This past week I was able to experience the beautiful, historic Savannah, GA. What a treat, in deed! One of my best friends and I took the pony on a “girl trip” where we stayed three nights on Hilton Head Island and spent two days discovering Savannah. I had visited Savannah and Hilton Head one other time, several years ago, but was not able to truly enjoy it. I traveled there with a co-worker for a seminar on Hilton Head. We arrived a day early so that we could see Savannah, but it was raining and cold. Although we didn’t get to see much, what I did see was beautiful and I vowed to return someday when I could spend more time and see all there is to see! I finally fulfilled that promise to myself and it was even more wonderful than I imagined it to be. This time the weather was gorgeous and there was nothing to hinder our experience!
We started out Monday morning with the drive to Hilton Head Island. The accommodations part of the trip was my Christmas gift from Ron and Lisa. Lisa and I took the week and headed to the coast! We stayed at a nice little resort in a good location. We checked in and headed out for a late lunch and the chance to explore the island.
Our first stop was South Beach in the Sea Pines area. It is a lovely spot on the water with lots of shops and places to eat. We chose the Salty Dog Cafe for our late lunch. We both started out with some Shrimp Gumbo that was out of this world and some amazing hush puppies. Then, Lisa had a delicious looking salad and I had a basket of peel and eat shrimp. My first goal was satisfied – to enjoy some fresh seafood as quickly and as often as possible. Because, after all, when you go to a coastal island setting, you don’t eat spaghetti!!! (Inside joke – Mom is reading this and laughing at me.) We were so full that we didn’t even want to think about dinner! We had a perfect table overlooking the water and we watched a Heron walking along the docks looking for food and watching some guys painting the pier railings. I also saw what must have been a dolphin arch up out of the water for a split second and I saw it’s fin glide through the water for just a second before it went under water and disappeared. It was gone before I could express my surprise and get Lisa to turn around to look! After we ate, we wandered along the docks and checked out some of the gift shops.
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Then, we headed across the island to feed my love of lighthouses. I knew there was one to be found in Harbour Town, so that is where we went next. The lighthouse was pretty, but the rest of the area around it was the real treat. It is a peaceful spot on the harbour with several areas with rows and rows of rocking chairs to site and watch the yachts, read, or just enjoy the beautiful day. I could have sat there for hours!!! The shops were closed, but we sat for a little bit and just drank in the glorious weather and relaxing atmosphere.
That was the perfect end to a long day of driving and exploring. We headed back to our room and settled in for the night. Tomorrow would begin our adventure in Savannah and we wanted to get an early start. So, a good night’s sleep was a necessary element to a successful day.
We got up early on Day 2 and stopped for breakfast at a really nice little diner — The Hilton Head Diner! Breakfast was really good and the diner was a very pleasant place to have a relaxing meal.
We drove to Savannah with plans to put our name in at Paula Deen’s restaurant (Lady and Sons) and then just wander around and see what we could find. It was a nice drive to Savannah with one exception! Anyone who knows me very well knows that I do NOT like heights and it makes me extremely nervous to be in a situation where I’m at a high elevation and don’t feel in control. This includes very tall bridges that I have not had a chance to get used to. Well – there is an enormous bridge just as you cross over into GA at Savannah (I think it is highway 17). We came up on it with no notice and no chance for me to pull over and prepare myself or switch to let Lisa drive. It was just there and I was committed to cross it whether I was ready to or not! The approach from SC to GA is pretty menacing looking, too – all twisty and scary. Going back, it was just like being on any other road that happens to have a bridge on it. But, headed toward Savannah – which was the first time I saw the bridge right smack dab in front of me – it is pretty darn intimidating!
This is the SC to GA approach to the Talmadge Memorial Bridge – I didn’t take this photo – I found it on the internet, but it shows how scary it looked to me as I came up on it!!!
This is me with the bridge in the background along the river front in Savannah.
