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Why I Love Going to the Park

Snack cup. Water bottle. Change of clothes. Check, check, and check.

When Britton and I head out to one of Charleston's many parks, we're like hundreds of other parents, grandparents, and caretakers, and their little ones. We're going to enjoy the nice weather, spend some time outdoors, and get a little exercise.

Red Bays, or the Place that Time Forgot

Red Bays village, Andros Island, Bahamas | Cosmos Mariners
Visiting Andros wasn't all frolicking on deserted beaches and worrying about the ghosts of dead divers grabbing me in the blue holes.

Lest you think this was some crazy spring break masquerading as a college class, let me assure you-- we actually did some work and learned about the island's culture. 

As someone who loves exploring new sites and meeting people from different backgrounds, I found our trip to Red Bays fascinating.

Blue Holes, Andros Island, Or How to Get Really Freaked Out While Swimming

Blue Holes, Andros Island, Bahamas
Instead of a weekend filled with painting (indoors AND out--in 99 degree heat!), tiling, grouting, and cleaning out the garage, I'm going to pretend that I spent the weekend out doing something fun and awesome and adventurous. Let's all live vicariously though my next post in the Andros Island, Bahamas series I have going on, shall we? 

As I've mentioned in a few of my earlier posts, I went to Andros as a part of a geology class while I was at Clemson. Even though I wasn't a geology major (far from it!), I found the class absolutely fascinating as it combined the geological history of Andros with studies about biology, culture, geography, and plant life on the island. 

A Pirate Ship, A Castle, and a Mini-Publix: Our Trip to the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry

I've lived in Charleston for a long, long time. I was born here, then moved away for ten years because of my dad's job, then came back when I started middle school. Since then, I haven't really left--I went to college at Clemson, studied abroad in London, and got my grad degree at USC, but I always considered Charleston my home. Then, when I finished being a professional student and got a job, I headed back here permanently with my (then new) husband.

Even though I've done a lot of things and seen a lot of places, Charleston always has more to offer. Now that I have a little Charlestonian to occupy every day, I get to see a completely new side of my hometown. 

This week, my friend invited Britton and I to go to the Children's Museum of the Lowcountry with her and her son. She and I were pregnant at the same time, and our kids are only 2 weeks apart in age, so it's so fun to go out on adventures with them. 

Children's Museum of the Lowcountry


Fuel Restaurant (Downtown Charleston)

Fuel Cantina Charleston
As I'm typing this post up, I'm so full that I can barely move. Luckily, typing doesn't require much physical activity, so I might survive.

My stomach is fat and happy right now because of a very successful (and an unusual!) Sisters' Night. Each week, my sister and I get together for a dinner, movie, exercise, or just to talk. Usually, we don't invite anyone else because GIRLS ONLY. 

However, we made an exception this week since Amber's boyfriend has the world's worst work schedule and one of his current days off is Tuesday. I couldn't ask her to leave him on one of his two nights off, so we decided to do Sisters' Night Plus this week. Landon and Andrew and even Britton got to come on our adventure. 

For this unprecedented event, we headed downtown to one of my new favorite restaurants: Fuel.

Androsia Fabric Factory, Andros Island, Bahamas



Imagine the Bahamas if you will. It's all white sand and aqua water and green palm trees and light blue skies, right?

There are just so many colors on Andros that it's kind of like living inside a kid's painting. Everything looks more vivid and so much brighter than you imagined that it could.

It only makes sense that Andros has its own fabric factory in Fresh Creek and that fabric comes in a dozen crazy bright, beautiful hues.

Hello, World. My Name Is Natalie. And I Am a Writer.


This may be the world's most obvious statement as clearly I write this blog on a pretty regular bases.

The writing that I'm referring to is the stuff I do that's unrelated to the blog--you know, the stuff that actually helps pay the bills. 

Since late 2012, I've worked as a freelance writer which I've found to an incredibly rewarding job. Not only does it give me the flexibility to work from home with Britton (no easy task, but I make it work), it allows me to have a completely different work experience each day. On Monday, I might be interviewing a local dentist for a Charleston magazine. On Tuesday, I might be writing web copy for a hotel in San Francisco. On Wednesday, I might be researching the history of downtown Charleston's architecture for a real estate agent. 

