From the Office and Backyard to the Road, Boat, or Plane–Backstories and
Side Stories While on Assignment. Updates on Personal Projects, Too.



Bennett Elegant

Charleston view from the Hotel Bennett, photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

Overlooking Marion Square treetops, Hotel Bennett is plush with design details and tucked-away spaces, including the very pink champagne bar, exclusive King’s Club veranda, and lovely Gabrielle restaurant.

The views are of places you know, but you’ve never seen them like this.

From a sixth floor veranda at the Hotel Bennett that opened this year on King Street, the very top of steeple of St. Matthew’s is eye level from your lounge chair.

And from a secluded, third-floor porch that feels like no one else in the hotel has discovered, you can see directly into a birds’ realm of treetops—songbirds and sea gulls out there—while below, the hotel’s terrace spills into the green of Marion Square like a Paris café.

Speaking of green, Hotel Bennett is flush with springtime greens and turquoise blues inside, in a decor layered with texture and detail. Velvet couches, glass and crystal chandeliers, coffered ceilings, patterned floor tiles, and original paintings and murals create interest and a timelessness that can be rare to find in new buildings. Charleston hotelier and restaurant owner Michael Bennett spent over two decades (and a dollar total he hasn’t shared) to purchase the site, plan, and carefully develop the luxury downtown lodging. The construction phase began in 2015.

Inside the Hotel Bennett, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

This is a hotel to fully inhabit and explore, I think, as my heels click across the marble floors downstairs, and step noiselessly on the plush carpet of upstairs hallways. And the polished surroundings offer a happy excuse to dress up. That’s what a couple of friends and I did in early spring when we spent a few hours in Camellias, the oval-shaped, jewel box of a champagne bar downstairs. (Love the story that the design is a nod to a Fabergé egg—and that the pink granite of the bar and tabletops was salvaged from the exterior walls of the Charleston County Library on this site.)

For a summertime mini-staycation in our hometown, my photographer partner and I book a King’s Club level stay at Hotel Bennett, a top-tier option that includes exclusive access to the sixth-floor view and its outdoor lounge seating. The bellman leads us to a discreet doorway that opens to the corner suite of rooms housing the King’s Club, which is staffed with a concierge and help-yourself drinks and bar, and a changing array of tasting platters from morning until night. (There’s also Fiat Lux, the ninth-floor, rooftop bar beside the pool that’s open to hotel guests and the public, and that attracts a sunglass-wearing crowd for icy cocktails and elevated views of downtown, Marion Square, and across East Side rooftops toward the Ravenel Bridge.)

By late afternoon downstairs in the gold and green dining room of Gabrielle, which faces Marion Square, an oversized silver ice bucket of champagne beside velvet drapes is chockfull of bottles, at-the-ready for dinner service. At one of the tables dressed with Hotel Bennett-embossed fine china and diamond-textured white tablecloths, we try rich forkfuls of foie gras plated with sliced red and green strawberries, and a filet of red snapper with seared-crisp skin atop eggplant ratatouille. Meanwhile, in the adjoining bar near the piano, guests are tasting tins of Hackleback caviar and sipping Moët & Chandon, and outside in Marion Square, a young man practices soccer kicks as the sunlight softens. I lived downtown in the early 2000s, and it’s always good to be in the city overnight again—and particularly so in an ultra-comfortable and quiet guestroom just upstairs.

Returning to the Hotel Bennett on King Street, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

In the soft light of morning, we follow a hum of conversation to the white-tiled La Pâtisserie, housed within the hotel and with a storefront on King Street. There, we meet Rémy Fünfrock, a Lyon, France-born pastry chef who sips an espresso and explains that at first sight of the pink, gold and silver decor of Camellias, he began to imagine making the signature, cupcake-sized (and larger) glossy, pink domes of Camellia Cake. He points to several of the glazed confections in the glass pastry case—each a concoction of strawberry mousse cheesecake and lemon spongecake.

