Savannah GA, GA
November 22, 2009
Our entry into Savannah was less than appealing, the wind was blowing, the rain was pounding and it was impossible to step out of the car without getting soaked to the skin. Even though it was early afternoon we made a quick stop at the visitor center for a walking map, checked into a nearby hotel where we planned to retreat for the night after an early dinner. The desk clerk recommended a restaurant close to the hotel, the Distillery, guaranteed good seafood and it was. George had what he proclaimed the best crab cake yet. The restaurant was a cozy “Cheers” like place and we were in no hurry to rush back out into the rain. Later, as we were preparing to leave a gentleman who had been sitting at the bar asked if we were the folks from Washington. We looked at each other wondering if we look so different that people are able to pick us out of a crowd, they always seem to know that we are the “folks from Washington”. Anyway, he had been admiring our Eurovan and reminisced about his younger days, his 1977 VW camper and a road trip to Alaska. The camper seems to bring out wistfulness in people who have owned one. The rains had stopped but it was now dark so we returned to the hotel to plan for tomorrow.
November 23, 2009
Hooray, still no rain and the forecast shows partly cloudy, we’ll take it. Even though our entry into the city had not shown much appeal, we ventured into the heart of the historic district and much to our delight, Savannah began to reveal her secrets. It is easy to see why we had received mixed reviews about the charms of Savannah. From the outside it looks like any other city but as you enter the core sweet spots appear.
One of the unique features of the historic district is the preponderance of small parks or squares as they are called. The district is a checkerboard of these heavily treed oases, many with statuary, benches and fountains. Around the perimeter of the squares sit stately old homes, museums, small shops, churches or Inns. The only thing these squares have in common, beside their allure, are the graceful, overarching moss-draped branches of the old live oak trees that have become one of our favorite features of the southeast.
We make our way to the riverfront and are surprised to learn the Port of Savannah is the third largest on the east coast, next to New York and New Jersey. A river walk is lined with plaques that give us a history lesson of the city from the early settlers, development of the rice and cotton trade and plantations, slavery, Savannah’s involvement in the civil war, WWII and the importance of shipping to the economy.
Rather than walking all the way back along the river, we opt for the free ferry that services the riverfront and as it turns out the gentleman who welcomed us aboard lived and worked in Redmond for a number of years returning to his home, Savannah, when he retired. We learned that he has had many careers, one of them as a chef and now acts as a consultant for restaurants in town. Who better to ask for a restaurant recommendation? He steers us to a little Greek café for calamari, just to tide us over until dinner. Garibaldi, an Italian restaurant, sounded like a winner for dinner as he describes in mouthwatering detail some of their signature dishes. We thank him and head straight for the calamari.
Continuing our walking tour, we cover most of the squares and buildings of note. One street is blocked off and we learn a Robert Redford movie is being filmed but no sight of the Sundance Kid so we continue on taking time to wander through a colonial cemetery. Gravestones date to the 1700’s and early 1800’s but what was remarkable in the cemetery was the young age of most of the departed, a large number under the age of 25 years. In the 1820’s a yellow fever epidemic claimed an estimated 700 lives in Savannah alone.
As the light began to fade we made our way back to the hotel to clean up a bit before dinner. Garibaldi presented as promised, deliciously prepared seafood. Over a glass of fine Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, we perused the menu. For Nancy a poached pear salad, arugula, toasted walnuts & blue cheese fritter with a pear port vinaigrette, grilled shrimp and artichoke. For George crispy flounder with an apricot shallot sauce, orzo and haricot green beans. A wonderful dinner to end a delightful day and our visit to Savannah.