Peacocks!

19 07 2016

Been saving the best of my Charleston trip for last! I might be just a *little* obsessed with peacocks. Up until this trip in fact I thought they would make awesome pets, but I learned they can be louder than heck! So Middleton Place AND Magnolia Plantation both have peacocks. It’s amazing.:)

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Below, the super loud peacock call you can hear from like a mile away:

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And then the adorable female peacock resting on a stagecoach:

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So far these peacocks have been from Middleton:

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These next guys are from Magnolia:

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Gotta love ’em!





Magnolia Plantation

13 07 2016

Just 4 miles down the road from Middleton Place is Magnolia Plantation. Compared to Middleton, it’s more crowded and landscaped with more flowers. They feel very different, and I think both are worth visiting.

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Admission to the house is separate, and we didn’t go for that as we only had a few hours there. Even without the house, there is plenty to see wandering around the gardens – that’s the bulk of what you go to see.

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The thing about Magnolia is that it has some of the most gorgeous bridges – some people were doing wedding shoots on them, and it’s almost impossible to get clear shots with all the people in general (not to mention hard to get a sweeping shot when you only have a 50 mm lens!)

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…and in looking for all the bridges, you might stumble upon some more beautiful things like this gazebo:

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…or this carved tomb:

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Then there’s the Peacock Café (roof painting below), an outdoor situation with sandwiches, hot dogs, and similar. And yes, peacocks really do walk around it!

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But most of the peacocks stay in the petting zoo, which was an amazing experience! You’re not supposed to pet the peacocks, but they wander around close to you, so you can get some great photos (more on that later!), plus there are deer wandering around (and yes, you can pet them!), and feed is available for purchase.

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Some other animals that are in cages, like this white squirrel (below), or a pot-bellied pig.

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There’s plenty more there, but our visit had to be brief. Definitely a place to stop by if you find yourself near Charleston.





Exploring Middleton Place

5 07 2016

Last post was about our hotel experience – now for the estate itself! Having the freedom to just walk over from the hotel, we spent some part of 3 full days there.

So, when you walk over from the hotel path, you have 2 options: you can walk down some steps to this little building that then feeds into the path in the picture below, or you can keep walking on the upraised hotel path, cross a little bridge, and end up closer to the main house. Obviously we did the former and were greeted with this sight!

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Oh, just a gator in the sun while a hapless couple walks toward it, unaware. They eventually saw it and skirted around it but said they really couldn’t see it from that vantage point. Sneaky gators!

Here’s a shot from inside the little building:

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It sits right on the water of the river, and is also right on the banks of the “butterfly pools” or ponds created for Middleton. Here’s a shot of the building and ponds:

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We walked around all this way, because that gator was on the other side of that stretch of land. Anyway, they don’t move much and tend to go back into the water if people get close. The land is tiered up, so by the time you climb to the top:

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So here we’re standing where the original main house was, facing onto the back side of the estate (and the Ashley River). The hotel would be basically up and to the left. The main house was burned down by Union troops right before the end of the civil war. The house had a north and south “flanker” on either side of it; one was also burned, but one survived, and that is the house museum that you can tour today.

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Here’s the backside of the remaining flanker, above, and the front side:

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Now, on one side of the flanker (and leading far up the property) are the gardens, and on the other side are the animals/stable area and a restaurant. We walked toward the animal side from the back of the house..

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Above, you can see the ice house (the bottom floor was used for cooling things), with the top floor being a chapel for all races to attend service in. To the right, past the water, is the hotel path that goes to the bridge. Down at the water, what did we see?

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Lil’ sneaky! Anyway, back up the hill toward the animals, we passed by the restaurant:

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…and then up and out where the animals are, first goats,  and then water buffalo!:

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They keep types of animals that would have been kept by the Middleton family in the 17-1800s. Apparently one of the Middleton men saw water buffalo on a trip to Asia, I think, and thought they’d be good help with rice farming (yes, rice – people always think of cotton and tobacco as the staple old Southern crops, but rice was the thing here).