“Ah,” Fünfrock says, nodding, when he recognizes that we understand his inspiration. “You have seen the beauty of the hotel.”

– By Sandy Lang, 2019

Pastry chef Rémy Fünfrock at he Hotel Bennett on King Street, Charleston. Photo copyright Peter Frank Edwards,

Photographs by Peter Frank Edwards

Excerpt from “Front Ocean,” a new story in MAINE:

Ginger the yellow retriever is pushing on my elbow from the backseat of the four-seater Cessna. Her nose is wet and cold, and we’ve just met.

The friendly dog hopped onto this Penobscot Island Air plane with a man who’s also flying out to Matinicus Island from the Knox County Regional Airport on the peninsula of Owls Head, just south of downtown Rockland. “She flies a lot,” the man tells me, “and she’ll nose you.”

It’s almost startling how brief the flight feels. This is my first trip to Maine’s most remote inhabited island, some 22 miles offshore. A few pats of the dog’s head, a look down at the midcoast shoreline and the boats in the pale blue water below, and we’re already approaching the island’s landing strip, which is part of an unpaved cross island road. At one end, the runway meets the open ocean; at the other, it continues past a barn and apple trees. And on either side is grass and parked island cars, and then trees and a trailhead. The airfield’s only building is no larger than a backyard shed.

Once we roll to a stop, pilot Shawn Michaud helps everyone out with our bags, then boards the plane again for the return flight. The flight service is busy this weekend—we could hear radio calls coming through during the flight—and Michaud has passengers waiting for pickup on Vinalhaven next. While he turns the plane around and readies for takeoff, a waiting car picks up Ginger and her owner. After the sounds of both engines fade, there we are, just the two of us, out in the Gulf of Maine on the island of Matinicus.

We’d called ahead to arrange for car pickup, too, but the woman who owns the taxi service is on the mainland for a few days. Peter Frank is offered the use of another island car, and the phone conversation goes something like this:

“You seem like a pretty good guy. How many people?”


“You got a lot of stuff ?”


“Any animals?”


“OK. I’m going to make you a deal. I’m gonna trust you. The keys are under the mat. You can drive the car to the cottage, leave your gear, and drive it back. Leave me ten dollars under the seat.”


“Any other questions?” “Yes, how far is it?” “About a mile.”

Complete text of “Front Ocean” in the August 2018 issue of MAINE, the magazine.

– Sandy Lang, August 2018 (photographs by Peter Frank Edwards)

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Blog, Maine days, Travel




           Photo by Sandy Lang

On the patio at the Mills House
just after the smoked fish appetizer

It’s beautiful, she says.
The paths of circumference. The maths
of stars and planet paths.
The fountain flows. The roses grow.
A crescent trajectory, not made by us;
by the universe.

It looks like the moon, he says. A classic quarter
with edges getting crispy. Wispy.
Slippery sliver of sun. Pure, penny-colored bright.

One, two and then all of us, in paper glasses
lean back to blue sky, clouds flying.
Odd sunlight and clear shadows. All shadows.
The fountain flows. The roses grow.
We’re in it now, the ring of fire.

– Sandy Lang, Aug. 21, 2017



Swelter Love


If it’s like last summer and most of the last several around our James Island backyard, it will be, again, the summer of rosé.

That’s a swelter-beater right there—a cool, coppery-to-rosy pink wine in one of those short, practically-unbreakable Duralex cafe glasses. I love it all, so French. (Likewise for a chilled Lillet Blanc cocktail with blood orange bitters downtown at Proof on King Street—another summertime sipper.)

So, the grill’s already going on a chunk of bluestone that we’ve set in a clearing near the largest of the three pecan trees. It was startling a couple years ago when a summer thunderstorm hit, and a bolt zippered down a centerline of the bark of this tree, sending pieces shooting off in all directions. The tree service experts said the old pecan would need to come down completely. But we couldn’t do it—and allowed only the most damaged sections be trimmed.

