Getting Out: Charleston

Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge
Charleston Harbor and the Ravenel Bridge

Ah, the Holy City, my current home. I’ve been living in the tourism capital that is Charleston for about a year and a half now, and I’ve got designs on staying a few more months. We welcome scads of visitors every year who arrive by the thousand via tour bus and cruise ship, eager to take in the beautiful architecture, rich history, and world-class food.  The weather’s not bad, either. Truly, I run out of things to complain about. Founded in the 1670, it’s one of America’s oldest cities, and it’s still a functional port today. Though things have changed a lot here over the past few centuries, it remains a gorgeous city that is much more progressive, zanier, and more diverse than the rest of the state. Nicknamed the Holy City because of a nearly-embarrassing overabundance of churches, Charleston has played an important role in several faith traditions– Reform Judaism was born here, the country’s oldest Unitarian church is here, and it’s one of the most important cities in the Bahai’i faith.

A Charleston pocket park.
A Charleston pocket park.

It’s also routinely listed as one of the best vacation destinations in the world, so we get a true cross section of the population visiting, though they seem to fall almost entirely into three distinct categories: people who want to look at the beach, people who want to eat our food, and people who want to interact with a friendly kind of slavery. I’m always happy to see the first two, but believe me: I am not sympathetic to your position that the Old Slave Mart was “a downer” or your weird obsession with plantations. If you’ve got a soft spot for John C. Calhoun or want to tell me how human bondage wasn’t so bad, please just stay at your house and do not give money to the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

After the jump, check out some photos I’ve taken around town and get my recommendations for the best places to eat, drink, stay, shop, and do in my adopted hometown.

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Getting Out: Birmingham, Alabama

An alarming number of people think that I moved to Charleston from Alabama. Like New Hampshire and Vermont, Mississippi and Alabama are both variations on a theme in terms of shape, and are exactly next to each other. As it turns out, most Americans are terrible at geography, and there’s no mnemonic device that helps you remember which one is which.

A view from the bar of the Redmont Hotel.
A view from the bar of the Redmont Hotel. I recommend skipping it, but the views cannot be beat.

Additional confusion comes into play when it turns out that I know Birmingham pretty well. I went there often as a kid, it was a midway point between Oxford and Atlanta, and I spent almost a week there this autumn for a business trip. I love that town, so I get excited any time there’s a chance to stop in. No one ever believes me when I say this; Birmingham gets no respect.

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Getting Out: Charlottesville, Virginia

Oh, college. I remember you sometimes-fondly, often not-so-fondly. See, I was bad at going to college. I got good grades and had friends, but I loved Charlottesville, Thomas Jefferson, and the idea of UVA more than I loved College: The Experience. Toward the end there, one of my peers described me as less a student and more a “townie who takes a lot of classes,” which I think was supposed to be an insult but was definitely true. I lived far from Grounds, worked far from Grounds, and cultivated relationships with long-time Charlottesvillians. I was glad I did that then, and I’m glad I did that now.

This guide grows out of an email I initially wrote to my friend Gill entitled “places for your to go and see and be and do in charlottesville, the nicest town in the entire world.” Gill was trying to impress his U.Va. grad wife by taking her to some places she hadn’t been in Charlottesville, and apparently this list helped.

This will be your face the whole time you're there.
This will be your face the whole time you’re there. It was my face for most of it.

I have virtually no photos from when I lived in Charlottesville that aren’t of my friends and me in younger, thinner, drunker, more beautiful days, because I left there in 2010, before the spread of smartphones. I’ve been back many, many times, but the photographs from those trips, too, are just a nostalgia binge. I’ve dug up a few good ones for you, and those are with the tips I’ve wrangled for you after the jump.

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Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky

I usually do my travel guide on Mondays, but I’m about to move from Louisville, and I’m getting in my “last ______s” right now. People ask me about what to do in the city all the time, so maybe I’ll just make a list for you right now. It’s timely, right? You’re coming for the Derby, I hope.

