gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: travel

Charleston, SC

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On our recent trip to Savannah, GA, we also went to Charleston, SC for a couple days. Initially I was equally excited to see both Charleston and Savannah, but I loved Savannah so much that I was sad to leave it to go to Charleston. So I think that alone clouded my impression of Charleston a bit because I compared it to Savannah rather than approaching it with an open mind.The first thing we did there was walk down King Street, which was perhaps not the best introduction because it felt very commercial and touristy. Our hotel was also not in the best location and it was a bit of a hike to the older more historic part of the city.

Drayton Hall

On our way into Charleston we stopped at Drayton Hall located along the Ashley River. We had an excellent tour guide who was well-versed in researched plantation history, and it was interesting to see it more of a raw shape than other houses we visited on our trip, which have been more heavily restored. The goal at Drayton Hall is geared towards preservation rather than restoration; that is, preserving it the way it was found, not restoring it to a certain historical time period. The grounds at Drayton Hall are beautiful and littered with big old oak trees, one of my favorite things about the south. We walked down to the river and tried to imagine what it was for the Draytons to take in that view everyday when they lived there in the 1700’s. Oddly enough there is an armadillo problem there and they had traps set out around the house. I have never seen an armadillo and I certainly wasn’t eager to see one in the wild while we were there! Apparently they try to burrow into the house at night. We wanted to go to Magnolia Plantation, which is nearby, but didn’t have enough time.

Calhoun Mansion 

In Charleston we saw several house museums, as we did in Savannah. First up was Calhoun Mansion, which is featured in the movie adaption of Nicholas Sparks‘s The Notebook. It serves as Allie’s parents’ home. It is now a private residence after having been condemned and heavily restored, and it’s filled with exotic antiques from all over the world. The owner of the house lives on the top floor and can apparently be seen walking around town with his two whippets (I think?). Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and poised, and after the tour we found out that she’s a only college student! Very impressive.

Walking around all the narrow streets lined with gorgeous houses in the historic district along Battery Park was everything I pictured Charleston to be. And seeing them decorated for the holidays was magical. My mom and I definitely got some inspiration for decorating our house for Christmas since my parents live in an older Georgian style home. Along our walks we saw a flock of guinea fowl waltzing down someone’s driveway (beautiful birds by the way), a couple in a horse-drawn carriage who had just gotten engaged, and beautiful historic house after historic house. We did go past Rainbow Row, but it was different than I had pictured it. It’s a somewhat congested area, and obviously very touristy, but for some reason I thought it was closer to the water.

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View from Battery Park 

Rainbow Row

Nathaniel Russell House

We also toured the Nathaniel Russell House, which was perhaps my favorite, the Aiken-Rhett House, and the Edmondston-Alston House (another favorite). The Nathaniel Russell House has a beautiful staircase and music room, and once again, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable. She spoke in depth about the restoration of the master bedroom, down to the colors, drapery, and bedding. The Aiken-Rhett House is a self-guided tour, which was informative and it was kind of nice to go through the house at your own pace, but I prefer having a tour guide who can interject little anecdotes here and there. This one really highlights the slave quarters, which was definitely hard to swallow. It is also preserved rather than restored, so it felt a bit like walking through a ruin, which was a cool experience. The Edmondston-Alston House is right on the water and has a beautiful  multi-level side porch, which is a very common architectural feature in Charleston. Our tour guide at this one was a very sweet woman who is a transplant to Charleston from the northeast. Not a bad way to spend your retirement…

Aiken-Rhett House

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Edmondston-Alston House

Finding a place to eat dinner that wasn’t $50 for an entree and a two hour wait was a challenge. Apparently the holidays are one of the busiest times for Charleston in terms of tourism, and places were expensive and booked. We did have the best meal of the whole trip in Charleston though, at a place called Tradd’s on Bay Street. It offers a modern American cuisine and I had an amazing gnocchi dish with lobster as my entree. We also got a liver pate to start with and ended with some kind of interesting fruity pastry dessert. The atmosphere felt southern and bougie and I loved it.

Tradd’s

Of course we walked through the City Market in search of sweetgrass baskets, a tradition that has been passed down through generations. There are so many artisans selling their sweetgrass creations and they’re all very sweet. You get to watch them as they weave the baskets, and it’s hard to choose who to buy from! My parents bought a basket and I bought a floral cross (I am not religious but it was so cute I couldn’t resist). It’s also signed by the artisan. There were kids selling sweetgrass flowers on the street, and we bought some of those. Sweet sweet kids. One thing that struck me about Charleston was how foggy it was! It was dramatic at night and we saw several ghost tours around the city around 10 PM one night.

