Feel Charleston – The Best Sunsets in Charleston, SC

moultrie3 In a town known for romance and beaches, a perfect majestic IMAX in the sky is the perfect expression of love.? With its radiant colors, almost canvas like clouds and backdrops of oceans and church tops, a Charleston sunset is like no other.? It captures the day, bottles it up and leaves you breathless for more.? It is truly one of the many great wonders of this Holy City.? As an ode to the awe inspiring Charleston sunsets, here are some of the best places to see this daily display of magic. Best Locations to watch a Charleston Sunset

  • Fort Moutrie BeachHidden just past a dirt lot between Fort Moutrie and a dead end just at the end of Center Street past Sullivan’s Island.?? This is a natural preserve of oceanic life.? With the Ravenel Bridge in the distance, the putter of baby crabs at your feet, a hill top to the left, Palmetto trees at the entrance and a spectrum of colors you will not see anywhere else, this hidden treasure is one of the must sees in Charleston.? Located about 3 miles from Center Street and Coleman Boulevard, it is a well kept secret here in Charleston.? Be warned, once you bring a lawn chair or fishing pole, you may never turn back.
  • Vendue Inn Rooftop BarYou cannot think of Charleston without thinking of our churches with their historic appeal and empowering peaks reaching for the clouds.? From the top of the Vendue Inn Rooftop Bar, looking into the heart of the city, the sun sets just behind the churches.? At the right moment, you can witness the sun hugging the tip of the church top as it sets in for the evening.? It is a breathtaking moment and one that has been captured on camera by many a local and tourist.
  • Brittlebank ParkKnown for laughing children playing on the swings and slides, local shrimpers off the pier, crew and sail boats at peace on the dock and runners passing through, Brittlebank is a park for the community.? Whether you are walking the dog, watching sailboats glide across the water, having a picnic or playing in the sand, Brittlebank is a beautiful place for
    Fort Moultrie / Sullivan’s Island Beach

    families, couples or self reflection.? It also has a scenic sunset.? When the weather is right and you get a cold front or strong breeze, you will see deep reds and oranges like no other place in Charleston.? Right on Lockwood Boulevard next to Joe Riley Stadium, it is in the heart of Charleston and open for all to visit and enjoy.

  • Pitt Street BridgeLocated on the edge of Pitt Street in Mount Pleasant, this is a popular local spot for people watching, have a relaxing picnic or BBQ or watching a free show in the sky.? Each morning and evening, over the calm waters, you will find many a bystander enjoying the slow rise and decline of the sun over the horizon.? Rich in color, this spot is the Mount Pleasant answer to Earth’s theater.
  • Morris Island Lighthouse BeachDue to the geographic alignment of this beach, the sun sets in the marsh behind the beach similar to Isle of Palms. With the Morris Island Lighthouse, situated in the center of the water, old tree limbs rising out of the sand and a level of seclusion similar to Fort Moutrie Beach, this is a beautiful spot to end your day.? On a good night, the sky will turn a rich shade of blue and linger until the last glimmer of bridges and boats can be seen.? Put on some comfortable shoes because you need to walk a quarter to a half a mile to get to the beach after you park your car.? Just head to Folly Beach, make a left and stay on that road until it ends.? There you will be at the entrance to the beach area.
  • The Battery? –?One of the true fixtures of Charleston, The Battery is the end of the peninsula in downtown Charleston.? With its historic reminders, protective trees, subtle breezes from the harbor and an occasional dolphin siting between sail boats passing, The Battery is one of the most popular spots in all of Charleston.? From boat watching to people watching, the battery offers up a constant flow of traffic.? In the evening, the crowds disappear retiring to their hotel rooms or homes and what is left is a long walkway of peace and a beautiful sunset over the Charleston Harbor.
  • Holiday Inn Charleston Riverview Rooftop Bar301 Savannah Highway, just on the outskirts of downtown Charleston between the peninsula and West Ashley and overlooking the marina, this rooftop bar, located high above the city of Charleston, has an incredible birds eye view
    Brittlebank Park
    Brittlebank Park

    of the city and the water.? It is not a perfect point of view to see each second of the sun sink to the west, but it is worth the price of admission.? Go up one evening before the sun sets. Enjoy a martini and let it all in.

  • Sunrise Park / Melton Peter Demetre Park640 Wampler Dr, Charleston, SC (James Island)This is considered one of James Island’s hidden secrets.? It is a tiny little beach area but offers a peaceful view of the sunset and has been known to be a spot for one of two intimate weddings.
  • Bowen’s Island Restaurant1870 Bowens Island Rd, Charleston, SC 29412 (James Island)Be warned: The unpaved road to get to the restaurant resting on the marsh is not going to be gentle on your car.? Please drive slowly.? Saturated with oyster shells and marsh life, this is a true natural preserve.? It is not a big spot to watch sunsets, so most nights, you will have privacy to enjoy the show.? This is for your quieter viewers.
Fort Moultrie Beach

There you have it.? A few of the memorable spots to enjoy the wonder of a Charleston sunset.

