Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moon Over Moncks Corner

            Got an anniversary coming up?  How are you going to celebrate?  Another over-priced restaurant meal?  How about a little romance in (don’t laugh!) Moncks Corner! Rice Hope Plantation, one of South Carolina’s only bed and breakfast plantations, is just an hour from Charleston but centuries back in time. 

            For history buffs, it’s a treasure trove.  The original house was built in 1840. After some renovations, additions and a fire, the forty room mansion sprawls across the hillside. Formal gardens bursting with camellias and towering oak trees draped with Spanish moss create a scene of serenity and affluence.  The past oozes from every corner.  Formal portraits, including the plantation’s founders and some “instant ancestors”, share wallpapered display space with fine china and art.  Huge collections of books fill several walls.  An entire room devoted to artifacts found on the grounds is a mesmerizing hodge-podge of taxidermy animals, hinges, shells, decoys, bones, nails, sharks teeth, documents and a model “trunk” which demonstrates the way the historic rice fields were flooded and drained for harvesting.  There’s even a decaying dugout canoe that was salvaged offshore.  A recent guest commented: “one of the best accommodations that an archeologist can dream of enjoying”. 
      Lou Edens, a local entrepreneur, is the charming proprietress.  She knows a million stories about Rice Hope.  Colorful stories.  Bawdy stories and gossip.  Stories of men who took slaves with them when they became soldiers; of visits by Clair Booth Luce; about hunting parties and wild nights drinking the plantation’s signature drink, shrub.  “Shrub is made from orange juice, rum and brandy” Lou explains.  “We made it for a party once and that’s the only time I saw the plantation’s ghost “Mistress Chicken”.  “I didn’t know it was a ghost.  I invited her to the party!” Lou’s quick, girlish laugh accompanies many of her anecdotes. 
            There’s an extensive art collection with notable acrylics and prints by Elizabeth Porcher.  As a member of the Charleston Renaissance, she became well known for her dignified paintings of African Americans in a time when Caucasian painters usually depicted African Americans as caricatures.  A large rendition of the plantation painted by Charles Fraser shows the rice cultivation that historically covered most of the 300 acres of land.  “I tried to grow some rice myself”, Lou says pointing to an artful arrangement of dried rice stalks in a vase.  “But I didn’t get enough for even a casserole.”

            The gardens are the highlight.  Established in 1795 and enhanced in the 1930’s according to a design by noted landscape architect Loutrell Briggs, they boast an astounding array of camellias including, reputedly,  the largest bush in the country which towers over twelve feet high.  Many brides have made their entrances down the garden’s sweeping brick walkway.  Their photos depict the authentic Southern charms that movies can only hope to imitate.  But anniversary couples seem to enjoy their stays the most.  Many return yearly and have written in the guest book:  “The best stay in an inn to this day.”  And “This is one of my favorite destinations in the whole world.”             

            Breakfast is included in the room and is elegantly served overlooking the gardens.  Previous guests have raved about the shrimp and grits.  We enjoyed a scrumptious tomato and shrimp pie and other delicacies.  For other meals, head to The Dock where a fresh seafood dinner overlooking the river will set you back a mere $20 for two.  Barony House is an upscale choice. Or for a truly Southern experience, head to Sweatman’s BBQ near Eutawville on Friday or Saturday and get the real flavor of the South for $10 a plate.  But I recommend doing as we did.  Bring a little picnic to enjoy in the privacy of your room.  If you rent the bridal suite, you’ll have a large private porch as well as a sitting room and huge bedroom with a rice bed.  Sit and relax. Unwind.
            There’s bird watching, canoeing and games on site.  “No-thinging” is highly recommended.  Other activities include fishing from the plantation dock where 100 pound catfish have been caught.  Mepkin Abbey is nearby.  The peaceful monks graciously allow visitors to ramble or picnic.  There’s plenty of hiking and biking in the area including the 12,000 acre Bonneau Ferry Preserve.  For a romantic end to the day, drive to the Canal Recreation Area and walk up the few steps to the dike surrounding Lake Moultrie.  Watch the sunset across the expansive, shimmering lake and try to imagine where you are. I bet you’ll never guess Moncks Corner!         



Rice Hope Plantation

Sweatman’s BBQ

 This story was originally published in The Island Eye News


No comments:

Post a Comment