Horses may be our civic religion, but there's so much more than that here.
Horses may be our civic religion, but there’s so much more than that here.

After the jump, there’s all I know of the place, condensed into a long-but-Reader’s-Digest-length list. Continue reading “Staying In: Louisville, Kentucky”

Getting Out: Las Vegas

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time at all, you’ll know that I usually aim for under-the-radar, hip stuff to do when I’m traveling. My interest level in going to the Galco Soda Stop, for example, is greater than my desire to see the Hollywood sign. You will never hear me advocating that you visit a restaurant with locations in more than one county.

That said: Get over it.

Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.
Not pictured: sequined minidress, six inch heels.

The point of Las Vegas is that it is corny, it is over-the-top, it is terrible, it is bright and loud and dingdingdingdingding. Embrace it, and do what you’re there to do. Eat well, drink too much, lose some money you had to lose, and take in some shows. After the jump, I’ve got some suggestions.

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Getting Out: Reykjavik

Every year, my girlfriends and I take a trip to somewhere different. This year, it was Reykjavik, Iceland. How did we choose such a place, you ask? Well, I’m obsessed with Iceland, and we were between there and Colombia the day we picked and it was hot that day and we decided we’d had enough of hot.

3 Girls, 1 Viking.

That photo pretty much sums up the trip, but if you follow me after the jump, I’ll give you the inside scoop on what’s the what in Reykjavik and the surrounding areas. Be forewarned: In another time, I would have been the lady making you look at her vacation slides over fondue. Continue reading “Getting Out: Reykjavik”

Getting Out: Los Angeles

A word on Los Angeles: I thought I was going to hate it there. I have long held that Southern California is not a real place, and that the entire state is, in fact, a bold advertising campaign for In-N-Out Burger (see: Fig. A).

Okay, it really is as good as everyone claims. I regret stating otherwise and fully retract any statement made previously.
Okay, it really is as good as everyone claims. I regret stating otherwise and fully retract any statement made previously.

I spent five great days in the City of Angels a few weeks back, and I’ve got some suggestions for you for eating, drinking, shopping, and seeing. It’s by no means conclusive (how could it be?), but it’s representative and a little bit off the beaten path.

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Getting Out: Cincinnati

Despite the fact that Kentucky is the South and Ohio is the Midwest, we share a lot of border. I’m talking a lot. Cincinnati is only about ninety minutes away from Louisville, so I go there sometimes, just for kicks.

I am usually morally opposed to going to Ohio, because what do they have that I don’t, other than IKEA and some pro sports teams? Admittedly, those are some pretty big things to not have, but I also discovered they have some OTHER stuff that I like/want.

There is some amazing art deco architecture and the like, some beautiful museums, great food, and all kinds of stuff like that. All in all, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting from the third largest city in Ohio. A lot of people gave me amazing suggestions, and I followed them accordingly.

The Delta Queen steamboat, and a view of the city at night.
The Delta Queen steamboat, and a view of the city at night.

Don’t take my word for it. Photos and a city guide after the jump. Continue reading “Getting Out: Cincinnati”

Making a withdrawal from the doughnut bank

Today, this is the only post I’m going to make– the others were scheduled in advance. I’m in Evansville, Indiana today with my family to lay my grandmother to rest. She was a kind and gentle woman who loved my sister and me a lot, but she was also a formidable DIYer, a hell of a gardener, and an excellent, excellent home cook. For the next couple days, I’m going to share with you a few of the things she taught me over my life. 
I’ve never been one for funerals, so I ducked out as soon as I could and made a withdrawal from Kemp’s Doughnut Bank (Evansville institution and damn good doughnut makery) and headed over to Wesselman Woods. We went there all the time when I was little, and she and my grandfather taught me a lot about birds, flowers, leave-no-trace camping, recycling, and nature. It’s raining pitchforks and plow handles  in Vanderburg County, so I’ll leave you with this drool-inducing photo of my coffee and cake doughnut breakfast under the picnic shelter. I’ll be back tomorrow.Image