Great Charleston, SC Restaurant Soup Recipes

We wanted to share soup recipes from some of your favorite Charleston, SC restaurants.? We hope you take on some of these fine savory starters.? Good luck and happy cooking

Great Charleston Restaurant Soup Recipes

Oyster Stew in Scallop Cream

Serves 4

Ingredients for Scallop Cream

4 Shallots, rinsed & sliced
1 lb Scallops
1 tbsp Butter
2 cups White Wine
2 cups Heavy Cream
1 pinch Salt

Ingredients for Oyster Stew

1 large Yukon Gold Potato, peeled & diced medium
1 large Leek (light green/white), sliced
? lb Apple Smoked Bacon, small dice
1 pint shucked Oysters
? cup Chives, chopped
1 tsp Butter
1 cup Water
1 pinch Salt

Method for Scallop Cream

? In a sauté pan, sweat the shallots over medium heat with butter and salt until golden brown, sticky, and caramelized.
? Deglaze with 2 cups of white wine.
? Reduce until sticky again. Add cream.
? Simmer slowly for 15-20 minutes.
? Strain and discard the scallops.
? Reserve the cream.

Method for Oyster Stew

? Render the bacon gently for 2 minutes over medium high heat.
? Discard rendered fat, and save lardons of bacon. Set aside.
? Cut the leek in half lengthwise and soak in cold water to remove dirt from layers.
? Once cleaned, slice to form semi-circles.
? In a medium saucepan, sweat one cup of the sliced leeks in a teaspoon of butter and a pinch of salt over medium heat.
? Add the potatoes and cook until sticky.
? Add water, cook until tender, and set aside off heat.
? In a sauté pan, return the scallop cream to medium heat.
? Add potatoes, leeks, and bacon.
? Cook until bubbly.
? Reduce heat to medium low, add oysters, and heat gently until oysters just crinkle.
? Add chives, then salt and pepper to taste.
? Serve.

Blue Crab Butterbean Soup

4 Servings

Ingredients for Soup

2 c Yellow Squash, medium chop
1 Large Red Bell Pepper, small chop
1 Large White Onion, small chop
1 1/2 c Cooked Butterbeans or Lima Beans, blanched
1/2 lb Smoked Sausage, medium chop
1 Fresh Jalapeno, minced
1 T Garlic, minced
1 T Creole Seasoning
To taste Tabasco
To taste Salt
4 c Chicken Stock
3 T Butter
1 lb Picked Blue Crab

Method for Topping

  • Sauté the 1 pound of blue crab in butter with a pinch of parsley, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide evenly amongst the bowls and garnish with a pinch of cornbread crumbles and cup chopped scallions.

    Method

  • In a medium pot, melt Butter.
  • Add squash, red pepper, onion and jalapeno.
  • Sauté for 5 minutes.
  • Add sausage, beans, garlic and Creole seasoning.
  • Simmer 5 minutes.
  • Add stock and salt, season to taste.
  • Simmer 30 minutes.

 

Chilled Tomato Basil Soup with Carolina White Shrimp

Ingredients

8 cups of rough chopped vine ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup of aged sherry wine vinegar
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped basil
2 cloves garlic crushed and finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Croutons and 4-5 steamed peeled and de-veined shrimp to garnish

Method

  • Rough chop tomatoes.
  • Place in a KitchenAid mixing bowl.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Mix slowly with paddle for approximately 2-3 minutes or until juice is rendered.
  • Strain tomatoes through a fine sieve, pushing through until only the pulp is left, and discard pulp.
  • Add to juice the following: vinegar, oil, garlic, and basil.
  • Serve chilled with croutons and shrimp

 

Gazpacho

Ingredients

3 lb ripe tomato
2 ? lg cucumbers
10 sprigs cilantro
3 cloves garlic
? red jalapeno, seeded
1 oz red wine ving
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
S & p to taste

Salsa Garnish

1 sm yellow bell pepper
? red onion
? pint grape tomatoes
? c chopped cilantro
? lg cucumber
S & p to taste
3-4 T extra virgin olive oil

Method

Core & score tomatoes; blanch in lg pot of salted boiling water for 30 sec. Remove & shock in ice bath. (**Do in small batches so as not to drop the temp of the boiling water.) Peel skin & rough chop tomatoes; add to lg mixing bowl. Peel & seed cucumbers. (Reserve ? of 1 cuke for garnish) Rough chop and add to tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients to mixture. Working in batches, blend ingredients until smooth; season to taste. Chill at least 1 hour.

