A Visit to Hilton Head

{alicia}

To coincide with Throwback Thursday, let’s continue the tale of my Southern vacation. After a quick stay in Savannah, Thom and I drove 45 minutes to our next destination–some call it Hilton Head Island; I call it Ohio Jr.

Hilton Head Island Beach

Okay, fine. Ohio doesn’t look like this.

If you’ve never been to HHI, you might be unaware that it’s the official vacation spot of the Buckeye state. I’m not sure why, exactly. The only reason Thom and I went is because we were the only people in the entire state who had never been.

I mean, I’m not complaining. It was a lovely place with great weather, and we subsisted on a diet of iced coffee and Miami Vices by the pool. Life was grand.

Drinks at the Omni Hilton HeadWe stayed in an area called Palmetto Dunes which was chock-full of golf courses, hotels, the beach, and a handful of restaurants. I would highly recommend renting a bike (Hilton Head Outfitters had them for $10 an hour and so forth) and exploring the scenic nooks and crannies.

Hilton Head isn’t exactly offbeat. It’s chain restaurants and commercialism at its finest, so I was thrilled when I came across the wondrous, yet random, Palmetto Dunes General Store. We were here every single day. Sometimes, twice a day. I MISS IT.

Palmetto Dunes General Store

They had EVERYTHING. Soft-serve ice cream reminiscent of my childhood? Check. A deli with the most delicious fried chicken in the back? CHECK! A crazy candy section? YES. Fanta in the most batshit flavors like peach and pineapple? SO MUCH YES.

I wasn’t the only one in love with the General Store. People would congregate outside eating popsicles, ice cream, and that amazing fried chicken at all hours of the day. Pro tip: the fried chicken sells out fast, so call in advance for large orders or show up before peak lunchtime to get a combo (get the mac and cheese).

I wouldn’t consider HHI a “foodie” place, but there were definitely some gems that could make me eat my words. The Porch (located in the Beach House Resort at Coligny Beach), was one of the more interesting restaurants we visited. The food was great (I had the catch of the day and Thom had more fried chicken) and it had the best ambience. The restaurant was decked out in wood, vintage decor, and there was a lovely breeze coming in from the ocean. Plus, we could easily park at the resort, a HUGE perk. Parking at Coligny Plaza is a nightmare at dinnertime.

The Porch, Hilton Head IslandThom had a birthday during our stay, and he chose Alexander’s for the celebratory dinner. The minute they plonked down the basket of warm, chewy bread, I knew this was going to be a successful meal.

Bread at Alexander's

Have I mentioned that I like a good bargain? Well, I do. Here’s a secret about a lot of restaurants in Hilton Head–they have Early Bird Menus. Alexander’s, for example, has a pretty sweet deal for $15.99. This includes a soup or salad, entree, and includes a complimentary glass of iced tea or lemonade. You can also snag Vella Chardonnay, Blush or Merlot wine for $4 a glass. The catch? You must be dining between 5:00p-5:45p.

Alexander's Crab Cakes Hilton HeadWhat is a birthday without a sinful dessert? I’ll tell you: the worst birthday ever. I owed Thom a birthday cake upon our return home (it was blue velvet cake–long story), so he took the pie route. Peanut butter pie, that is.

Peanut Butter Pie at Alexander's Hilton Head Island

“Too much pie, that’s your problem.”

Another cool spot was A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant. The food was pure comfort, the patio awesome, and the inside was friendly. Plus, there was banana pudding in huge mason jars.

A Low Country Backyard Restaurant Hilton Head Island

As with Savannah, we didn’t do a whole lot of planning. Our days revolved around lounging at the pool/beach, eating and drinking delicious things, and going to the General Store a hundred times a day. We also did a lot of exploring and aimless wandering. My only complaint? We had to drive so much. My travels usually take me to places with a metro system or the ability to walk everywhere, but this was not the case on the island. Not a big deal, but I wasn’t expecting it.

Sea Pines Hilton Head Island

Sea Pines was worth the drive.

After four relaxing days, we packed up the car for the last (and my favorite) leg of the trip: Charleston. To be continued!

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Key West #tbt

{alicia}

As you may have gathered, Alexis and I like to travel. And though we have different styles of planning (she waits the last minute to book hotels, and I feel faint at the mere thought), we can both agree that travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer.

With it being Throwback Thursday, it only seems appropriate to post about one of my most recent (and memorable) trips. Last October, my friend Heather got married here:

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This would be Key West (or the Land of Polydactyl Cats as I like to call it).

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I was only there for a long weekend, but since Key West is 7.4 square miles, it was easy to get to know the city. But if we’re being honest, I spent my first day getting to know the bars on Duval Street with the bride-to-be and company.

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Captain Tony’s was my absolute favorite. You mean I’m in the same bar where Hemingway, Capote, and JFK frequented? Delicious rum drinks? A live tree (rumored to have once been a hanging tree)? A TOMB MARKER FROM 1822? Bananas. Things get a bit fuzzy at one point, but I remember Heather finding alcoholic popsicles and making a guy sing Hang on Sloopy at us. I paid for this fun later, but it was well worth it.

The next day is when I got my bearings. First we fueled up with an amazing pre-wedding brunch at Banana Cafe (best béchamel ever), and then we all went our separate ways before the wedding ceremony. This was the ideal time for my husband and me to really explore. Sure, you can rent a golf cart, but I would recommend renting a bicycle. This is a super bike-friendly town, and I feel like we had more opportunities to meander…

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…and stop to take the occasional photo–which I did a lot.

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We also went to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum to check out a famous 5-lb. bar of gold, but some jerk had stolen it–this is why we can’t have nice things.

After this setback, we pedaled all over the island, had a near miss with a rooster, and topped it off with a chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick. We made it back just in time to clean up for Heather’s gorgeous wedding on Smathers Beach.

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The reception was held at the Pier House (I see you conch chowder), and we all had one too many drinks. This translated into an interesting experience in a lighthouse the morning after.

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Take it from me, friends do not let hung over friends climb up winding stairs in a lighthouse. Instead, we should have come up with a way to bring this friend home from the Hemingway House. We could call it a wedding gift.

Her name was Olivia.

Her name was Olivia.

Unfortunately, the cat wasn’t having it. Defeated, we spent the rest of the day in recovery mode. And since my favorite form of recovery is eating, we ended up at El Siboney for an authentic Cuban meal:

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I had three foodie goals when I found out we were going to Key West: have Cuban food, key lime pie, and conch. It’s actually embarrassing how much I talked about pie leading up to this trip (Maria knows), but I can honestly say real key lime pie tastes different from what we have up north. As a result, I’m ruined for life.

But back to this dinner at El Siboney. I couldn’t have timed it any better. Upon finishing our meal, we had just enough time to catch the sunset and shenanigans at Mallory Square. A perfect end to the trip.

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It’s a bit of tease looking back on this when it’s SO COLD here in Columbus. Heather and our friend Kari are going on a cruise on Monday, and while I’m extremely jealous, all I ask is that they bring back some warmth and sunshine when they return. That’s how it works, right?