Tuesday, August 17, 2010

To Durham and Beyond: Part Three-The Detour

When we were planning our trip, we realized that since we became a family of three, we'd never taken a "real" family vacation (as in a vacation that didn't involve visiting family or friend...which are our favorite kind of vacations to take!) or traveling for volleyball or some work related event. Since we were going to be traveling anyway, we figured we'd better take one, before we became a family of four, and missed our chance! So after our time at Stu and Becky's we headed slightly southwest to Greenville, South Carolina. We picked it for our FIRST family vacation for several reasons. It wasn't too far away (under four hours from Durham) it was the home of another one of our "pointbreak" (i.e. FREE!) hotels, and from our research, looked to be a city with an amazing (and pedestrian friendly) downtown, some super cool restaurants, stores and attractions, and awesome natural beauty; it's in the Smoky Mountain foothills and has a fantastic waterfall and rapids area running through downtown! -First stop in town was at "Southern Fried Green Tomatoes" for lunch. It wins the title for "coolest little restaurant you ever will find in a strip mall on the outskirts of town", and was a "meat and three" place: you order your meat and get two sides, plus cornbread and biscuits (and of course, the ever present sweet tea!). This place was FULL of southern hospitality (we even got a free t-shirt because they liked Iain, and thought it was "cool" that we were from Iowa!) and was comfort food at it's best. Neil had the meatloaf, with creamed corn and mashed potatoes (was someone longing for home cookin'?) and I tried the fried chicken with (of course!) fried green tomatoes, and a twice baked potato casserole. It was all DELICIOUS, although neither of us came close to finishing our meal! (I will say as well, that I think Iain ate as much fried chicken as I did! This boy likes his fried foods apparently!!) Surprisingly, after not showering, being in the car all morning, and arriving in SC to 110 degree heat with 100% humidity, we took some of our best (as in everybody is looking at the camera, and no one is making a (terribly) weird face!) family photos!

After our lunch, we went to our blissfully cool hotel room for a long (and much needed!) nap. After a swim in the pool, we showered and headed to Handi Indian Cuisine in downtown Greenville. We looove Indian food, so this was a must-destination! It got great reviews, and looked really nice from the website, but we were unprepared for HOW nice it was! We actually had to ask if they had high chairs (as in..."is this a place you can bring a baby?!") and thankfully the answer was yes! The pictures don't do it justice, but it was without a doubt the nicest Indian restaurant we've ever been to! And our meal was perfect! We enjoyed the best samosas we've ever had, flawless chicken makhani and vindaloo, and Iain particularly loved the black pepper papadums! (No surprise, since they are basically crackers, but we thought it a mark of his good taste!)

We woke up bright and early Friday morning (thanks to our little alarm clock!) and after breakfast, (and coffee!) drove about an hour north to Caesar's Head State Park. After a stop at a South-est of the South gas station and a very winding ascent, we arrived at the viewing area...it was amazing! We'd both seen the Rocky Mountains often, but these were more gentle, more rolling, and more...smoky! Beautiful!

We headed back to the hotel for a nap time for Iain and showers for everyone, and then it was off to the CUTEST restaurant we'd ever seen, the Brick Street Cafe. We met up with some dear friends for lunch: my old roomie Aimee and her husband David, and their adorable kiddos, Averie and Finn. The restaurant's food tasted as good as the place looked, and my "Crab Cake Sammich" was to die for! Even though we decided to forgo the peanut butter cake that all the staff was talking up in expectation of gelato later downtown, I think we might need a trip back there just to try it! I hadn't seen Aimee in over three years, and neither of us had met the others' children, so it was a much needed (and long overdue!) reunion! Iain was hamming it up for his audience, of course, showing off his (fake) yawn, demonstrating his knowledge of his tummy, hair, ears, etc. and generally clowning it up...until he conked his head on the table leg and got a HUGE bruise and goose egg! He was a sad and subdued little soldier after that! Averie was such a little beauty, and a good conversationalist to boot (we heard all about Wall-E!) and Finn a smoochable little peanut! It was so good to meet them!

After lunch, we headed to Reedy River Falls Park. Reedy River has an amazingly beautiful natural waterfall that cascades through the middle of Greenville's downtown, and there are shops, restaurants, boardwalks and sights to see all around. It's spanned by the Liberty Suspension Bridge, a landmark in itself. According to the visor's guide, the bridge is 355-feet long, 12-feet wide, has a horizontal curve radius of 214-feet and 90-foot towers weighing 26 tons each. Impressive sounding, and even better to see. UNFORTUNATELY, my camera battery died at this point, before I could get a good family shot, a picture of Aimee and me, or even one of the impressive bridge. To see some other photos of our reunion, check out Aimee's awesome blog! As an aside, we thought it quite humorous that signs were posted all around that rock sliding was PROHIBITED, but swimming was DISCOURAGED. How the heck would you swim in this place without rock sliding?!
We got our much coveted gelato after our trip to the park, and then Aimee and David and their two tired kidlets took off for home, about two hours away. After they left, Neil, Iain and I browsed in some of the cool shops downtown (in the pouring rain!) and contemplated what to do with our last vestiges of time in Greenville. There was one thing left on our "Fun things to do in Greenville" list, and since the weather was perfect (the thunderstorm had lowered the temperature about thirty degrees from the day before, and the rain had stopped and the sun was shining!) and since Iain was happily napping in his carseat, we decided we shouldn't pass it up. It was back to the hotel for a quick change into some dry clothes, and then back downtown to a Greenville Drive baseball game! Like everything of note in Greenville, Fluor Field is smack-dab in the middle of downtown, upscale without being pretentious, family friendly, and FUN! Apparently on a Friday night, it's also popular! When we arrived, we discovered that all the seats were sold out (although if you ask me, there were PLENTY empty!) but we could get standing room. We decided to go for it, since our hearts weren't set on staying the whole time, and there were lots of picnic tables, grassy areas, and even a kids playground that we could use. We had some great (and cheap!!) ballpark food for dinner, and Iain LOVED walking around the stadium, seeing all there was to see. He was also very interested (and very cautious!) in the many "characters" that frequent a baseball stadium! We stayed until our boy got tired, and then off to the hotel for our final night before heading home. Oh, Grandma and Grandpa, Iain wants you to know that he thinks the Mystique drives really well!
We were very sad to leave "The South" and very sad to leave Greenville, which goes on our list of top-ten cities! Although we exhausted our pre-made list of "Fun things to do in Greenville", we discovered many more, so we'll have to go back! Final installment: Homeward Bound, coming tomorrow! Check back for more adventures with the Pitman clan!

One last thing: can anyone tell me what the heck these vines are? They grow all over EVERYTHING in the south!!

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