It was my first visit to South Carolina and first time I can remember being in a southern state. I was born in Fort Benning Georgia, but left when I was only two years old so I have no firsthand memories, only stories of the south I heard from my parents.
The weather was drizzling and overcast when I arrived; there was no sign of the heat and humid conditions of South Carolina’s summertime reputation. During the 40-minute car ride from the Savannah International Airport, I was slightly overwhelmed by the spectacular views of huge live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, the blue and peaceful rivers, as well as green lagoons and waterways. As we approached the Palmetto Bluff Nature Conservatory, the countryside grew even more rural. Except for a small sign, you might miss the entrance to the long private gated road.
Driving into the Montage Palmetto Bluff Inn & Resort is to pass into another world. The roads are lined with flickering gas lamps. The resort itself is a luxurious premiere destination adjoining a planned community of estate homes called Montage Palmetto Bluff Residences. The plan for both resort and community was designed in order to preserve the natural environment. The Conservancy enabled the protection of this peaceful 20,000-acre coastal community. The maritime forest and canopy of moss-draped live oaks are preserved along with wild life natural species who call this area home.
The 200-guest resort offers a refined but casual elegance where its guests can experience Southern charm and hospitality. The sprawling white two-story inn’s charm includes large covered verandas off each guest room where guests can lounge comfortably while enjoying spectacular plush green scenery from every direction.
A bellman met me at my car, escorted me through check-in, and carried my bags to my second floor room, which had pine floors, a large wide-screen TV, an antique 4-poster high wooden bed with a down comforter, and a spacious modern tile-and-chrome bathroom with a huge soaking tub. In short, the room was antique in all the appropriate ways to capture the southern history of the area but modern in every way that would ensure my comfort.
The building itself had a spacious high ceiling volume reception area with a sprawling wooden staircase and a crystal chandelier. A Carolina Room was a sunny area behind the lobby facing the back of the property. To the left of the reception area was a library with mahogany walls, a huge fireplace, and soft antique chairs. To the right, a pianist playing soft music set the ambiance located in the bar/lounge that then lead to the Jessamine restaurant.
I had a wonderful night’s sleep and in the morning I set out to explore the property. The sun was shining bright and the scenery was breathtaking. I took out my video camera and did a facebook live session as I strolled over manicured lawns, through lovely groves of trees, past two swimming pools, a bar and a restaurant by the edge of the lagoon. A lovely brick bridge connects the Inn to the Montage Residences where you can choose between cottages, cottage suites, and village homes for vacation options, some located right on the lagoon or the May River. Also on the property is an absolutely gorgeous white chapel that makes a great venue for weddings as well as Sunday worship.
During my stay, I ate several times in the Jessamine Restaurant and sampled several southern comfort dishes. The food was exceptional! I tried grits for the first time and being a California girl, I didn’t know what to expect but these were delicious. I couldn’t wait to try other southern comfort foods and of course sip some ice cold sweet tea.
The immense grounds of Palmetto Bluff feature an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, horse stables, boat house, and a shooting club. There are numerous biking and hiking trails plus the Wilson Lawn & Racket Center with tennis, bocce, pickle ball, and basketball courts. Watersports include kayaking, paddle boarding, charter fishing, boat rentals, and scenic yacht cruises. A convenient water shuttle takes guests the short trip to the center of a picturesque river town called Bluffton that has restaurants and shops. There is plenty of adventure and things to do without traveling more than a few miles.
Each day, similar to a cruise ship there was a list of activities on or near the resort. I was able to go biking and get a chance to enjoy all that the surrounding beautiful scenery had to offer. There is a nearby village area, where I shopped, dined, and strolled along the river. I enjoyed meals at Buffalo’s right there in the village, and also ate at a couple nearby restaurants, including – Cole’s in Bluffton, and Boundary in Moreland Village, which happens to have a four-lane state-of-the-art bowling alley connected to it. I browsed the championship golf course pro shop and admired the pristine greens. I visited the stables and absolutely fell in love with a pure white stallion named Wonder, whose horsey heart seemed to reach right into my own.
For the first time in my life, I held a double-barrel shotgun and blazed away at clay pigeons, actually hitting three out of my first seven tries. Clay shooting is not a sport that I would ever have considered, but it has become something that I would love to do again.