Method

Meanwhile, make salsa garnish. Quarter inch dice the pepper, onion, & cuke. Grape tomatoes are halved; rough chop cilantro; season to taste and toss in the 3-4 T olive oil.

Portion gazpacho to order and top with garnish.

Light Portobello Mushroom Soup With Fresh Rosemary And A Smithfield Country Ham Flan

8 Servings

Ingredients For Soup

1 1/2 lbs Portobello Mushrooms
1/2 lb Button Mushrooms
1/4/ C Olive Oil
2 C Roughly Chopped Onions
1 C Roughly Chopped Celery
2 t Minced Garlic
1 C Roughly Chopped Peeled Carrots
4 C Chicken Stock
3/4 C Tawny Port (you substitute a fruity Zinfandel)
1/2 t Chopped Fresh Rosemary
1 C Heavy Whipping Cream
3/4 t Kosher Salt
1/2 t Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Ingredients For Flan

1 C Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Egg
2 Egg Yolks
1/3 C Ground Smithfield Ham, finely chopped by hand or in a food processor
1 T Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
Dash Kosher Salt
1/8 t Freshly Ground Black pepper
8-1 oz Molds, sprayed with non-stick baking spray.

Method

  • Clean the portobello and button mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel.
  • Remove the stems.
  • Scrape out the black gills underneath the portobello mushroom caps with a spoon and discard them; the gills would turn the soup black.
  • Roughly chop the caps.
  • Quarter the button mushrooms. Set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.
  • Add the onions, celery and garlic.
  • Reduce the heat to medium, cover and sweat the vegetables for 2 minutes.
  • Add the Port and simmer uncovered for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the Port is reduced by half,
  • Add the mushrooms, cover, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the chicken stock increase the heat to high and bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered.
  • Add the rosemary and cream and simmer for an additional 5 minutes uncovered.
  • Ladle the soup into a blender, but fill it only half way because the soup is hot.
  • Pulse carefully on low speed.
  • Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

    Method

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • Heat the cream and ham in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Simmer it for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool until just warm, about 5 minutes.
  • Whisk the warm cream and ham into the egg and egg yolks.
  • Add the parsley, salt and pepper.
  • Divide between the molds, stirring before ladling the mixture into each so that there will be ham in each mold.
  • Put the molds into the baking pan and pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up their sides.
  • Place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the centers are just set.
  • Remove the baking pan from the oven.
  • Let the flans cool slightly, but unmold them while still warm to prevent sticking.

    Method

  • Divide the hot soup between eight bowls.
  • Gently add a warm flan and serve.

Onion Soup

Ingredients for Onion Soup

10 large Yellow Onions, peeled & sliced
2 cup Beef Stock
2 cup Chicken Broth (unsalted)
2 oz Brandy
2 oz Sherry
2 oz Blended Oil
Kosher Salt, to taste
sliced Gruyere Cheese
Toast Points

Method for Onion Soup

? Get a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add 2 oz of blended oil and add your onions.
? After the onions start to caramelize, stir to prevent burning and reduce the heat to medium. Let the onions slowly caramelize until all the natural sugars are out.
? Next, shut the mixture off and let cool for 10 minutes. Then add the chicken stock and veal stock and bring the entire mixture to a boil. After the mixture comes to a boil, add your brandy and sherry.
? Season with kosher salt, and taste to make sure the mixture is to your specific liking.

To Plate

? Use a soup cup and ladle the onion soup mixture in; leaving only enough room for toast points and cheese.
? Take 3 toast points and place on top of the soup then cover with 3 pieces of Gruyere Cheese, and place in the oven at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
? Once the top of the cheese has browned, carefully remove from the oven and serve.

Pan Seared Diver’s Sea Scallops with a Manhattan-Style Crab and Roasted Sweet Corn Chowder

4 Servings

Ingredients

20 Jumbo “Diver’s” Sea Scallops
1/2 C Apple-Smoked Bacon, diced
1 T Garlic, minced
1 Jumbo Vidalia Onion, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
1 Jumbo Carrot, diced
2 C Tomatoes, diced with juice
2 T Tomato Paste
1 C Chicken Stock
1 t Sugar
1/2 lb Crabmeat
1 C Sweet Corn, roasted
To Taste Salt & Pepper

Method

  • In a medium sauce pot, render the smoked bacon using a minimal amount of oil.
  • Add the garlic, onions, celery, and carrots; sauté until tender.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, 1/2 of the roasted corn, and 1/2 of the crabmeat and continue to cook.
  • Dissolve the tomato paste and sugar in the chicken stock and add to pot; bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  • When thickened, pass the sauce through a medium strainer.
  • To finish, add the remaining corn, crabmeat, and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  • Season the scallops with salt and pepper.
  • In a hot sauté pan, sear the scallops on both sides to achieve a golden crust, while maintaining a medium-rare temperature.
  • Position the scallops on a pool of the chowder, thus using the brightly colored sauce as a backdrop for the perfectly seared shellfish.