Of course, I survived driving over the bridge, but the trip had me all broke out in a cold sweat and my heart pounding like a race horse! After I got on ground level and caught my breath, we headed to Paula Deen’s. Her restaurant is Lady and Sons and is located on the corner of Congress and Whitaker Streets. It is in a rustic old building and includes her restaurant and a store to purchase her many products. It is quite a place! They don’t take reservations for less than 10 people, but they do have a hostess outside the restaurant starting at 9:00 am so people can put their names in for preferred seating. During the height of the tourist seasons, it is the only way to get in! We got there right at 9:00 and there was only one person ahead of us to sign in. We chose a 1:00 lunch time. When we returned at 12:45, we were seated immediately and browsed the menu. We decided to eat from the buffet – a delicious assortment of fried chicken, baked chicken, baked spaghetti, Italian sausage, and several side dishes. It also came with our choice of banana pudding, gooey butter cake, or peach cobbler – we both chose the peach cobbler. I understand the buffet choices change daily. It was all so good!!! Just as you would expect!
This is me with the life-sized cutout of Paula Deen - looks so real, I could probably get away with saying it was really her! Oh, um, strike that — This is me when I met the sweet lady herself, Paula Deen!
Before and after lunch at Paula Deen’s, we just walked around. We went to the Visitor’s Center and gathered a bunch of brochures and just walked and walked. We covered the entire lower portion of the historic district. The entire historic district consists of a well laid out pattern of squares in four main sections – Along the Waterfront, The First Squares, Squares of Luxury, and The Booming Westside. On day one, we covered Along the Waterfront and The Booming Westside. We paid for a total of 5 hours of metered parking (3 hours parked near Paula Deen’s restaurant and 2 hours parked along the waterfront), so we were pretty much on our feet hoofing it around Savannah for much of 5 hours. And it was very enjoyable!
Just to show you how much I actually learned while I was there…….Savannah was established in the mid 1700s with the intent to provide a buffer zone between the Spanish pushing northward from Florida and the English colony of South Carolina. The original charter prohibited slavery, lawyers, Catholics, and hard liquor – all of which were eventually permitted in. The squares were uniquely designed to give Savannah a strong military advantage and are now lovely parks and memorials to the rich history. James Edward Oglethorpe started the colony with 4 squares and by 1851 it grew to 24 squares – 22 remain today.
Here are some of the sights we enjoyed on our walk through the lower half of Savannah on Tuesday:
The city is full of huge, gorgeous trees – I believe this is a Live Oak, which is the most common tree in Savannah.
City Market is a lovely courtyard area full of all kinds of shops and places to grab a bite to eat.
Horse and Carriage in City Market waiting to take some folks on a tour.
Me in City Market
One shop in City Market that I didn’t get a photo of was the candy store! I was turned on to fresh, warm pralines the day I spent in Savannah several years ago and knew I had to turn Lisa on to them, too! So, we went in to get a free sample. As she put that warm nugget in her mouth and let it melt, I watched her face and knew that I succeeded in making her a believer! We bought some to ship out to friends and family and a couple for ourselves. I’ve always loved praline anything – ice cream, cake, crumbles, etc….but there is nothing like a warm, freshly made one to send you straight to heaven!!! OMG — YUMMO!!!! I wish I took a photo of the huge taffy puller working away at making fresh salt water taffy, too!
Me sitting in Ellis Square, just down from Paula Deen’s restaurant. We sat there for a little bit to rest and wait for our lunch reservation (we were just a little early).
Corleone’s Trattoria — The Godfather is alive and well in Savannah!!! (See our reflections in the doorway as I took the picture? LOL)
Savannah Bee Company — a shop full of wonderful specialty honey and soaps! Smelled amazing in there!
The Cotton Exchange – a busy place back in the day! In the late 1800s, Savannah and Liverpool, England were the only two places in the world where the price of cotton was quoted!
