Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, October 21st thru October 28th, 2007

Sunday: Both Delta flights were right on time.
Rental car "we have a brand new Ford Taurus SUV for you". 78°.
Directions to the resort (from the rental car company) perfect.
Arrived at the Peppertree by the Sea. First impression: disaster. The building looked very old, with paint peeling off the building and covered with rust spots. I don’t think it had been painted in 20 years. I get the key and we take the luggage to the room (passed a couple of gang banger looking characters along the way. Seriously, baggy clothes, backwards baseball caps, the whole nine yards. Get in the room and it’s completely uninhabitable IMO. It’s very small, which I could live with but it was in the same state of non-maintenance as the building. The bedroom had a queen size bed that was literally wall to wall. There may have been 12 inches between the bed and the walls. There wasn’t even room to roll in a suitcase. The bathroom was toilet, sink, tub about an inch apart from each other, not even room for a trash can or place to put your toothbrush on the sink let alone my fluff and puff bag. The kitchen was in the passage way between the bedroom and the living room. The living room had a sofa that when you sat on it you could feel what was left of the springs in what was left of the pull out bed. Small end table and coffee table, old chair, tiny kitchen table with four rickety chairs, tv. All*just*about*touching. The balcony *DID* have an ocean view as promised, however, it was so narrow that they had one small plastic chair sitting sideways because it was the space was too narrow for it to face the view. We looked at each other like "you’ve got to be kidding me?" This was a timeshare exchange and it’s the first one in 20 years that has been completely unacceptable. I went back down to the front desk. The lady was very apologetic and said there was no place to move us to because they were renovating and didn’t have any larger rooms open. She said we could call Interval International (exchange company) and ask if they had anywhere else to move us to. So I go back to the room and call, and of course it’s after hours. So we’re deciding what to do and decide we’d rather check into a hotel and salvage our vacation than have to endure this place another minute. (For those of you who are familiar with the area there are two Peppertree’s on Ocean Blvd; one at the far north end and one in the 300 block. We were booked at the one in the 300 block.)
We drove down the street and checked out the Avista Resort. They gave us a key to a couple of rooms and told us to take our pick. He said they could accommodate us for the rest of the week if we wanted to stay except Saturday night, totally booked. This place is beautiful. The room had a king bed, full kitchen, Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom and a decent size living room with a balcony overlooking the ocean. The pool area had two pools, a lazy river and two Jacuzzis outside and an indoor pool, lazy river and Jacuzzi. So we took the room for the night until I could reach I.I. in the morning to see if they had someplace else. I wasn’t too hopeful that they could move us. We went back to the Peppertree and checked out.
Now that we were settled for at least the night we went to a sports bar on 17 where Paul got a beer and was just in time to watch the Bears make the wining touchdown of the game. Went to Barefoot Landing and had dinner at Fire Island Grille. I had the best tomato bisque with fire roasted shrimp. Steak, garlic mashed and mixed veggies.
When we got back to the room I took a nice hot bath. Ahhhhh. I fell asleep while Paul watched football. So much for wild vacation hotel room sex!

Monday: Sat on the balcony with my coffee watching the maintenance man brush the pools and people walking up and down the beach. It’s a perfect Zoloft Day (hi Jay), 75°. I called I.I. and the only thing she could move us to was a studio in an older property. No thanks. So they will refund our exchange fee and redeposit our week with a one year extension. She was very apologetic and asked me to please fill out the evaluation form so they can possibly remove the Peppertree from there exchange list. I went down and checked into the Avista for the rest of the week (except Saturday). Funny, it’s the off season here and they guy said they are booked every weekend. We drove down Ocean Blvd looking for options for Saturday night. We got a room at the Bay Watch. The format is the same, similar pool area, room layout, except it’s a little bit older. Oh, speaking of older here’s an advantage to being old. We got a AARP discount, 30%!
We went to the Golden Griddle Pancake House on Main Street. The sign said "best breakfast in MB". It was already 11 so I had a Patty Melt. Paul had a omelet with the works. After we ate we went to the Bi-Lo (grocery store). Even though we have a full kitchen we rarely buy stuff to eat meals in the room. I bought some fruit and diet Pepsi Max. Paul got beer and ice cream and blueberry muffins and crackerjacks and peanuts. Where he puts it I’ll never know.
Back to the room, changed clothes and down to the pool. I meandered the lazy river while Paul took a Jacuzzi. Perused a magazine on a lounge chair for awhile. Back to the room and I relaxed in my Jacuzzi tub before shower, fluff and puff. The service at the Avista is top notch. I called for maintenance to open the room safe and housekeeping to bring an extra pillow and bath mat. Housekeeping arrived in less than 5 minutes with two pillows and two bath mats, one for inside the tub and one for outside. He said he wasn't sure which one I wanted so he brought both. Two minutes later the phone rang. It was the front desk checking to see if our needs had been attended to. I told her housekeeping had been there but maintenace hadn't arrived yet, I wasn't in a big hurry. She said she'd call them again. Minutes later the maintenace man arrived.
Fantastic dinner at the Library (thank you Grace!). It’s a small restaurant with no curb appeal but very charming inside. We were greeted and seated by the owner (the wife, hubby wasn't there) who explained the menu. It’s on a scroll and there is no description of any of the items, however they will be more than happy to explain every item in detail if you’d like. We shared an order of escargot, followed by a house salad of romaine with Romano salad dressing. I had the seafood special. Salmon topped with lump crab and a cherry sauce. Paul had duck and said it was fabulous. Veggies are ala carte. They bring a silver platter with four items de jour: baby green beans with almonds; brown sugar glazed carrots; broccoli with hollandaise sauce; potatoes with onions. It’s the same price if you get one or all four. I had the four pack. Paul had none but tasted my spuds. They had tons of after dinner coffees with a variety of liquors. I had regular coffee and it was de-lish. Paul was going to get bananas foster. They make it tableside and it’s for two. I wasn’t willing to do that but they made it at another table and I’ll bet it was great. Paul tried a port wine and blueberry cheesecake. The cheesecake is one of a couple of deserts that are not made to order. The blueberries are heated in butter, brown sugar and champagne and poured over the cheesecake which was made by the owner. I had my typical limit of two bites. Very good. It was definitely a fine dining experience with excellent food and service.