Bistro Toulouse Bouillabaisse

4 Servings

Ingredients for Bistro Toulouse Bouillabaisse

? lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 lb whole fresh fish (Snapper or Grouper) scaled and fileted (reserve bones for stock) or 1 lb fileted fish
? lb Calamari, cleaned and cut into tubes
16-20 Mussels, rinsed clean
2 ea Fennel Bulb, thin sliced
6 cloves Garlic, chopped
4 ea Roma Tomatoes, diced
? ea Spanish onion, thin sliced
1 small potato, peeled and diced
1 cup white wine
3 ea egg yolk
6 ea Saffron Threads
1 cup + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lemon
8 slices Baguette

Preparation

Fish Stock:

Use bones and head from fileted fish (or ask for bones at your fish market if you buy fish that is already fileted). Sauté bones and head in a pan 1 Tbsp oil to light color. Add white wine and reduce until almost dry. Add water to the pan to cover bones and simmer on low heat for 90 minutes. Strain stock and set aside. Can be made one day ahead and stored in refrigerator.

Rouille:

Boil diced potato with 3 cloves of garlic in water until cooked through. Drain and mash or put through a ricer. In a food processor combine 3 egg yolks and juice of 1 lemon. Add potato mixture and 3 threads of saffron and pulse until combined. Slowly add 1 cup vegetable oil to the processor while running. Set Rouille aside while you finish preparing the dish. Can be made one day ahead and stored in refrigerator.

Final Preparation:

Sauté fennel, onion and 3 cloves garlic with 1 Tbsp vegetable oil until translucent. Add tomato, reserved fish stock and 3 threads saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut fish into large bite sized pieces. Add shrimp, fish, calamari and mussels to simmering broth. Cover tightly and cook 3-4 additional minutes until mussels have opened and fish is cooked through.

Divide fish/shellfish and vegetables into four large deep bowls and ladle broth over top. Rouille can be served on top or on the side. Serve with grilled or toasted Baguette. Bouillabaisse can be made with any light white fish or shellfish, based on seasonal availability and your taste preferences. Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

Charleston, South Carolina: Reflections of 2016 – A Year in Review

 

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By Mark A. Leon

2016 has been a year that has tested our will and strength.? No words are more true than they lyrics to Don McLean’s immortal classic ‘American Pie’: “Can Music Save Your Mortal Soul”, “a generation lost in space” and “My hands were clenched in fists of rage; no angel born in hell could break that Satan spell.”? Social media and the immediacy of news has brought our world closer together and allowed us to share in the common experience of life.? From Charleston to the World, we have absorbed so much in this monumental year.

As we close 2016, Charleston, SC is not short of memorable stories and moments.? Let us look back on the year that saw the wrath of Hurricane Matthew, redemption for the resting souls of Emanuel AME, a summer’s heat that never seemed to want to end, a generation of businesses saying goodbye and a landscape of Charleston that will forever be changed.

In the last calendar year census release, we learned that South Carolina is the 10th fastest growing state in the union with just over 66,000 new residents (July 1, 2015 – July 1, 2016).? Annualized out, that is nearly a 35% increase in the entire state population in just one decade with a projected growth of 660,000.? That is a fact that is concerning to a number of residents with the Charleston area leading the expansion surge.

Hurricane Matthew tested our preparation strategy and we passed with flying colors.? Our area was more fortunate than most in the Carolinas, but the sense of community, government resources and calm rational thinking got us through the nature disaster without a single fatality.

Mayor Tecklenburg has one year under his belt.? With his morning chats, jazzy music and visibility around town, he has demonstrated that he has the capability of filling the shoes of a political giant, Mayor Joseph Riley.

Perhaps, one of the most challenging changes for our community is the commercialization of the peninsula.? With the additions of Panera on Calhoun, our ninth Starbucks on Upper King and the Hyatt towering above, the traditional family owned culture is shifting away and paving a new landscape for Charleston.? The corner of Calhoun and King looks more like a major metro than a unique historic Southern town with Walgreens, Panera, Carolina Ale House, Chipotle, Moe’s Southwestern, Five Guys Burgers and Starbucks showering us with corporate dominance. (Is this the End of the Holy City?)

