It doesn’t seem possible that this is our first visit to Georgia’s first city.
SAV airport is sleek and friendly. We’re on our way a little after 10 on New Year’s Eve. Sequined revelers light up Savannah’s Historic Center. Our B&B is off Broad Street, past the Pirates House, on President Street.
What prompts a decision to visit the unknown, to choose a certain place to lay your head, to break bread, and learn what makes it tick? This time, it just flowed, as do the wine, beer and spirits here. The cup regulation permits “to go” cups for those on foot within the Historic District north of Jones Street. The al fresco practice seems to create fun and not excess.
Welcomed warmly by the innkeeper to our home for 60 hours, we park our vehicle for the duration, as planned. No need to step on the gas until the next leg of the journey. This is a pedestrian city.
Bolting out into the warm night, we find The Ordinary Pub on Broughton Street about eleven blocks away. Here the bar’s happening an hour before midnight and the dining room is not. We watch the flow and create our own. Drawn to this establishment observing their first New Year’s Eve, with its gleeful “we built a pub” claim and the good sense to hire an inspired chef, we feel it’s not so ordinary. Truly the savvy intimacy, the perfectly prepared brisket special, shrimp and stone-ground grits, big berry-ful salad and craft beers are so right for our modest celebration. Of course we elect a cup to go: Terrapin Moo-Hoo for hubby and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale for me. It’s dessert!
With a knowing smile and nonchalance each morning for thirteen years, Diane Crews serves up homemade abundance at the Green Palm Inn. We are wooed by fluffy egg and tortilla Mexican Strata, Peaches and Cream French Toast and Crustless Quiche, flanked by biscuits, sausage and fruit. Her other offerings are yet more spectacular: the gift of conversation, sharing, always with a twinkle in her eye and an easy laugh. What a capable, gracious host!
Second floor rooms are tasteful, accommodating, comfy and private. Wander into the dining room for coffee, tea, sweets and afternoon hors d’oeuvres as you choose. Similarly, you may seek local recommendations or remain to yourself during your stay.
River Street had quite a few closures on New Year’s Day and crowds were nonexistent. Kevin Barry’s Pub is a friendly spot to pause for a pint. The Irish presence continues in Savannah.
As you journey west from the B&B, take in Savannah’s myriad squares. President Street intersects a series of five, from Greene to Columbia to Oglethorpe to Wright to Telfair, each with a story. Chief Tomo-Chi-Chi befriended James Oglethorpe and allowed the colonists to settle on the river’s bluff. Oglethorpe first designed the city’s lines, squares and wards for meetings and social gathering. Horse-drawn carriages and tour buses circle. The pervasive live oak canopy, a presence and absence of Spanish Moss (not Spanish; not moss), fuschia and salmon azaleas in January, pink camellias, a fountain, a monument to the founder of the railroad, strolling couples, families and dogs on the walkways and benches link hundreds of years of history and culture.
Initially, rum, lawyers and slavery were forbidden in pre-revolutionary days, but changes took place when cotton was found profitable. In Civil War times, Sherman was awestruck by the city. Instead of burning it down, the general gifted it to Abraham Lincoln. Georgian architecture marches through the historic center. Stunning edifices conceal shocking past and present.
A commanding perch outside at Top Deck, on the sixth floor of the Cotton Sail Hotel, is enhanced by sunshine and a spicy Bloody Mary on a brisk day. Ships, tugs and paddle boats meander the Savannah River below. Led Zeppelin and the Doors transport us.
Food and spirits exude Old Savannah. We crave freshly prepared seafood and learn to embrace the sweet local shrimp.
Andaz’ 22 Square serves up an awesome Sazerac, with an absinthe wash and orange allure.
Always hopping, Alligator Soul undoubtedly serves the most inspiring Southern cuisine in town. One guidebook quoted a local recommendation for their shrimp and grits and crème brulee. We tried! After inhaling the house oysters- with a terrific habanero sauce complement- we concur, although dessert isn’t an option for us. Absolutely our favorite.
Ghosts and the spirit world permeate Savannah present. Our guide on the Creepy Crawl Haunted Pub Tour beginning at 830 one brisk evening advises us all it’s the #1 most haunted city in the US. According to her, guests should investigate whether the hotel or B&B they are staying in is haunted before checking in. As we traverse the city- cups in hand- we see already familiar landmarks and learn of mass graves, catacombs, the Yellow Fever epidemic of the 1820’s, graverobbers, the origin of the expressions “saved by the bell” and “deadringer” and tales surrounding cemeteries and each of our pub stops: Six Pence Pub, McDonough’s, 17 Hundred 90, Planters Tavern at The Pink House, O’Connell’s.
Were we spirited to Savannah? Perhaps. They say some spirits have very good intentions. We are grateful for the time here and we will return, just as those spirits do.
When You Go:
The Green Palm Inn: 548 E. President Street, Savannah, GA 31401; www.greenpalminn.com
The Ordinary Pub: 217 W. Broughton Street, Savannah, GA 31401; theordinarypub.com
Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub: 117 River Street, Savannah, GA 31401; kevinbarrys.com
Top Deck; Cotton Sail Hotel: 126 W. Bay Street, Savannah, GA 31401; www.cottonsailhotel.com
22 Square at Andaz: 14 Barnard Street, Savannah, GA 31401
Alligator Soul: 114 Barnard Street, Savannah, GA 31401; Telfair Square; www.alligatorsoul.com
Photos by James and Lisa Richardson