En Route to Bonnaroo: Savannah

The Southern Sojourn
June 2011

Aside from the general desire to share my wanderings, the flavors and the general feel of the South inspired me in ways that will be evident and bear a background story.  Accordingly, I present the city-by-city recap of my Southern Sojourn.

Now for Savannah…

There are places that are exactly what you imagined them to be in the best possible way.  There is a preservation of pacing, architecture and character, making the reality dreamily match the conceptions formed while paging through a travel book of beautiful photos.  Previously, I had this sentiment in the South of France while sipping cappuccinos and wines in plazas, surrounded by warmly colored, leaning buildings, watching striped shirts and baguettes pass me on vintage bicycles.

Savannah was another city that matched my vision while pleasantly surprising me with its reality.  Perhaps there is something about the southern regions of nations that preserves them in a sleepy, surreal version of our expectations.  In Savannah, the Spanish moss really does dangle from the massive arthritic trees.  The streets are wide and dabbled with bits of light.  The fountains call you from the ends of long, cobbled walkways and plazas.  The porches inspire whiskey and lemonade drinks.  The flowers assert themselves.  The history potentially resurfaces or parallels our existence under the glow of streetlights during the late hours.

(Click on the collage above to see the full set of Savannah photos)

However, all of the preserved southern charms are infused with what we, in college, adoringly referred to as the “art fucks”- the current and former art students who blatantly look like art students.  It is this dichotomy of SCAD (the Savannah College of Art & Design) spillage and southern charms that attracts me to the city the most.  Progressive preservation.  Appropriately, our time was pretty evenly divided amongst the creative coffee shops and the older charms.

Shortly before I left Pittsburgh, my good friend Dana had asked if I could water her garden while she would be out of town.  I, however, was going out of town.  Where was she going?  Savannah!  When?  At the same time I’d be there!  In a serendipitous overlap, more of my friendship circles crossed, and Sandra and I were able to join Dana and her boyfriend Chris at the riverside Westin.  When we coordinated on the phone, Dana was still relishing the dinner they had just eaten at the hotel.  She said I had to eat this seafood potpie, really take it in, commit it to memory and then recreate it in Pittsburgh.  Thus, she and Chris retrieved us from our vintage hotel to wine [cocktail] and dine while the sun set, and the immense barges slunk their way down the river.

Sandra had never had a potpie before (a dish belonging to the category she classifies as “white people food”), and Dana threw her into the crème of the crop:  a creamy, saucy, seafood potpie.  As experienced as I am with potpies, this was new for me as well, on account of my general seafood virginity.  The pieces of crab and lobster, doused in cream and accented by a flaky pie crust, convinced me:  I will attempt this on the home front, provided Dana contributes her seafood knowledge.  She agreed to that quite quickly.

Dinner transitioned to cocktails, which set us up perfectly for a midnight ghost tour with a tour guide named Tobias.  We peered into the cemetery we had wandered by day, pondered what was buried under the plazas draped with Spanish moss, considered a mansion murder mystery and gathered outside a former mental hospital.  Did we see any ghosts?  Not a one.  Was it worth it anyway?  Indeed.  Full disclosure:  I was really hoping not to see a ghost.

The elements of the past that came alive for us more so were multiple stories of Alex Raskin’s Antiques.  Having ventured through the crowded furniture and randomly placed goods of the ground floor, we nearly overlooked all the corner mansion had to offer until we heard the owner nonchalantly encouraging another patron to peruse the other floors.  Other floors?

What fortunate eavesdropping!  The tall windows, the high ceilings, the chipping paints, the exposed ceiling boards, the creeping vines, the balcony views and the old chandeliers were a free equivalent of a mansion tour.  Sandra and I roamed and wondered where the servants would have stayed, where the dining room would have been, were the antique bed frames positioned in actual bedrooms, etc.  We left empty handed but not for the lack of wanting.  My travel plans and more so, my budget didn’t accommodate $2,000 rustic, wooden tables.  Someday.

It wasn’t until later when we realized how ideal the antique meandering had been.  Sandra and I both had visions of plantation grandeur, but the plantation tour we found was little more than a historical reenactment video (entertaining in its own right) and stone remnants.  A to-be-fully-verified, historical explanation for the lack of tours of glorious Gone With The Wind style plantations:  apparently during the Civil War, Sherman went on a burn and destroy rampage, and many of our ideal southern homes fell victim to the destruction of war.

Thus our pick of the Wormsloe plantation was little more than a remote picnic location.  Sandra took the discrepancy between her visions and the ruin reality pretty hard, so we dwelled on the antiquing experience while treating ourselves to iced lattes and a fresh-from-the-oven brownie, in the town bordering the “plantation.”

Our visions of plantations always coincided with visions of fancy lemonades and sipping drinks meant for hot porches with chipping paint and rolling lawns.  Though our plantation vision ended in rubble, we did manage to drink in Savannah quite successfully.

After wandering by the waterfront, we were drawn to a pink colored, historical inn appropriately called The Olde Pink House.  We sat by large, glass doors in the bar area with pink walls, a large tapestry and an entertaining older couple, “I’ll be dropping her off at the home later,” he said of his wife, who was obviously younger than “home” age.  While the old couple tried to find a drink to satisfy the woman’s curious list of requirements, Sandra and I quickly settled on fancy pink lemonades that easily fell into our southern porch sipping category of drinks, especially with a side of sweet potato fries.

The drinks were divine, and we easily could have sat there sipping ourselves broke, but when the waiter asked if we wanted seconds, we declined on the basis of needing to explore more bars and restaurants.  “Well, would you like one to go?” he asked.

“TO GO?!?!”  My Pennsylvania oppressed jaw dropped!  You can order divine cocktails to go?  The waiter opened our eyes to one of the perks of Savannah and retrieved our to-go version of the fancy lemonades.  Granted, the plastic cups were less fancy, but sipping in the beautiful plaza in front of the inn while lazily reading fashion magazines… perfect!  Is there a way to make that a career?  Nannying maybe?  Ha!

Oh beautiful, boozy, sleepy Savannah, it was so difficult to leave you, but we had Athens on our agenda and a major feast on our horizon!  Fare thee well, we shall meet again!

The Southern Sojourn continued!  Stay tuned…

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