This year we said goodbye to some old friends including Tony The Peanut Man, Lilian D. Johnson, Owner of Duke’s BBQ, and the College of Charleston lost three members of its family:? Norman Arnold, Alison Piepmeier and Consuela Francis. ?Long time South Carolina State Senator John Drummond left us and The Alley and Charleston were saddened by the tragic loss of 24-year-old Whitney Jordan.

Several foundations closed their doors for the final time including Hughes Lumber, Morris Sokol Furniture and Bob Ellis Shoes.? Generations of locals have shared fond memories of a different downtown Charleston where generations of business owners treated you like family.

Once again Conde Nast Traveler put Charleston in the limelight and The Spectator Hotel got national prominence and top honors.

Drones no longer captured a skyline of church steeples.? That majestic skyline was dominated in 2016 by cranes.? Street and infrastructure construction was a mainstay from Spring to The Battery, President Street to East Bay.? There wasn’t a roadway on the peninsula that wasn’t affected this year.

It was a rise of the digital billboards and a record of highway fatalities in South Carolina with nearly 1000 as we near the end of the calendar year.

Sixteen months after the moment that changed our lives forever, a jury gave a city and a congregation redemption.? Now, the nine souls of the Emanuel AME family can finally rest.

The summer saw countless days over 90 leaving many locals trapped indoors with air conditioner units never having a moment to stop and catch their breath.

The fires of Western Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia made their way to the coast giving us a few auspicious mornings of misty smoke in the air.

Some other notables in 2016:

  • Shem Creek got a parking garage.
  • Downtown Parking garages raised rates.
  • Most residential parking no longer offered free parking after 6:00 PM or 8:00 PM.
  • The county voted a 0.5% sales tax increase – Now Charleston County will have 9% sales tax, 10.5% restaurant food tax and 15% restaurant alcohol tax.
  • Mount Pleasant is seeking a cruise ship port on their side of the Harbor.
  • Bike Lanes have been tested, a bike sharing program instated and more financial resources going into CARTA as the city looks for ways to control the traffic issues with the growing population.
  • Folly Beach bans plastics and has the environmentalists and conservationists cheering.
  • Colonial Lake gets a facelift.
  • The Citadel Football Team brought excitement to the city with a record year including 10 straight wins to start the season.
  • Charleston Angels Partners First Annual Start Up Competition showed that technology has a bright future in Charleston.
  • Gronkowski and DiCaprio stopped by for a visit.
  • The film industry found Charleston to be a shining star including a new Netflix film, Stephen King mini-series and a John Laurens docu-drama.
  • Rent in downtown Charleston has hit record rates with Charleston listed as one of the top US cities for rent percentage increases.
  • Joe Riley Stadium will soon have a retail and dining neighbor, Upper Meeting Street is creating its own high end consumer experience and residents of the East Side must now take a bus to get basic groceries.

2016 was quite a year for us.? Happy New Year Charleston.? We wish you all a healthy and safe 2017.

The Importance of Carrie Fisher

By Mark A. Leon

Just a few minutes after I heard the devastating news of the passing of Carrie Fisher, I began a long drive from Raleigh back home.? On Interstate 540, I saw a sign that said New Hope Road.? I smiled.? Often, we are given signs, some of them obvious, while others subtle, that remind us that there is good in a moment of tragedy.

In the final scene of the latest Star Wars Release ‘Rogue One’ we are blessed with a ghostly image of a young Princess Leia.? Perhaps foreshadowing that she would soon be looking down upon us from up above and we would want to remember her in the fondest way possible with her whole life in front of her.

At 21, Carrie Fisher was a global icon as popular as Muhammad Ali, Rocky Balboa and Elvis Presley.? Yet, she maintained the added burden of being a role model to young girls and women around the world.? As am empowered woman, fulfilling every girl’s childhood dream of being a princess, she embodied every little girl’s wish.? Powerful, confident, beautiful and caring.? Her smile, hidden vulnerability and strength made her a figurehead for the modern woman.? From figurine to posters, hair styles to sexuality, Leia ruled the galaxy the way she wanted to.

Yet, beneath the character, Carrie Fisher battled her own demons, including bipolar and depression attributes.? Like her character of Leia, she fought hard and overcame extreme adversity.? As a writer, actress and advocate, she shared her story and her message over the years.

As the sun set on the passing of another iconic celebrity, millions of us were transported back to our childhood, like a time machine on a mission.? Back to our figurines, cards, calendars, light sabers and journals.

While listening to the radio on my drive, callers would share their stories about the impact Carrie Fisher and Star Wars had and the message was always the same; fondness and family.

Her influence on her fans and women around the world cannot be measured.? For almost 40 years, Princess then General Leia continued to shine on the big screen.? In between, the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher tried to create a life of normalcy, but as you can read in ‘Postcards from the Edge’, it wasn’t always easy.? She always showed up with a smile and a vision of hope.

