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Tennis, the beach and great food 

Not a bad road trip

I would never encourage anyone to break the law, but if you drive about 85 mph the entire way, you can get from Charlotte to Charleston in less than three hours. Of course this is purely hypothetical. My friend and I adhered strictly to all the posted speed limits when we drove to the South Carolina coast recently for a big tennis tournament at Daniel Island, about 20 minutes northeast of Charleston's historic district. Daniel Island was once home to a Native American tribe known as the Etiwan, but early English settlers booted them out shortly after establishing Charleston (then known as Charles Town). In 1947, the prominent Guggenheim family from New York purchased the entire island for cattle ranching and as a family hunting retreat. It was then sold to the Daniel Island Company in 1997, and they've since turned it into one of those utopian New Urbanism developments, with a tidy mix of shops, restaurants, businesses, and perfectly manicured neighborhoods. In 2000, Daniel Island helped build the Family Circle Tennis Center, a 32-acre facility with a 10,200-seat stadium. For the past five years the Center has hosted the Family Circle Cup, an annual tennis tournament that features some of the world's top women players, including this year's lineup of Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, and a bevy of blond-haired, long-limbed "'ovas" from Russia.

While Charleston is great, we decided to stay at the Isle of Palms during the tournament. Like Daniel Island, the Isle of Palms was also inhabited by indigenous Indians who were displaced by English settlers (could this be a pattern?). In the late 19th century the locals began to seek out the island as a refuge from the summer heat and tempo of Charleston. By the 1970s, real estate and commercial development was booming. Today, the island's main strip is dotted with restaurants, bars and shops, and there are countless beachfront homes that rent for anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 per week during the summer. Thankfully, we were able to find the aptly named Sea Cabins, which are an affordable alternative to the pricy villas and offer simple but nice one-bedroom floor plans with oceanfront views.

After settling into our cabin, we made our way to Daniel Island primed and ready to see some world-class tennis. Unfortunately, we discovered on the way to our seats that Venus Williams — while perhaps not the best, certainly the most famous player at the event — lost in a major upset the previous day to 17-year-old tennis phenom Tatiana Golovin. Undeterred, we kicked back and waited for the next big match, featuring the world's no. 1 female player, Lindsay Davenport. However, after two miserable sets against Justine Henin-Hardenne, she retired early in the third set citing a hip injury. Well shit, so much for the tennis.

No matter, we were at the beach, and one of the things on my to-do list was to have dinner at Sienna which, in less than a year, has garnered rave reviews and was even named by Esquire as one of the country's top 20 new restaurants. We arrived around 9pm Saturday, and only had to wait about 20 minutes at the chic bar for one of the restaurant's coveted booths, which come complete with curtains for extra privacy. With its vaulted ceilings and open kitchen, Sienna is tasteful but not stuffy — "high-class coffee shop décor" is how Esquire put it, and that sums it up well. Ensconced in our private booth, we ordered a bottle of bubbly and proceeded to gorge ourselves on some of famed chef Ken Vedrinski's spectacular food, including pasta with bolognese sauce, and an unusual but delicious fried lobster dish. It was one of those decadent meals where you feel kind of stoned afterwards, and we kept wondering if perhaps they had mixed in some special oregano with the sauce. Not nearly as fancy but just as sublime is Jack's Cosmic Dogs, located just before the Isle of Palms causeway. Jack Hurley opened the funky, retro roadside restaurant in 2000, and ever since people have come from all over to sample his world-renowned cosmic dogs, blue cheese cole slaw and sweet potato mustard.

Great food, a beachfront cabin, and perfect weather in which to enjoy it all — not a bad roadtrip. Oh, and by the way, Justine Henin-Hardenne won a cool $189,000 for winning the 2005 Family Circle Cup. Man, that could buy a lot of cosmic dogs.

Jack's Cosmic Dogs, 2805 N. Highway 17, Mount Pleasant SC 843-884-7677

Sienna, 901 Island Park Drive, Daniel Island, SC 843-881-8820

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