Hilton Head Style
I am not one to turn down a road trip, especially with one of my closest girlfriends. What’s not to love about endless miles of talking, as many bathroom breaks as we want, and license to eat all the junk food. Besides, connecting with a friend over an extended amount of time is so good for my soul. So when my friend Debra needed to make a trip to Hilton Head Island (HHI) to check on her vacation rental I was all in, after all, I’ve never been to the Low Country and I was anxious to experience it.
We left at 5 a.m. on a Monday and arrived on Hilton Head Island at 12:30 a. m. Tuesday. Needless to say, it was a long day, but the miles were eaten up by good conversation and pit stops but those last 200 miles were the longest! We had a lot to unload, and I finally crawled into bed around 2:30 a.m. Whew!
Where we Stayed
I was really looking forward to staying in Debra’s vacation rental on HHI. She is a gifted interior designer with impeccable taste, and I was dying to see her handiwork after hearing about it throughout her design process. Wandering through her sunlight dappled home the following morning certainly didn’t disappoint. Her attention to detail and the luxe appointments combined to create a space that was both welcoming and inviting.
From the Jonathan Adler details and the hints of chinoiserie, the condo is an exercise in luxury and attention to your every need.
Baskets conveniently suspended on the entrance wall contain items (parking passes, umbrellas, insect repellant) you will need as you walk out the door.
A well-appointed kitchen with open cabinetry, marble countertops, vintage tableware, an ice maker, blue refrigerator, full-sized washer and dryer, a coffee bar with a De’Longhi coffee machine, and Villa la Vie branded coffee to complete the space.
The living/dining area is open with table seating for six and the gathering space is spacious and intimate at the same time. There are books, games, and a reading nook where I enjoyed a book about the history of the island. Fine art reproductions add another high-end dimension to this area. Live plants and fresh flowers on the table were extra details that mattered to me and made me feel at home. P.S. I didn’t take photos of the fresh flowers, this photo contains decorative foliage.
A balcony is located immediately off the living area and there is space to take in the courtyard garden from comfortable chairs and if you are so inclined, descend the circular staircase to head to the pool.
A well-appointed powder room completes the downstairs area.
Upstairs are two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms, walk-in showers, luxe linens, high-end bedding, rich fabrics, custom window treatments, designer wallpaper, full sized closets with tons of hangers and floating shelves, furniture with plenty of storage, chic amenities, and cozy seating areas.
As a frequenter of other people’s homes (no offense 5-star hotels), I can say unequivocally that this is the most comfortably elegant and luxurious home I’ve ever had the opportunity to stay in. If you decide to go, hosts Dan and Debra will make sure you have everything you need for your stay on HHI.
How we Spent our Time
Villa la Vie is five-minute walk from Coligny Beach and Coligny Plaza making beach activities, dining, and shopping exceptionally convenient.
We walked on the beach every evening; the sunsets are stunning, and the ocean breeze provided sweet relief from the last blast of the days heat. We saw rabbits every evening and one night we saw a deer. Pro Tip: pay attention to your beach marker signs. Debra and I were talking during an evening stroll, and we missed ours. It wouldn’t have been an issue except we needed to pick up her shoes and it was dark. Thank goodness for our phone flashlights but if you plan to be out after dark you might consider packing a real one.
We enjoyed incredibly delicious food and one of the highlights for us was trying different versions of fried green tomatoes…….so many different ways to prepare and present. We really enjoyed the presentation at Backyard Garden. And don’t even get me started on the grits. In my opinion, the best were breaded then fried and served with ham gravy (who knew that was a thing…..not me!) and shrimp with a side of collard greens. We enjoyed that meal at The Olde Pink House in Savannah and the building has quite a history. And seafood! Oh my. The seafood at Hudson’s Seafood was out of this world and so fresh. Yummo!
We were very interested in Gullah history and exploring sites relevant to their culture. The Gullah are an African American community whose origins are traced to the West African slave trade. They were brought to the Low Country as slaves and known for their skills in rice cultivation. They are known for preserving their linguistic and cultural heritage. If, like me, you aren’t familiar with the Gullah, I recommend reading about their history, contributions, and strong traditions. I found it very educational.
We toured an outdoor Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island and while we really wanted to find one of the many cemeteries on the island, we were unsuccessful. After a few false starts, driving down forgotten paths until they became inaccessible, and being attacked by swarms of mosquitos on another attempt we gave up.
We had time for a quick visit to the Coastal Discovery Museum and enjoyed walking the grounds and exploring the gardens where the Spanish moss dreamily cascades from the shoulders of the live oaks and is just beautiful. We learned more about Low Country history here.
This is a good time to mention that alligators are often seen around HHI and we saw warning signs here. It is illegal to feed the alligators and although we didn’t see one I was willing to comply if we did. Although we didn’t see one, I was hyper-alert just in case we did. Debra and I had an ongoing joke about spying an alligator and we took turns being on duty. All kidding aside, read more about what to do if you encounter one and be sure to be mindful of your environment, whether you see a sign or not.
We walked down a pier that was hovering over a salt marsh and saw teensy crabs in the expanse of nutrient rich soil.
We packed a lot into three days but that’s easy to do on HHI. I’d love to go back with Graeme.
We spent a full day in Savannah which is about an hour’s drive from HHI. We enjoyed a private walking tour with Savannah Walks and shopped on Broughton Street after our lunch at The Olde Pink House. I got the most amazing chocolate at Chocolat by Adam Turoni. The Mexican Mocha Melts were divine, I’ll be ordering more online, and I’m intrigued by the chocolate subscription. My favorite shop was The Paris Market and while I didn’t purchase anything I might take advantage of their online shop.
We learned as much about Savannah history as you can pack into two-plus hours.
I grew up hearing the response “fair to middling” when someone asks how you are doing. I never gave it a second thought or considered the origin of the phrase but I was fascinated to learn that it is rooted in agriculture (see what I did there?) specifically cotton if you are in Savannah. It refers to the varying grades of cotton with “fair” and “middling” being right in the middle. So…….if you are “fair to middling” you are between good and awful, perfectly in the middle.
We decided to break up our return trip into two days to include a stop in Montgomery, Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. It was a rainy and messy day but we are both strongly passionate about human rights and this was time very well spent. Although this was my second visit to both, and it was equally as powerful as the first time. The museum interactively explores the history of racial injustice from slavery to mass incarceration and contains soil in glass containers from lynching sites from the Deep South; the memorial is a powerful visual representation of lynching in America with each pillar containing the name of a lynching victim from each county in the US. If you haven’t visited either, I can’t recommend them enough, you won’t forget it, I promise.
Our final stop before the last push for home was in Selma, Alabama to see and walk across the Edmond Pettus Bridge.
The bridge is the site of Bloody Sunday, a day in March of 1965 that civil rights activists planned to march from Selma to Montgomery to protest the denial of voting rights for African Americans. The non-violent marchers were attacked by Alabama State Troopers as they passed over the county line. I don’t have the room here to go into greater detail but it is definitely worth reading about if you aren’t familiar. It is a day in American history that shouldn’t be forgotten and the marchers deserve to be honored by remembrance.
This was a repeat visit for me but no less powerful. The civil rights history of this bridge is still relevant today.
We made it home after six days, six states and 2600 miles! What an adventure.
The best souvenir from my trip is the gift of time with a good friend, the sweet memories we made, and the laughter we shared. I’m grateful for all of it.