Category Archives: Vacations & Travels

Charleston: A Southern Gem

“I’m going back to Charleston, where there is still a little grace and civility left in the world.” – Rhett ButlerTampa, FL to Charleston, SC

Charleston, sweet Charleston, you captured my southern heart and I will never be the same now that we’ve officially met. This Georgia gal has a great love for Savannah and had never been to Charleston. When an opportunity was given to visit this southern coastal city, Sean and I hopped in the car.

Imagine Savannah on severe southern steroids and you have Charleston. It’s that insanely amazing! Our trip was a Thursday-Sunday itinerary and I wish we had squeezed in one additional day.

Day 1

Before checking in to our downtown hotel, I just had to visit Lowndes Grove Plantation, an amazingly gorgeous plantation turned wedding venue. Being it was a Thursday, I was hoping I could sneak a peek without being a wedding crasher. I called the ladies at Lowndes to see if I could tour the property and without hesitation, they welcomed Sean and myself. Just as expected, set-up was taking place with gorgeous chandeliers being hoisted up as I wiped a dab of drool off my lip! Southern Glam has arrived!

Lowdnes Grove Wedding Venue in Charleston, South Carolina

From there, it was Sean’s turn to cross a destination off the list, Holy City Brewing. A local favorite, we saw these brews all over Charleston throughout the weekend.

Fact: Charleston is known as the “Holy City” because of the prevalence of churches on the city skyline. Charleston boasts over 400 places of worship of many different denominations throughout the city, and religion is deeply embedded in the city’s rich culture.

Holy City Brewing in Charleston, South Carolina

After brewery #1, it was time to head downtown to check-in at our hotel. We stayed at the gorgeous Lodge Valley Inn since we were apart of a trial BlueGreen membership. Greeted by ‘Hi yall, how was your drive up?’ I felt right at home. This 18th century restored warehouse had original pine floors and offered fresh baked cookies with sherry in the afternoons. How charming! It was located off of East Bay Street which is one of the main streets downtown.

I had been yearning for Fall for weeks now and I was SO excited to see a fireplace in our loft room – even though it couldn’t be used until October.

Lodge Valley Inn in Charleston, South Carolina

Fact: High Cotton, a restaurant part of our hotel, is where a scene in the Notebook was filmed. (The scene in which Noah looks through a restaurant window and finds Allie dining with her fiancè.)

Dinner was at the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse a block away from our hotel. I had the most delicious green beans I’ve ever had with of course, a much needed helping of pimento cheese! We walked across the street to The Vendue for drinks on the rooftop bar. There were lots of pretty things that caught my eye in that hotel! But, believe it or not, this rooftop bar ranked second to the one we visited later in our trip.

Southend Brewery and The Vendue in Charleston, South Carolina

Day 2

Early the next morning, we walked down a few blocks to Rainbow Row … insert massive swooning here! Rainbow Row is the name for a series of thirteen colorful historic houses in Charleston, South Carolina. It represents the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States. The pastel gorgeous homes just make you smile!

Rainbow Row in in Charleston, South Carolina

Just a few blocks back towards our hotel was the Waterfront Park where my must-see pineapple fountain can be found.

Waterfront Park and Pineapple Fountain in Charleston South Carolina

We walked over to Toast for breakfast – oh my goodness, those biscuits were divine! Afterwards we drove over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge to Mount Pleasant to visit Boone Hall Plantation. A plantation I have been dying to see since I feel in love with oak trees. The Avenue of the Oaks, the dirt road leading to Boon Hall is just plain gorgeous.

IMG_5628 Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Fact: I might’ve waited to get these two shots without people in them! #worthit

Fact: The Notebook, North & South, and other movies were filmed there.

Boone Hall Plantation in Charleston, South Carolina

Back over the bridge we went to visit Fort Sumter where a ferry boat takes you to the fort. During the 40 minute boat ride, a storm moved in which you can imagine, this gal wasn’t too happy about being stranded on boat surrounded by lightning! It cleared up enough to run off the boat soon after arriving.

Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina

And the day wasn’t over yet – we walked over to Poogan’s Porch for dinner and sat on the porch upstairs.  Yall, it was a delicious southern dinner! I made friends with the birds and may or may not have shared my biscuit with them. See that blue ceiling – lovely! Did you know, many southern porches are painted blue to keep evil spirits away? It’s an old southern thing!

Poogan's Porch in Charleston South Carolina

Tip: Make reservations in advance. We actually didn’t have reservations but luckily was able to walk right in and sit on the upstairs porch.

