Sunday, May 1, 2016

One the road again: Gilded Age, Gift shops, Sunsets and Afternoon tea from St. Augustine to Asheville

Charleston Tea Plantation, mid-stop on our road trip 
Last week, we logged in several hundred miles in a van, driving from St. Augustine to Asheville on my dream road trip along the southeastern coastline. The plan was to visit Gilded Age museums and tea sites as well as witness as many sunsets and get in equal number of porch sittings as we could.  It was Ahhhh-mazing!

In the next few weeks, I will devote a blog to each special place we visited. But, in the meantime, here's a snapshot overview.

Flager College, once Hotel Ponce de Leon
The actual trip began at Detroit Metro Airport with our one-way ticket to Tampa. We stayed with my in-laws for a few days before embarking on our Gilded Age/tea tour, but logged in a few sunsets and porch sittings while on the gulf coast to get us started.

First of many sunsets on "the tour".
Our first stop on the tour was St. Augustine, home of Flagler College, the site of the Gilded Age resort, Hotel  Ponce de Leon. We also toured the Lightner Museum across the street, which was once another hotel built by industrialist, Henry Morrison Flagler. Ostentatious? - Absolutely! But it wasn't called the "Austere Age" for a reason.

Inside the Lightner Museum

From St. Augustine, we headed northeast to Jekyll Island. We stayed at the Club Hotel, which began its start in the Gilded Age as well. Once the exclusive resort of the wealthy northern families, including Astors, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, today all guests will feel as pampered as any one of the vintage one-percenters.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel, started as an exclusive resort for the Gilded Age one percenters

We had an absolutely wonderful afternoon tea in the Club Hotel's dining room. (You will want to stay tuned for the upcoming blog on this lovely tea room experience!)

Delicious tea fare at Afternoon Tea at the Club Hotel Dining Room

 Our "home-away-from-home", Sans Souci, part of the Club Hotel at Jekyll Island with big porches and beautiful furnishings.

Our  third floor room had an expansive porch with excellent views

Tried to log in a few notes for blogging before the big porch called to me to view the sun setting.

Who am I kidding? I've got to shut down - almost time for sunset viewing!
On the road again, we programmed our GPS to Charleston, with one stop along the way to Wadmalaw Island to visit the only tea plantation in the US. It was incredible to see a working tea plantation and view all that it takes to harvest this special drink.

The only US tea plantation - this had been on my list for a long time!

We took the trolley tour of the farm, the self-guided tour of the factory, and spent a good deal of time in the gift shop. With a couple cups of tea and a full tote of goodies, we were ready to go!

Across the Ashley River is downton Charleston
Next stop: Charleston. Our hotel had wonderful views of the city and (by now essential) sunsets. While in town, we dined on Southern favorites such as shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes and got a good taste of history as well. Also worked in a tour of  the Gilded Age home, the Calhoun Mansion (aka, the "OMG house"). This over-the-top residence also had a gift shop which housed my wish-list silver tea set.

The Calhoun Mansion, aka the "OMG House".

Silver tea set in Calhoun Mansion gift shop
Last stop before heading back home to Detroit was Asheville, We were crushed to find one of our favorite tea rooms, Chelsea's, was closed (best white chocolate, lemon curd cake ever!) but still enjoyed the walk in the quaint, historic Biltmore Village in addition to a raid at the Biltmore Estate Gate House gift shop.

No Chelsea's but consolation was found at Biltmore gift shop.
It was an incredible road trip, full of special places and surprises - not the least of which was meeting up with our next-door-neighbors when we stopped in Jelico, TN for gas. We had no idea of their travel itinerary, and we were as shocked-and-awed by this event as our first viewing of the Calhoun House. OMG, indeed!

OMG! It's our neighbors in Jelico, TN!!
The next few weeks, I'll be pouring over brochures and maps we picked up along the way, as well as my five-hundred-some pictures captured on my iPhone, to reminisce about this awesome adventure. I'll also be sampling some of my road trip booty:  brought back lots of books and tea. Left the sivler tea set in Charleston, though - but just another reason to go back.

Road trip booty: tea, books and china. To the silver tea set, I say, "I'll be back!"


Linda said...

Such a great post and pretty photos. Thanks so much for sharing. You have a lovely blog.

Constantine said...

We flew home to book this venue in June last year. Absolutely loved venue Houston here and I'll be certainly waiting to go back there for more events. Regardless of the time of your event, you always get the same thing: reasonable drink prices, great decoration, & friendly staff.