Tuesday: I just love sitting on the balcony enjoying my coffee, listening to the ocean waves and seagulls and watching the early birds getting in their morning walks. Speaking of morning walks, Paul slept in and I put on my exercise gear and out the door. Was debating between the exercise room and the beach and decided to take advantage of the beach. There were quite a few people of all ages and sizes. I’ll tell you, the black men are very friendly. They smile and say good morning as you pass them. White people, not so much. You know, it’s the "off season" here but still a lot of people on the beach. I don’t know how far I went because I didn’t bring my pedometer but I was gone almost an hour. I really missed my sister. When we were in Hawaii we walked on the beach every morning.
We went down to the concierge and got tickets for the Carolina Opry for Wednesday. We went to Barefoot Landing. It was pretty dead there. We decided to go to Greg Norman’s Australian Grill for lunch. As the hostess walked us straight thru the almost empty dining room towards the outside patio she says "oh, we don’t allow men with sleeveless shirts in the dining room. You’ll have to sit outside". We left. Mind you we’re in a beach city at a development called "barefoot" and it’s lunch time in the off season. Not a tank top, a sleeveless T and no dress code posted outside the entry door. We ended up at River City Diner with a nice view, decent service and pretty okay food.
After that we took a drive. I have never seen so many miniature golf courses in a stretch of highway in my entire life. They have big souvenir shops with t-shirts and towels and mugs, etc. It’s restaurant row everywhere you turn with an overabundance of seafood buffets. Which I’m happy to report to Grace we didn’t step foot into a single buffet! Back to main street and I mowsied thru a store called Two Blondes on the Beach. A little shop with t-shirts, beaded jewelry, picture frames, etc. We went across the street to Flynn’s Irish Tavern for an Irish Coffee. Not the Buena Vista in San Francisco but pretty darn good. Back to the room for a nap before dinner at Chianti South in Little River. Another on the "Grace list". I had to try the Caesar Salad because the menu said "famous" and it was excellent. I had a veal chop with portabella mushroom and red wine reduction. It came with mixed veggies and garlic/rosemary new potatoes. Very good. Paul had oso bucco. He said it wasn’t bad not the best he’s ever had. Of course I had my, you guessed it, two bites of his dessert and a cappuccino. Tiramisu, light and fluffy, not too sweet.