After dinner, drinks and dessert took place at the Market Pavilion Hotel rooftop Pavilion Bar which was SWANKY! When you walk out of the elevator, Charleston’s only rooftop cascading pool greets you.

Rooftop bar in Charleston South Carolina

Tip: Depending on the time you visit in the evening, there is a dress code to enter the hotel.

Day 3

Happy game day for college football! I recently went back to school at the University of South Florida to pursue a Master’s degree and newly enrolled at the University of Georgia for an online certificate program. ALSO – the university I attended in Georgia, Kennesaw State University, was playing their first ever football game. S0, GO BULLS, GO DAWGS, and GO OWLS! … I’m happy to report all my teams won that day!

Time for breakfast (can you believe we were hungry?!) As we were walking out of our hotel, we were told we must try Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe for breakfast which was next door to our hotel. It was literally a hole in the wall, next to a gas station, but it was visited by Guy Fieri of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. Don’t be intimidated by the line out the door, it goes fast! The amount of food you receive for the price was incredible and delicious! We took ours to-go and walked back to our hotel’s courtyard to eat.

The Charleston City Market was a block from our hotel which was the perfect location for local shopping. We continued over to King Street for more of the everyday shopping, ahem, Kate Spade and we found a store that had way too many pineapples for me to carry!


On the agenda next was walking around the College of Charleston; I almost enrolled on the spot. It’s full of historic houses that classes are held in. Excuse me?! We kept strolling down King Street and bumped into Cupcake Down South – a little slice of heaven! I had the Black Bottom, bottom left, and whoa! And that photo on the right – that’s from Moon and Lola. A boutique store that I could take up residence in!

Cupcake Down South in Charleston, South Carolina

By the time we made it to Cupcake Down South, it was a good hike back to the hotel. It was still early in the afternoon so we drove over to the Palmetto Brewery. Which was a great time to wait out a monsoon that decided to make an appearance.

Palmetto Brewery in Charleston, South Carolina

Dinner was back on King Street at Prohibition. I was SO SO SO excited for this dinner because I am a forever fan of the Roaring 20’s decade. Time to party like a Gatsby and enjoy one of the best meals we’ve had in Charleston! We walked around King Street after dinner and shopped a bit more.

Prohibition in Charleston, South Carolina

Tip: Street parking is a rare find in Charleston. It’s metered so be sure you have coins in case you find it. There are garages scattered around that accept credit card payments too. As you can already tell, we were able to walk pretty much everywhere so you really won’t have to drive too much if your destinations are in the downtown area.

Tip: Most of the streets of Charleston are uneven and have cobblestone here and there. This glamorous girl left her heels at home and still had a few trips here and there!

We dropped our car back with the hotel valet and decided to walk back down to the Southend Brewery and Smokehouse for one more round of green beans and pimento cheese! I told you there were amazing!


Day 4

Since this was departure day, we wanted a quick breakfast and the Bull Street Gourmet Market was recommended to us. Amazing cheese grits and a latte followed. I might have been kicking and screaming out of that place because I didn’t want to leave Charleston, and those dreamy porches and that authentic charm and those delicious meals.

Until the next time – because I will be back soon!

College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina

A Trip to Key West for a Birthday Surprise

When our friend Brad asked Sean and myself if we’d like to join in on a surprise birthday party in Key West, Florida for his wife (and my fellow crazy cat lady bff) Emily – we both blurted out, “YES!” Mind you, this was in January for a July birthday and I’m not great at keeping secrets, especially when the birthday gal is your neighbor. Key West is hands down one of my most favorite Florida vacation spots so it was going to be a long six months of waiting

.Tampa to Key West

Day 1

When the day FINALLY came to hit the road, five couples randomly showed up at different locations and on different days to surprise Emily – it was hysterical to watch her reaction. Sean and I surprised her at Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo. When we all arrived in Key West, we checked into the Key West Bed and Breakfast. This was Sean and my first time staying at a bed and breakfast and while we were a bit skeptical of the idea, we LOVED the KWBB. How adorable is this house? We HIGHLY recommend staying there!


One thing to be said about Key West if you’ve never been, anything and everything goes. Once we were all checked-in and settled, we headed to dinner, but not before being detoured by a hostage crime scene situation on Duval Street. There were police, yellow tape, chickens, and drag queens running everywhere. Hours later, we learned it was all a hoax but it was wildly insane to witness all the activity!

