Parris Island at Sunset

Southern Hospitality in the Lowcountry

Savannah River
Savannah River

My son’s and my Thanksgiving 2014 trip wasn’t the most extravagantly planned or executed trip I’ve ever taken, but the visit to the Lowcountry of South Carolina was indeed an enjoyable one on many levels. I was fortunate to be able to coordinate a business meeting in Ormond Beach, Florida, with my visit to the Hilton Head Island area to spend the Thanksgiving holiday to visit my grandma, uncle and his wife.  I headed north, passed through Orlando to meet up with my son and proceeded to my meeting in Ormond Beach amidst the early Thanksgiving ruckus on I-95. We were back on the road again early enough to make a quick little detour into Savannah , Georgia, with just enough time to take a walk through the charming streets and along the Riverfront, enjoy a short break for a cold beverage and then head to Forsyth Park to see the beautiful trees, neighboring historic  homes and the lovely fountain as dusk was settling.

Savannah City Hall
Savannah City Hall
Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
Near Forsyth Park, Savannah, Georgia
Cotton Exchange, Savannah, Georgia
Cotton Exchange, Savannah, Georgia

We were surprised  upon our arrival by the friendliness and helpfulness by the attendant in welcome center we encountered just outside the parking garage into which we ambled. Yes, one would think that a welcome center should make visitors feel welcome, but so very often the labels for welcome centers seem to be misnomers; this attendant’s southern hospitality truly seemed genuine. We were offered an attraction map as well as suggestions for a quick route to maneuver during our abbreviated visit. I wish we would have had more than a tiny glimpse of the many sights and more opportunity to experience Savannah’s history.

Talmadge Memorial Bridge, Savannah, Georgia
Talmadge Memorial Bridge, Savannah, Georgia

While Savannah was enjoyable, we were excited to reach our destination of Bluffton, South Carolina, to see my grandma whom Devan and I had not seen in far too many years — since our 2006 visit to Southern California. We had a wonderful, informal Thanksgiving dinner and relaxing time catching up with family on our first full day in South Carolina. The next day, we headed out toward Hilton Head Island see some sights. Our first stop, however, was at one of restaurants owned by my uncle and his wife called 843 (which I originally found to be an unusual name for a cutting edge restaurant, but later figured out was the area code of Hilton Head Island). We savored some ridiculously delicious and innovative menu items and set off to see a bit of the island.

Lunch with the family at 843, Hilton Head Island
Lunch with the family at 843, Hilton Head Island
Chilequiles at 843, Hilton Head Island
MMMMMMM………Chilequiles at 843, Hilton Head Island

We were fortunate to have cool weather and beautiful clear skies as a backdrop to our little drive to see the island.

Hilton Heard Harbor Town Lighthouse
Hilton Heard Harbor Town Lighthouse
Harbor Town Christmas Tree
Harbor Town Christmas Tree
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge

A quick stop at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge afforded us the opportunity to see the beautiful salt marshes and take a short stroll and relish the perfect, yet chilly weather. We didn’t have much time to visit the area, since we were fortunate enough to be invited to Vine, my uncle and his wife’s other restaurant on Hilton Head Island for dinner….as if we didn’t eat enough delicious cuisine during our extravagant lunch at 843…and just what we needed after the previous day’s Thanksgiving feast! The food at Vine was more than worth risking another excessive meal during our short visit to the Lowcountry as the menu offerings were once again exquisite.

Grandma and Devan at Vine Restaurant
Grandma and Devan at my uncle’s restaurant on Hilton Head Island, Vine
The Arsenal, Beaufort, South Carolina
The Arsenal, Beaufort, South Carolina

Saturday, our last full day in South Carolina, was not a food-centric day, as we instead headed toward Beaufort at my grandma’s suggestion to see some of the rich Civil War era history and spectacular antebellum architecture. After a very mediocre meal at Hemingway’s Bistro, which provided a nice view from the outdoor seating but was still sorely mundane after the fine cuisine we experienced the day previous, we hopped back in the car to drive the nearby Ladys Island, St. Helena Island and Hunting Island, where we walked the beautiful beach and experienced the sounds of the ocean tides.

Hunting Island Lighthouse
Hunting Island Lighthouse

With the short winter days, we had limited daylight hours to see much of the area’s historic and natural beauty, we took short breaks to visit the various monuments, cemeteries and nature trails during our drive back toward Bluffton. Even with the limited time and daylight, we had to make a short detour to see Parris Island on our way back home. We were disappointed to learn that we arrived after normal visitor hours; however, my grandma was quick enough to inquire as to any influence of my son’s presence since he is a soon to be commissioned Army officer. Surprisingly, the young Marines, upon inspection of Devan’s military ID, allowed my pompom-topped-knit-hat-wearing son and his family entourage access to the base. We took a short drive around before finding a spot to take in the brilliant orange sunset. Our visit to the Lowcountry was short, but particularly sweet on account of the special family time we shared. Devan and I have taken many a vacation full of action and sightseeing, but what this Thanksgiving trip lacked in sheer excitement was more than offset by southern hospitality and the value of quality family together time.

Parris Island after hours
Parris Island after hours

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