When I think of Savannah with it’s wobbly cobblestone streets and towering old trees dripping their moss, I think of riverboats and sweet sounds of saxophones drifting from the squares. Savannah is everything I once imagined New Orleans to be, before she disappointed me.
Charm and rich history makes Savannah one of the most romantic cities in the U.S. Never a planned vacation spot for me, instead she has always served as a stopover point, a short retreat from the harsh summer thunderstorms on my drive down the East Coast. Until last year, I’d never given this welcoming city the attention and time she deserves.
Visits here usually consisted of rolling into town minutes before fast-approaching late-afternoon summer storms, grabbing a quick bite to eat, checking into a hotel for the night and heading out first thing in the morning.
I’ve stayed in several hotels, both old inns and familiar chains like the Hampton Inn, but the historic River Street Inn is by far my favorite for both charm and convenience. And with a walk-in rate of $99, the price can’t be beat. The hotel is situated on the Savannah River, so if you visit be sure to ask for a river view and a balcony. Happy hour with free wine, beer and hors d oeuvres takes place every night.
This past November, with most of my family up North, travel during Thanksgiving/ Hell week was unavoidable. On the drive back my mini travel-bug and I decided, even with no storm tailing us, we’d pay our favorite charming city (besides St. Augustine, of course) a visit, just for fun instead of necessity.
As luck would have it, we picked a great night to be in Savannah….
From our riverfront room, we hear a band playing outside. Crowds are gathered below our window listening to the band that sounds a lot like the Beatles. We head down for a closer look and before I know it, my girl, caught up in the moment and the music, drags me out to dance in the crowd. I try to resist, but she’s too persistent.
Cool air, something we haven’t experienced here before, is thick with the familiar smells of pralines being made in the shop across the street. My mouth waters at the thought of our missed dinner, but there’s no time. Once the band finishes up after being egged on by the crowd to play “just one more” encore, they tell us to stick around for the rest of tonight’s festivities.
We squeeze ourselves into a spot along the river for the annual boat parade and watch as boats of all sizes, decked out with thousands of lights, breeze by. The crowds cheer for their favorites. Afterwards, we ohh and ahh to one of the greatest fireworks displays I’ve ever seen. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen my girl any happier than this. When it’s over, we head across the street for a really late dinner at the Outback. I’m not a big fan of chain restaurants, but my little carnivore is craving steak and it’s well after 9 pm. I order a salad and watch as she plows through her steak and sweet potato as if it’s the greatest meal of her life.
During dinner, we reminisce about past visits to Savannah, one in particular always comes up. Two years ago, we invited the overloaded-candy-wielding Grandma to take a road trip with us. On the long ride down, the sweet-pusher continually and secretly passed sugary treats to my girl in the backseat. It was their little secret. We pulled into Savannah right around dinnertime and were fortunate enough to get into The Olde Pink house, one of Savannah’s finest and most historic restaurants, without reservations- A dream come true.
As the waiter seated us in front of a wall of windows the entire length of the restaurant, I noticed my girl looking a little pale. After the girl who normally eats her own body weight every day ordered only crackers, I knew something was wrong. I kept a watchful eye while I enjoyed crab beignets, lump crabcakes and salad. As I almost finished my meal, Jordan’s eyes got wider than I’d ever seen them. Without a word, I yanked her out of her chair and made a beeline for the door.
The minute we stepped outside of the restaurant, pink projectile vomit spewed from her in a way I’d only seen in horror movies. After the second eruption, I glanced over to see she had an audience of horrified restaurant patrons, those lucky enough to get window seats. I attempted to lead her away down the street, but as I did the projectile vomiting girl took aim on nearby cars.
Still in a state of shock and embarrassment, I just walked away, vomit girl in tow. “Whew, I feel a lot better,” she said right before she tattled on the candy-pusher, who witnessed the whole thing and of course blamed it on the tomato soup I fed her for lunch. A horrific mis-handled time for sure, and now we can only laugh about it.
After our late night dinner at Outback, Jordan and I head back for the night. The next morning, we stroll through historic City Market, with its dozens of shops, restaurants, and bars and talk of what it must have been like to shop here hundreds of years ago when horse-drawn wagons brought their goods to sell.
We have a great sidewalk brunch with muffins and shrimp and grits at Goose Feathers café, before wandering around town, through an old cemetery and passing through a few squares.
Jordan, who’s recently mastered the recorder, carries it with her everywhere. She pauses in the square by a man in a Santa hat playing Christmas songs on his flute. He smiles and asks her to play beside him. I step away to observe from a distance and take in the moment as she slows her rhythm to meet his. Passersby gather at the site of an old black man and a little white girl playing their music together. Several drop dollar bills in his bucket.
A riverboat cruise along the Savannah River doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery, but its’ my girls maiden voyage on a paddleboat and a great way to wrap up our time here. She happily plays her music as we cruise by the less than scenic industrial areas. Afterwards, we browse through the open-air market at the end of River Street before heading home, a few hours away, to St Augustine.
WHERE TO STAY
River Street Inn- 124 East Bay Street (912) 234-6400
WHERE TO EAT
The Olde Pink House- 23 Abercorn Street (912) 232-4286
Goose Feathers Café- 39 Barnard Street (912) 233-4683
Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room- 107 West Jones Street (912) 232-5997