Wednesday: Another beautiful day to have coffee on the balcony. Another morning walk on the beach. And another late start to the day. Paul likes sleeping in since it’s not something he has the luxury of doing often at home. Me, I’m not much of a sleeper. We went to Dino’s on 17 cuz the sign said "best breakfast on NMB". The sign also said "friendliest service". Perky Polly directed us to our table, Joyful Janice serviced us and Happy Holly took our money. Not the best breakfast but certainly hit the mark on the friendly claim. We stopped at the post office and the market on the way back. I needed water and nail polish. The polish had peeled off my big toe! Oh the horror of it all. I told Paul "I’d be embarrassed to be seen with me if I were you". He said it didn’t bother him at all. Well it bothered me and now it’s good as new.
We enjoyed some R&R at the pool, except one kid about 16 who thought it was funny to do canon balls into the pool to splash the people lounging. Punk. We were too lazy to move to the other pool. The man next to us finally moved after is newspaper was drenched. So we’re enjoying the sun and the breeze and the sound that only an ocean can make and all of a sudden it starts to thunder. And more thunder and again and people started packing up and going in. When the pool area was almost deserted I said "do you think they know something we don’t know?" So we went in and decided to take a nap. I called my sister to check in and in less than five minutes it started to rain. It only rained about 30 minutes.
We had to go to an early dinner because we had show tickets. She recommended we get there at 7:30-ish. The show starts at 8 with a pre-show at 7:40. We went to Thoroughbreds for dinner. Excellent. We had Chateaubriand for two, flamed tableside. It came with asparagus, sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Paul loves creamed spinach, me not so much. It’s usually too mushy for me, not to mention a waste of calories added to good spinach. I just had a bite and it was good. Still had spinach leaves! I ate the meat and veggies and passed on the mashed. No dessert tonight. The show was good. Kind of corny but hey, we’re on vacation! Comedy, song and dance. My favorite was the tap dancing stompin’ boys. They were incredible. I could have watched the entire show of just them.
When we came out of the theatre it was pouring. I drove and I’ll tell you, it was a very stressful drive back to the resort. About 20 minutes worth. We were almost back and it stopped but only long enough to catch my breath and back to a down pour. I have never driven in rain that bad. We have Monsoons here where a ton a rain drops in a short period of time, but I have been fortunate enough not to have to drive in it. They typically start late in the afternoon and I’m either already home or almost there. It’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. We’ll see.

Thursday: I’m happy to report it’s not raining! I made coffee and out to the balcony, my usual M.O. Much to my surprise there is only one walker on the beach. It’s not cold out. Probably another perfect 75°. It’s overcast and there is a lot of seaweed that washed up last night but still plenty of room to walk. Weird. The birds must have not dried out their wings yet because there are only a couple fluttering about. The sun is trying to break thru and now there are four couples strolling the beach. Perhaps I should join them.....
We ventured north to Little River and had breakfast at "Best Breakfast". (Do you see a pattern forming here?!) Not the best, but okay. I had pancakes with sugar free syrup and paper thin bacon. I think all three slices would measure up to one. We wondered thru the Toby Gift Store. Another gift shop called St. Nick Nacks with a huge Christmas department. Back to the resort and Paul went down to the pool and I had a nice rest. I could get used to this R&R thing ;-)
Dinner at Parson’s Table. Thank you Grace! Their house salad was so good I could have cancelled my meal and just had salad and corn bread. I asked the waiter what was in the dressing. He said its old world Italian with an American twist. Olive oil, American red wine vinegar, kosher salt, cracked pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, sugar and they top it off with fresh grated parmesan cheese. The salad was a chop salad with lettuce, carrots, purple onion and radishes. I ordered pecan encrusted rack of lamb with baked potato and green beans. It was very good. My only complaint was the green beans were over cooked but I had enough salad that I didn’t feel guilty about not eating my veggies. Paul had the special, crab stuffed mahi mahi with a lemon butter sauce. He all but licked his plate. And Lord help us, the man has discovered Port Wine! He had their 10 year old Port with New York Cheesecake. I had a cappuccino and how many bites? Give up? Two! It was okay but not really what I would call New York style. Not as thick, more fluffy.

Friday: The plan of the day was to go to Charlston but its raining right now. Hopefully it will stop or it will be an "indoor pool with a book" day.
***R-A-I-N-E-D * O-U-T ***
No choice but a lazy day of TV and puzzle book. We ate breakfast at the restaurant in the resort. Nothing special. We finally ventured out to dinner about 7:15. It was still raining but just a light rain. We wondered back to Calabash and ate on the water front at a seafood restaurant. Captain Jack or John or Jim. It was extremely casual (décor was one step above Long John Silver) but the food was surprisingly good. They have a small salad bar and everything was extremely fresh. The menu was mostly fried. Fried fish, fried shrimp, fried clams, fried calamari, French fried potatoes. What’s a girl to do? I *had* to order the steak and lobster with baked potato. The steak was so big that we could have split an order. Neither one of us ate ½ our steak. The lobster tail was good size but a wee tad overcooked. I still ate every bite of it, about ½ of my potato and none of the garlic toast, which looked pretty good and I probably would have eaten it if it was served with the salad, so that saved a few calories! It had stopped raining by the time we left. We decided to stop for another Irish Coffee. There is a place in Little River called Pat and Mike’s Irish Pub that was packed every time we drove by, day or night. We thought about stopping there but since I’m the "designated after dinner driver" and I don’t drink and drive I thought it was a little too far to drive back to the resort for my liking (especially if it started to rain again). We decided to go back to Flynn’s since it was close enough to walk back if need be. One Irish Coffee, I think I can drive a block, but just in case. So we get there and there are quite a few cars in the parking lot. We walk thru the restaurant and it’s dead. Maybe two people eating. We walk into the bar and it’s packed to the gills. Luckily someone had just left so there was a little table up front where some music equipment was set up. We ordered two Irish Coffees and abut ½ way thru here comes an entertainer to save the day. He was awesome! He started off with an Irish song and everyone was singing along. I was thinking "another corny number but hey, all together now, we’re on vacation. Then he broke into rock n roll and oldies and everyone was singing along, even Paul. He ordered another Irish Coffee, no more for me. I don’t drink, remember ;-) He put down the guitar and picked up the banjo and did an excellent rendition of The Devil Went Down to Georgia. And if that wasn’t enough, he was also a ventriloquist. He took Jerry out of the box and mustered up quite the comedy routine. Back to a few songs and before we knew it he had played for an hour long set. Very entertaining. He told the audience he’ll be gone for the next two weeks. He has a gig on a cruise ship. When he comes back he has a new mannequin, an old black lady he’s created. I’ll bet that will be worth the price of admission. Oh wait, there was no cover charge. So when in North Myrtle Beach, stop at Flynn’s and experience the entertainment of Brian. My guess is he’s the regular weekend entertainer.