It's fun and easy work for me as writing comes second nature after all of those years of brutally honest comments from my English professors. 

But the thing that keeps me awake at night is my vanity project, my pride and joy, my novel.

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com

Charleston, South Carolina is a fantastic place to live or visit and was even voted as the #1 tourist destination in the world by Conde Nast. Pretty sweet accolades, so why would you ever want to leave?

As a native (and lifelong resident) of Charleston, I know that the city's an amazing place to live, work, and visit. However, I also know that there's nothing like a little change of scenery, and Charleston offers many quick trips to locals and visitors alike. Here are a few of my favorite places to visit from Charleston, South Carolina--and best of all, they are less than two hours each way, so you can easily get back to the sights in Charleston.

Edisto Island.This out of the way barrier island south of Charleston is an easy hour's drive. There are just a few restaurants, one grocery store, and only two main roads, so the focus is completely on the gorgeous island environment. If you're not up for a beach day, here are Six things to do in Edisto that explore the culture and history of this gorgeous place.Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com Beaufort. This small coastal town was the setting for the 1983 movie "The Big Chill," but its charm and warmth are far more important that its past flirtation with the big-screen. Wander the side streets and admire the stately old homes, browse the shops on the main street, or take a horse-and-buggy history tour. If you have time, drive out to neighboring Hunting Island, where South Carolina's unspoilt beauty is the focus.
Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Yemassee. While the Shrimp Festival is the highlight of the social calendar here, Yemassee is still worth a visit even when the festival isn't in full swing. Definitely make the trip out to the Old Sheldon Church, a haunting ruin of an antebellum church which is rumored to be haunted (it made the list of my 3 favorite spooky ruins in the Lowcountry, too!). It is free and open to the public year round, 24/7, so if you've ever wanted to test your hand at amateur ghost hunting, this would be a great place to start!

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Myrtle Beach. With dozens of shopping centers, year-round entertainment and more restaurants that you could try in a decade, Myrtle Beach is Charleston's younger, wilder and less refined cousin. Find deals at one of the two outlet stores or grab a famous Sam's Corner hot dog at one of its many locations along the Grand Strand. The kitschy Ocean Drive area has unique shops and the SkyWheel (which resembles the London Eye). Myrtle Beach is an hour and a half drive from downtown Charleston via Highway 17 North.

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.com
Savannah. While this trip can be done in a day (about four hours round trip), it will be a long day! Savannah has been called Charleston's "sister city" because of the historic backgrounds and distinct charm of both cities. Take a history tour of the downtown area, explore the Telfair Museum of Art, share a picnic in Forsyth Park, and grab a few souvenirs along River Street.

If you're looking for something slightly off the beaten path to do, take a cemetery tour of Bonaventure Cemetery, final resting place of author Conrad Aiken (and the inspiration for my blog's name) and songwriter/singer Johnny Mercer.

If it's your first time in the city, check out my first-timer's guide to Savannah for help.

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina | CosmosMariners.comWhere are your favorite road trip destinations? Have you been to any of these places?

Eatin' on the Creek: Vickery's

There is a lot of water in Charleston, so if you're looking for a place to eat that's on the water, you don't have to look far. One of my absolute favorites, though, is Vickery's Bar and Grill in Mount Pleasant. 

Vickery's Bar and Grill on Shem Creek

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

There are some places that you visit that stay with you forever. For me, one of those is Andros Island in the Bahamas. It's the largest of the Bahamian islands, but it's also the least populated. That means that you get all of the gorgeous blue water and white sands you can get anywhere else in the Bahamas, but without any of the crowds!

I got to visit this amazing place my senior year in college when I took a class in marine biology: as a part of the class, we spent 2 weeks on northern Andros Island over our spring break to study the things we'd been learning the rest of the semester. Besides exploring the deserted beaches (which we'll get to in just a second), we also took classes at Forfar Field Station, looked for pirate gold at Morgan's Bluff, swam in blue holes, and discovered the place that time forgot at Red Bays

But back to those deserted beaches. When I say that they were deserted, I meant it. The experience of spending an afternoon on the uninhabited, unexplored shores of northern Andros was so awesome that it even made my top 5 favorite travel moments.

