This weekend. Where do I even begin. If you follow along on Instagram, you know that I was in Charleston with a group of blogging friends. It was basically one big series of pinch-yourself moments with my good friend Chassity and the local CVB acting as our fairy godmothers. And also, I think I might have a new favorite city.
So. Our trip. Get ready for a long post… I have so much to tell you about!
I flew down on Friday afternoon and was honestly a little bit shocked by what a quick flight from New York it is… only an hour and a half! (Why hadn’t I visited before!?) We stayed at The Mills House in downtown Charleston. Here’s a little bit of history for you…. The Mills House was originally designed by Robert Mills (the same man who designed the Washington Monument) and opened in 1853. The hotel actually served as the Confederate Headquarters during the Civil War, and Robert E. Lee himself has slept there. The hotel was restored in 2008 so it is not exactly the same as the original, but many of the elements (including the balconies) are from the original hotel. I was curious what it looked like back in 1853 so I did a little research and found this print… it looks pretty much the same today.
So let’s begin. There were nine of us blog girls… Chassity (from Charleston); Carly, Mackenzie, Amy, and I (from New York); Amy, Caroline, and Mary (from Texas), and Jamie (from North Carolina.) We’ve all known each other for a while now through running our respective sites and meeting up during fashion week, but it was really fun to get to spend some true quality time with this group and get to know everyone a little better. I’d definitely recommend checking out each of these ladies’ blogs as they are all very talented (and also had different takes on the trip which have been fun to read.)
We started our evening in the lobby of our hotel with a champagne toast before heading out for dinner. And what a dinner it was!
Charleston is known for its incredible cuisine. Its residents take their food very seriously, which is something I can certainly relate to. I actually didn’t know this until I got into town, which is funny in hindsight. Our dinner on Friday was actually a progressive one with three stops… taking Rickshaw cabs in between.
We started at The Daily. Note that The Daily is not usually open for dinner as it is more of an “artisinal corner store” but they welcomed us in to start our evening with some wine and yummy appetizers (we ate a delicious southern rice + rabbit dish.) The Daily is more of a grab and go place making it the perfect stop to grab coffee, craft sandwich, or an easy snack.
Next up was The Grocery. Oh, did we eat. The kitchen sent out a range of dishes. I’ve never had anything quite like their Roman Style Cauliflower. It was your standard roasted cauliflower; but with capers + lemon, topped off with bread crumbs and a soft egg. Seriously delicious. The Crispy Eggplant (with honey + feta) was equally delicious, as was the Okra. What really impressed me was that Mary is totally gluten-free and the kitchen went above and beyond to accommodate her… sending out gluten-free versions of everything as well as their pesto filled burrata which looked completely insane.
Stuffed, we arrived at our last stop for dinner… The Macintosh. This was probably my favorite of all the restaurants we tried as it’s my favorite sort of food – classic American fare with super fresh ingredients. They have no specials, but rather print out a new menu daily, which I love… and all ingredients are always local. We sat out on the back porch (really lovely + big enough to fit a large group.) Highlights for me were the scallops, the deckle, the Fall vegetable plate, and the house-made burrata. Yeah, we ate. Sidenote: next time I am in Charleston, I need to go during the week, because from 5-7pm on weekdays they actually have a Bacon Happy Hour. Yes, that is right. A bacon happy hour. It makes sense as their head chef is Jeremiah Bacon but honestly can’t think of anything that sounds better than that.
The next morning, we were up at 8am. I’m not exactly a morning person (especially after all of that food!!!), but it was completely worth waking up for. John LaVerne of Bulldog Tours treated us to a two hour walking tour of the city and I soaked up every minute of it. Stunning architecture, the Rainbow Row (fun fact: back in the olden days, they thought that brightly colors reflected the heat and kept their homes cooler.), a walk along the river and then through the Historic District and the French Quarter… We saw so much of the city and I learned a lot. For example: I had no idea that Charleston is one of the most haunted cities in the world. There’s a reason for that.. the city has experienced so much tragedy between floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.
I love the photo above because clearly something was really funny to me… but maybe it wasn’t all that funny, because look at Mackenzie’s face!
…Please enjoy this extremely flattering photo of me, attempting to get the perfect shot!
I fell in love with the houses in the historic district. Seriously, when can I move in?
There are more photos from the tour on my Instagram (couldn’t stop taking photos) but now we must move along to brunch.