Factor’s Row – known as the Wall Street of Savannah at the height of the cotton exchange.
Aside from the fabulous mansions, my very favorite part of Savannah is the River Front area. The wonderful old buildings with amazing architecture, River Road made entirely of cobblestone left by ships that used it to weigh down the cargo holds until they arrived to pick up loads of cotton or other exports, and the beautiful river. Here are some shots of the River Front:
Of course, with any historical city, there are monuments and statues…..Savannah definitely has its fair share:
Lisa with Johnny Mercer, Savannah native and famed composer – some of the songs he wrote include: “Moon River”, “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby”, “Jeepers Creepers”, and more. He also had an affair with 19-year-old Judy Garland.
The Haitian Monument – honors a group of 700 men of color from the Island of Haiti who fought alongside American and French soldiers during the Seige of Savannah in 1779.
Washington’s Guns – (known as George and Martha) – were captured from the British at the Battle of Yorktown and presented to the Chatham Artillery by George Washington during his visit to Savannah
John Wesley – the founder of the Methodist religion.
The African-American Monument on the River Front – depicts an African-American family with broken shackles at their feet and has a beautiful inscription written by poet, Maya Angelou
Me with The Waving Girl — this statue honors Florence Martus who waved a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night at all ships entering and leaving the port of Savannah from the porch of her home on Elba Island. It is said that she never missed waving at a single ship between 1887 and 1931.
A better shot of The Waving Girl with her dog, Wolf, a collie.
The Waving Girl waving at a tug boat passing by on the river.
The Gordon Monument in Wright Square – honoring William Washington Gordon, one of Savannah’s early mayors and founder of the Central Railroad and Banking Company of Georgia.
On Wednesday, we started out, again, with breakfast at the Hilton Head Diner (find a good breakfast place, stick with it). Then, we went to Savannah and took an all day trolley tour. We got an “on and off” pass so that we could hop off and see things of interest and then get back on another trolley to continue the tour. We rode one trolley all the way around and planned out where we wanted to hop off. When the second trolley was about to start off, we got a surprise visitor:
Forrest Gump ran up to the trolley and hopped on and introduced himself with “Hi, I’m Forrest, Forrest Gump”. He was looking for where he was supposed to meet Lt. Dan. He waved at all of us and told the driver that he was out of breath because he just ran in from Alabama and was supposed to meet Lt. Dan at the Visitor’s Center. The driver told him he was at the Welcome Center, not the Visitor’s Center!
So, she showed him where he had to go. He said goodbye and apologized for not having any chocolates to offer us, but he ate them all!!! He then said he was late and Lt. Dan told him not to do anything stupid, so he had to hurry to meet him! He ran off with his arms a flailing. What a treat to get to meet Mr. Forrest Gump!
It was on the trolley tour that we saw all the wonderful mansions, beautiful homes, and quirky places that Savannah has to offer:
This is Mercer House — remember the statue of Johnny Mercer? Well, this was built by his Great Grandfather, Confederate General Hugh Mercer during the Civil War. The Mercers never actually occupied the house. However, it later became famous after Jim Williams, a Savannah preservationist, bought and restored it and allegedly murdered Danny Hansford in the study after a Christmas party. His story was the focus of the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Mercer House sits on an entire city block.
Owens-Thomas House – built in 1819 for a wealthy cotton broker, who lost it due to financial problems only 3 years after it was completed. George Owens purchased the home in 1830 and it remained in his family until his granddaughter willed it to the Telfair Museum of Art in 1951. The Marquis de Lafayette stayed at the Owens home during his visit during the Revolutionary War
Owens-Thomas House – south balcony facing President Street — location of a famous address by The Marquis de Lafayette where he spoke for 2 hours. America was a young, poor country at the time and Lafayette predicted in his speech that one day America would be a great nation and save the world! When American soldiers arrived in France during WWI and WWII, they honored that prediction by shouting “Lafayette, we are here!”
