Since my daily life tends to go by in a blur, and I'm very at home in the adopted city where I've lived for 16 years, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the things I miss about the South until I'm actually in the South and they're right in front of me. Like the sound of cicadas and bullfrogs at night from a screened-in porch; the playful lilt of a Southern accent (which I regain the moment my plane touches down); the relaxed pace of life (you can be in a traffic jam and no one will honk their horn -- this alone is enough to make me want to move back); the arch of trees over a road where few cars travel; the offerings of sweet tea and biscuits and grits at breakfast; the genuine welcome given to children in public places.
We spent five days at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff over Memorial Day, and it was exceptional in every way, including being exceptionally Southern. It feels less like a resort and more like a tiny town in the lowcountry, where everyone is thrilled to see you, and in the evenings you can sip wine on your very own porch, watching the moon rise over the May River and hearing the wind whooshing through the palmetto leaves and the tall pines. (One night, we also heard a large animal grunting and tramping by in the darkness, and we suspect it was a feral pig -- not something you can say about every vacation.) Spanish moss drips off massive oak trees, and a little chapel gleams in the village green. This place is a slice of heaven.
We went through something of an ordeal to get there; what should have been a few hours of easy travel stretched into over 13 hours of every flying-related misadventure short of an actual plane crash. On our way to the Newark airport, we found out our flight to Savannah had been canceled, despite the seemingly mild weather on both ends of the trip at that point. Joe spent a quality hour on the phone with the airline while our car service parked in the departures area and I took Felicity inside for a bathroom break and a bagel. After rebooking on an afternoon flight out of LaGuardia, we spent another two hours in the car in rush hour traffic trying to make our way from New Jersey to Queens. I do not recommend this.
We had some time to kill at LaGuardia once we finally arrived, and then we had still more time to kill when the inbound aircraft was delayed. By the time it got there and we were able to board, some menacing clouds had rolled in over the field. We got into the queue for take-off, then sat on the tarmac while it thundered and poured and air traffic grounded all flights. Finally, the weather lifted and we crawled forward every few minutes. At last, we were first in line for departure, but then upon testing the engines, the pilot discovered some kind of problem. Back to the gate we went, and then sat and sat some more while mechanics fixed the issue and filled out some kind of paperwork, and then we had to get back into the massive queue for takeoff and, naturally, another series of storms unleashed on us. We were on that plane (a small regional jet, mind you) for at least three hours before, to our great relief, we actually lifted off the ground and made our way to our destination.
Felicity was amazing through the entire thing. I can't think of a single thing in the world she hates more than being in a car, but even during the endless ride to Newark and then to LaGuardia that morning, she was calm and patient. On the plane, I kept her entertained with my stash of new books and coloring books and snacks, and she rolled with all of it. She was even thrilled every time we went into the airplane lavatory (which we did MANY times), exclaiming, "Oh, what a sweet little potty!" She never went to sleep, but she also never flipped out and she hardly even so much as whined. This means we are already planning future trips to Europe and Hawaii, because clearly she is ready for the big time.
She was starting to lose it a teeny bit by the time we got to the resort -- after a 30-minute drive from the airport, well past her bedtime -- but no one can fault her for that, and she perked right up when we got into our cottage and she saw the little toddler bed we'd rented for her ("Oh, look at the cute little bed!") and checked out the enormous clawfooted tub in the bathroom that was the size of our apartment ("I want to take a bath in THIS tub!" she said). Joe and I were equally gleeful over the complimentary wine and chocolates they had waiting for us, and the massive porch and the praline snack mix.
Beyond the mess of getting there, we had a blissful time. We rode bikes on sandy trails under arches of trees (some of us did not find it so thrilling and slept the entire time):
We took Felicity on two pony rides, which she loved after some initial reluctance to wear the required helmet:
"This is such a sweet pony!"
On Herbie (we didn't get any shots of her first ride, on Rivet, thanks to a misadventure in biking there -- never mind):
We frolicked in the waves in Hilton Head, along with about eight zillion other people. Felicity remains a water baby through and through, especially when the ocean is relatively calm and comes in at a balmy 88 degrees:
(This was an impressive rally after her carsickness episode on the way there -- she was complaining about being in the car, as per usual, and then she said, "The car makes me cough! BLURRRRRGGGHHHHHHHH." Thank goodness I always travel with air sickness bags on hand, having learned my lesson in a most colorful fashion when I traveled alone with her once when she was about eighteen months old. That taxi cab will never be the same.)
We took a boat tour of the intercoastal waterway, on which we saw loads of dolphins, egrets, cranes,and hawks, and even came upon a hammerhead shark bottom-feeding near the shoreline. Felicity fell asleep in my arms for a while (can she please stay three forever?), but rallied when we got to a sandbar revealed by the low tide, where we met lots of live sea creatures up close and personal.
Our encounters included the rather homely cannonball jellyfish, which lacks tentacles so it doesn't sting -- meaning that Felicity could go around picking up every one she saw and return them to the sea.
I had to play it cool like it was no big deal to handle a twitching gelatinous mass that smelled like a barrel of rotten fish innards, in the hope that she would continue to view the whole thing as fascinating instead of gross. This is one of those parenting moments that I will lord over her in her teen and adult years. (I do not even eat seafood or fish of any kind, let alone handle it in its living form as a matter of course, so brackish marine life is really not my thing.)
She could have spent days on that beach, but we lured her back to the boat with the promise of a few sips of Gatorade (or "lemon drink," as she calls it).
We ate our body weight in good Southern cooking, plus s'mores around the bonfire every evening and ice cream on two occasions.
Not to mention the plate of lime slices that our waiter brought out when we dined at one restaurant for a second time -- he had remembered seeing Felicity eat the lime from the side of Joe's beer glass the evening prior, and he thought she should have her own. Southern hospitality at its best, I tell you.
One morning as we were eating breakfast at a local cafe called Buffalo's, Felicity suddenly started screaming, "A yak! A yak! It's a yak! I don't like it!" and she ran and hid behind Joe's chair. It took us several confused minutes to figure out that she was referring to the big buffalo head on the wall overlooking our table.
Another day, by the pool, as Felicity took a momentary break from migrating every five minutes from one pool to another (there was a big one, a sprinkler-fed smaller one, a wading one, and a hot tub, and she wanted to try them ALL, always in rapid succession), Joe was trying to help her get some floaties on and she said, "Hey, Meredith! Can you help me with this? Daddy can't get it!" Oh, how we laughed.
In addition to the resident egrets, hawks, and fox squirrels (and possible feral pigs), we saw several alligators in the inlet near our cottage, including a wee baby alligator. Felicity would have happily taken him home if given the option (and you have to admit, he's pretty cute).
I love when, on vacation, you settle into a little routine even when you're only in a new place for a few days. It gives shape and comfort to the days and makes the time there seem longer. At Palmetto Bluff, each evening after having dinner and s'mores, we strolled back to our cottage across a wooden bridge that was set up with rocking chairs on each side. And each evening, Felicity would say, "Mommy! You sit here. Daddy! You sit right here. I am sitting in this little bitty seat. Our whole family is together!"
I can't imagine anything more perfect.