A Short Drive to Fabulous Fun
A Short Drive to Fabulous Fun
When you live in an area flooded with tourists, and surrounded by some of the most scenic views and beautiful beaches, where does one go for a quick get-away or a fun girls’ weekend? Florence, SC, of course!
After living in the Florence area for 10 years, I would have never considered returning for a pleasurable weekend, other than to visit friends. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I moved away, a group of people had a vision to make Florence cool and made sure that vision came to fruition.
It all started with the development of Hotel Florence, a small, exquisite, hotel, located in what was once the heart of dilapidated downtown Florence, which opened in 2013. Once a bustling city hub, urban sprawl left the downtown area virtually dying, like so many towns. However, the vision that Tim Norwood and his partners had was one of vibrancy and life.
The bones were definitely there for revitalization, with many architecturally beautiful, historic buildings just waiting for someone to bring them back to life. Faith Rogers, General Manager of Hotel Florence said, “They were told it would never work. People thought these guys were crazy to put an upscale hotel in this area.” But sometimes it takes a little “crazy” to see what others can’t.
My friend, Michelle Casey, and I checked into Hotel Florence on a Friday afternoon. It had been a quick jaunt up I-95 to get there and we made it with plenty of time to relax and unwind before dinner. Our first surprise was our room.
Our room was amazing. When I opened the door, inside was a suite that was fresh, modern and cozy. In the living area, which housed a sofa, coffee table and desk, we found a basket of local Southern treats. Florence is one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever lived in where Southern hospitality abounds. The bedroom, with soaring ceilings and two cushy, luxurious white comforter-covered beds, combined an energy from the old farming South with a hip European vibe, leaving historic brick from the former store it had once been, exposed and alive. In other words, it was unique and stunning, and we loved it!
Now that you envision a run-down historic district with a mecca hotel in the middle of it, let’s talk about what this hotel has done to the rest of the area. To jump to the pièce de résistance, there is now a wine and chocolate bar across the street. (Who can resist wine and chocolate?) Obviously others have jumped on board in the vision to revitalize, including the town. One can visit the beautiful Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation (County) Library, Florence County Museum, Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center, The Florence Little Theater, and City Center Farmers Market all within walking distance. You will now find shops, boutiques, coffee bars and restaurants sprinkled along the way.
Faith explained the hotel was the catalyst for the revitalization movement of this area in Florence. “I am most proud that the hotel has taken a community and brought it back to life. It has been a success. We have already had to expand. It’s nice to be a part of it all, and there’s more being built!”
Even with all of this, there are two entities that made our weekend extra special: 1. Victors, long known as Florence’s best restaurant; and 2. The Spa at Hotel Florence.
Of course we had reservations at Victors for dinner Friday night! It is a beautiful restaurant and the gathering place of the who’s who of the Pee Dee. I haven’t lived in Florence for 14 years, yet I ran into people I know at the bar in Victors, while having a delicious glass of red and waiting for our dinner guests to arrive. Victors actually has been a mainstay in Florence long before the hotelwas built and has moved to several different locations. It has found its permanent home in Hotel Florence.
Cooper Thomas, the Executive Chef and General Manager of Victors, was happy to sit down with us and talk food—his passion! His goal is to serve the best food possible, while honoring remnants of the old Florence Southern tobacco era. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, he's a busy chef always striving to make sure his guests are satisfied. And how couldn’t they be? Our dinner consisted of the likes such as she crab soup (note: they may not be on the coast, but this she crab is amazing), sesame encrusted seared tuna, pecan crusted shrimp (fabulous!), tenderloin with scallops, a big juicy ribeye and desserts with their own private stairway to heaven.
Speaking of dessert, many of them are made by Miss Peggy Paul, a local living legend, both at Victors and in Florence, for decades. She is the pianist who brings the place to life at night, filling the room with tunes everyone recognizes and loves, with her magical fingers on the grand piano.
Breakfast offers up things like peach cobbler pancakes, and the Sunday brunch brings you back to the days of getting gussied up and going out for a nice lunch after church.
Bottom line: I love Victors. I have had many memorable evenings here, shared with friends over the years for numerous special occasions, and with the current management, staff and location, it has never been better.
The Spa at Hotel Florence
What makes a weekend of food, friends and excitement better? Spa treatments! The Spa is a new addition to Hotel Florence, opening in November 2015. Again, the atmosphere is one laced with historical mystique, freshened with modern indulgence. Michelle and I both were scheduled for a facial and massage. Hannah Christensen, Spa Director, made sure we were encapsulated in relaxing care. We unwound in the relaxation room with a cup of morning coffee, whose aroma entangled with the delightful smells of the spa, enticed us to breath deeply, fully and slowly. Offering the organic, European luxury skin care line Éminence, we were treated to a fruit-filled, organic, exfoliating facial and an ohhhh soooo amazing personalized Swedish massage—both delightful and therapeutic. As Michelle and I are both business owners, well deserved, too!
In essence, Michelle and I lightly loaded our “get-away” car, knowing the weekend ahead in Florence would be fun. In a quirky way, the letter “F” repeatedly presented itself and became the theme of the trip. Words like Florence, fabulous, fun and fanfare kept noticeably peppering our conversations. When our waiter recommended a bottle of “F” French red blend, the “F” theme was solidified. With that firmly in place, we decided to name our weekend, “Finding Florence.” That’s exactly what we did. We found Florence in a fresh and fashionable state. And, in return, Florence escalated our overworked, forlorn state of minds with a weekend of fabulous, free rein fun. We suggest you find Florence, too.
If you go, and you really should.
Hotel Florence and Spa
HotelFlorencesc.com | 126 West Evans St., Florence, SC 29501
Victorsflorence.com | 126 West Evans St., Florence, SC 29501