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City Market

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We also spent a morning in Beaufort, SC, which is a super cute little historic town. The waterfront area downtown has a nice walkway with oyster shells embedded in the sidewalk! I was so taken aback because it was the first time I had seen something like that. There are also oyster shells stacked up against the seawall, which was a cool sight. There are some restaurants and cafes along this walkway as well. We ate lunch outside in January! Definitely a first for me…We walked around a neighborhood that had a lot of cute bungalows and we walked through a church cemetery where a mass had just gotten out. It was nice to see locals leaving church. It seems like a tight-knit community. We also walked through a military cemetery that had beautiful uniform grey tombstones with crosses and they were each decked with a wreath for the holidays.

Beaufort 

After Beaufort we went to Hilton Head, SC and we drove for what felt like forever to get to the coast to see the ocean. I pictured Hilton Head as a small quaint island, but it’s actually very suburban and exclusive with gated communities. We definitely weren’t crazy about it, but it was worth the drive once we got to see the ocean. It is spectacular! And it just goes on as far as you can see. Standing on a beach looking out onto the ocean in January was also a first for me…and something I would definitely like to repeat.

Hilton Head 

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Savannah, GA

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I went to Savannah, GA on a family trip for the holidays this year and I absolutely loved it. I’m really beginning to like the south, at least what I’ve seen of it. It seems that every time I go there I like it more and more. Savannah felt historic and charming, and touristy, but not too touristy. The beautiful squares are quiet retreats amid the touristy spots. The weather in late December/early January was amazing, but I think it was unseasonably warm. It was 70s during the day and 50s-60s at night. I will say it was definitely humid and my hair was big the entire time we were there. It never adjusted. It was 77 degrees in Savannah on the day we left and 27 degrees when we landed in Chicago, which felt absolutely devastating. Seeing the planes get de-iced at O’Hare was not the sight I wanted to come home to after a lovely warm vacation.

We did a lot of house museums while we were there, eight in six days! Not all in Savannah, also some in Charleston, SC. My family loves our art and history. I love hearing about the families who built these mansions and the lives they lived in them, not to mention just getting to look at the stunning architecture. Hearing about the slave history was definitely tough though. We did, of course, go to the Mercer Williams House, the setting of John Berendt‘s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and we stood in the dining room where the murder took place.

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Mercer Williams House 

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Statue represented on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, now at the Telfair Academy 

We also went to Owens-Thomas House, Andrew Low House, Telfair Academy, and the Jepson Center. The Jepson Center, designed by Moshe Safdie, is a beautifully light and airy space, inspiring for looking at art. They had a very nice exhibition on Monet to Matisse and an interesting exhibition on Savannah artist Bertha Husband.

Jepson Center

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Andrew Low House 

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Owens-Thomas House

Telfair Academy 

River Street feels a bit touristy, but there are definitely good restaurants to be found there, like Huey’s and Olympia Cafe. We heard Vic’s on the River is supposed to be really good, but we couldn’t get it. And we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Boar’s Head.

Cathedral of John the Baptist 

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City Market 

The city market is a cute area if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink and sit outside and just enjoy your surroundings. SCAD‘s presence around town is sprinkled all over, and they have a cool shop where they sell things made by their students. You can find great gifts there or a souvenir for yourself to remember your trip!

The squares were my favorite part of Savannah. I can just picture walking my dog through the squares if I lived there, and reading a book on a bench while taking in the warmth and greenery. It was amazing to see so much greenery and even flowers in December/January!

Walking down Oglethorpe Avenue I felt like I was in New Orleans. The big old oak trees create a canopy over the street, as they do over the squares too, and the architecture lining the street is just magnificent. The median in the middle makes it feel like the most important street in town. The sense of history and southern pride is definitely well-preserved and you can feel it all around you. The architecture is a mix of Federalist, Italianate, and Neoclassical.

Paris Can Wait

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Can Paris wait? I think most of us would agree it cannot. This consensus that I’m assuming is shared among those in the plot of the new movie starring Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait. Reminiscent of another travelogue starring Lane, the popular Under the Tuscan Sun, this genre really seems to suite her well. She is a classic beauty and there is a carefree, sexy ease about her that makes her the perfect travel companion, even if only through a screen. You hardly see any shots of Paris but at the very end because the movie traces the fragmented journey to Paris, but the places they stop along the way are points of interest in their own right. Lane’s trip to Paris is not with her husband, as one might imagine, but with her husband’s business partner who happens to be a Frenchman, played by Arnaud Viard. Need I say more about the fact that he’s a Frenchman and all the stereotypes that go along with that…he is charming, flirtatious, spontaneous, a womanizer, and let’s just admit, a little selfish. Despite all this, there is a genuine connection between him and Lane, which makes her feel appreciated and desired in a way that she hasn’t felt by her husband in a long time. Classic…

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The movie is full of scenes of delectable food and artistic shots of whatever Lane sees that she’d like to capture with her old school digital camera. She certainly does have an eye for composition of the unique things she comes across on her trip. There are sad moments as you learn more about Lane’s life, and there are funny moments as she saves the day when their car breaks down on the way to Paris. What I particularly liked was her relationship with her daughter (who we never actually see) because it reminds me of my relationship with my parents – we share the same name, we are both only children, and we are both very close to our parents.