Carrie Fisher will be desperately missed, but always remembered every time we hear John Williams anthem.

As my brother said so eloquently last evening, “Star Wars was my childhood”.? As part of that ensemble, Carrie Fisher will be remembered, by most of us, as a key part of our lives during a time of innocence and imagination.

Trulia Ranks Charleston, SC #5 Most Hungover City in Latest Study

Media Release:? Trulia ranked the cities most likely to party hard on New Year’s Eve and start off 2017 with a nasty hangover!

Charleton, SC ranks 5th behind San Francisco, San Diego, Austin and Bellingham.

Everybody pop a bottle and let’s say goodbye and good riddance to 2016. While some people may look at New Year’s Eve as a time to reflect and get ready for a fresh start, for others, the holiday is all about ringing in the new year with a champagne toast (or two). So where are these party people?

To find out, Trulia refreshed its Hangover Index to see where you’ll likely find the most people nursing a killer hangover on January 1. First, we ranked 150 large American cities based on the number of drinking establishments, firecracker stores, party supply stores and party equipment rental stores per household. We then looked at the share of young adults, aged 18-34, and the share of adults who say they’ve had at least 1 binge drinking incident within a month of the survey. To calculate the index, each city was then ranked on each of these categories. The city with the most party suppliers, young people and binge drinkers scored higher as a place to party.

You might think New York City is the center for New Year’s Eve celebrations, but the home of the ball drop doesn’t even make the top 10! Instead, if you are looking for a good time (and a headache to follow) to start 2017 off right, head West! San Francisco and San Diego top the list at #1 and #2 spot respectively, while New York City is ranked #34 on our list. Check out which cities ranked highest on our Hangover Index below.

How Legitimate Are Online Hotel Reviews? – How to avoid getting scammed

Last week, Masterkey USA put an ad on Charleston Craigslist for freelance writers/bloggers.

The ad said:

  • You do not have to be a good writer
  • We will provide the keywords for you to use
  • You will be helping our hotel clients grow their business

We wrote to Vishal and inquired about opportunities to write for Masterkey.? We did not get a response and the ad has since been taken down and removed.

Masterkey USA is a hotel marketing agency that increases hotel clients sales performance and helps their online presence.? Masterkey Hotels is a chain of hotels out of the same region as the marketing firm.? We cannot confirm a direct connection, but location, name and industry indicate a potential partnership.

So, what was this ad looking for?? Very simple:? They were looking for people to write false online hotel reviews to boost their client’s reservations and occupancy rates through unethical business practices.

As a consumer seeking a place of lodging, we typically look for three key elements:

  • Affordability – Based on the region and value added (attractions, dining), what hotels offer the best rates.
  • Volume Reviews – If more people stay at a hotel, the better it must be.
  • Quality of Reviews / Ratings – What hotels have the highest average ratings.

Quite simply, if a hotel has 500 reviews averaging 4.5 / 5.0 stars, they will have a higher conversion rate of new customers than a hotel with 50 reviews and an average 3.0 / 5.0 star rating.? The filters of online review sites such as TripAdvisor, Hotwire and Kayak allow you to sort by rating, cost and number of reviews making it very easy to make a quick booking decision.

When companies like Masterkey USA hire people to fill in the blanks and write five star reviews, it only hurts the consumer.

How can you avoid making a poor decision when choosing a hotel?

  • Look for longer more thorough reviews.? Don’t just read the first few reviews.? Scroll down and look for the longer reviews that provide very specific detail on their stays (room quality, customer service, location, dining, etc.)
  • Don’t let the number of reviews affect your decision.? If a few hotels stand out with an enormous number of reviews, don’t let that be your only determining factor.
  • Look for reviews that match your personal needs.? If you are a family of four, don’t read a review from a honeymoon couple.? Look for family relevant reviews.
  • Thoroughly scroll through the visuals.? Pictures paint a very strong story.? Look at images of the lobby, rooms, food, parking lot and create a visual of what your stay may look like.
  • Focus on amenities.? Does this hotel offer what you need?? Some love free breakfast, while others prefer a gym that is open 24 hours.? Factor in your habits and what amenities meet them to your final decision.
  • Distance to destinations/attractions – How close is your hotel to the attractions you want to see.

Make your vacation memorable starting with the right lodging decision.? Good luck and make great memories.

