It is impossible to visit Savannah, Georgia and not fantasize about living there. My husband and I just spent 4 days enjoying its wonders. It is supremely walkable and the weather is temperate (keeping it real: we have only visited in late winter – one suspects that summer may be a tad warm. ) There are 20 plus well-maintained squares – these little mini-parks, beautiful with overhanging live oaks are an excellent place to rest and contemplate one’s future as a Savannah resident. The architecture in the historic district is ornate with frequent wrought-iron embellishments and I was often delighted by the urban yards filled with little marvels of statuary, pathways, seating and plantings. Our morning walks always featured a few stops to peek between fences and onto balconies to locate these little gems of personal space. We studied the postings in a real estate office window and were surprised by the favorable pricing as compared to the Northeast.
And, compared to our small New England city, the restaurant choices are amazing. We recognized that they probably have to be, because after walking 6 miles per day for 4 days, we noted that we had never seen a supermarket in the historic district. We concluded that the in-town residents must eat out most of the time. Lucky them. In an case, when you visit Savannah, here are 3 places where you should certainly eat. Grey (we ate here twice) is high end eatery in a renovated grey hound bus station. It is an award-winning art-deco wonder. The food is southern style but unique such as a pre-dinner snack of sorghum popcorn. A small plate of collard greens is among my favorite dishes ever. The restaurant Prohibition is a few steps away – we also stopped there twice. Once for lunch where we were the second-ever customers of their first-ever lunch service. Their grain salad with a mint dressing is worth trying to create at home. We returned for oysters and cocktails one early evening. The gregarious bartender, locally born and raised, sported an enviable handle-bar mustache. His background as a physics major came into play as he endeavored to create the perfect cocktail to match the salinity of the oysters. My third recommendation which I WISH we visited twice is the vegan café Fox&Fig. We stopped for a late morning snack – a vegan quiche (really, really need to try to create at home) and were determined to return to try other items on it menu. Alas, by lunchtime, the line was long and we were too tired, hot and hungry to wait. It was my saddest Savannah moment.
We visited two fine small museums: the Jepson Center for the Arts and the Ships of the Sea Museum. The Jepson houses a modern art collection and the current exhibitions were thought-provoking (Complex Uncertainties: Artist in Post-war America) and fun (virtual reality underwater and flying experiences.) The Ships of the Sea Museum was a few steps from our hotel – I noticed it by peeking through its gates and noting the beautifully manicured grounds. The collection is niche, for sure – scale models of ships depicting the history of Savannah ship-building and ship travel. The model ships were as precious as doll houses, though sometimes depicting harsher themes of war, ship wrecks and slave-trading.
Modern-day Savannah is famous for two things: the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and the non-fiction book by John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Both of these add an appealing level of eccentricity to the city. It appears that SCAD owns Savannah – at every turn there is a SCAD building, a SCAD café, a SCAD shop, a SCAD gallery and SCAD students. This certainly adds to the artsy vibe. As our visit evolved, I found myself dressing with a little more flair – adding silver shoes and bright red lipstick to my usual plain Jane look. But the SCAD influence can start to feel like a cult – do they control the city? Where is the money coming from? How do all these art students fare after leaving the bubble?
In John Berendt’s book, the the eponymous Garden of Good and Evil refers to a famous Savannah cemetery. We have visited Savannah multiple times, walked many miles, and until our last day on our recent visit, had mistaken the in-town Colonial Cemetery for the famous one. Alas, the Garden of Good and Evil is Bonaventure Cemetery, a few miles outside of town. Hence, on our exit, we sought it out. (Good news – we also found the grocery stores). Bonaventure Cemetery is vast, old, lovely and creepy. We started in the Jewish section and admired the custom of leaving stones on the grave markers in order to hold the souls from rising. We then sought out the larger statuary and the port-a-potties. Both were worth a visit.
Our final Savannah adventure was to visit Wormsloe, a historical site on the outskirts of town. It houses the oldest structure in Savannah, the ruins of a colonial home. The grounds of Wormsloe contain a planned mile-long archway of live oaks covered with Spanish moss as well as marshland and a pine forest. Interspersed is the “tabby” ruins of the estate of Noble Jones. Tabby, we learned is the colonial concrete made of oyster shells, lime, sand and water. It was remarkably durable, but in the end was no match for the challenges of colonial life in the South (Indian raids, disease, slave uprisings and snakes) so little remains to be admired.
Like all fine cities, Savannah has its good and evil, its beauty and its flaws. And like all travel experiences, this one provided enrichment, enjoyment, entertainment, a desire for more travel and an appreciation for one’s home. I am certain we will not move to Savannah, but as I sit experiencing our second March Nor’easter since returning, I feel its beauty and warmth and collard greens are a good antidote to the winter chill.
Bonus photo Lo wearing yeti pajamas, having a bad hair day and pushing an antique doll carriage