With British Airways new direct flights to Charleston, there is now a great opportunity to discover more of this intriguing state. They leave twice a week, take around eight hours. On arriving, why not leave the delights of Charleston for later and take the I26 which will quickly drive upstate to the delightful town of Greenville, passing through the state capital of Columbia where you will find the impressive Columbia Museum of Art.
Whilst in Columbia, why not drop in at the Bone in Barbecue and try some of the local specialities such as Blue Cheese Pudding, Devilled Collards and Salt and Vinegar Fried Brussel Sprouts all washed down with a glass of River Rat beer or Hogwash rose wine. If you are staying overnight, then you have your breakfast at small SUGAR where you will be able to enjoy some excellent vegetarian options with a twist.
Fancy getting intimate with a hundred year old tortoise, then make for Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens which has over 1 million visitors a year. The zoo has a range of facilities and plenty to occupy families for half a day or longer.
Greenville is an up and coming town which is full of entrepreneurs and individuals who want to make their mark. There is a delightful waterfall in the centre of town and plenty of walkways and places to eat including the really popular Soby’s New South Cuisine which can get very busy so make sure to book.
Looking for something different, then arrange a visit to the BMW Performance Centre at Greer, home to a major BMW facility. The day needs to be arranged beforehand. Once on site there is the opportunity to drive one of their X range 4X4 over a designated course, testing out its full potential or perhaps taking a ride with an expert around their skid pan. An experience I can guarantee you will not forget for a long time.
Taking a trip up country from Greenville is very worthwhile. Definitely make for Lake Jocassee and try one of their lake tours. Also whilst in the vicinity, drop in and meet Eddie Martin, a truly charismatic and amazing character who is co-owner of the Jocassee Valley Brewing, where you can try some truly fantastic beers and listen to his family stories and learn about his passion for conservation. Lunch should be at the Esso Club, just a short drive away in Clemson where you can savour meat and three sides for $9.00 plus tax. The choice is enormous as are the portions. To go with your meal try a local beer such as Thomas Creek Trifecta.
A lot of the southern food can be quite spicy so ask your attendant for advice before trying some of the sides. Devilled Collards is basically cabbage cooked in vinegar whilst Fried Brussel Sprouts are exactly what it says. Fried green tomatoes are a very traditional side which go well with most mains. A good idea, if you are visiting for the first time, is to enjoy some shared plates with your friends.
The best time to visit this area is in the spring or fall when the trees are changing colour. I was there in April when the weather was warm but not too hot, however do look out for the rain showers which can be heavy at times.
You will find that the inhabitants in this part of South Carolina are very friendly and you will soon find yourself in deep discussions over local or global issues.
Clemson is about 4 hours drive from Charleston so it is a good idea to have a break in Columbia stopping at Kaminsky’s in Gervais Street for a coffee and one of their delicious cakes.
There are plenty of places to stay in Charleston and some now include breakfast, however there is nothing more American than going out to a diner for breakfast! If you are in Charleston, I can thoroughly recommend Jack’s Café in George Street for some traditional fare. Also look out for Happy Hours where there are sometimes free drinks and light snacks. These are becoming more popular around the state all the time. Places to stay up country include Hyatt Place Downtown Columbia and Drury Inn and Suites in the outskirts of Greenville.
For more information on the region go to www.discoversouthcarolina.com
Images courtesy of Godfrey Hall.