Key West Hostage Situation

We finally made it to dinner at Santiago’s Bodega to enjoy delicious tapas, sangria, and birthday Prosecco before heading to our favorite, Fat Tuesdays! In true birthday style, everyone made sure the birthday gal had a GREAT time on Duval Street.

Fat Tuesdays Key West Florida on Duval Street

Bright and early the next morning, our group rented bicycles from our bed and breakfast (which is a great way to get around KW!) and visited the touristy spots for photos, starting with the Southernmost Point and Mile 0. (It’s funny to see the difference multiple cameras can truly make when their photos are grouped together! This trip I had five cameras with me made up of two cell phones (iPhone/Galaxy), a point-and-shoot, a SLR, and a GoPro so don’t mind the differences in quality!)


Day 2

Southernmost Point and Mile 0 in Key West Florida Southern Glam Meagan Phillips

Southernmost Point in Key West Florida

And then…. my most favorite place EVER, the Ernest Hemingway House. Emily and I are both crazy cat ladies so we felt right at home there with all the cats. It was mid morning (and HOT!) so all the fluffies were taking a snooze but didn’t mind insistent pets from us!

Ernest Hemingway House in Key West Florida

Lunch followed at Sloppy Joes where another couple surprised Emily. It was SO incredibly hot that a dip in the Dante’s pool was definitely in order!


That night a few of us had planned to go on a sunset cruise charted by Fury where one of the couples in our group became engaged!

Sunset Cruise


Day 3

The next day, half our group went deep sea fishing (not me!) and the other half went back on a Fury catamaran for an all day excursion to snorkel, parasail (not me!), jet ski, and play water sports. I’m not one to be dropped in the middle of the ocean but I braved it and last about ten minutes! I learned it’s hard to be glamorous and take photos with 1-2 foot waves are tossing you around while wearing highly fashionable snorkel gear! Sean, however, was in his element and loved it!

Dinner that night was at Nine One Five which the birthday gal didn’t like … go ahead and skip that restaurant!


But, the dessert afterwards was amazing – we stopped for chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick – did you get all that delicious-ness? The key lime pie is divine (duh!) but dip it in chocolate and it’s heavenly. I might have brought back a piece, or five back home! The best place to find this treat is Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. I tend to go on a shopping spree with a cooler in hand when stopping by!

Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe in Key West Florida


Day 4

Fast forward to the next day which was July 4th – we set sail yet again on a Fury catamaran for another snorkeling excursion and booze cruising afterwards.

We ended the day back where our shenanigans began – on Duval Street to celebrate the fourth and to cheers a successful birthday weekend for Emily!



Travel Tips

While this wasn’t our first trip to Key West, I did want to pass on a few tips for those planning a visit for the first time.

  • Driving – As it was stated in the Netflix series, Bloodline, plan extra time to drive through the Keys. It always takes more time than you think. It’s mainly a two lane road through the Keys, however, it’s a gorgeous ride! (I recommend watching Bloodline – it’ll make you beg to be in the Keys!)
  • Places to Stay – Sean and I rented a house with a group the first visit to KW and then stayed in a bed and breakfast this time. There are hotels on island but the B&B was perfect and I highly recommend this option. Key West Bed & Breakfast was truly amazing! We stayed in the “Yellow” room where we had our own bathroom and balcony. The breakfast each morning was delicious! Just look at this spread of freshly squeezed orange juice, warm freshly baked pastries, coffee/tea, bagels, and fresh fruit. You’re greated like family from the moment you arrive and treated as such your entire stay.

Key West Bed & Breakfast in Key West Florida

  • Bicycles – You won’t want to drive around once you’re in Key West. Park the car and rent a bicycle, or scooter, to get around town. Sean and I walked everywhere on our first trip to Key West and were grateful our B&B had bicycles we could rent daily.
  • Cats and chickens – They are everywhere and I LOVED it! Anything goes in Key West!
  • Sunscreen – The sun is crazy hot so bring sunscreen and aloe. Lots of it!
  • Duval Street – This is where you’ll want to be if you’re not on a boat. Shopping, dining, bars, and people watching are right here. Most B&Bs are within walking distance of Duval but double check when visiting that you’re staying nearby.
  • Cooler – bring a small cooler or lunchbox with you to take home key lime pie. (I’m totally not kidding!)

What an amazingly fun time we all had celebrating with Emily! Happiest of birthdays, crazy lady!


Bringing Southern Glam to Washington D.C.