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The movie definitely accomplishes evoking travel envy, as I left wanting to take a similar trip, even full of all the obstacles. I also love Lane’s summery linen outfit (seen in all three of these pictures), as well as her seductive evening dresses. Usually Paris can’t wait, but I suppose it can if it means going on a spontaneous adventure like this one.

Arthur Frommer on the healing power of traveling to Europe

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As often happens in my household, old papers, magazines, and brochures pop up because my mom is constantly going through things in an effort to downsize. I recently came across a travel magazine entitled “Planning Your Trip: Europe ’95.” That’s right, it’s from 1995. In it is an article by travel expert Arthur Frommer on his love for traveling to Europe because of its restorative power. I strongly identify with what he has to say, as I also find traveling to Europe rejuvenating, and just a few lines will give you a sense of why:

Some people take pills to restore their energy. I go to Europe. Some people go out dancing to lift their spirits; I go to Europe. To me, a week or so in the Old World is a restorative more powerful than any regiment of diet, medicine or exercise ever devised. It does me good to turn my back for a time on familiar scenes, and head for the gentler, slower, more traditional life of Europe. 

He goes on to talk about the old world charm, which more than simply being an endearing quality of Europe, actually truly connects us with history in a way that we cannot experience in the U.S. because of its young age compared to Europe – “This communing with the past – so much a part of the European travel experience – provides solace, and a sense of human connection and continuity that awes me.”

Featuring a picture of Café de Flore in Paris, one is reminded of the slowness of life in Europe and the afternoons spent at the café with an impeccable espresso or cappuccino and good conversation.

 

“Picture, if you will, Spain”

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To be a traveler  in the 21st century is to sometimes feel a sense of loss even before one leaves the house: The planet has been mapped with such an oppressive exactitude that it can often seem as if we’re living at a time when everything is knowable.

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This quote from a piece in the November issue of The New York Times Style Magazine struck me for its accuracy, but also its sadness. Social media, especially the rise of Instagram, allows people to snap and post pictures like it’s their job (myself included, I must say). While this gives individuals a great amount of creative freedom and allows their viewers to share in their experiences and see things they might not otherwise be able to see, it also robs people of having unique experiences of their own because they’ve already seen these amazing things and shared in your experience before having their own.

Autumn in the Berkshires

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I truly believe that Autumn in the Berkshires is the most beautiful time of the year anywhere in the world. The Berkshires hold a special place in my heart after living there for only one year, which was far too short a time. Pictures definitely don’t capture its beauty, but here are just a few to make your heart melt (or at least they make mine melt)!

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Berkshire seasons

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The Berkshires take on different auras throughout the seasons. Autumn is arguably the most spectacular season and people travel to Berkshires just to see the fall foliage, but all of the seasons are endearing in their own way. These are pictures of the four seasons in all their glory.

Autumn

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Winter

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Spring

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Summer

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“My Roman Intimacies”

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I just read a really genuine, authentic, intimate account by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison about her trip to Rome, and having traveled there recently myself, it was a delightful read that brought me back to my own trip. I thought I’d share some excerpts from it to give you some insight on what it’s like to fully experience Rome.

 

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“Rome cannot be learned by rote. It is absorbed through the pores.”

Everybody watches everybody else and calls this minding their own business.

Perhaps you do not think these matters are worthy of discussion. But to enter into Roman life, you must do two things, one of which is to take coffee seriously (or take seriously the Romans’ love of coffee, which they regard as both invigorating and relaxing, and their desire to discourse thereupon). The other is to not exclude the Baroque from your affections – do not, that is, remain overly attached to simplicity. 

“…if you enter a courtyard in Rome, you are treated as if you have done something clever; trespassing is invariably rewarded.”

A city that anticipates all one’s needs and fulfills some needs one didn’t know one had.

“…ecclesiastical garments and undergarments are sold together with babies’ booties and women’s filmy lingerie. Perhaps this has a metaphysical meaning that I cannot grasp.”

My body, as is so often the case in Rome, has understood something before my mind has.

I dream incessantly, intensely, fruitfully when I am in Rome. My unconscious mind replicates the topography of the Eternal City. It caresses anomalies: it reaches an intuitive understanding of the past (my past), only to see more levels, deeper levels, hidden pasts, leering like a satyr smiling like a becalmed saint; it meanders sinuously among artifacts lost and found, unknown but known; it plays hide and seek; it travels many ways to arrive at the same place.