One day I toured the May River on a 100-year-old restored commuter yacht called Gracie. I saw a number of interesting sights including a wholesale commercial oyster and fish shack that was older than our boat and had been built on a huge mound of shells. The state of relaxation I felt cruising along the picturesque May River, watching the birds in the sky, and sun reflecting on the calm waters was one of many memorable moments. I even spotted a beloved bald eagle!
Speaking of relaxation, another highlight of my trip included a visit to the Montage Palmetto luxury spa. It had all the amenities you could ask for including sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi and a cold invigorating plunge (which I only dipped my legs in very quickly). I treated myself to what turned out to be the most relaxing facial I ever had in my life, and I’ve had enough of these to qualify as a connoisseur. For one thing, the product line used was exceptional and available exclusively at Montage Resorts. The best part of the experience was the incredible touch of the esthetician who provided the treatment.
During the time I seemed to pass through some altered states of consciousness, and afterwards when I looked at my face in the mirror, my skin was radiantly glowing. It was an experience worth coming back to in the future and turned out be the crowning point of the whole wonderful weekend. Prior and following spa activities, guests were able to return to enjoy the relaxation room while reading magazines and sitting in soft chairs with warm blankets sipping hot tea or cold champagne around a cozy fireplace.
That evening I happily attended the resort sponsored Culinary Heirloom demonstration in which they steam oysters on a giant grill over an open fire.
They then serve the oysters with a drink called “artillery punch” that has roots in the Civil War when it was typically brewed in a horse trough using whatever ingredients the townspeople could provide. The concoction was allowed to ferment for seven days before being consumed. Nobody knows what exactly went in one of those punches, since each was different. However, one of the staff members had a 1905 recipe handed down from his grandmother with ingredients that included such things as rye, apple brandy, Applejack, Benedictine, and cherry juice. We drank it out of glassware inspired by his grandmother’s personal China hutch. I tried some and found it had nice kick to it! Guests could enjoy both while sitting in front of the huge wood burning fire pit as the sunset over the Inn.
My stay at the Montage Palmetto Resort provided a glimpse of the slow-paced lifestyle of the low country and offered a full itinerary but at a languorous pace that resonated with the rich history and culture of the area. I was born in the South, and even though I have no memories of it until this recent trip, I am longing to go back. If schedule and resources would only permit me to do so, I would go back to Montage Palmetto Bluff Resort tomorrow.
Our Celebration Adult Day Program is open Monday through Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The cost is $70 per day.
My connection with the senior care industry goes back to my childhood. I was born and raised in the East Bay. Both my parents worked in a number of convalescent hospitals that my grandparents owned. When I was eight, I began to spend evenings and summers working as a volunteer activities assistant doing in-room visits with bedridden patients in one of their hospitals. I also assisted my parents and the staff in hosting such events as theme parties, an annual carnival day, and holiday celebrations. My dad loved dressing up for those things and getting into some appropriate costume, so I did too.
I greatly enjoyed the hours I spent with the elderly patients. I might sit with them watching “Days of our Lives,” play a few hands of Go Fish, or accompany them on short excursions strolling among the trees and plants on the hospital grounds.
Because of my familiarity with so many elderly people, I never noticed they were unusual in any important way. Therefore, I was surprised when I went with my kindergarten class on a field trip to one of our hospitals and discovered that my classmates were frightened to be around old people.
“C’mon,” I told them. “These people are my friends!”
It was only natural, following graduation from high school to earn a Gerontology and Human Development degree from Cal State East Bay. I wrote my senior thesis on the advantages of intergenerational programs. Following graduation, I spent a number of years as activities director in a convalescent hospital.
I’ve been at Celebration Center since 2005, beginning with two years as an independent contractor offering behavioral therapy for a special needs student. When the first of my three boys was ready for school, Celebration’s preschool was the only possible choice for him to begin his educational journey. When the second child enrolled, I joined the staff as a teacher. Three years ago, Jeneane learned of my surprisingly relevant background and education, so she included me in planning for the Celebration’s senior care and intergenerational programs.
There are very few senior daycare centers in the area, and none with Celebration Adult Day Program’s generational crossover opportunities that have such positive effects on seniors, children, and even for staff members who are fortunate enough to be part of the program.