Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Savannah, Georgia

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 and Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We are in Savannah for two days, and might be able to stretch it to two and a half.  I won't publish this blog entry until the second day is over.  There will be too much to tell, and I want it all in one place.

We drove into Savannah this morning (Tuesday) and since we were here four or five years ago, we already know the lay of the land.  There were things we had not seen the first time around, and those were at the top of the list to visit.

Savannah has a very nice tourist center with much information available, and parking at a very reasonable rate.  Our Comfort Inn Suites is located less than half a mile from this center, but we could not get into our room that early in the morning, so we parked at the travel bureau's lot.  Many tour buses take off from there, but we really love to walk, so off we went!

Our first stop was an interesting store that we came across, called Salt Table.  Salt seems to be the new cooking rage, so we went in to investigate and taste different types of it.  I recently read a cooking novel that had a lot of information about Himalayan rock salt, so we purchased a hunk of that before we left.  It was a pretty neat little shop.

The good news is that there aren't herds of tourists in Savannah right now. I guess they show up closer to Easter, although there is to be a music festival here tomorrow, and maybe that's when the onslaught begins.

City Market was a place that we had seen at the very end of our last visit to Savannah, so we went there first. This time our feet didn't hurt and the crowds hadn't arrived.  It's a wonderful area of several blocks that have no auto traffic, and many lovely little shops and galleries.  A statue of the late lyricist and Savannah native, Johnny Mercer, stands watch near a modern fountain.

  Paula Deen's restaurant and cooking store,  The Lady and Sons, is up the street and over one block.  I am not a fan of rich, Southern cooking or particularly of the "y'all"-ing TV cook, but as a fan of anything culinary, I had to go there!  The food looked very Southern, and we just took a peek at it, then browsed the store.  A line of people was forming in the street for lunch.

Expensive cooking utensils, aprons, and kitchen towels seem to be the main items. There are also some spices and many of Paula Deen's cookbooks, and I confess that I own one.

We headed to River Street, which is down by the Savannah River. It is a very old area.  Shops and restaurants fill the old buildings.  The famous statue of the Waving Girl stands near the riverbank. 

I did some quick shopping, in and out of the boutiques.  We tasted pecan pralines, flavored peanuts, and key lime cookies in the food shops.  Then we headed to The Shrimp Factory for lunch.  We'd eaten there back when, and remembered the seafood bisque fondly, so we both enjoyed bowls of it along with a plate of calamari.

A bit more shopping on River Street, and then we climbed the steep stairs to Bay Street and  headed out into the Savannah streets to see the homes, churches, and "squares," which are block-sized parks, each a bit different, scattered throughout the historic district, in a pattern.

Wonderful old homes are in the historic district. Many have signs telling who had owned them, or signs about their histories.  A few photos will portray some of the beautiful houses we have seen on our walk today. (I have some difficulty spacing these photos, so bear with me..................)

I had been told, before our first trip to Savannah, that we should visit St. John the Baptist Cathedral.
Unfortunately, on that trip, there had been an event taking place in the sanctuary, so we were unable to get inside.  Today the Catholic church was covered with huge scaffolding for a renovation.  We could not figure out how to get inside, or even if we would be able to get inside.  Some other tourists pointed out a path through the scaffolding, and we managed to find our way into St. John the Baptist.  It was well worth the effort!

Another tourist attraction that we had wanted to see, and came back for, is the Mercer-Williams House, actual location of the events portrayed in the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  Having seen the house on the first visit, we both have since read the book and also seen the movie, so this time it was a "must do."  A great guide named Alex led our tour through this home full of items of great value collected by Jim Williams, the late owner.  We learned that the house had been begun before the Civil War by the great-grandfather of Johnny Mercer.  Unable to complete the home due to the war, he sold it.  No person named Mercer has actually lived in the house.  In 1969 Jim Williams bought it, renovated it, and filled it with marvelous paintings, china, furniture, rugs, and unusual conversation pieces.  We were entertained for 45 minutes by Alex's dramatic tour.  Williams family members still live in the house, and apparently I missed seeing one of them who walked by our tour group unannounced. The price of admission was worth being in this interesting home. Alex informed us that the house had also been used for the films Glory and  Swamp Thing.
No visitor to Savannah can leave without seeing Forsyth Park.  It is the most famous park in the city. On our previous visit there were artists on the lawn trying to paint pictures of the fountain that is the main event of the park.  There had also been many panhandlers in this park, so we were hesitant to go back there, a bit.
  Signs throughout Savannah now inform tourists that we are to discourage panhandling by declining to give money, and to call 911 if anyone asks for it.  This new law has made a huge difference in the city, I think.  Tourists and citizens can truly enjoy the city without fear of being approached by strangers.  We sat on a bench in Forsyth Park today, and enjoyed the fountain and the sunshine.
We took a long walk back to the tourist bureau, with a stop for iced tea on the way, and a stop at an urban grocery store, where I ended up buying jewelry and a lime, an odd combination. We finally checked into our hotel on Bay Street.  We're within a fourth of a mile to River Street, and the historic district is at our door. 
The hotel shuttle took us back to River Street where we had dinner at Fiddler's Crab House, because it had outside seating on the balcony.  We ate fish and burgers and watched cargo ships going up and down the river.  The short walk back to the hotel was pleasant, and the pedometer reads eleven miles of walking today.  I guess that may have burned up the seafood bisque?
Tomorrow is another day.........................
 Wednesday, March 20
We got up and got out of our hotel after the city was at agenda today!  We re-walked the historic district, putting 8 more miles on the pedometer and our feet. Our route took us to the Savannah College of Art and Design, back to Forsyth Park, lunch at a place called Public, the historic Marshall Hotel, General Sherman's Headquarters, and to see a 270 year old Live Oak Tree. 
Once more: One picture is worth a thousand words!  (Except this won't be just one picture...........)
Here's what we saw:

General Sherman's HQ

Savannah College of Art and Design Shop

SCAD Admissions Offices

Forsyth Park Fountain

270 yr. old tree

Hat Shop Window

This evening Randy took me to The Pink House Restaurant, on Reynolds Square, for a very special dinner.  The house, originally the Habersham House, was built in 1771.  It is pink because the native red brick color bled through the plastered walls and turned the walls from white to pink. During the drafting of The Declaration of Independence, secret meetings were held here which helped to further the cause of freedom from England. Vaults which used to hold money now act as wine safes. During the Civil War, General York set up his headquarters in the Pink House. After that, that house became a law office, a book store and a tea room, and fell into disrepair.  In 1992 the Balish family bought the house, renovated it, and it became a landmark dining place for the City of Savannah.
We ate a Southern dinner!  I had an entire deep-fried flounder, grits, collard greens, and key lime pie for dessert.  What a great way to end our visit to this incredible city!


We will make one more stop near Savannah in the morning before we head north.  Follow along!

Copyright: Photos and article: KP Gillenwater 2013