Happy 350th Birthday – Celebrate Charleston!

The grand dame city of Charleston kicked off their tricentennia with a 300-gun salute followed by a parade and a ball, the festivities continued for more than a month. Eight days of the activities were named for each of the Lords Proprietors, the individuals who were granted a royal charter to found Charles Towne.

Now, in 2020, for Charleston’s semiseptcentennial — that’s half of a 700th anniversary, or septcentennial — the celebration will last all year. 

Charming Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, known for its large role in the American slave trade. Charleston was founded in 1670 as Charles Town, honoring King Charles II of England. Known for historic charm, few cities outshine Charleston, one of the South’s most appealing destinations!

Luxurious Lodging – may we recommend one of our favorite Belmond properties: Charleston Place. Where Southern charm meets timeless elegance. Sitting on the city’s iconic King Street, Belmond Charleston Place is a timeless gem in this historic South Carolina town. Boasting more than 400 spacious accommodations, it is the largest Belmond property in the world and, with a renowned restaurant, stylish Southern charm and live music seven nights a week.

Charleston Place

Celebration Activities: Gardeners and historic architectural tours will be featured events. Garden and historic home tours as group reserved events run from March 11 – through April 18, 2020. A collection of stimulating events, including cuisine, gardens, architecture and musical performances round out a full calendar. Plan a few days to savor fine food, history, gardens and architecture.

A month of celebrations includes several more exclusive events, the Architectural Splendor Tour of Showcase Houses hosts smaller groups to visit magnificent architectural treasures and their incredible decorative arts and furnishings collections will be interpreted by leading local experts during this once-in-a-lifetime tour. Guests will gather in small, intimate groups to visit four select properties south of Broad Street in the Old and Historic District. Tickets: $150 per person.  Advance purchase is required. Limited availability. Date: March 19, 2020.

Charleston Gardens

Garden Splendor Tours: Passionate gardeners and horticulture devotees will savor four spectacular gardens in the historic district. Enthusiasts will gather in small, intimate groups to learn the trials, tribulations and triumphs of designing and maintaining a selection of Charleston’s most celebrated gardens. Tickets: $150 per person. Advance purchase is required.  Limited availability, dates March 26, 10:00 am – 12:00 or April 1, 2020. Time: 2- 4:00 pm.

The city boasts a vibrant contemporary art scene well worth exploring, a very walkable city tour begins at the core of the city — south of Route 17 highway – it’s compact, safe and walkable. Start your exploration with a morning on foot in the handsomest part of town, the cherished South of Broad neighborhood. Take a step back into history and explore the beautiful antebellum neighborhood, the district dates back to 1721 and features rare historic homes amongst cobblestone streets. One of the true gems of the South, this neighborhood is a beloved part of downtown Charleston. It boasts traditional southern architecture and homes that look straight out of an American storybook. Guided walking tours can be arranged. Suggested reading: Pat Conroy novel, “South of Broad”.

Charleston Gardens

Unique Shopping: Charleston remains remarkably independent from the outside world; it may be a small city, enjoy a vigorous assortment of unique shops, particularly as you move north and away from the most touristy bits of the historic center. 

Lively libations and the dining scene has become a foodie mecca. Husk and its petite bar across the alley are two of the best things about the city’s restaurant scene.  Husk, transforms the essence of Southern food. Executive Chef and Lowcountry native, Travis Grimes, reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in the South. And right across the alley, in a beautifully renovated old brick building, is where you’ll find the Bar at Husk. Squeeze your way in – and peruse the creative cocktail menu, filled with excellent southern classics, including the Sazerac. 

Add golfing to your itinerary by a visit to Kiwah Island, one of the country’s top golf resorts, featuring five championship courses in privileged oceanfront locations, all centered around one of the East Coast’s most luxurious resort hotels, The Sanctuary. 

Back to the Birthday! Gardens are open during the month of March and April on specific dates if you are interested in a self-guided tour of some of Charleston’s most splendid gardens. These walking tours are arranged so guests may stroll leisurely through approximately seven private gardens.

Gullah Spirituals Concert Spiritually Yours ensemble

Guides are stationed at each location to provide information about garden design, plant material and history. Colorful blooms are found in many of Charleston’s spring gardens, while others display elegant, limited palettes of green and white. Scale and proportion are deftly used to complement each house, whether it boasts a small courtyard space or a series of garden “rooms.” In addition to frequently favored plants, such as azaleas, camellias, climbing roses and tea olives, look for masonry walls, wrought iron gates, parterres edged with boxwood, water features, statues and garden rooms with slight but changing elevations as you stroll through a selection of sophisticated Charleston gardens. Each Glorious Gardens tour includes a wine reception in the garden of the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, 51 Meeting Street, from 4-5 pm. Tours $55.00.