Saturday: When I woke up it wasn’t raining but looks like it rained all night. By the time I had my coffee and recapped yesterday, now it’s starting to sprinkle. Today we leave the Avista Resort and check into the Bay Watch for the night since they are booked. In fact, yesterday I went to the front desk in the afternoon to see if I could look at one of their three bedroom units and there were a lot of people checking in. I had told my sister how nice it was here and that they had family units so I thought I’d check them out. The boys would love it here. They really like the ocean and they’d enjoy the pool area and mini-golf, etc. The three bedroom unit was amazing. You enter at the back of the unit and down a hall. One room with king bed and bathroom directly across the hall. Around the corner are two rooms side by side, both with private bathrooms. One had a queen bed and the other had two double beds. All three bedrooms had TVs and an ocean view. Next was the living room, dining room and kitchen. There is a double balcony that overlooks the pool area and ocean. The living room has a sofa, loveseat, chair, flat screen TV. The dining room seats 8 and full kitchen complete with washer and dryer. There is also a bar (counter) that separates the kitchen from the dining room with two bar stools. They don’t have the summer rates for 2008 yet but he said they book up all season and every weekend in the off season. The sun is making an appearance. I’m going to enjoy the Jacuzzi tub and SF&P and start packing. Tonight we have tickets to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.
It turned into a beautiful day, with the exception of a few sprinkles in the morning, the rest of the day was rain free. Our room at the Bay Watch wasn’t ready yet so we had lunch at Molly Darcy’s Irish Pub. I think they should dub Myrtle Beach as little Ireland. I had a fish sandwich with coleslaw. Very good. No Irish Coffee, too early for me. Maybe later. There was a little street fair on Main Street called Endless Summer. There was music and dancing in the street and a classic car show and some vendor booths. Quaint. We checked into the Bay Watch had a little time for R&R before leaving for the show. The pre-show was a juggler/comedian. The main show is a little comedy from the M.C. and a horseback competition between the North and the South. Food was good. They have the food service during the show down to a science. Servers for each row, one guy was pouring soup while another followed with biscuits. Next was a whole roasted chicken, followed by a slice of pork tenderloin and ½ of a roasted potato. A few minutes later came a ½ piece of corn on the cob. Holy cow, does anyone really eat all that food in one sitting? After they swept all that away they made one more pass thru with hot apple turnovers and coffee. I don’t know why they call it the "off season". The place was sold out. We thought about stopping back at Molly Darcy’s to compare the Irish Coffee but decided not to since we have to get up early in the morning.

Sunday: Another beautiful day. We were lucky to only get rained out one day this week. It was supposed to rain all day for three days. I’ve learned over the years of vacationing that the only thing predicable about the weather is it’s unpredictable.
Time to get Paul’s butt out of bed and head out of dodge.

My sister and her b/f brought Josie to the airport when they picked us up. I missed that little stinker bug!

Bottom line: Overall we had a great time in spite of the rocky start with the Peppertree. Myrtle Beach is beautiful. It’s the off season, whatever that’s supposed to mean. (J/K, I'm sure it's jam packed crowded during the season.) I’ve never seen so many miniature golf courses and seafood buffets in all my travels. The Ford Taurus SUV sucks. What a moaning, groaning, noisy vehicle. Our absolute finest dining experience was at the Library, however we had great food everywhere and a big thank you to Grace (CK’s WILLLOSEIT) for her referrals. Yes we would go back. Oh, and drum roll please - I got on the scale Monday morning and maintenance baby!

And after all those Irish Pubs I’d be remiss if I didn’t add everyone’s favorite Irish blessing:
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
The sun shine warm upon your face
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.