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The estate is known for letting its sheep wander freely around the grounds. I was really excited about this because I thought it’d make a cool picture (and I wanted to get a selfie with a lamb, I admit), but this weekend they were kept pinned, because they were doing special events on the lawn and thought it would be too much for them. Okay…sigh… I understand.

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This next picture was taken Sunday morning. They do a cow milking daily at 9 and again at 4, and you can go and participate!

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This guy gets the cow set up and then you can step in if you like… I did it for a minute, but didn’t get any pictures, plus my hands were gross afterward. He kept saying the cow was being difficult that day, but she was good during the milking – I guess because she was eating hay.

Anyway, around that stable area there are demonstrations, like a blacksmith, or candle making…

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Didn’t get many pics of that stuff, as I was distracted by:

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Peacocks on stagecoaches!!! Sleeping! I was so excited about the peacocks, you don’t even know. They get a whole post to themselves, later.

So we then walked up the grounds and to the other side. If you drive here versus walking from the hotel, there’s an area where you park and pay admission, and right outside of it’s this little market with some food and gifts.

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We grabbed some pre-made chicken salad sandwiches (that weren’t great, honestly) and had lunch before heading to the gardens, on just the other side of this.

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I believe that this was the statue they buried during the war to save it. These gardens are the oldest landscaped gardens in America, I believe. They’re very woodsy and wild, so not the flower-filled, super landscaped type I typically think of, but still nice. Because it was mostly long stretches of greenery (with some water), I didn’t take many pics. It mostly looked like this:

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Though in season, the azalea walk is probably really beautiful. And then they also have some areas like this, with the finely trimmed hedges:

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They do have this long pool where a couple swans swim about at times, but the swans were in a cage this time.😦

Some nice flower shots:

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Didn’t get any pics of the house tour since they weren’t allowed, but the tour is worth it. Lots of good info on the many generations that lived there, and neat heirlooms too.

Hot and tired, we made our way back to the hotel path, seeing one more gator:

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…and a good few of the ponds:

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Next time… peacocks!





Inn at Middleton Place

30 06 2016

Last month, I took a 3 day weekend to celebrate my birthday, and we went up to a hidden gem just outside of Charleston, South Carolina – Middleton Place.

Middleton Place itself is an old estate (parts of it from the 1700s) that you can visit, and right next to it – actually connected to the grounds – is an Inn that just happened to offer better prices than anything in Charleston proper, admission included to the estate and gardens, and the most beautiful scenery.

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After a stop by Pie Society for a birthday pasty on the way up and a 4 hour drive, we checked in to the Inn and were given a map, keys, and the code to the gate. Our rooms were to the left of the Lodge (above); everything circled a grass courtyard that faced (to the right) over the Ashley River.

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Our rooms, the bottom far left and the bottom middle, above. Rooms were fairly big with 2 twin beds and fireplaces (!), but the fireplaces were closed in the summer. The bathrooms have good counter space and large tubs. I’m a shower person, and glad of it because after my first shower, some bugs appeared in the tub, probably attracted by water. I think the place is clean, but being on the ground and so close to the river, bugs do get in. It’s literally the 1 downside about the place.

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More rooms, with hammocks. Seriously the most peaceful place. Would make a great artists’ retreat.

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Should have mentioned that the grass courtyard also overlooks a pool, which overlooks the river – it’s gorgeous! The only pic I got of the whole thing was on my cell phone though.

If you walk down to the left of the pool (like 1 minute from our rooms!), you’ll see the kayak area:

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We went kayaking the next morning for about 3 hours. I didn’t get pictures, but you can see from this vantage point of the hotel pathway some of our kayak path down the river:

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It’s great, because the fee is reasonable, and they give you the oars, map, lifejackets, etc. and push you off, then you’re on your own. (Or we were, but they have guided tours you can do.) We went around 9 and were the first ones out there. The tide was low, and there were tons of alligators on the banks that would slide into the water as we approached. I was a bit freaked out by it! That’s one thing to watch out for; there are gators everywhere here.