Charleston Gardens

Combine the garden tours with special educational programs: March 16, Flavors of the Lowcountry: Reviving Gullah-Geechee Cuisine. Charleston-native Chef BJ Dennis serves Lowcountry history and culture through his food. West African slaves brought foodstuffs that have since become staples of the Southern diet, and they plied the local waters for seafood. As an ambassador of Gullah-Geechee cuisine, Chef Dennis is studying, reviving and sharing their foodways, the basis for much of “Southern cooking.”

Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture Series:This is an event in the Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture Series. The luncheon lecture series will take place in an informal setting at the historic Captain James Missroon House, c. 1808. Join us atop Charleston’s High Battery and enjoy a commanding view of Charleston Harbor and the antebellum mansions along East Battery. Participants will enjoy a casual light lunch of salads and sandwiches.

Experience the music that defines Charleston’s history–gospel, Gershwin, Civil War songs, jazz, and light classics —coming to life in historic Circular Congregational Church in live 75-minute concerts. Gullah Spirituals Concert: Clap your hands and stomp your feet during an exhilarating performance of Gullah spirituals and the music of the Sea Islands. The ancestors of the Gullah people brought a rich heritage of African cultural traditions to this country, and the Spiritually Yours ensemble will share that extraordinary musical inheritance with you. The Circular Congregational Church, c. 1892, provides a splendid setting. March 19, 5:30 pm.

March 18, Fabric, Fashion and Freedom: Clothing and Its Production in Colonial Charleston ~or~ What to Wear to a Revolution. Clothing is one of the most intimate expressions of a culture. This program lends a peek at what women did, thought, experienced, and wore during the period of our nation’s birth. Historian Jean Hutchinson will share her extensive research into the roles that women of the Carolina Lowcountry played prior to and during the American Revolution through their words and fashions. Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture Series: This is an event in the Food for Thought Luncheon Lecture Series. The luncheon lecture series will take place in an informal setting at the historic Captain James Missroon House, c. 1808. Join us atop Charleston’s High Battery and enjoy a commanding view of Charleston Harbor and the antebellum mansions along East Battery. Participants will enjoy a casual light lunch of salads and sandwiches.

Enjoy the selected listings of the events, find the full schedule at http://www.historiccharleston.org/blog/events/category/festival-houses-gardens/

Plan a few days to enjoy the architecture, glorious gardens and fine cuisine!

Staycation Rancho Valencia Resort – For Serious Consideration

Who knew such an indulgence existed, just an hour flight away and a few miles from the surf and sandy beach?  But why leave when you have the amenities of a Forbes Five Star Resort? Clients have raved about Rancho Valencia Resort, I needed to mosey down the sunny coast and see for myself. In the cozy hamlet of Rancho Santa Fe, exactly 32 minutes from the San Diego airport, Rancho Valencia is tucked into a canyon on 40 manicured acres of gentle undulating hills, citrus trees and tropical jungle landscaping.

Rancho Valencia Resort

Small by most resort standards, with 49 authentic casitas, my suite had over 1300 square feet plus an enchanting walled courtyard accented by bougainvillea vines and fragrant hibiscus, a plunge pool and puebla style fireplace. A true sense of authentic style radiates throughout the resort. Although La Jolla and Del Mar are minutes away, there is no reason to leave unless you are like me and must stroll a beach if one is nearby. Lunch at the beach, a sandy saunter, toes dipped into the warm Pacific and scoot back to the spa and secluded terrace.

Imagine afternoons of sunbathing, hours of quiet catching up, ripe figs and chilled cocktails, and of course noshing on the Southern California favorite, guacamole or creamy avocado any way you desire. Fresh squeezed OJ at the door served with your morning papers? Include a carafe of coffee and wake up in perfect harmony with the sunrise. Butlers won’t ring or buzz, a stealth buggy delivers all to your snug hacienda suite.

Although we saw many cars around the property, we rarely saw any other guests. Seclusion is guaranteed, especially beneficial when delectable afternoon naps seem the norm. Suites are tastefully decorated with handcrafted Mexican furnishings, puebla style fireplaces, brightly colored pavers and tiles. Many of the suites can be connected to create two-bedroom casitas. However, there are also a couple of 3-bedroom Villas on property with outdoor terraces, your own private compound with private Villa pool and clubhouse. Among the room and Villa options, there is also a private three-bedroom, 5000 square foot adobe style hacienda with full kitchen, garden and pool.

Fountains and fireplaces abound in the public areas, providing soothing sounds of trickling water and warm comfy spots for pre-dinner prandials. Post nap, do wander the lush grounds overgrown with flowering shrubs, olive trees and in spring, the intoxicating perfumed citrus blossoms. It’s truly heavenly. In the evening dine outdoors amid the fragrant orange and lemon trees, the swaying palms and tropical foliage. Massive Bird of Paradise plants displayed magnificent blossoms as large as a magnolia flower, truly enhanced tropicals!