After our tour, we were taken to Chassity‘s (amazing) home for the most beautiful, delicious brunch. Chassity’s home was the sort of place I can only dream of someday living in… complete with a swing porch (pictured in the top photo) that I could imagine curling up on with a book for hours. (Chassity – if you’re reading this… know that I will be back very soon with a pile of books, some rosé for us to drink, and zero plans to leave. Watch out.)
And after lunch, we had some free time. I wish I could say that I checked out Museum Mile, hit up the Charleston City Market or took a tour of the Old City Jail, but at that point I was dead tired. I let myself take a little nap and then took a walk over to King Street to do a little shopping.
I’m not even sure where to start with Hampden Clothing. The boutique owner, Stacy Smallwood, welcomed me into her shop with open arms. Literally. She gave me the biggest hug. She’s impeccably stylish and has the greatest eye (seriously – Hampden may be my favorite store, ever… but don’t take my word for it.. both Vogue and Marie Claire recognize it as one of the top boutiques in the country.) All of that style aside, she is one of the nicest, warmest people I’ve ever met. You’ll be hearing more about her later as she’s agreed to participate in an upcoming Stripe Talk but seriously… I just adore her.
I ran into Amy at Hampden, so we stopped into Croghan’s Jewel Box after to try on vintage baubles and gems. And after that, we popped into Husk for a drink. On Instagram, so many of you suggested it… but it was not a part of our itinerary, so I had to at least go for a drink! It’s a really cute spot though – definitely on the list for next time. We had their CBWS punch and it was really good. Maybe too good. Like a refreshing iced iced tea (that will get you very drunk if you aren’t careful!)
And then free time was over and it was off to dinner in our transportation of choice for the weekend… The Rickshaw!
We headed to Mariana Hay’s house – her family owns Croghan’s Jewel Box. I’ll be telling you more about Croghan’s in the future, but if you go to Charleston, stop by their store. It’s full of beautiful estate jewelry + eye-popping baubles… both vintage and new. Mariana actually designs the shop’s Goldbug Collection, which I adore (especially this necklace!) And her home… wow. It resembled the classic Southern mansions you see in the movies… complete with the most gorgeous antique furniture, a huge porch… the works!
PS – If you shop at Croghan’s, use code STRIPESANDSEQUINS and take 10% off (through November.)
So our bartender isn’t just a bartender. He’s Brooks Reitz (famed mixologist + restaurateur) and founder of Jack Rudy small batch tonic. He made me the most delicious cocktail of vodka, lemon and honey… I only wish I could tell you what it was called!
Let’s just say I really, really loved trying on all of Croghan’s estate pieces..
You need to know about Rhett Ramsay Outten. She’s Mariana’s aunt and gave us a brief history of Croghan’s and her family. We were all mesmerized by the family story and how they got their start over 100 years ago. It was fun hearing about how the store began as just a side porch and gradually grew to occupy the whole building. Croghan’s is now the oldest family owned jewelry store in town and a bit of an institution. But Rhett. She was just so lovely and welcoming – and hilarious. Meeting her was another high point of the trip.
After dinner, we went out… to the Market Pavilion Rooftop. Café Patron was maybe involved, and the evening ended with Jamie and I trying to find a Taco Bell. (Really? We. Are. Gross. Luckily we were unsuccessful in our mission.) I got to bed at a decent hour and slept like a baby.
The next morning was one last brunch with some of Charleston’s local designers, held on the pool deck of The Mills House. There was lots of amazing food and the most delicious bloody mary bar, served to us straight from the founders of Fat & Juicy, Joe and John. I loved talking more with the guys and found myself fascinated by their story and how they got started. Their mixes are currently the fastest growing brand on the market and the Bloody Mary mix is really good… I’m so happy that Fairway carries it back home!
After brunch, I met my friend Colleen for a little walk in the park… and then (more wine) and the most delicious homemade riccota at The Park Cafe.
I can’t stop thinking about this amazing city and my next trip back. I fell in love with the city and all of the amazing people I met. It broke my heart a little to leave (and head back to cold, crowded New York.) But I’ll be back. There’s still so much to do and see. Lucky for me (as I mentioned before) it’s only an hour and a half flight from New York. Biggest thanks to Chassity and Molly + Julia from the Charleston CVB for what was truly an unforgettable trip.
And… a quick little recap for you in case you’re planning your own trip!
Where to Stay: The Mills House
Where to Eat: The Daily (great spot for grab & go, amazing coffee!) // The Grocery // The Macintosh // Husk (I only got in for a drink but have heard incredible things) // The Park Cafe (get the homemade ricotta!)
*also, Chassity has an amazing Charleston Guide on her blog that I’ve already bookmarked for next time!
Most photos by Gray Benko, the rest from my iPhone!