In the movie, Something To Talk About, Julia Roberts’ character goes out looking for her husband, played by Dennis Quaid, and finds him with another woman in this restaurant — they have a very robust argument in the street in front of the restaurant.
Hamilton-Turner House – This was the first home in Savannah to have electric lights. The tour guide told us that people from all over Savannah would gather in Lafayette Square across from the house just to watch the lights come on at dusk! It is now an inn and there are claims that the original owner, Mr. Hamilton, and his children still make frequent visits.
Kehoe House – built in 1892 for William Kehoe, a poor Irish immigrant who went from an iron foundry apprentice to one of Savannah’s most successful businessmen. Mr. and Mrs. Kehoe lived here with their 10 children and it remained in their family until 1930. It has since been a boarding house and a funeral parlor and is now an inn. Rumors say the inn is haunted by two Kehoe twins who died while playing in one of the chimneys.
One of many row houses along a tree-lined street
The story here, per our tour guide, is that a man had two daughters who fought over everything and were completely jealous of whatever the other had. So, he built them identical side-by-side houses so the wouldn’t have anything to fight about. But, rumor has it that they stood out on the front steps arguing about who would have which side of the house!!!
The Pirate’s House – originally a tavern frequented by pirates and sailors, now a restaurant – we ate a very nice lunch there! Supposedly, the book Treasure Island was inspired by events that happened at the Pirate’s House.
The Herb House – located right next door to the Pirate’s House – is said to be the oldest surviving home in all of Georgia. It originally served as the Trustee’s Garden’s gardener’s house.
A haunted drug store on the most haunted street in Savannah
One of many brick streets
A Sears and Roebuck house — for about $2000, this and similar houses could be purchased through the mail order catalog. The “kit” would arrive and the new owners would assemble the house per the instructions. The gentleman who purchased this home must not have done a good job of reading the instructions — the windows are all put in upside down (the straight sills are on top and the scalloped toppers are on the bottom)!!!
On one of our hop offs, we visited Colonial Park Cemetery. I was disappointed that the engraving on the stones was badly worn and most are no longer readable. There are only about 600 burial markers, but it is estimated that there are approximately 9000 people buried there – the graves even extend out into what is now the paved street. During the Union occupation during the Civil War, Union troops desecrated many of the graves, looting them and removing bodies to use the graves for their own soldiers. They even changed the dates on some of the stones in an attempt to be funny — some state that they actually died before they were born!!! There is a duelist grave site where many who died in duels are buried and a section where hundreds of victims of the Yellow Fever outbreak are buried.
Lisa at the entrance of the cemetery
An eerie shot, sure to give you the shivers!!!
Many of the damaged head stones have been cemented along the wall at the end of the cemetery
Another site on this same hop-off was The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We wanted to go inside, but there were worship services going on, so it was closed to tourists. So, we just admired it from the outside. The colonial charter for Savannah prohibited Catholics from settling in Savannah because the English feared Catholics would be more loyal to the Spanish in Florida than the English. Once the prohibition faded after the Revolutionary War, this Catholic Cathedral was constructed. It is a massive and ornate building with two tall spires extending into the sky.
The spires seen from the Colonial Park Cemetery
At the end of our day tour, we returned to Hilton Head and had dinner at Marley’s Island Grill – a great Caribbean grill restaurant! Lisa had a HUGE salad with grilled tuna and tons of veggies! I had Sugar Cane Scallops — big sea scallops fire grilled on skewers and drizzled with pina colada and kahlua sauce with a delicious veggie medley! YUM!!! Then, we went back to the room and packed up to leave the next morning. We headed out about 8:00 or so and drove most of the way home with the top down on the pony! It was a very pleasant drive home!
What a wonderful trip!!!! One we’re sure to remember for years to come! This all is actually just a teaser taste — we saw and did so much more — but, if I told it all here, what would there be left for you all to go see for yourselves????