Who wouldn't love the chance to cavort in some place that looked like this?

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Getting to the beach was an adventure unto itself, as we had to park on the side of the road and hike two miles. We were in the middle of nowhere near the tip of Andros Island, so while there are gorgeous beaches, you have to work to see them.

We forded the river (luckily, none of our oxen died. Thank you, Oregon Trail, for teaching me real life lessons on crossing bodies of water). We even had to do the whole tie-your-shoes-around-your-neck thing that you see people in movies do.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

We waded through mud. Lots and lots of mud. Have I ever mentioned that I am not an outdoorsy person? (I think my face in the picture below says it all.)

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

We got scratched by brambles and this prickly grass that was everywhere. Most of us were in bathing suits and were ill equipped for everything the hike threw at us. But we were determined, so we didn't let a little sawgrass stand in our way.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Our view stretched on and on like this. We had to believe that our trusty guide (aka our teacher) that the crystal clear water was out there somewhere waiting for us. 

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

On the way, we even found the wreckage of a plane. While it creeped us out, our teacher (who knows these kinds of things) assured it that 1) the wreck had happened a long time ago, and 2) no one had been hurt. Looking back, I wonder if he actually knew that or if he was just making it up to keep us from spazzing. Either way, I'm happy not knowing.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

When we made it to the beach, every bug bite, scratch, and sun burned patch was worth the view. I've never seen a place that was so pristine and perfect. We were the only people for miles--literally, as waaaay over to our right was Fort Lauderdale, and to our left was nothing but the road we'd parked on that was two miles back.

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com
No trip to the beach is complete without burying someone and adding fake sandy genitalia. (P.S. Can you tell that we were super mature college students at the time?!?)
Tidal Flats and Deserted Beaches, Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

The water was warm and shallow, and the sand was soft and white. I think the entire class would have agreed to camp out on those deserted beaches on Andros for the rest of the trip, but we had other adventures that awaited us!

What's been your favorite travel moment? Would you go out of your way on your travels if it meant you'd get to see something extra awesome?

A Stroll in Downtown Charleston


Last week, Britton and I were getting a bit stir crazy in the house as it had been raining on and off for days. We took advantage of the (brief) sunshine to head downtown for a quick walk through a few blocks of the historic district.

Yes, that's literally a few blocks. 

When you've got a toddler in tow, you get to stop and look at EVERY. SINGLE. BRICK. It totally gives new meaning to the phrase "stop and smell the roses [and pick at the grass and that piece, too and touch the sidewalk and try to follow those people home...]."

9 Hersheypark Tips From Someone Who Just Got Back

Today, I'm happy to have Linda from Is It Hot in Here? as a guest post on the blog. She's sharing her tips for making the most of Hersheypark. I've only visited once, but I remember it being full of fun rides and lots and lots of chocolate. Sounds like a win in my book!
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Every year, my family makes a pilgrimage to Hersheypark, the theme park in Hershey, Pennsylvania run by the chocolate company of the same name. I know the place is a thinly-veiled mega-advertisement for “all products Hershey,” but it's also one of the cleanest, best-run theme parks you'll ever visit. My kids are growing up there in the sense that we've been there more than 9 times in 11 years.   

6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Andros Island, Bahamas

6 Reasons Why You Should Visit Andros Island, Bahamas | CosmosMariners.com

Most college seniors take super easy classes because, duh, it's their senior year.

Little Miss Overachiever (aka me) decided to take 21 hours, work two jobs, and study for the LSAT. Yeah, I know--what's wrong with me?!?! 

As a part of those 21 hours, I signed up for a elective geology class. I'm usually not super into geology, but this class taught us geology, marine biology, history, culture, and botany. It focused on how all of these elements came together on the island of Andros in the Bahamas, and it culminated with a two week field study there. 

In other words, it was THE COOLEST elective class EVER. The fact that my sister, two of our friends, and my then-boyfriend (who was not Landon--scandalous!!) also went on the trip just made it that much better.

A lot of people have been to Nassau or Freeport but haven't ever heard of Andros. Seriously, people, you're missing out. Here's why: