Charleston Fall Architectural Walking Tour

Charleston–The Fall Tours

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of going on a walking tour in the lovely city of Charleston, SC. My friend, Julie, had invited me to go with her and I jumped at the chance. The tours are an annual event that goes on in October each year.

We chose the ABC tour which stands for the amazing buildings of Charleston.  The tours start at the Preservation Society of Charleston on King Street.

Our tour guide, Ms. Sallie, is a Charleston native and is obviously very knowledgable and proud of her hometown. We walked down King street and our first stop was the John Lining house. This house was built around 1715 and is now used as a law office. The attention to detail was amazing. The home is one of the oldest in the city and was spared through numerous fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Our tour continued across Broad Street and around to view some of the gorgeous ironwork and garden architecture that surrounds many of the homes.

We continued around the block and ended up at what is called the Four Corners of Law. This is an intersection that is characterized by the oldest continually used state courthouse in the country, a gorgeous church, a federal courthouse and a county court building. It is said that you are surrounded by the laws of man and God at this intersection.

We continued down Tradd Street, Church Street and around to Queen Street which intersects with King at the Preservation Society headquarters.  We were able to view small homes dating from the 18th century to new construction that blended seamlessly with the surroundings.

The weather was remarkable and the information riveting. The tours are varied on the different days in the Fall and one can take a tour each day they are offered and see something new an exciting every time. Our architecture tour wound around the oldest part of the city. We were able to view the Powder Magazine. This is the one of the oldest buildings in Charleston, built in 1713. It is now a museum and is the oldest surviving public building in the city.

 

The gorgeous window box flowers and the fall decorations were astounding. The homes looked so inviting and I imagined what it must be like to live in this piece of history.

As we stopped and viewed the amazing architecture, I saw numerous people going about their daily lives. How lucky they are to live in such a place.

Our tour concluded that the Circular Congregational Church. This church and graveyard is home to many prominent Charlestonians, both living and dead. The earliest grave is from 1695 and Charleston’s first mayor is buried there. The headstones are remarkable and made from marble, slate and stone.

 

 Click here for the Circular Church website.

 

 

 

Brunch 

We finished our lovely morning with brunch at 82 Queen restaurant. This establishment has been a Charleston staple for many years.

Click here for 82 Queen

We sat in the garden and had the most incredible food. I had an Angus burger with pimento cheese and an egg on it served with house made chips. Julie had a seafood and grits dish that was to die for. I am definitely going back soon.

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Even if you are a Charleston native, you must make the time to take a walking tour with the Preservation Society. Get a glimpse of the Charleston that most of us are too busy to stop and see.

Click here for the Preservation Society website. 

 

Kylemore Abbey, Trim Castle, Dunguaire Castle, & Connemara- Ireland

Today is the last of my Ireland series. I have had so much fun revisiting this trip of a lifetime. We rode horses, climbed in castle ruins, scaled mountain peaks and generally did the most adventurous things we could find. We did include some shopping and great dinners but we had a fabulous time.

Keem Bay Ireland

One of favorite places, Keem Bay. was a surprise. Ethan saw it in a magazine and we decided to try and find it. This beach looked as if it came straight out of the Caribbean instead of the North Atlantic. It was cold but the locals were swimming and playing in the ocean. We marveled at the waterfalls that fell from the mountains straight into the sea. It was magical. The drive there was unbelievable. We had to take the rental car straight up the mountain path and avoid multiple sheep and goats on the roadway. It was so scary but the bay was well worth the crazy drive.

We could have stayed in this spot for the entire vacation! It is “our” special place that my son and I will share this experience forever.

Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey- Ireland

We spent the next day touring the Connemara National Park. We hired horses and rode a half day trail ride into the mountains of the park. I was so excited that I actually cried!!! The horses were wonderful and the guides made sure that my son was comfortable before we left the farm, I used to show English hunter jumper horses so I was fine with my mare but it was nice to know that they were looking out for him.

