My love of Southern charm grew from the moment I was introduced to Truvy’s beauty parlor in Steel Magnolias and I questioned why anyone would want to fry a tomato after watching Fried Green Tomatoes. I love the accents, the small-town feel, and, of course, the delicious food that Southerners are known for. My darling grandmother is from South Carolina and has told me how wonderful her hometown is. She often leaves the hustle and bustle of L.A. to escape to her Southern roots. Wanting to see the sights of the South for myself, I decided to take a little getaway with two of my favorite gals and escape the freezing temperatures of New York for just a bit of sunshine in South Carolina. We called our vacation the Steel Magnolias’ Getaway, and it was indeed everything I expected!
We stayed in the small town of Bluffton at the ultimate Southern escape known as Palmetto Bluff. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff is inspired by Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston and showcases some of the most beautiful and expansive homes right along a gorgeous lake. The three-bedroom home we stayed in was perfect, with its all-white wraparound porch and rocking chairs. I just about melted into the delicious couch next to the blazing fire every time I stepped foot in the common room. Oh, how happy I was to trade in my fast-paced, schedule-filled New York days for lazy, Kindle-reading, eating-junk-until-my-stomach-hurt days of nothingness. This was my heaven!
Once out of our lazy stupors, we joined in the town festivities by going to Bluffton’s annual Oyster Roast, where everyone gathers for food, drinks, and fresh oysters that are placed on tables for the taking while a live band plays.
The next day we drove into Savannah to have dinner at The Olde Pink House, which is an historic restaurant and tavern. I swear, anything you can think to fry they actually do in the South. I had fried lobster with the most delicious collard greens, baked yams, and potatoes. It was mouthwatering deliciousness. I went straight home and to sleep. Funny, I know, but so necessary.
One of the main sights I wanted to visit during this getaway was a historic plantation. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston was the perfect place. The plantation offers quite an emotional experience of physically walking through five historic slave dwellings that date back to 1850. This project is called From Slavery to Freedom: The Magnolia Cabin Project.
As an African American woman, I have to say this experience was a bit chilling and daunting. The oxymoron of me, a “free” woman, nonetheless paying to walk through “the box” of a once-enslaved human being weighed on me. It was very difficult to wrap my mind around the injustice that took place on the very soil of the plantation I was touring. What is interesting, though, is the obvious recognition Magnolia makes by acknowledging the Gullah people. They were the slaves brought in from West Africa to this particular plantation.
I don’t know if acknowledging the lives and contributions of these slaves can be viewed as a sort of retribution, per se, but it is somewhat satisfying to see descendants of the slave owners provide intimate insight into the plantation. That is also another interesting fact. The Draytons, the original owners of Magnolia, have managed to keep the plantation in their family. When we viewed the main home of the property, we were able to learn about the many generations who have owned the home throughout the centuries. It was like taking a walk back in time while viewing the original family heirlooms, handwritten notes, and photographs.
The most noted aspect of the Magnolia Plantation is the garden, which brings tourists from around the world to Charleston. It is the epicenter of the property and is America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden. Over three centuries, the family has been able to add their own personal touches to the unrestored land. It is truly a sight to experience.
That about rounds up the escapades of my Southern escape. I cannot wait to visit again, as I have found my new oasis along my journey in good old South Carolina, where traditions remain.
It’s All About the Journey!
Kimberly J. Chandler
Palmetto Bluff, 1 Village Park Square, Bluffton, South Carolina
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, 3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, South Carolina
The Olde Pink House, 23 Abercorn Street, Savannah, Georgia
Photos: Courtesy of Kimberly Chandler