We always gather up some of the smallest dropped branches and snap them into pieces to throw on the hot coals right before grilling to give the chicken a pecan-brown color and a nut-sweet smokiness. (Peter Frank was born and raised in Charleston and always cooks chicken and ribeye steaks this way. It’s the same method for summertime corn on the cob. And when we have shrimp, he’ll sometimes wrap those in pecan leaves before grilling over the charcoal and pecan wood.)

I circle the yard again in an evening tour, with clippers in hand. It’s time to cut and bring in some of the pale blue hydrangea blossoms, and a few long sprigs of rosemary. Every year I plant several packs of zinnia seeds in the tomato and pepper garden, and we count on those reliable flowers all summer, so I check on the zinnias, too. If they’re still blooming, I gather some of the coreopsis wildflowers that we’ve been letting grow tall in the side yard—it can be hundreds of blooms at once, with gold petals leaning in.

What’s that? Peter Frank reminds me of basket left on the counter. I’d stopped to see the man who parks a truck sometimes on Maybank Highway to sell produce. You’re right, I tell him, we need to make ice cream with all of these peaches.

Here’s to swelter, and to looking at summer through rosé colored glasses.

Sandy Lang, May 2016

Wow, it’s biscuit beautiful. The mailman just delivered a case of copies of the new book by Sara Foster, Foster’s Market Favorites: 25th Anniversary Collection.

Foster's Market Favorites

Congratulations to Sara and everyone at Foster’s Market and thank you for including us! I was lucky enough to be in Sara’s kitchen in Durham this spring while the book was being created. (Sara’s recipes and flavors always make you want to gather around.) Peter Frank Edwards did the photography and it’s joyful to watch him work again with Sara—a few years ago they collaborated on Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen. Food stylist Marian Cooper Cairns cooked every day with finesse and fun in her red-shoe style. I assisted PFE with photography and I’m honored to have also earned a credit as stylist. Sara’s husband, Peter Sellers, kept us laughing, wrote a great intro for the book, and sometimes mixed icy margaritas for everyone at days’ end. (Loved those days.) Bob Morris and his creative hatchery at Story Farm did a beautiful job with the design and printing.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes’ look in a video by John Ginn on Vimeo.


– Sandy Lang, November 2015

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Blog, Food




Hotel Le Royal Lyon, copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs 2014

Hotel Le Royal Lyon, our home base for six days in Lyon last fall, was wrapped in scaffolding for the final stages of a renovation. Inside it’s upholstered in fabrics of patterns floral or of repeating cityscape details—buildings, farms, trees, peasants, zoos. Each room is decked out in either a regal rose-red or royal blue. The lounge is velvety-red furniture and walls, with classic portrait paintings, and a carved, ancient lion sculpture (Lyon). Hotel manager Patrick Gainnier explained that all of this is French-made.

Lyon, France copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs 2014_

The Lyonnaise connections and respect for fabrics is strong. On a Sunday, when most restaurants were closed, we wandered along the river, to markets, and into the Musee des Tissus et des Arts Decoratifs to see Lyon’s long history of silkworms and scarf-making, flocked upholstery and woven materials for long curtains, dresses, coats, gowns, and pointed shoes with delicate treads that look too precious to have ever been worn outside.

Me, I kept walking, from Place Bellecour to the Cathedrales, boutiques, and silk shops of old Lyon.

– Sandy Lang, January 2015 (images copyright Peter Frank Edwards Photographs)


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Art, Craft, Travel



Lyon avec PFE Photo


We found the old and the new in Lyon this month. You can see the “Cube Orange” building (above) that’s in a row of mod architecture at the Confluence, where the Rhône and Saône meet. We happened on a wedding in a square in Vieux Lyon, the city’s oldest streets. And we ate an incredible eight-course lunch with 10 other people—a full house—made by Chef Arai Tsuyoshi and his team at the jewel-box tiny restaurant Au 14 Fèvrier that’s decked in red leather upholstery, dark wood tables, and stone walls. The tributes to Valentine’s Day amore inspires the food—a cream egg in the shell, a savory chocolate boudin concoction, a buttery fish, perfect wine matches, and a dessert of candied rose petals. After the meal we met the chef who was smiling and genuinely kind, even through my rusty stabs at trying to tell him in French about the dishes I savored the most.

