Content and photography originally posted by Vagabond3
We drove in from Columbia for a overnight getaway in the charming town of Aiken. We had a flexible list of things to do – the kind of activities that you can’t find in a city and seem perfectly situated for a couple's getaway or, in our case, family time to unwind.
Hopping off the interstate, we snaked our way into Aiken by way of South Boundary Avenue. As Aiken’s town symbol and with nationally recognized stature, we had placed a drive down and photo op within the old oak-lined street as our top priority. The last tree-lined street we visited was nearly three hours down a lonely highway, so the idea of being able to cruise through South Boundary – just minutes from our B&B was super exciting.
I had stumbled upon Aiken’s guide to taking pictures on the avenue, and so we parked near where Marion Street intersects – where I had read the trees were thickest. From the spot where we took our picture, the trees paraded along the avenue as far as we could see in both directions. Snapping a photo was too easy – a windfall that would come back to haunt us that night. (which you can read out here: Taking Photos Along the Avenue of Oaks.
As we redirected our car toward our next stop, we stumbled upon the Aiken railroad cars. Having seen a few trains pass by on our South Carolina trip, Augustine really liked being able to climb on one herself, and I learned how little I actually know about how trains work as I unsuccessfully attempted to answer all her questions – waffling between describing how old-timey coal worked and how electric subways work. As I confused even myself, I hoped that she was too young to remember any of my ‘facts.’
Redcliffe Plantation was a bit out of town, and so we stopped along the way to grab lunch – I want to brag about this lunch, tell everyone its a must-visit spot, but, stepping in, I thought we had made a mistake. There are no frills at Duke’s – it’s wood paneled walls, it’s pour yourself tea and water, it’s long shared tables like you’d find at a church picnic. Y’all it’s a Southern buffet – fried okra, cornbread, mac n’ cheese (Thanksgiving-style mac n' cheese), casseroles and tomatoes, banana pudding. It was three trips to the buffet and back. It was everything I wanted to eat in one place.
A few minutes further down the road brought us to Redcliffe Plantation. It’s sprawling grounds were great for running around with a peppering of trees best suited for climbing. The tour of the house was nice, but what grabbed most of our time was when Augustine found the big and little rocking chairs on the porch. If I hadn’t just eaten my weight in collard greens and pulled pork, I would loved to picnic the rest of the day on the lawn.
We wanted to check-in with time for a nap before the late afternoon activities so we headed in to Historic Downtown Aiken pulling into the drive of the Carriage House Inn. We were lucky enough to snag a shoulder season ‘king room’ which are already mostly booked up for the summer.
I’ve always been wary of B&B’s. I like to have space and solitude when I stay someplace new, and I’m always haunted by the Swedish B&B where our room opened up onto the ‘tour route.’ So, every sound we made was shared with whoever was being guided through the house. Carriage House was finally the solution I’ve been looking for.
While it bears the name B&B, it’s actually a few separate buildings – each outfitted with essentially condo-sized rooms. The balconies, or in our case – porch, open up to the public spaces, which during our stay, were mainly used by wedding guests. The only truly ‘shared’ space was the breakfast room in the morning.
After a quick nap, we headed out to one more spot to stretch out legs before dinner – the Hopeland Gardens.
I couldn’t believe the Hopeland Gardens are a free public park. If we lived in Aiken, we would visit this place every weekend – with it’s open walking areas, reflecting pools, completely strollable paths. Both Augustine and I were shocked by how big the fish in the pond were.
As dusk set in, we drove the few minutes back to Aiken’s Historic Downtown, which when we arrived seemed to already be closed for the night. Our B&B was about two blocks from dinner, so we decided to walk – not sure if the brewery would still be open.
When we turned down ‘The Alley,’ we found where the life of the city had snuck off to. The strip was lined with restaurants and bars – most with outdoor seating, people cheering with local beers or a glass of wine, people playing corn hole and dogs and young kids running the length of the alleyway. The weather was perfect to enjoy our dinner out there, surrounded by the sounds of one of the first warm spring nights, one where everyone forgot about the long winter and just wanted the night to last forever.
As the sun set and the fireflies started to come out, we walked home, skipping down the quiet downtown streets. Our room had two sections, one with a murphy bed for Augustine and a large king bedroom. We turned on a movie for Augustine, while getting ready for bed and relaxing with one more glass of wine.
The next morning, Augustine was overjoyed by the idea of going to breakfast but not having to drive in the car to get there. She might be a natural B&B lover at 3 years old.
We walked out of our patio, through the lush backyard and into the shared dining space, grabbing a large table by the window and pouring some OJ and coffee. We were offered a choice of a French toast, egg casserole or bacon and grits. Augustine loved the French toast and even finished my grits (true Southerner in her) and Bob had both the casserole and the French toast. We left very full, and again surprised that such a hearty, tasty breakfast was offered at the B&B.
As we packed up our bags, I was actually sad that we didn’t have another day at the inn. I could get used to the afternoon cookies and wine tastings, the porch swings, and coffee by the outdoor fireplace. Even though it was only a day, I truly felt relaxed and refreshed – something that doesn’t come easy for me but clearly so needed.
Content and photography originally posted by Vagabond3