Anyway, if you walk a bit further than the kayak area, you’ll find a huge mulberry tree!

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I’d never seen one before and was so excited. You can reach up and pick the berries and eat them (I mean, you’re probably not supposed to, but I did), and they’re SO sweet and delicious, but they do stain everything red. Go for the dark ones; those are ripe.

Walk past that, and you’ll find a clearing that’s lined with a wall of sweet-scented jasmine:

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You can’t really tell in the picture, but there’s tons of it, with the little white flowers. This was in mid May, so not sure if it’s still in bloom.

Back at the hotel, they do a happy hour every night in the Lodge from 5 – 7 with complimentary (included in your stay) drinks and apps. It was very worth it!

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Beyond these cheeses and fruits, they had crackers and a hot dish or two each night (we were there for 2). The first night was pretty rushed, because we walked around actual Middleton Place a bit (more on that later) and then went to downtown Charleston. The second night was a Saturday, and lots of people went to the happy hour.

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The Lodge itself was pretty cute – 2 stories with the food area up top, this chess table halfway down, and below some games you can play, including croquet. Here’s the backside of the Lodge in the next morning’s light:

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They do a complimentary breakfast in the Lakehouse, which was really nice. It’s a quick walk from the rooms on a shadowy path….

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Oh, and do you see the umbrella stand above, with all the umbrella handles sticking out? They had umbrellas everywhere, including outside each room – which I thought was nice.

Anyway, the Lakehouse breakfast is cereals, an oatmeal bar, coffee and juices, and is self serve, and/or you can order hot items for extra charge.

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I was content with oatmeal, because they have so many add in options! (I’m on an oatmeal kick now.) I got blueberries, pecans, walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Yum!

The Lakehouse overlooks a creek and beautiful greenery. You can sit indoors and admire the view while listening to classical music, or sit outside on the deck. We sat inside, because it was chilly in the mornings.

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Pretty view! We spent most of our time walking across the wooded path to the estate, which is super convenient, as you can go anytime between sunrise and sunset….I wanted to go at night, but with all the gators (they live in the estate pools and like to hang out on the grass, hard to see in the dark), I didn’t want to risk it.

I would highly recommend the Inn at Middleton Place to anyone really, understanding that it is a “woodsy” place, so some bugs are inevitable. I actually didn’t sleep well either night because of that, but it had so much else going for it, that it was way worth it.

The Inn also has horseback riding, but there was no time. Next up – Middleton Place itself!

 

 





The Florida Theatre

23 06 2016

For May Art Walk (every 1st Wednesday in downtown Jacksonville, FL), I met up with a couple friends… as always, always stuff to see during art walk, like this community painting (we contributed to the reverse side):

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Or this cute/weird bird:

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(Sorry for the photo qual – only had my phone.) Eventually, we stumbled on The Florida Theatre. Now, everyone from Jax knows about the Theatre; it’s been around since the 20s and is pretty famous. But honestly I hadn’t been there since a field trip when I was much younger. It’s a shame because it is SO pretty! Turns out during Art Walk they do free tours, so naturally we took advantage!

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Just the entryway alone is pretty. You could get wine or whatever drink (below) and take it with you on the tour, but I needed both my hands free (one for phone pics, one to hold onto railings so my clumsy self doesn’t fall down stairs.)

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You go up some stairs and then into the main area  – my favorite!

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It reminds me of Epcot’s Mexico.:) The plaster décor is all original.

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These doors are NOT original, which is impressive because in person they really look authentic. Anyway, then you get to go into the theater itself:

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…You get to climb right onto the stage and see all this behind-the-scenes stuff! I didn’t get any good shots from the stage looking onto the audience because it is just so massive, it wouldn’t even properly fit into the panorama.