Other favorite meals and sights included the pigeon and peas at a traditional bouchon, wine and local art at a wine cave on a narrow stone street, and a salad Lyonnaise with a white cloud of a poached egg before I pierced it to mix the yolk over the greens. We ate cocoa-dusted almonds and Rhum raisin ice cream. It’s our second chance to work here since last summer, and my crush on Lyon only gets deeper.

That’s PFE at work, along with Lyon-based photographer/photography student David Fogel, who was a wonderful assistant and guide who also became our friend as we walked and took the metro in crisscross paths all around the city. (He introduced us to many things from his French perspective, including his favorite aperitif, the “Monaco,” a draft beer made pink with grenadine.)

– Sandy Lang, September 2014


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O Canada


Spent two nights here this summer and got the “complete Trailside” experience. Love this 1930s tavern in rural Prince Edward Island. Candles lit and local pottery and art on the wall. Delicious dinners (local mussels in coconut-curry broth; fish cakes that are just the right plate of hot, cold, crunch; and super-creamy, perfectly plain cheesecake). Wonderful songwriting musicians each night—including Bryan Potvin who was in the 1980s band Northern Pikes (bought his new album and I’m hooked). Sat on the Trailside rooftop at sunset (you actually walk across part of the roof to get to your room), followed the rail-to-trail both directions (a few hundred yards from the door,) played records in our room, drove out to the red beach and fishing towns, bought some PEI potatoes from a farmer to take on to Cape Breton. Thank you, Pat and Meghan (the hosts). We had a blast!

Did we end up going 1,200 miles or 2,000? I’m still not sure. The odometer on the old Alfa Romeo isn’t counting anymore, and I wasn’t either. We were having too much fun. The Ital sports car is a 1988, and PFE had it shipped to Maine by truck. From there, we drove north and east into the Canadian Maritimes. On PEI, we met with friends from Charleston and took the ferry to Nova Scotia and drove up the west coast of Cape Breton to Cheticamp and the Cabot Trail. There we had three days of sea cliffs, blueberry barrens and wind that whipped our towels on the clothesline out like sideways sails. No phone reception anywhere for me, and I didn’t care. Plus, swimming in the super-salty bays around Cape Breton where the water temp. was warmer than Maine(!), around 70 degrees F.

A few more pic’s from the trip:



– Sandy Lang, August 2014  (Trailside image by Peter Frank Edwards)

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Hit the road in North Carolina looking for live music this past weekend, including a terrific, rain-to-sun day at MerleFest.

A few snapshots along the way: 87-year-old mandolin man, Herb Lambert; beautiful singer/songwriter Shannon Whitworth in a green dress with her band; and Woody, Nicky, Graham, Charles, Mark and Mark of Steep Canyon Rangers (cut off a few of the guys in the excitement of picture-taking!).

More music and stories to come…

– Sandy Lang, April 2014

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Art, Craft, Blog, Travel

Hello azaleas, wisteria and warm sand. The ocean is still chilly, but we all stepped in past our ankles on Tybee Island, GA. The unfortunate stingray must have come in on the storm the night before.

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

It was an early spring getaway to Tybee and Savannah with some of the women in my family in a beach house built to look like a boat. On the day it rained, we watched movies and told stories in old-school beach house style… a very girlish couple of days. In sunnier Savannah, we saw brides and grooms in the squares, drank tea, and looked for antiques. Meanwhile, the whole city bloomed.

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

Tybee-Savannah 2014, Sandy Lang

– Sandy Lang, April 2014

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Blog, Travel

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