Click here for Kylemore Abbey

We spent the next day exploring Kylemore Abbey. This landmark was incredible. It was built by a gentleman for his lovely wife who passed away soon after it’s completion. He built a Gothic church and crypt for her so that he could mourn her eternally.

The formal gardens and the paths that weaved in and out of the forest were breathtaking. The fact that people lived like this was hard to wrap our heads around. We spent a half day exploring the grounds and structures.  It was like something out of a fairy tale.

 

Trim Castle & Dunguaire Castle- Ireland

Click here for Dunguaire Castle

We finished our Ireland adventure with a trip to Dunguaire Castle and Trim Castle. Dunguaire was a personal residence until very recently.  It sits on the edge of a waterway and looks out over the waves.We went upstairs in the residential area and it looked like any other bedroom or house except that it had stone walls. They hold dinners and story telling there but we were unable to get reservations. I definitely would like to go back and do that again.

Our last day was spent at Trim Castle. This is the location used to film Braveheart and is arguably the most famous castle in all of Ireland. We went up to the top and survey the town of Trim.The castle is still surrounded by a wall and the remnants of a moat.

Click here for Trim Castle

We stayed in Air BnB accommodations for our entire trip. We met some wonderful people and got to know locals that we would not have had the chance to meet otherwise. I highly recommend going this route to save money as well as meet the fabulous people of Ireland! I hope that you have enjoyed this series!!

 

 

 

Travel with Curves Blogger Interview with Jennifer McKnight

Jennifer McKnight– Travel with Curves Blogger

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed about this website blog by Jennifer McKnight. She is the owner/blogger of the Travel with Curves website. I am now posting my interview with her. Check out her site. It is awesome!

Click here for the Travel with Curves Blog

About Jennifer McKnight

Jennifer McKnight has been a freelance writer since 2010. That’s when she realized it was more fun playing with words at 3 am than holding down a traditional 9-5. Although she always wanted to travel, body image issues kept her from realizing her dreams, and she didn’t start stepping out of her comfort zone until her early thirties. Jennifer hopes to encourage other curvy girls to put themselves out there and embrace life fully, right now!

Interview

1. What influenced you to start a travel blog? Why Travel with Curves?

Honestly, I just wanted to blog about my first trip overseas and share the experience with family and friends. I chose the name “Travel with Curves” because there was literally only one other dedicated plus-size travel blog at the time, and that was “The Plus-Size Backpacker.” Once I saw the lack of resources for traveling in the plus-size community, it made sense to make my blog about more than my own travels.

Today, Travel with Curves is more of a platform for allowing others to share their personal stories, travel tips, and inspirational messages. The website got a lot bigger than me, which is a good thing! Just look how many other plus-size travel bloggers and Instagrammers have popped up over the years. It’s amazing!

2. How has body image affected you while traveling? How did you handle it? What would you suggest for others dealing with body image issues that keep them from travel?

I still deal with body image issues when traveling. It’s not easy to go out of your comfort zone, and travel can make you feel like you’re really putting yourself out there. During my first overseas trip to London, I had trouble squeezing into the shower at our bed and breakfast. It was really disheartening at first, but then I realized that most accommodations in Europe have limited space because they’re historic conversions. They only have so much room to work with and still maintain a building’s historic integrity. My body wasn’t the problem.

Even though I didn’t let the smaller accommodations bother me, I was still keenly aware of my body during that London trip. I was always on the lookout for other people who were as big as me, as if I wanted some kind of validation for being there. My trip to Edinburgh last year was a lot better, which was likely from having gained more travel experience. That first major trip can be scary for someone in a big body, but it gets better. The important thing is to not let body image issues hold you back from experiencing the world.

 

3. How did PCOS affect your travel plans? What would you suggest for others who would like to travel but deal with chronic health issues?