This southern girl had never been north of the Mason-Dixon line, ever. So, when Sean was invited to speak at a conference on his work’s behalf in Baltimore, I hopped on a plane and met him in Washington D.C. for the weekend. Neither of has had been to our nation’s great capital so I printed out the Georgetown Cupcake menu and read up on the various monuments that were awaiting us.

Looking to plan a trip to D.C.? I’ve included a few tips!


First stop was Arlington National Cemetery which was incredibly beautiful. Just a few days prior I learned one of my sets of great-grandparents are buried there. It was an incredibly powerful and peaceful place.

Tip: Although you may walk the grounds, take the trolly tour. You’re able to get on and off at your leisure after purchasing a ticket. You may also bring your own bottled water everywhere in D.C.


From there we checked into our swanky hotel, The Churchhill Hotel located on Embassy Row near Dupont Circle. It was a bit far away from the National Mall and subway system but we rented a car (more about THAT in a minute!) The chandelier in the lobby begged to come home with me!


Even though our hotel was a ways away from the monuments, it was relatively close to the Smithsonian National Zoo – holla! You can literally walk in the zoo since admission is free, which is the same for the museums and monuments. I usually am very critical towards zoos and captive animals however if any zoo was going to take great care of their animals, it was going to be this one! I loved seeing people strolling through on their work breaks; I wish I could hang with cheetahs and elephants on my lunch break!

It took me everything I had not to snuggle with this panda. How cute is he?


After we couldn’t stand the cuteness anymore, we came back to our car with a lovely parking ticket on it. Drivers up North are nothing short of crazy. Many times I thought we were goners driving along in the city and now a $100 parking citation!

Tip: Read, reread, and then read AGAIN the parking signs for where you’re parking. The meter WILL take your money 24 hours and day, 7 days a week. It seems like every sign contradicts the other. Good grief! People on foot and bikes dart into the middle of traffic like it’s nobody’s business. It’s amazing one citation is all we received!

What better way to get over a parking ticket than a famous Georgetown Cupcake?


These beautiful gems were heavenly! There was a line to get into the store, which I expected, and it actually moved quickly. I desperately wanted Katherine and Sophie to sign my new cupcake book but I guess every moment can’t be filmed for DC Cupcakes. Sean was OVER me documenting every spec of those cupcakes and just wanted to take a bite!

Tip: Prepare to stand in line outside. There is parking across the street however it’s paid parking. The menu is posted online daily with a secret cupcake posted on Facebook. Come with a plan because it’s easy to get overwhelmed!

PS: I found Rent the Runway!


The evening ended with visiting the National Cathedral. We failed at trying to find Darth Vader 🙂


The following day started bright and early with a tour of the Capitol which was one of my favorite places, after cupcakes and animals, of course! The iconic dome was under construction but we were still able to visit inside.

Tip: Reserve a tour prior to visiting. The don’t call it Capitol Hill for nothing. Those calves will burn!


The rest of the day we walked, and walked, and then walked some more all over D.C.

Tip: Don’t try to look cute like I did. Bring shorts, t-shirts, and workout shoes. I looked cute for a hot minute but it was SO hot and there was so much walking in the heat that I wasn’t looking cute for too long!

We stopped by a house that’s white and kind of a big deal. Although we were a bit disappointed there were a double set of gates!


And then we were tourists with the Washington Monument!


Someone thought it was a good idea to give General Sherman his own monument. Rude! He only burned down my beloved Atlanta during the Civil War. I channeled my inner Scarlett O’hara!


Then I found the FBI which was pretty awesome. Anyone else obsessed with Criminal Minds like I am? Sean calls me his “Garcia” because I am such a great cyber stalker researcher! Ha!


We visited the Ford’s Theatre.



And also the  Museum of Natural History and I saw the biggest diamond ever, the Hope Diamond. Bling! Bling!

Natural History

On our last day, we wrapped up the remaining monuments starting with my favorite, Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

Tip: Sunscreen!



We then stopped at the Korean War Veterans Memorial which is the war my Poppy was in.


Then we visited the Jefferson Memorial.


And lastly, the Marine Corp Memorial (Iwo Jima Memorial) was the final monument for our wonderful weekend trip in DC.


Final tip: Map out where you want to go, see, and eat as there is a TON to do in Washington D.C. Make sure a cupcake makes your list! Don’t forget the comfortable clothes/shoes, water and sunscreen.

What was your favorite monument or place to visit in Washington, D.C.?