Last week we headed to low country for summer sun in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. As if we weren't getting enough with Boston's recent heat wave! Must be my New England stubbornness in bearing weather extremes that would make me want to trek into deeper Southern heat. I’ve always loved beaches but after experiencing more of them over the years, I’ve realized that what I actually love is the beach landscape, the feel of ocean waves and sinking sand, artists’ communities and lazy local cafes. What I don’t love is overwhelming commercialism such as when you see the same fast food joints and shops on every single block; watching people on the boardwalk fill up on cheap quality ice cream and deep fried messes like those monstrous blooming onions before heading to $10.99 all-you-can-eat buffets; or trying to find something special to buy for loved ones among endless rows of dreadfully gaudy trinket souvenirs. And that’s about 20 square miles of the same stuff, over and over and over. Guess I’m just not a boardwalk babe because I didn’t care much for Myrtle Beach’s business district that almost completely obscured its unique landscape. However, there were some local treasures that highlighted our trip:
The Franklin G. Burroughs/Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum. This small but newly renovated museum was located next to our hotel. We were lucky enough to catch a special exhibit of Gee’s Bend Quilts along with striking portrait photography of the Alabama quilters by Linda Day Clark. I loved the museum’s enclosed porch tearoom with homemade iced tea and chocolate chunk cookies laid out for visitors.
Brookgreen Gardens. Located in Murrells Inlet about 10 minutes away, this is an oasis from commercial Myrtle Beach with grounds landscaped to perfection and luxurious gardens (with plenty of huge oaks graced with Spanish moss for shade!). Their vast sculpture collection housed in three different small museums and scattered throughout the gardens gave me a new appreciation for bronze sculpture.
Drunken Jack’s Restaurant. Murrells Inlet is the place to be for seafood and we were glad to find this popular eatery with a friend’s recommendation. We were seated at a window that overlooked wild goats, white peacocks and ducks roaming around the inlet. My salad with boiled shrimp came with a generous serving of eight large meaty shrimp adorned with sunflower seeds. We also tried their special hushpuppies (cornbread balls), which tasted like deep fried munchkins. Dipped in a yummy sweet honey butter, just a couple made the perfect dessert!
Surfside Flea Market. There were endless outlets and obnoxious shopping "experiences" like Broadway on the Beach, but this was a humble and traditional open air flea market where you could meet gracious locals and find truly great deals on everyday items. I picked up some hard to find spices, a few baking pans at a third of the usual cost, and a great leather belt. The nearby indoor Myrtle Beach Flea Market was larger and air-conditioned but filled with cheap quality items, not all of which were inexpensive.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the dragonflies! We saw them in Brookgreen Gardens hovering and darting in every direction. I'd never seen so many and in so many different colors: blue, red, purple...amazing!