 

PCOS didn’t affect my travel plans, but I have other chronic issues that did. I have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-D) which can make traveling difficult, especially when you can’t rely on “familiar toilets,” as I like to call them. I was so paranoid about my stomach issues on my trip to London that I popped Imodium like candy. My stomach held up (stopped up?) for several days until a visit to the British Museum. After enjoying afternoon tea, it had had enough and not even the Imodium could stop me from getting horribly sick.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t use the same approach during my more recent travels. I’ve had to figure out how to best manage food triggers and bathroom breaks while touring and wanting to sample all the local cuisine, which isn’t easy, but it’s manageable.

If you have a chronic health condition and want to travel, don’t neglect self-care. You know your body best, so listen to it.

4. What has been your favorite destination and why? What is your dream destination that you have not visited?

My favorite destination so far is Scotland. I felt so at home in Edinburgh, and the countryside is incredible. There’s a famous viewpoint in the Highlands called Rest and Be Thankful where travelers would literally stop and rest after reaching the top of a steep climb. We stopped there on a group tour and I’d never felt such awe anywhere else in the world, and this is coming from someone who’s lived in the mountains her own life. It’s absolutely beautiful. If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be Scotland, hands down.

My dream destination tends to change every so often, but I do want to visit Japan at some point. It’s a bit cliché, but I love anime and manga, so I’m fascinated by Japanese culture.

5. What do you suggest for someone just starting out blogging about travel? What are some suggestions for success? What are some mistakes that you learned from?

Keep at it! I regret that I haven’t documented all my trips. Traveling is so exhausting that it’s hard to blog while you’re in the midst of it. Even though I always have good intentions of journaling about my trips every day so I can blog about them later, I usually end up falling asleep early (I never saw London at night even though I was there for nearly two weeks, as surprising as that sounds!).

So, my biggest advice would be to blog about your travels as much as possible. Write restaurant, accommodation, and tour reviews. Offer your own travel tips. You never know when your insight will come in handy for someone else.

 

Ireland Cliffs of Moher Experience

Ireland- Cliffs of Moher Experience

Today is the next entry in my Ireland vacation series. We explored the fabulous Cliffs of Moher. You can click on the archives to see the previous posts.

Click here for the Cliffs of Moher

We visited the unbelievable Cliffs of Moher while vacationing in Ireland. These are the iconic cliffs that pour directly into the Atlantic Ocean from the green grasses of Ireland. To say that they are magnificent is an understatement. It is truly like stepping to the end of the world. Ticket prices are 8 euro at the gate and 4 euro if you purchase in advance. This is quite a bargain for such an experience! You are actually allowed to walk directly up to the edge despite signage that warns of the danger.

There are shops and restaurants built into the side of the hill and many places to park and walk. We took a picnic lunch and ate near the edge of the world. I was completely terrified! I was certain that I was going to fly off at any minute!

Click here for my Youtube videos of the wind at the Cliffs of Moher!

The place is like something out of a fantasy. We looked over the edge and then hiked to the castle-like watch tower. We went up the tower and I felt like I could see all the way across the ocean to my home in the United States. It is said that many people choose the Cliffs of Moher to propose or to commit suicide. When you are here, you feel like the only person in the world.

Ethan was much braver than me. He hiked to the edge but I was certain that I was going to die. The wind was unbelievable strong and there are stories of people being blown over the edge. I was literally shaking with fear. Although I was terrified, I am so glad that I experienced the Cliffs of Moher.

 

Myrtle Beach Hilton Resort

Myrtle Beach Hilton Resort

Click here for Myrtle Beach Hilton Resort

Resort Accommodations

I just returned from a wonderful visit to the Myrtle Beach Hilton Resort and Royal Palms condos. I was in town for a work conference on site at the convention center. This is a fantastic resort with easy access to area attractions and dining. Barefoot landing shopping area is just five minutes away and Broadway at the Beach shopping area is 10 minutes to the south. Coastal Carolina University is less than half an hour to the West. There is even a Bass Pro shops for all of the outdoor enthusiasts. A golf course is at the end of the resort driveway as well.

