Friday was definitely my favorite day of vacation. And there were lots of lessons to be learned!
Lesson #82: Hominy Grill is worth the hype — and everyone else will think so too.
We got so many recommendations to try Hominy Grill so we decided to go for breakfast on Friday morning. We figured Friday would be less busy than a Saturday or Sunday morning. If it was, I can’t even imagine how a weekend would be! They actually have a parking lot, but it was full, so we drove around for 15-20 minutes trying to find parking. (It’s in a residential area so street spots weren’t really an option.) Finally Eric dropped me off to put our names on the list while he went back to a metered spot…and as soon as he dropped me off, three spots opened up. I stood in one, acting as a human shield, until he could get back to park.
Once we had our names on the list, we were seated in less than 10 minutes, which was nice. The interior was sunny and rustic without trying too hard. We didn’t have to spend too much time looking at the menu…everything was kind of a no-brainer. We started with coffee (for me), orange juice (for him), and banana and pumpkin bread. The coffee was good, the banana bread was really good, and the pumpkin bread was just on a whole new level — the best I’ve ever tasted.
Sticking with Eric’s “we can’t order the same thing” rule — I actually didn’t fight him for the right to order the Big Nasty.
Yes, that is, in fact, a piece of fried chicken betwixt those biscuits and smothered in gravy.
But I had other things on my mind. The day’s special turned out to be my dream come true, considering I sat down and thought, “I want a biscuit and gravy…with eggs on the side?”
Well, hello, two poached eggs on a biscuit, smothered in herbed gravy.
There really are no words for how good that breakfast was.
We were in and out really fast, although I didn’t feel rushed at all…just incredibly satisfied and happy as we headed out into the morning. I love going out for a really good breakfast — not brunch, there is a huge difference — and I loved everything about Hominy Grill. I was so pleased when we left, Eric told me to “wipe the shit-eating grin” off my face.
Lesson #83: Make time to visit a plantation.
From breakfast, we took a half-hour drive in our sweet rental car (another lesson — don’t rent from Hertz because it’s wildly overpriced to drive a teeny tiny little Toyota that had me telling Eric, “Well, at least in this car everyone must think, Wow, that guy must have a huge dick) out to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.
So we got to the ticket counter, and while I was lost in thought, I was totally thinking I shouldn’t have to pay to get in — or, well, I should get 50 percent off — because HELLO REPARATIONS?! when the woman at the ticket counter smiled at me.
“You’re just so beautiful,” she said. “I keep looking at you because you have such a natural beauty about you.”
“Oh, thank you!” I said. I mean, a girl loves a compliment, right?! But then I had an inkling…
Wait for it…
“You just have that beautiful natural tan!” she said.
THERE IT WAS!
I am not entirely sure what she meant by “natural tan” and while I pondered this, Eric and I avoided making eye contact because that would have meant we would have laughed…and this woman was really nice so I didn’t really want to be an asshole and explain that my “natural tan” was beautiful actually for the same reason Magnolia Gardens are beautiful — you know…because of our African-American friends.
Unoffended by this — seriously! — we headed to browse the gardens while we waited for our tours to begin.
The gardens were breathtaking.
Wandering through them was like being in a dream.
(See more pictures here!)
Lesson #84: Pay the extra $8 to go on the cabin tour.
There are a lot of plantations in the area but I was partial to Magnolia because their website described about their unique slave cabin experience. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I felt like it was important. And I don’t know what the other plantations are like, but when the website says, “this ain’t your grandma’s old-time slavery tour,” I’m there.
You pay $15 just for access to the gardens anything else you want to do is extra. We paid the extra for the house tour and for the cabin tour, but I’m not sure everyone would because they might not think it’s worth it…and that’s a serious shame. I think the cabin tour just needs to be included in the price (even if they raise the price) because the cabin tour was my favorite part of the whole trip. And it seems wrong and inappropriate to me to see the gardens or the house without seeing the cabins. Yes, the gardens and the house are beautiful, and it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of it all, but you need to think about how it got that way.
Just to put things in perspective, the front porch of the main house looked like this.
According to the website, “This unique collection of slave cabins, occupied well into the 20th century, has been carefully preserved and restored to document the full arc of African–American life at Magnolia. Each cabin reflects a different period of the African experience on the plantation; from slavery to Reconstruction, through the 1920’s, and on to the civil rights era of the 1960’s. This provides an extraordinary historical perspective.”
I can’t even say much more to that except YES. Yes, it really does provide extraordinary historical perspective. Our tour guide, BJ, was awesome. He was knowledgeable and charismatic (but not in that douchey tour guide way) and, most important, handled the sensitive subject perfectly. I learned so much new information about the slave trade, Southern agriculture, and the antebellum South during his presentation.
After his 20 minute talk, we were free to explore the cabins (which were restored with incredible attention to detail and respect for the subject), we were really able to grasp what life actually looked like for a slave. I’ve read about it and seen movies, but there’s something different about standing in their cabins that makes you get it on a new level.
The cabins were restored in some parts, featuring recreations of what it would have looked like, based on the remnants left behind — but in many parts, things were just left as they were, like this newsprint from the 1920s, peeling off the ceiling where it was glued like wallpaper to provide insulation for the cabin.
I could gush about the cabin tour all day. I loved the gardens, and the house tour was cool, but for me, the cabins are the can’t-miss thing to do.
Lesson #85: End on a lighter note — pour yourself a drink.
While the plantation tour wasn’t depressing, it was certainly sobering. So we followed it up with…some alcohol.
Eric and I weren’t sure if we’d make it to Firefly Distillery Friday afternoon — they are only open until 5:00 and are located about 30 minutes away from Charleston. Even though it was already 3:30, we decided to try. We hauled ass and ended up making it with plenty of time to explore.
I’ve had a special place in my heart for Firefly ever since I had it on my third day of datecation. We did a tasting, which is $6 and includes six mini shots of the Firefly products of your choice as well as a full-sized souvenir shot glass.
I tried peach sweet tea vodka, mint sweet tea vodka, raspberry sweet tea vodka, lemonade vodka, and two types of rum. The staff was super laid-back and cool. When their cash register was out of paper, they offered us an extra drink while we waited for our receipt.
We bought the peach sweet tea vodka and the java rum to bring back to Houston with us and the wandered around the grounds for a little while. Everything was just…picture-perfect.
I’m so glad we decided to visit the Firefly Distillery! It was the perfect way to end an already lovely day.