 

Earth’s Martians Touchdown in Charleston, SC: My Conversation with Columbia’s The Moon Moths

By Mary Kiser

North Charleston is an acquired taste. While the community is vibrant, its seedier counterparts steal the spotlight. Strippers, drug dealers, and gang violence hog the stage long enough to distract patrons from the gems in plain sight. A recent club, the Purple Buffalo, literally rests on the outskirts of Charleston. Near the King Street Cabaret and close to Spruill Avenue, the Purple Buffalo is easy to miss. Even though it lacks a sign, flashing violet lights signal herds to the watering hole. People can drink, dance, and attend concerts. Before their performance, the Moon Moths, a homegrown movement from Columbia, S.C., gab about celestial bodies, Jurassic Park, and Paris.

When I walk inside the building, I almost ignore the bouncer, Randolph, because my stomach’s knots are so tight. His scruffy appearance softens as he flashes a smile, marks my hand with a permanent X, and pleads verbatim: please don’t drink. No worries! My eyes screen the small room until I see a stage and VIP section. Online pictures of the band’s founder, Rupert Hudson (Prince Rupert), click into frame as I take a seat on the couch next to him. His aura and look refurnishes the counterculture of the seventies, but his message is clearer than a fifties crystal chandelier.

We talk about his YouTube video Flower Moon when Keenan (Moon Child) sits next to me, and details the backstory. Hudson and him “were lost in the woods,” but through the moon’s favor, they found their way home. Like an offering to the gods, this recorded taping of Prince Rupert, complete with his cape and crown, gives thanks. He sings, “Your light, it dazzles down. Gives me reason to keep on this ground…. Through the calamities, catastrophic disasters (ah), howling hurricanes, tides coming up faster (ah), shines the moon’s light. It makes it all feel ri-i-i-i-ight (oh).” Their ode is a tribute to Nature’s grace. Hudson and Keenan draw inspiration from the universe, and their trips shuttle between the literal and metaphorical.

I interrupt the conversation to ask Hudson a pressing question: Why do you wear a flower in your hair? He glances at Keenan before their laughter overrides the chatter. The floret in Prince Rupert’s mane “represent blooming… among other things.” Keenan adds, “Everyone blooms and goes through winter cycles.” Extraterrestrial and earthly environments play a considerable role in human survival. Moon stabilizes Earth’s rotation as plants release vital gasses (oxygen, obviously). Without their presence, people wouldn’t survive. Habits like tea in the morning, conference-calls during the afternoon, and cocktails by twilight are luxuries. The Moon Moths are just a group of superhero-ecologists in disguise, and their platform stems heightened awareness.

I look at my phone, and it reads 8:45 p.m. Other bandmates such as: Maddie (SK), Gabe (King Goof), and Pedro (Fresh Heaven) flock around the table. Pedro introduces himself, and lends his insight into the message behind the Moon Moths’ song Childhood: Memories are frozen and encased like Jurassic Park’s mosquito. Pedro explains that memories can “hurt you,” but they will never fade. Hudson nods in agreement before he asserts, “People want to change their memories, but you should focus on them.” Flashbulb experiences can either limit or unleash human potential. Meditation allows men and women to concentrate on their worries through exercised control. Before Hudson’s move to South Carolina, his time in New York compounds pressure and depression. His ten-days retreat in Georgia not only renews his mind but regenerates his soul. Vipassanā is an intense practice that Gautama Buddha utilizes for ailments, and for two years now, Hudson uses this technique to cope with stressors, sadness, and yes, memories.

When Amanda (Panda) takes a seat next to Hudson, I’m transfixed. Her percussion beats and dance routines are instrumental to the Moon Moths’ success. Her presence soothes the boozy atmosphere, and I swear my being transports into the jazzy lounge of nirvana. Background noise murmurs as Amanda enlightens me. As a former college student, she travels with her friends in pursuit of gauzy “good times.” The Moon Moths are a community, but they can only cocoon her spirit for so long. Her dream takes flight away from U.S. citizens to commune among Parisians in France. Connor (Mister B) joins our conversation along with Tristan (Vanilla Thunder). Thoughts about the movie Blue Is the Warmest Color (I cried!) and treks (worldwide?) tinge the ambience. The myriad of personalities pour across my notebook as I scribble everyone’s makeup. An hour of conversation strikes the clock midnight (well, 9:40 p.m.), and I need to leave. The overwhelming amount of information pounds at my head, and my fingers itch for my own set of keys. I didn’t experience the Moon Moths’ performance, but my connection spans past the set list. Their individuality butterflies from the shy and sweet (Tristan) to the outspoken and bold (Pedro). The members plan to release a mixtape of seven songs in 2017, and scheduled gigs are just another cycled stage. Their popularity has yet to reach mainstream audiences, but after the release of a single or two, these stargazers may land on the moon.