I have stayed in the hotel towers before, but this time stayed in a two bedroom condo. This was a fantastic choice. The rooms were spotless and enormous. The kitchen was fully stocked and the unit even has a washer and dryer. I was in the king size master bedroom. The en suite bathroom had double sinks, a Jacuzzi tub and shower with a tiled seat. The second bedroom had two queen beds and another full bathroom. We had plenty of room for our four day stay and could have been very comfortable staying longer. There are three pools to enjoy and a poolside bar serves both towers. A Starbucks is available on site too.

The attached convention center was fantastic. It was plenty large enough for the 300 attendees and the food was fabulous at the conference. The resort catered all of the meals. Parking was free throughout our stay and WiFi in the hotel and condos was complimentary.

Dining

We ventured out for dinner one night to the Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse. If you have not been to one of these, you must go now!! The food was fresh and very high quality. The salad bar had fresh mozzarella, anti pasta salads and lots of other choices. The waiters circled the table with perfectly cooked meat on skewers and you just used your table card to signal when you were ready for more! I ate filet Mignon, Rib eyes, chicken wrapped in bacon, grilled pineapple, leg of lamb and so much more. This place is awesome!

Click here for Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse.

 

 

 

Sadly our four day trip was over too soon, but if you have a week to spend at the beach. The Myrtle Beach Hilton Resort is ideal.

Ireland– Skellig Michael Island

Ireland- Skellig Michael Island Adventure

This is the 4th entry on my Ireland trip. We spent a day driving around the Ring of Kerry and touring all of the wonderful villages along the way. Our ultimate destination was Skellig Michael. This is a Unesco World Heritage site and as such has strictly controlled access. The island is approximately 10 miles off the cost of Ireland and was home to a monk colony in the 6th century. The monks built beehive huts to live and worship in isolation. The monastery is at the top of the island up nearly 1,000 rock steps carved into the face of the mountain. 

Click here for Skellig Michael 

Click here for Passport Down South home–Ireland Adventure Entries

Additionally, for all you Star Wars fans out there, Skellig Michael was the film location for young Rae to find Luke Skywalker. Luke was hiding out in the most inhospitable place in the world. My son, Ethan, is a huge fan and insisted that we find a way to get on the restricted island. Only a small number of guests are allowed on the island and they must come, weather permitting, between late May and early September. There are no eateries, restrooms, or any comforts on the island so we would have to be totally prepared to be there. I was determined to get us a ride and was able to book a boat to the island for the day. 

After an hour boat ride into the Atlantic ocean, we saw the islands rising in the distance. They were incredible and larger than I had imagined. We had to wait for the boat to be able to maneuver through the rocks around the island and jump off onto a platform. This was going to be quite the adventure.

I began to climb the stairs and soon understood why tourists have DIED on this island. There are no handrails, high winds and steep steps to climb straight up the mountainside. I climbed as fast as I could but my son was dying to get going. I instructed him to go ahead and I would catch up. It took me over an hour to reach the small rest area where we planned to have a snack. I sat on the edge of the cliff and looked out over the ocean. It felt like I was the only person in the world.

 

 

When I reached the rest area, I found Ethan waiting on me. He wanted us to take the last set of stairs together and make it to the top at the same time. That sweet gesture meant more to me than anything I can explain. I have an extreme fear of heights and this was testing me to my limits. We took the final steps and arrived in the beehive hut village. We explored and took pictures looking out to the Irish coast and tried to image how the monks lived in the inhospitable place.

 

 

Soon it was time to start our descent. The trip down was very dangerous with steep rocky steps that you could trip down at any moment. This is the way that fatalities have occurred on Skellig Michael with visitors tripping and falling down the cliffs. I held onto my son’s backpack and he led me slowly down the mountain. It was an unbelievably difficult climb, bu I am so glad that I accomplished what few people in the world have done. 

Ireland- Kerrey, Ross Castle, Gap of Dunloe, Killarney National Park

Ireland- Killarney

This is the 4th in my Ireland series. I can’t wait to share with all of you our adventure in Killarney. This area was our favorite landscape in Ireland. We spent three days in this lovely location and hiked, boated, and rode a horse-drawn buggy around the area. We could have spent an entire week and it would not have been enough. Ethan and I continued to use Air B&B to find housing and stayed with the nicest hosts ever.       While in Killarney, we stayed in the stone farm house of Anne & Paudie. They have lived on the family farm for their entire lives and built their home with stones from the property. We were completely welcomed and allowed to walk around the farm property, playing with the chickens and the sheep. It was magical!

