10 January 2013

2013 SOUTH & EAST COAST Savannah 15 - Savannah Daze

Temp range today between 58-69 expected. Mild winds. Possible showers predicted, but not a drop fell. Did not move the car, but lots of miles on foot and on the the road ... in a tour bus. Fact: Georgia was named after King George of England (not sure which one).

Not wanting to waste a minute on our short visit here, took a 2-hour morning walk around several of the 21 city squares, two homes that Juliette Gordon Low (founder of Girl Scouts) lived in, and the old city cemetery with S-mossed trees. We passed by The Pink House to verify where it was. We did not want to get lost like our Key West mishap. A very dressy lady saw us admiring the building and said "Everyone in Savannah comes here. It's THE place and my favorite." Can't wait for dinner.

Kept running into buildings designated as SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design). Toured one gallery of SCAD student graphic arts. Impressive, but no time to check their other museums and galleries. We learned that this college has "branches" in Atlanta, France and Hong Kong. Several Savannah-ians say it is the only school with a degree in architectural historic preservation. We found out later that was bad info, but they have helped their city save many of its precious, historical buildings.

Went to the City Market next. Produce was originally sold here, but now a shop and restaurant area. Ate a great lunch on the outside patio of the Belford Restaurant here. Crab cakes for Mike and fancy spinach salad for me.

We asked a few people about the Savannah St. Patrick's Day parade. Apparently the "season" starts that week and the parade is second only to that in NYC -- but all said NYC may have the biggest, but we have the best. It wanders though all the 21 square areas and can be seen from many hotels. Hotels are book a year in advance for this event.

As we had a short time in this history-filled city, we felt the easiest way to get the lay of the land was a tour. So at 2pm started our 3-hour bus tour around Savannah. Bob, the bus driver, was terrific. He was a 4th generation Savannah-ian and many of the places we passed were his parents' or his ol' stomping grounds. He was up-front and personal and VERY interesting. He gushed so much history, facts, and data that we were in a daze by the end of the tour. 

Anyway, some places we saw were songwriter (Moon RiverDays of Wine and Roses, and The Garden of Good and Evil book fame) Johnny Mercer's home, the siege of Savannah site (have to read up more on this), various SCAD buildings, the river front, the city squares (including Pulaski, named for a Polish General that helped save Savannah in the American Revolutionary War), John Wesley's home (the founder of the Methodist church), the dueling grounds, some old and rare wooden structures (because Savannah had many fires throughout its history there are few left), the oldest Baptist church in the US (1788), the First African Baptist Church (first black church in the US), and sooooo much more history.

The Forrest Gump park bench location was pointed out to us, although the bench itself is in the Savannah Museum / Welcome Center that we had just previously paused at for a pit stop. Next we toured two more "modern" residential neighborhoods filled with palatial southern homes. All we can say is WOW. This tour was so interesting, too short, and we would do it again.

I cannot begin to summarize beyond that. You'll have to read up on this city like I plan to do when I get home. But the city squares each have their own history (one with a dog watering fountain), and the homes were large and lovely with lots of gingerbread. Most of the homes had grand and ornate front staircases to the second floor entries. This was because the servants lived on the ground floor, so that was definitely not the level for guests to enter the owner's home. 

Bob was a character, with a unique sense of humor. He also obviously is superstitious. He pointed out several places en route that, as a kid, he would never go near because he believed they were evil, beastly, depraved, cold and ... he spewed multiple adjectives that made you know he was truly fearful. And he said he would still not go near them. We believed him. Mike said he seemed right out of a Stephen Koontz book.

Oh, forgot to tell you about the blue light special, as Bob called it. While waiting to start our tour, we heard gunshots and the guy in the dispatch booth ran for the big office. Turns out someone at a nearby party store got in an argument and then a fight in the parking lot which turned into a gun thing. Cops surrounded our whole area looking for the shooter and we had to reroute the tour because of it.

The couple behind us were from a Canadian town of 3,600 and they almost abandoned ship. But we ambivalent or insane Americans around them said "no big deal" and we carried on with them in hesitative tow. We looked for the situation on the late news and they did mention a person wounded from gunshot had occurred that afternoon, but no details. Bob said it was probably drug related and that overall Savannah is really safe. Uh huh!

After a quick spruce-up we sauntered to the Pinks. This was the place recommended by John, our waiter, at Doc Ford's on Sanibel Island. He use to work here and said to mention his name for great service. We took a pix of him to show his old buddies and brought that along. This restaurant was also highly recommended by Miss Mary and some locals we met along our walks.

The building was originally a bank and then converted to a home, and now a 2-story restaurant painted PINK (who knew). We arrive at 6:45pm with the John's photo in hand. Tiffie, (our waitress) almost flipped out when we showed her. John was her "best friend." A string of others, including the strolling restaurant singer (who sang an amazing rendition of Amazing Grace as requested by a nearby table), streamed by to see John waving from the photo.

Dinner was a leisure and lovely affair. Beverages were pink lemonade (adult style) and planters punch. Mike started with a fancy version of fried green tomatoes and then chicken pot pie, of all things. This was stupendous with huge chunks of tasty white chicken meat and phyllo dough crust. I had goat cheese stuffed artichokes fritters and then shrimp and scallop Parmesan linguine. Mike finished with chocolate pecan pie with ice cream and I had a glass of local Savannah Madeira.

Alright, another night of waddling back to the motel. So stuffed, could not do The Blog last night. Making up for it today. The Savannah experience was sensational. Can't wait to compare with Charleston.

Best chicken pot pie ever, per Mike. Although another Mike loved, but a more traditional version, was had on the Mission Peninsula of northern Michigan.

Best cocktail for Mike was the Pink Lemonade (a light lemonade with raspberry vodka) at the The Pink restaurant in Savannah and best for Deb was the Orchid cocktail at the Orchid Key Inn in Key West (who knows what liquor combo, served in a martini glass and also pink).


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