After this, we walked through this little door to the left to go “backstage.”

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Love these mirrors! I will say, the bulk of backstage is surprisingly unglamorous. It surprised me anyway. Very plain, narrow stairs, that kind of thing. I mean, even Elvis performed there! I thought there’d be some fancy chairs or something. But these mirrors were cool, and the lights put off SO much heat!

Then we went upstairs…

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I thought it was really amazing that even these garlands are original:

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I mean, from the 20s! We went on the second level of the theater and got to walk all the way up. Finally, a good pic of the view!

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I can’t get over these amazing lights!

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iPhone pictures definitely don’t do it justice. Or show how enormous they are. We heard about how some of the seats still have the original upholstery and learned about the “ghost” seats off to the side.

Last we walked in a room used by their patrons that used to be a nursery.

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The bunny in the corner there is from the original paint of the nursery.

It’s a really great tour – our guide was a wealth of info, and we loved seeing behind the scenes. Highly recommend stopping by if you go to Art Walk!

A lovely night in downtown:

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Not Forgotten

20 06 2016

30 peacock22I’m still here! Sorry for the super long hiatus – I had a big birthday, left one job, started another, went on a big business trip, and then got sick, so it’s been a little cray. Posts will be coming in the next few weeks, and this pic is a little teaser of what’s to come.:)





Cat Ballou

12 05 2016

Some stupid sketches while watching Cat Ballou, one of those movies that’s sort of terrible yet charming and sucks you in. Jackson was my fav character. They should have gotten rid of that nymphomaniac love interest and given Jackson more screen time!

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Savannah in Spring

28 04 2016

Piggybacking off my last post about Pie Society, that might have been our reason for visiting Savannah, but it wasn’t the only attraction. We turned it into a lovely day trip, just in time for the green fountains a few days before St. Patty’s.

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Hard to see the green…this one’s better:

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Festive! And so many flowers in bloom:

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We spent some time at first in the Pie Society area (City Market), walking around to see shops, art galleries, and most importantly, treat shops:

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This one was making fresh praline and giving out samples of it. Of course we were easily coaxed into buying some.

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Outside it was beautiful with lots to see. Check out this underground bar!

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Then we stumbled on Byrd Cookies. Lots of variations of little, round, crunchy cookies. Got some oatmeal for my co-worker since she raved about them, and the guy in the store said they’re the classic ones and a favorite of locals.

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After Byrd’s, we saw another fountain and then went for lunch (afternoon tea really) at my favorite place, The Gryphon. I’ve written about it previously here.

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Just as gorgeous as ever.

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And just as unique.

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It was a pharmacy at one point, as you can see from the old “tablet” drawers above.

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I love afternoon tea. Cute + delicious, it looks like there’s not enough there, because it’s all small bites, but we were stuffed by the end. I started from the bottom tier and worked my way up.

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I’m hungry again just looking at these pics! After lunch, we wandered back to our car, parked on the street. Just so happened it was parked in front of an old house doing tours for only $10/person.

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It turned out to be the Frances Sorrel house, built in the 1800s. The house has been through a lot; in the 1990s someone bought it and started refurbishing it, but not necessarily in a way accurate to the period, so it’s a mix of unfinished, old school, weird 90s stuff, and in-progress.

This piece below was original, and really beautiful:

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And check out this ornate mirror:

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This next pic really shows how much the house has changed over time.

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They had gone underneath the current wall covering and found this – battered but original paint designed to look like relief. The tour guide was using her phone as a light so everyone could see.

The tour includes the main floor (sort of the like second floor), the basement level, and the outdoor back courtyard. They don’t yet let people onto the upper floor with the bedrooms.

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The bottom floor of the house was a department store at one time; now it’s mostly barren brick. Once part of it was also used by a doctor as an operating room. Lots of ghost stories (they do a night tour as well.)

