A Travelogue with Rick Rose
Like neighboring Charleston, the city of Savannah, Georgia is historic as all get out. What is way cool about the city is that it was laid out in 1733 around four open squares. The city plan anticipated growth and expansion of the grid. Additional squares were added during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1851 there were twenty-four squares in the city.
Many of us know the city because of the recent fame brought to it by John Berendt’s best selling novel, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and subsequent Clint Eastwood movie. When you take a “Walk through Midnight” tour, you see the squares and learn the story of Savannah in a very amazing way. The true star here is the wonderful city itself. Guides offer personal insights and observations, as well as new stories that would create an incredible sequel or two. Many of the friendly guides were even extras in the movie and have added memorabilia to show you along the way. A two mile tour is spread out over just under two hours. Check out the tours here.
Savannah has been rated by Walking Magazine as “one of the 10 Best Walking Cities in America.” The pristine squares and bordering tree-lined streets, incredible parks, and laid-back pace make Savannah an ideal location for leisurely and intimate vacationing where the heat of the South rarely gets to you. You can always hop in and out of air conditioning as you need to by touring the city’s many historic homes. My favorite and that of many other young girls (ha!) is the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts of America, which has been a virtual mecca to nearly 3 million visitors since it began a restoration to splendor in the 1950s.
Half way through the day, Susan and I grew hungry. As you can imagine, a Southern City has plenty to offer the weary walker. We chose www.mrswilkes.com for some rib-sticking Southern cooking. A line gathers each morning at 107 West Jones Street, the address of what was once and in some ways still is the boarding home of Mrs.Wilkes. Today the Wilkes’ kids swing the door open wide and friendly at 11 o’clock as they welcome a lunch crowd that scurries to find seats at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers who over a meal become family, of sorts. Tabletops are crowded with platters of fried chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato souffle, biscuits, black-eyed peas, okra gumbo to name just a few of the dishes.
You may want to enjoy a meal from the lineage of the Lady and her sons at http://www.ladyandsons.com. That’s right, Paula Dean calls Savannah home as do her sons. Every day of the week, the host at their establishment begins to take names at 9:30am for lunch and dinner on a first come first served basis from her famous podium on Congress Street in front of the restaurant. You must appear in person to receive a priority seating time. Sunday, the Dean clan offers up a scrumptious buffet from 11am until 5 pm. The wait at Wilkes is typically less, and it is more joyful for me to dine there, but Susan and I did check out the accompanying kitchen goods store to the Dean restaurant. Cool stuff can be purchased on the recommendation of Paula who clearly knows the need of those of us who love to cook.
To complement your walking exploration, take a Carriage Ride; the horses in Savannah are some of the prettiest I have seen. When darkness covers the city, check out one of the many famous Irish pubs spread throughout the squares for a quick pint of Guiness or my favorite, a Black Smith (like a Black and Tan but with Smithwicks Irish beer). You willl need it to calm your nerves before you board the trolley of one of the city’s famous ghost tours (www.savannahtours.us). We screamed our way through basements of old homes that were left intact the day they were abandoned and many city cemeteries. I assure you that you will too. Take lots of pictures, as we did, because looking for the “orbs” in them afterwards is part of the fun. Savannah is filled with spirits.
Speaking of spirits, there is a great LGBT scene in and around the beautiful riverwalk where drinking happens all day long! If you get energized you can join in for some spirited gay volleyball which is played every Sunday in Daffin Park from 2 to 6 in the afternoon. www.gaysavannah.com is undoubtedly one of the best directories and magazines I have seen in any city. It will guide you to places of interest that range from antiquing to green living. An added bonus for me on this trip was meeting Ronni Carpenter, whose grandparents owned a general store out in the countryside of Savannah. There they sold shoes made in Hannibal, MO during the days that followed WWI when Hannibal was the largest shoe manufacturer in the nation. It’s a fascinating piece of American history, and Ronni was kind enough to invite me and Susan and a couple friends who once lived in Hannibal over to see the shoes that survived over these many years.
Savannah has survived and is currently thriving! Go check it, and let me know what you think!