Rancho Valencia Resort

Dining – When we arrived after 1 pm, our late lunch at The Pony Room terrace left us desiring just nibbles for dinner. We struggled to tear ourselves from our terrace, a cozy cocoon with comfy furnishings which stimulated snoozing. But wander, we did. Chit chat and cocktails in the arrival courtyard and amble to The Pony Room for rustic fresh salads and yummy tapas. The restaurant has an extensive list of craft tequilas and unique cocktails, dine alfresco on one of the flower filled terraces dotted with fire pits overlooking the professional Croquet Court. As Rancho Valencia is a Relais & Chateaux property, we knew to limit snacking on day two in order to enjoy the signature restaurant Veladora.  We weren’t disappointed! 

Veladora serves lunch on a terrace or inside in an authentic Hacienda style building, a roaring fireplace, antiques and flickering candles set the stage for scrumptious meals. Taking inspiration from Rancho Valencia’s Mediterranean influences, Veladora serves fresh, handcrafted and simply delicious Coastal Ranch cuisine. Seasonal ingredients take center stage on a menu with so many choices, I was disappointed we didn’t dine twice. So many temptations from unique pairings of seafood, poultry and a variety of meats. Sample slow poached Maine lobster with a lemon vinaigrette, burratta cheese and pickled and roasted beets with avocado. I almost missed George’s Bank Scallops with black risotto, summer truffle, English pea agnolotti topped with tiny nasturtium leaves, it was divine! If Johnny is serving, have him describe the menu items, he has an extensive knowledge on the preparation and ingredients – creating a background story on each dish, truly bringing the menu alive!  The choices are abundant. And abundantly delicious. A private wine cellar with vaulted brick ceiling is downstairs for private dinners or tastings.

Rancho Valencia Resort

Activities – So many choices, if you must be amused: idyllic afternoons in whites smacking croquet balls while sipping Pimms Cup, sound at all enticing? Or make it a spectator sport curled up in the white Adirondack chairs. Tennis is renowned and a primary activity; the club is staffed with former champions and the property is ranked as California’s #1 tennis hotel by Tennis Magazine. Fresh towels and refreshing iced lemon water are provided courtside. Tennis clinics are on available for all ages and ability. Guests can enjoy access to over 80 golf courses including The Farms and Torrey Pines.

Complimentary professional bikes are lined up outside reception, the gentle hills and long stretches of open country road will provide a superb workout. Or ride downhill to the beach and call for a haul out later! Yoga pavilion, state of the art fitness center and a full service gorgeous spa. Kids pool and adult pool.

Rancho Valencia Resort

Rancho Valencia’s Wellness Collective is designed to give you the tools to cultivate sustainable change in your overall health and wellbeing. Seeking calmness, and a new look at personal wellness? Fairly new, The Wellness Collective, voted as the Best New Wellness Program in Organic Spa Magazine has three night minimum stay for a wellness retreat. Combining a robust calendar of intimate workshops, enlightening lectures and activities,. Based on the cutting-edge science of epigenetics, this award-winning program was created by an expert team of specialists in epigenetics, health, wellness and preventative medicine. A truly unique wellness experience unlike any other, the Collective is available in the form of packages and retreats. https://www.ranchovalencia.com/spa/spa-wellness-retreats

Rancho Valencia Resort

The Spa, last but not least. The spa is a destination of its own. Tucked away in a spectacular lush garden setting, the rambling adobe buildings are accentuated by colorful patterned pottery, rustic wooden doors, reflecting pools, a heated salt water pool and perky cabanas and loungers. A true wellness retreat, herbal remedies from the garden flowers are offered in spa treatments. The invigorating combination of herbs, flowers, oils and minerals provide an overall blissful relaxing experience. Pad into the spa, steam or sauna first and head to your salon, a patio door opens to bird song and the trickling of an outdoor fountain – expect to be transported! My masseuse was remarkable, after my massage, he wasn’t kidding when he said he would be outside to lead me from my spa Journey – I was noodle like, completely relaxed and in need of navigation to the shade of the umbrella decked cabanas.

Rancho Valencia Resort has been validated by extensive assessments as a Forbes Five Star Resort. I whole heartily agree. Service was impeccable and gracious, the cozy casitas are restorative retreats, napping is guaranteed. A broad range of activity options, creature comforts, fresh organic dining, if you need to escape, the beach is right down the road, other than a toe dip in the Pacific, why depart Paradise?

Rancho Valencia Resort

My upcoming knee replacement prevented my tennis game from improving, however I see it as the perfect excuse to return! My farewell swag bag included a Rancho Valencia Resort tennis ball, someone was paying attention!

Rancho Valencia Resort
Rancho Valencia Resort

Stacation is always a life improvement, documented as a stress reliever!