Lead Singer Rupert Hudson
Lead Singer Rupert Hudson

 

 

 

A Folly Starfish Christmas Story

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By Minta Pavliscsak

It was Christmas Eve in our little slice of Folly Under the Sea. This year things around me seemed more calm than usual. Everyfish seemed to be ahead of the typical hustle and bustle of the season. That is, every fish except for me. I like to live in the here and now, which means I am really good when it comes to what others view as procrastinating. I like to think of it more as I work well under pressure. That aside, I was bobbing from store to store as quickly as I could but a starfish can only go as fast as the current takes him and today the current was in no rush.

Somehow I managed to squeak in grocery shopping, picking up my famous last minute –but always perfect– gifts, visiting a few friends, and even getting a relaxing arm massage at Sacred Arm Massage & Healing Arts. Floating home, I looked around at all the happy fish. It was such a beautiful day. The sun was glistening brightly through the waves. There were even surfboards overhead, and not a shark sighting all day. The small fish were playing with each other and singing carols in anticipation of what tonight would bring. The bigger fish were holding hands and sneaking kisses, just as giddy as the little ones.

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Finally making it home, I put on my favorite Michael Bubble Christmas album and started wrapping presents. Later that evening, I enjoyed the sunset in my back sand where I could see the human’s Folly Christmas tree off in the distance. Those humans are so creative! Who would think to put a Christmas tree on the beach anyway? ?After Christmas Eve dinner and appeasing carol singers who literally would not leave until I gave them figgy pudding –good thing I picked up dates at the store– I finally settled in to rest until Christmas day.

However, it was a restless sleep, and when I did drift off I had crazy dreams. One was of a psychedelic octopus. He just kind of joyfully floated in one spot, smiling and waving almost glowing in the surf. And then I woke up. Then there was the dream of a sandcastle Santa Claus. Had I seen the humans building one on the beach? Had Santa visited me and I sleepily caught him? Was Santa Claus really made out of sand? The psychedelic octopus seemed to make more sense than that! Maybe I was just as excited as every fish else that I had seen the day before. After all, Christmas is my most favorite of all the holidays. And even after all these years, I have never stopped believing. I gave into my excitement and floated out of bed, cranked up the Bubble, and got ready for the day.

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As I put on my funny Santa attire, the smile that would remain ever present for the day crept across my face. How silly of me to think there would be sleep on the eve of today of all days! The doorbell rang. My friends and family had arrived. It was the beginning of another perfect Christmas Under the Folly Sea.

From our family to yours,
Happy Christmas, Merry Everything!

Never Stop Believing

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in Charleston

‘Twas the night before Christmas in Charleston and all through the streets, not a rickshaw was wheeling, not even an Uber beep
King Street was snoozing and Market Street a whisper
Not a skater was skating, not even a hipster sipping a PBR

The lights of the Marion Square Tree illuminated to the stars as the squirrels nestled under tree sharing acorns and glee
The pirate ghosts of White Point Garden hope this is the year Santa will be give them scissors so they may cut their noose and be free

The bells of St. Michaels guide the sleigh through the moonlight
St. Philips and Unitarian join in
The holy city, strong in spirit, sing in prayer and rejoice on another wonderful year

Oh Holy Night, from Cistern to East Bay, light our hearts with this Southern fire
From Sullivan’s to Folly, the waves dance to the music of the season
The angels perch high above the Cooper River Bridge waving and dancing to the sailboats ahead

Now we lay our heads to rest, but not without a special gift for St. Nick
A bowl of Shrimp and Grits and a craft pint or Chicken and waffles instead

In the deep silence of the night, we can hear the sounds of bells chime in our dreams while the deep rugged voice of Santa call out, “on Dasher, Prancer, Dewberry and Spector.? On Fig, on Husk, On Oak, On Ordinary.”
Or perhaps our dreams play games in our heads as we visualize a year to be thankful

A Merry Christmas to you Charleston and to all a good night

 

 

One Mount Pleasant, SC Restaurant Named to Condé Nast Traveler Best in the World

By Mark A. Leon

Condé Nast Traveler just announced the 207 best restaurants in the world to dine at and one area restaurant made the list.? Before we go there let us see how the rest of the United States faired (Then again the image at the top may have given it away for some).

19 – New York
14 – California
3 – Illinois
3 – Massachusetts
3 – Texas
2 – Washington State
2 – Louisiana
2 – Georgia
1 – Florida
1 – Hawaii
1 – Indiana
1 – Maryland
1 – Nevada
1 – Oregon
1 – Pennsylvania
1 – South Carolina
1 – Tennessee
1 – Virginia
1 – Vermont

Total:? 60 (29% of World Total)

South Carolina is represented by:? The Wreck of Richard and Charlene

Congratulations to all the amazing people at The Wreck that share the love of coastal dining right here in Mount Pleasant.

 

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