vague idea of where we needed to end up. He recommended some things for us to check out, and we were quite sad when we had to say goodbye. The evening found us wandering past the shops and bustle around King Street and into the majestic solitude of the Charleston College campus. Everything was pretty empty since it was summer, but it was lovely walking down the streets and marveling at the architecture. All too soon it was time for us to head back to Tallahassee. We had so much fun, but there were so many more things we wanted to do. Looks like we’ll just have to go back next year.
While the entire trip was an absolute blast, and we did plenty of fun things, what made the greatest impact on me was our trip to Botany Bay. Being a Florida girl born and bred, I have seen my fair share of beaches, enough so that the whole experience has become a bit marganalized for me. Powdery white sand -meh, gorgeous sand dune – cool, but I’ve seen them before. I’d seen pictures of Botany Bay featured on one of my favorite blogs Taking Steps Home, so I thought I knew what I was getting into, but I was completely blown away almost as soon as I stepped out of the car.
One of the things I thought was pretty cool, was that the beach was not near the parking lot. To get down to it, you had to hike half a mile through the salt marsh. Gorgeous, but it left you feeling very exposed, and there were tiny crabs(sea spiders) and oyster beds everywhere. Lots of things to see, but we both kept to the trail. The beach itself was hauntingly beautiful, which I am sure had something to do with the storm rolling in. Stefanie remarked that it looked like something from The Tempest. Since the entire area is a nature preserve, it is illegal to remove anything from the beach trail or historic locations along the drive. In respect of that, visitors have taken to placing the prettiest shells they find on the dead trees and driftwood that line the beach. I got a little overly emotional and went off on a tear about how wonderful it was that the trees were adorned with the shells since they could no longer grow leaves. That it gave them a way to bloom once more with permanence that foliage could not offer. Trust me, I know how it sounds; at least I refrained from actually hugging the poor trees.
In the spirit of continuing the tradition and in a way, leaving our mark we gathered shells and placed them on empty limbs as we walked along. Unfortunately, our visit was cut short by the aforementioned storm. It didn’t seem wise to walk along a beach, let alone through the marshes with the looming thunder and lightening. I will absolutely be going back to visit, and I can’t wait to show it to Andy.
As many of you know, I recently celebrated my 25th Frienaversary with my bestie Stefanie. To commemorate this momentous occasion, we decided to do something we have talked about doing for a while: having a girls only long weekend. Our route was pretty straight forward: Wednesday night and Thursday morning, we’d be in Savannah, GA, Thursday afternoon, we’d drive to Edisto Island and spend some time at the hauntingly beautiful Botany Bay, and Thursday night thru Saturday morning, we’d explore Charleston, SC. There were a lot of pictures taken, so to make things a little more manageable, I’ve divided the different parts of the trip into three separate posts, starting with Savannah, GA.
You can’t start a trip like this without a selfie, it would just be wrong. The first place we stayed was right across the street from the largest green space in the historic downtown, Forsyth Park. It turns out that our hosts also had a fluffy black cat named Perf, who instantly became our friend and hung out in our room for a while on Wednesday night. This wildly popular park has been featured in quite a few movies and is just as popular with the locals as it is with tourists. There are not only wonderful windy paths draped with the traditional wisps of silvery moss, there is an amphitheater, a cafe, monuments, a fountain, and a fragrant garden which is located at the heart of the park. The fountain is one of the most iconic images of Savannah; you’ll find it on all manner of merchandise and almost all travel brochures. In all the years I’ve been visiting, there has always been at least one couple getting their pictures professional taken in front of the swans and mermen. Thursday morning we spent a few hours wandering around the historic district, admiring the architecture, and walking along the river. Savannah has some of the best shopping, providing a mixture of local merchants, luxury goods, and more touristy merchandise that guarantees to have a little something for everyone. Before heading back to the car, we had a fancy water break at a cafe located in on of my favorite shops The Paris Market. They were one of the first places I ever had infused water, and the beautiful shop always has some cool quirky item that I never knew I needed. It was pretty much the perfect way to wrap up our stay in my favorite southern city.