Ross Castle, Muckross House, Torc Waterfall & Inishfallen Island

Click here for Ross Castle

Our first day in Killarney was spent touring Ross Castle and Inishfallen Island. Ross Castle was built in the 15th Century. It was amazingly restored and I could picture myself living there in the Middle Ages. The grounds are gorgeous and the castle sits on the banks of a huge lake.

There are boatman at the shore that will take you to Inishfallen Island where there is a 7th Century Monastery and .they leave you for a few hours to explore.

There are deer and huge foliage all over the property and we did get lost trying to get back to the boat landing. I was scared that we were going to be stuck on the island but my son thought that it was a great adventure!.

 

Muckross House & Torc Waterfall

Click here for Muckross House

Our next day was spent in the “touristy” areas of Killarney National Park. We toured the Muckross House estate and hiked to Torc Waterfall

The Muckross house is beautiful from the outside but we did not go inside because it was “not old enough” for my son. He wanted ruins and castles and this Irish manner would have taking to much time out of schedule! We negotiated with the many carriage drivers and secured a ride through the grounds and on to Torc Waterfall. We traveled by  horse and buggy and it was not hard to imagine living in a different time period.

 

Killarney National Park and the Gap of Dunloe

Click here for Killarney National Park

Click here for Hiking the Gap of Dunloe

Boat Ride

Our final day in Killarney was spent in the Killarney National Park. This place will take your breath away. We returned to the shore at Ross Castle to board a boat that would take us through the lakes and up into the park. The mountains appear to be purple with flowers but it is the color of the rock formations in the morning sun. Our boat got stuck in one of the small “cut-thru” areas and all of the passengers had to disembark while the boatman and my son pulled the boat over rocks and back into deep water. Little did we know this was the beginning of a crazy day of adventure.

After the one hour boat ride, we arrived at the top of the upper lake and disembarked at Lord Brandon’s Cottage. We had a quick lunch and were supposed to meet horses to ride the 11km distance through the mountains and the Gap of Dunloe. After waiting about 30 minutes, an Irishman approached us and said in a heavy brogue “No horses- today”. We were really not prepared for an all day hike and only had a couple of water bottles with us. There are horse and buggy groups for rental but we thought–“How hard can it be?”

Hike into the Gap

We set out on our hike and enjoyed the natural beauty for about an hour; then we came out of the wooded lanes and I was faced with an impossibly large hill that led into the mountains. Sheep surrounded us and I was scared!  My son did his best to protect me but I didn’t trust those little creatures! We finally made it to the top and started our first descent. The temperature changed drastically once we were in the mountains and we ended up dealing with rain and sleet! The road was good but the trip was long.. We finally arrived at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and stopped for dinner but it had taken us all day to hike the Gap of Dunloe. Definitely an unbelievable experience!

Killarney National Park and the Kerry area are amazing. They are worthy of a visit all to themselves. I will be posting videos on the Passport Down South Youtube channel so stay tuned!!

 I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

 

 

Ireland- Blarney Castle

Ireland- Blarney Castle & County Cork

 

Blarney Ireland

This is the third in a series of posts about my trip to Ireland. Today’s post is going to be about my favorite place in the world. I love all of Ireland but Blarney Castle truly holds my heart. The town is perfect, with shopping, dining and quaint bed and breakfasts throughout the area. The obvious highlight of the small city is Blarney Caste. The  castle is an imposing presence that can be viewed from many places around the town. We stayed at the Whitehouse Bed & Breakfast and could literally look at the top of the tower over the trees from our bedroom window. Arriving the night before our Blarney Castle visit, we stared out at the castle with anticipation most of the night. The B&B was amazing and easily our favorite lodging of the vacation. The full Irish breakfast was AMAZING!

