John Grindrod: Travel, despite the occasional familiarity, is always different


Certainly, there are so many different ideas about the best way to use our leisure time when it comes to packing what was called a grip in earlier times and taking to the highway or the skies. While many are comforted by the familiarity of sojourning to the same locale, there are others who steadfastly prescribe to the notion that, in a life so very short — as compared to the lifespan of the giant tortoise named Jonathan, a resident of the remote island of St. Helena, who turned 191 last month — travel experiences should vary.

Now, for my travel gal, Lady Jane, she can do either. While she prefers new places, she won’t turn her back on doing the vacation version of what’s known in the sports world as “running it back.”

For example, despite the fact that we visited Ireland in 2013, she was fully on board in 2019 when we hopped aboard a plane and returned to Ireland, the second time, to focus on the northern part of the Emerald Isle, rather than our 2013 time exploring the southern portion. Now, many would say that since Northern Ireland actually is a part of the United Kingdom, much to the discontent, we discovered on that trip, of many in places like Belfast and Londonderry, I suppose that second trip really was to a different place.

The domestic version of returning for another go at some fun in the same locale came during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We loaded up my version of the Conestoga wagon, my Chevy Equinox, and headed to Hilton Head, where we spent time between those holidays in both 2020 and 2021.

After overnighting in Greensboro, using a long-time favorite hotel of mine both for business and for leisure — the Drury Inn and Suites — we completed the 328-mile drive and checked into a VRBO-rented commodious condo off Cordillo Parkway on the southern side of the island.

Unlike our experience last year with a VRBO condo rental in the Port Royal Sound area on the northern side, this rental was well worth the money for a spacious two-story unit which included free bikes. Jane and I were less than ten minutes from what I think is the best walking and biking beach anywhere, and we took full advantage.

There’s just something about the ocean — its smell, its sound and its immensity — that fascinates me no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Whenever I have the opportunity to walk again on the beach, everything old is indeed new again. A rather new look I noted was the number of people who were at the beach with their pooches. I assumed many were, like Jane and me, tourists who, rather than boarding the dog or entrusting Fido’s care to a canine-loving neighbor, took humankind’s best friend on vacation. Years ago that was almost unheard of.

Since I love to cook on vacation, the kitchen and I became good friends. But we surely didn’t rule out some dining out. Jane and I both enjoyed immensely our New Year’s Eve dinner at The Old Oyster Factory, a restaurant which combines terrific food with excellent scenic views of the marshes of Broad Creek.

Our side trips from our island location included the familiar. We had to check the beautiful old homes in Beaufort yet again and walk on the boardwalk along the water while keeping an eye out for a dolphin or two.

While we passed on a Savannah side trip, having visited in both of our last two trips, we did return to nearby Bluffton to check out the May River area. The place is somewhat misnamed since it’s actually more of an estuary as well as a plentiful source for Low Country oysters. We also stopped to drink some fancy five-dollar coffees with all the preppy folks at Jane’s favorite coffee house, one called the Corner Perk.

It was there that I unknowingly provided Jane with her best laugh of the trip. We were engaging in a favorite sport of many — people watching — and commenting on the patrons’ preppy looks. I laughed that I didn’t quite fit the mold with my jeans and sneakers and a vintage sweatshirt. At that point I looked down at the front of my sweatshirt to point to the brand name Champion that I expected to see right over my ticker.

When I saw nothing, I sheepishly peeled the crew neck back and, of course, saw the tag. We both convulsed in laughter. Hours earlier — and I can’t even blame it on dressing in the dark — I put that sweatshirt on backwards, and it took until 10:30 in a very crowded Corner Perk for Jane and me to come to the realization that septuagenarians apparently sometimes have trouble dressing themselves.

Surely, not quite the preppy look, wouldn’t you say?

Next week, I’ll wrap up my little travel log by recounting an entirely new experience we had in a familiar place for us: in Charleston, one of the South’s most historic cities. On previous visits, we’d always eschewed the notion of taking a tour of that famous fort named for military hero Thomas Sumpter. But this year we were all in to see the fort where those first shots were fired in America’s deadliest war.

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