My Surprising Trip to Charleston
This post is sponsored by Marshalls. Find more on our sponsored post policy here.
If you’ve been following us on Instagram, the cat is out of the bag. But in case you haven’t (well, you should — follow us here!), I went on my Choose Surprise trip for Marshalls. And it was everything. EVERYTHING.
The one thing I love most about Marshalls is exactly what they are best known for — amazing surprises in each of their stores at incredible prices. That element of surprise makes shopping FUN, and I love knowing that even though I don’t know exactly what I might find, I definitely know that I’m going to walk away with something (or several things!) that I love. I took this state of mind with me to Charleston, and it inspired every aspect of my trip — from my shopping trip to Marshalls to get me packed and ready, to the amazing things I did/saw/ate over the course of the weekend (more on that below!). Trying new things and making surprise a choice is pretty liberating — and I actually learned a lot about myself after a weekend away with just me! And it all started with a little inspiration from Marshalls to find out what would happen when I really step out of my predictable routine.
Wanna hear the play-by-play? I thought you’d never ask!
First, as I headed to the airport, I opened my sealed Pack Up + Go envelope (at last!) and found out that I was going to — surprise — Charleston! I’ve been to a lot of U.S. cities before, but never had I been to Charleston. And I was pumped. I’ve watched travel programs and food shows all about Charleston’s beauty, charm and food scene. And, guys, it lived up to the hype.
So, on a plane I got with all my awesome Marshalls finds. Did you know they even have great deals on luggage, totes, accessories, beauty supplies and travel must-haves — like the eye pillow and headphones you see below? And that they get new stuff in all the time, so you never know exactly what you’re going to find — but you can be totally confident that you’re going to love it? True story!
After two quick flights, I landed in Charleston and immediately got that Southern hospitality that the town is known for. As I got off the plane, one airport employee asked me how I was doing. I said, “Good!” and asked him how he was. His response? “Ma’am, I am loving life,” with a huge smile on his face. I came *this close* to high-fiving him because that, my friends, is how to live.
That first night in, I got settled into my hotel room (I stayed at Belmond Charleston Place — so nice!), unpacked and then spent far too long figuring out what to wear to dinner at Prohibition (I had SO many great options from Marshalls that it was hard to choose, but I settled on a long, flowy black dress with sandals, jean jacket in case I got cold inside, hat and a clutch that was just the right mix of cute and comfy but also totally suitable for where I was going) and had to power walk down King Street to make my reservation time (bonus cardio!). There I had a great cocktail and some amazing roasted carrots and fresh grouper.
That next morning, I went for a leisurely jog down to the Battery and ran along the seawall, admiring both the views of the water and the gorgeous homes. Along the way, I took plenty of walk breaks, stopping to read about some of the historic buildings (and there are a lot of them!) or slowing down just to admire a beautiful garden, flowering tree or cool antique or hat shop. It was so fun to go jogging in a new place, but also to slow down and soak in the city. Charleston has the kind of beauty that just makes you want to stop and admire it. Truly, a surprise around every corner.
After my run, I cleaned up and went on a walking food tour. Charleston is known for being a foodie’s dream (and everywhere I went they had fantastic gluten-free options!), so I had mini meals or snacks at five awesome places. It was so fun, and I, quite literally, got a taste of what Charleston is all about, plus lots of history. From hash to pralines to grits to collard greens to spices and tea, it was delicious. (I’ll write all about that in a second post on Fit Bottomed Eats later, so stay tuned for that!)
And I knew exactly what I wanted to wear for the food tour. I picked up this romper at Marshalls before my trip and I knew it would be PERFECT for the hot, humid weather. It’s totally comfortable and can be dressed up or down depending on what shoes and accessories you wear with it. Seeing that I’m normally in running kicks, the gold wedges were quite the fashion departure for me, but it felt really, really good. I felt like a true Southern belle (and got lots of compliments on my outfit!).
After the food tour, my belly was full, and I headed back to the The Belmond for spa time. I had a massage, manicure and facial. IT. WAS. GLORIOUS. I hadn’t had my nails done in about a year, and I haven’t had a massage or facial since I was pregnant with Gwen … and she’ll be two-and-a-half in September, so, yeah. It was totally outside of my norm and absolutely amazing. The food tour filled my belly with goodness, and the spa filled my spirit with calm.
After getting my zen on, I put on another amazing find from Marshalls and went to one of the hottest restaurants in Charleston: Husk. The pink ruffles are perfectly Southern and perfectly right for a night out. This is yet another instance when I walked into Marshalls, tried on something new and was surprised with how much I LOVED it on. Paired with a cute little clutch I picked up at Marshalls, too, it was great for a night out on the town.
And the food did not disappoint. Oysters … tomato salad … Carolina Gold rice … catfish … peanut butter chocolate shake … bourbon. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. You know when they talk about being able to taste someone’s love or passion in the food? Husk has that. If you’re going to Charleston, book a reservation as soon as you know your dates (I was told by a number of locals that they couldn’t believe I got a reservation), get there early to sit on the gorgeous front porch, and order everything on the menu. You won’t regret it.
That next morning, I took a leisurely stroll down King Street to another recommended restaurant: Stars. I’d learned on my food tour that brunch was a big deal for Charleston folks — just about everyone goes after church (they don’t call it the Holy City for nothing!). So clearly I had to do brunch right. And Stars had a great buffet. It was a nice way to try a little of everything: local fresh fruit, shrimp and grits, kale salad, omelette, roasted potatoes, and sausage. Plus, coffee. Always coffee.
My last stop in Charleston was at Mira Winery. The wine is actually made in Napa, but one of the owners has a home in Charleston so they decided to open a tasting room. Lucky for me, I could get in a tasting just before my flight home. These are my kind of pours …
And it was great. I sat outside on their back patio, under the shade of a big umbrella and beautiful sprawling oaks, and leisurely sipped on some seriously GOOD vino.
And I mean leisurely. I sat there for almost two hours, and enjoyed every second.
And, to be honest, that really surprised me about the entire trip. I’ve flown alone plenty. But vacationed, fine-dined and wine-tasted alone? Not really. Not ever. I’ve always been with someone or going to visit someone or meeting up with someone. But it was really nice to just sit back and have a whole table to myself. Sometimes I’d chat with fellow diners or have a longer conversation with the server about the food or wine, but quite often, I’d just relax, enjoy and take it all in. I was surprised by how good that felt.
I was also surprised with how much fun I had dressing up for, really, no one else but myself. I was in a new place, doing new things, and it was freeing to wear clothes I didn’t normally wear. I saw myself in a new way. Not better — just different sides of myself. And, in a lot of ways, it was a total confidence booster. I liked spending time with myself. I liked looking good and dressing up. I liked treating myself to dessert and a glass of wine. I liked mixing things up. I liked slowing down. I chose surprise — and I saw myself in a new way.
A huge thanks to Marshalls for sending me on this amazing trip and helping me to break out of my everyday routine. A huge thanks to the people in Charleston for being so nice, welcoming and making some darn delicious food (and taking my photo so often!). And a huge thanks to — corny as it is — surprise itself. Surprise itself surprised me with how much one trip could make me see myself in a new way.
Have you ever been on a trip and found yourself changed from the experience? Did it surprise you, too? —Jenn