Click here for Whitehouse Bed & Breakfast

Click here for Blarney Castle  

 

We began our day early with a trip to the castle ticket area. There was very little wait even though the crowds were quite large. We entered the gate into the most magical place that I have ever been. The garden themselves are worthy of a visit even if you were not interested in the castle. We walked under the tree-lined pathways and forged ahead through the green gardens sprinkled with waterfalls and paths.

 

We weaved through the flowers and stone paths on our approach to the castle. Blarney Castle greets you like a stone fortress reaching to the sky. It is incredible. The walls soar into the sky and the stone foundation looks as if you would never be able to breach it.

We carefully climbed up the tight stairways until we reached the top. Visitors were lining up around the battlement for a chance to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone. Irish folklore states that whoever kisses the stone will be blessed with the ability to talk easily to anyone– the gift of gab!  The only problem is that it is on the outside of the castle and you must be lowered down backwards to kiss the stone!!! 

 

We spent many hours exploring the castle grounds and wandering through the gardens. It is a magical place that I didn’t want to leave. I truly believe that it is the most beautiful place in the world. 

Food & Beverage

We were starving when it was time to leave so we ducked into a nearby pub for a fabulous dinner. I ordered apple cider (kinda like Red’s Apple Ale- only better) and wonderful sandwiches. The Irish music could be heard throughout the establishment When finished we went back to White House Bed and Breakfast and slept like babies!

Shopping

The next morning we shopped at the Blarney Woolen Mills. This is one of the largest shopping venues in Ireland. It was huge and seemed to be a destination itself. Numerous tour buses were dropping off visitors to shop. We purchased lovely woolen sweaters and souvenirs for our friends and family. Soon it was time to leave Blarney and head to our next destination. 

Click here for Blarney Woolen Mills

 

This place will always be with me. For me all paths lead back to Blarney!

Ireland- Kilkenny, Cahir Castle & Cashel

  Ireland- Kilkenny, Cahir Castle and Rock of Cashel

Click here for my first Ireland post

Kilkenny

After our days touring Dublin, Ireland the next couple of days consisted of driving our rental car southwest into the Irish country side. Our first stop was Kilkenny. This town is amazing. This town is Ireland like I imagined it. Kilkenny Castle is fully restored and is absolutely gorgeous. The rooms, tapestries and furniture are all in pristine shape. There was a celebration the day that we were in town and a band played while government soldiers guarded the castle.  The castle grounds were more like a city park and numerous people were picnicking and playing on the grounds. There was a food vendor and ice cream stand out front. A lovely wooded path led down to a high stone wall surrounding the property 

We had lunch at a lovely little cafe across the street from the castle and ended up sitting with a group of teenage Americans on a European tour. It was great fun to talk with them about what they had seen and suggestions for things we should not miss.

Click here for Kilkenny Castle

Cahir

Click here for Cahir Castle

 

Our next stop was the beautiful town of Cahir. This city looks like a postcard. Cahir castle is surrounded by a river that looks like an ancient moat. The original walls have a dungeon that opens up into a river passage that medieval people would have used for an entrance to the compound. We were able to walk along the parapet  and look out into the town. This castle was exactly what my son was looking for. He wanted ruins!

Rock of Cashel

Click here for Rock of Cashel

Our journey continued to the magnificent Rock of Cashel. The ruins appear suddenly on the horizon and can be seen from all around. This place is unreal. It feels as if you have stepped back in time!  It was the coronation grounds for many Irish kings and the architecture is incredible. You truly feel how small and insignificant that we individuals are in the grand scheme of the world.

Next, we went to the ruins of Hore Abbey. This location is just down and across from the Rock of Cashel. This abbey is more ruin than anything. There are no plaques or gift shops to let you know that you are at a Heritage site. We were the only people there. Quite a bit of time was spent climbing in and out and over the worn brick structure. 

We stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast across the street from the ruins and had the most wonderful full Irish breakfast. This was truly the “real” Ireland.