“There is no color in the world that is not represented here, no texture, no flesh.”

It occurs to me that Romans are taught to see things from all sides, and not entirely to trust the face of things. 

Everybody I know in Rome wants to live on Via Giulia. I do too.

“You may never have this kind of Roman holiday…But if you are radically and transparently open to experience, you will stumble on something equally wonderful. One always does. Rome is generous.”

…that a child’s mind might have conceived but that only a genius could have executed.

It is marvelous to climb lower and lower into the ancient world. 

There are times, in my love affair with Rome, when I wish to be nothing but passive. Rome will always be there – that is my hope and conviction. There is no need to rush here and there. It is enough to know that delight is all around me. When I feel this way, I spend the better part of my day sitting in a cafe facing the Pantheon, eating ices and contemplating the changing scene. Perhaps that, after all, is why I love Rome. In a city suffused in history and teeming with the most operatic people on earth, it is possible to be absolutely still.

Pictures from the Eternal City

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I thought I’d share some more pictures from my recent trip to Rome!

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La Dolce Vita

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Chronicles of our trip to Rome, which was really special because it was the first time that we went as a family in 13 years. Considering I was born there and grew up there for the first eight years of my life, it was a momentous trip for us.

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Driving into the city from the airport, you slowly get farther away from the countryside – little pastures with sheep along the highway (not very romantic or charming as I imagine Ireland to be, but still cute!) – and slowly get closer to the center of Rome. Of course, it depends where into the city you’re going, but we were going to our hotel, Santa Chiara, which is very close to the Pantheon. As we drove to the hotel, we went by important monuments, like the Palatine Hill (the ancient palace of Domitian), Circus Maximus (the stadium for chariot races that held about 150,000 people), and the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Piazza Venezia. Upon our arrival to the hotel, we were greeted by the sweetest doorman who embodied Italian hospitality and kindness (my mom actually cried saying goodbye to him when we left). He proceeded to tell us the story behind the statue in the lobby, full of pride for his beautiful, ancient city.

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We spent a lot of our time in Rome simply walking around from place to place, which is really the best way to experience the city because it’s how you encounter Roman life. Rome is…pockets of life everywhere you look – a different perspective from every angle and Italians talking, laughing, bickering everywhere. Italians really know how to enjoy life in a way that Americans simply don’t. The importance that is placed on taking time out of your day to get a coffee (usually with a friend or colleague and rarely by yourself), working at a more leisurely pace, taking a siesta in the afternoon, stopping in the middle of the street to have a conversation, etc. It’s things like this that remind me how communal and laid back Italians are. Rome is not without its hectic moments with the traffic and the chaos, I’ll admit that, but Italians have a relaxed, take in the moment, take in life attitude that I love so much.

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 It’s been surreal for me, walking around Rome, knowing that this used to be my life. Just the usual, everyday routine – going to school, going to ballet lessons, going to a friend’s house, enjoying a delicious meal in a beautiful piazza, and simply living in the center of Rome. It’s hard to believe that I had such a glorious childhood, and I only wish that it was still my life.

Italians appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake. This is something that not every culture in the world does, especially not the U.S. The buildings, the monuments, the streets…everything screams beauty (to me anyway) and there is no escaping it. It begs you to appreciate it, if not for any purpose, simply for its aesthetic quality. I think this, in itself, is a beautiful thing and I think everyone would be much happier if they sought to see the beauty in things.

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Italians have an elegance about them, that again, Americans simply don’t. From their clothing, to their shoes (perhaps the best indicator of elegance), to the presentation in restaurants (waiters meticulously preparing fish in front of you at the table), to the apartments, the storefronts, the cafes, etc. Elegance and beauty are intertwined and inherently part of every Italian (I think). Italians are also very cultured, which comes naturally when you live in a place like Rome. You are so inspired by your surroundings that you can’t help but be interested in great literature, music, and art. Not only are you surrounded by it physically in Rome, but you also encounter it personally in those around you.

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For us, the trip was like returning home. Although it’s been such a long time since we had been back together, going to our favorite restaurant for lunch as soon as we got there felt as natural as it did when we lived there. The waiters remembered us and made our favorite dish, even though it’s no longer on the menu. Walking to my old school on the same route that I did when I was little felt just like I was actually going to school. Walking past our old apartment, however, felt a bit far removed because the street has changed so much since we lived there. Meeting old friends also felt a bit strange because it’s hard to know what to talk about when it’s been 13 years since you have seen someone – not to mention the language barrier, which as much as I wish that it wasn’t present, it was for me. But overall, being back in Rome, back home, felt very comfortable and natural, just like home ought to feel.

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Home sweet Rome