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The courtyard in back of the house is a good way to see what a work in progress the place is.

Our guide pointed out that the brick on the ground had thumbprints in places:

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The story is that slaves at the time (early 1800s) would make these bricks and these prints were made by the brickmakers. They also have a 2 story building out back, that I didn’t really get good pictures of, where the slaves lived. In the upstairs, it was just one big room where everyone lived. A terrible part of history, but one that’s important to remember.

Here’re steps down to a basement area in that building. Didn’t ask what was housed there, but the courtyard at the time was for horses/chickens, so maybe it was related to that?

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And one last shot of the juxtaposition of old and new:

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If you’re ever in Savannah, get some British pies, some afternoon tea, and walk around the place. So many old houses like this one to explore, as well as more modern shops/restaurants.





Pie Society

21 04 2016

Hello, World! I apologize for my absence. Just got over some of the craziest weeks of my life, and if I wasn’t taking this afternoon off work, I probably wouldn’t have had time to blog for another week or so. Anyway, onto a more important thing: PIE!

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And not just any pie. I’m talking about British pie. Specifically, Pie Society pie! As Americans, most of us think of pie as that fruit filled dessert you eat at a summer picnic or during Thanksgiving. Apple pie, cherry pie, pumpkin. Good stuff. But in England they have savory pies too. In my trip to England in 2013, I fell in love with Cornwall and, in particular, the Cornish pasty, a savory pie shaped kind of like a calzone. I have been craving one ever since. Like, seriously! I tried to make them once, but it just wasn’t the same.

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Enter Pie Society in Savannah, Georgia. They have another location about 15 minutes north of Savannah in Pooler, GA, which is the original. It’s run by actual British people, so you know the pies are legit. I came in with high expectations.

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It’s a small place – a counter to order at, a few tables to sit at and bar style seating at the window, and cute decorations.

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I’d read online that you need to get there early in the day, because options sell out quickly. Driving from Jacksonville, we made it by 11 a.m. which was a bit on the late side. There were a constant stream of people in/out, some of them having ordered in advance, which I think is a good idea if you want something specific. Not everything on the menu, below, is available at once.

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Luckily, they still had what I was going for: Cornish pasty! In England, I’d had one with potato, onion, and cheese. Traditionally, the standard pasty has ground beef in it. Pie Society’s pasties have ground beef, but they have a breakfast pasty that looks a little different but comes with the potato + cheese combo. There was only 1 left!

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Oh, yes. Very beautiful. And inside, the perfect filling, warm and cheesy with herbs too:

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So rich and tasty! Exactly what I’d been craving! Also tried a scone, complete with cream and jam:

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Gotta say though, the savory stuff is where it’s at. We brought a cooler especially for the trip and took some things home for dinner.

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By 11 a.m., they were already out of a lot. Very popular! But shortly after, someone brought some freshly put together pies to bake:

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Trays of unbaked, future tastiness. Yum! Anyway, we took home 3 things.

The first night, we baked (well, heated up – they were already cooked) the Cauliflower Broccoli Bake:

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(Which was delicious…though I failed to take a pic of the inside) and a Chicken and Thyme pie, which I completely failed to get a pic of! Must have been too hungry. It was amazing, I can tell you that. And very filling.

Then we got 2 Cornish Pasties for the next night, one for each of us. They are huge!

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So good!

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I realize the lighting isn’t so appetizing looking in that last pic, but it really was good. Beef, some onion I think, peas, and a few carrots. Mostly meat and sauce, but soooo lovely. We stopped by Pooler as well to pick up some sausage rolls, but I only took phone pics. If you are in the area, please try this place! You won’t regret it.

 





Faire Peeps Pt.4

5 04 2016

This guy was so 90s punk, I just had to draw him. Sort of proud of that plaid shirt even though up close it’s sloppy.

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