Towards the end of September my in-laws came over to visit John and I in Fayetteville, North Carolina. If you read my previous article on Biltmore Estate, you’ll remember that John and I are a military couple posted in America, for two years; an absolute dream comes true for me. I will never forget the moment when Jane and Neil, Johns folks (His Mom a colorful woman with remarkably high energy; that coming from another high energy individual) came bounding through our front door after a weekend they had spent in Charleston, South Carolina. Something about their trip left Jane genuinely blown away and almost lost as to where to start on their reports back to us. They insisted that John and I prioritize with getting ourselves to Charleston. Roll the clock forwards a couple of weeks; we gather the few new friends we have made so far and turn a long weekend into a road trip excursion. Our priority over the next two years is travel; seeing as much of the United States as we can, therefore we decided to start our adventure slightly further south in Savannah, Georgia.
Heading southwest from home (Fayetteville), Savannah Georgia is 242 miles away. At 8 am we grab a coffee from our local Starbucks, hit the I95 South and cruise beneath a stunning blue sky. Most of the Americans that we have met so far say that the autumn, or as they call it ‘fall’ is their favorite season. I undoubtedly understand why now.
The mornings and evenings are a lot cooler than the sweltering summer months, but the days are still adequately warm, the skies are a deep blue and mostly clear and sunny. The trees are turning that golden brown and the air is sharp, refreshing… It’s honestly magnificent. It is perfect. The Carolinas or otherwise knows as ‘the land of the pines’, will always have a piece of my heart. Tall, thick pine forests surround the highway and up above huge birds of prey circle the skies. It’s a breathtaking place for a road trip. Savannah is the oldest city in the state of Georgia. It is named after the Savannah River, and is one of the only States in America that wasn’t destroyed during the Civil War (due to a peaceful surrender on December 21 1864). Each year it attracts millions of tourists to it’s historic buildings, cobblestone streets, delicious restaurants and vibrant bars. Historic and hip, Savannahs neighbourhoods are full of character and there is so much to see and do. From museums and edgy art galleries, famous film locations, bustling boutiques and guided ghost tours. I am fairly-well travelled but there is something about this place that has me in a spin. In the early 19th Century Savannah planted out hundreds of thousands of trees along its streets and squares to provide shade from the summer heat and beauty all year round, earning the title of “The Forest City”. Today these huge, arching ‘live’ oaks, draped in Spanish moss, are one of the cities most charming and unique sites.
The entire town lies underneath a canopy of lush green mystery. Our first Uber driver, a local woman, confirms that this spell Savannah seems to cast on its visitors is common; most tourists she drives for react in the same way. It is awe-inspiring. Consistently named one of the ‘worlds friendliest’ cities this coastal town has a global reputation of hospitality and grace. It is historic and hip, full of character.
Eat – Drink – Enjoy
We only spent one night in Savannah (We are definitely going back, you need AT LEAST two) but here is a little list of my top recommendations for dining, wining and general entertainment;
Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room
As Mrs. Wilkes’ best describe their restaurant: “A line gathers each morning at 107 West Jones Street. At 11 o’clock, the doors of 107 open and the lunch crowd finds seats at one of the large tables-for-ten shared by strangers. Tabletops are crowded with platters of friend chicken and cornbread dressing, sweet potato soufflé, black-eyes peas, okra gumbo, corn muffins and biscuits. The menu changes daily so regulars can have something different every day. Stop by and enjoy the pleasure of a meal shared with neighbours and strangers.” Not only mouthwateringly delicious, but this ‘Southern Home Cooking’ is also a unique experience. Whilst you dine don’t be surprised to find an entire tour bus of people arriving and queuing outside. Southern food is, as it stands, the most comforting food I have experienced in my life so far and Mrs. Wilkes’ has been practicing since 1943; enough said.
Savannah Historic District
For the ‘history nerd’ Savannah is a must. Everything is in walking distance and the tales of the towns past are rich and enchanting. The plan of the historic portions of Savannah are based on the concept of a ‘ward’ where each ward has a central square. These distinctive grid-like plans are surrounded by fine examples of buildings in the Georgian, Greek revival and Gothic styles.
Savannah’s beautiful riverfront will take you back to its cobblestoned past. Here you will find more delicious restaurants, quirky art galleries displaying local art and diverse stores where you can shop for aromatic cigars in one and fresh chocolate in the next. The seafood (practically anywhere) is phenomenal. Oysters and shrimp on every menu, coupled with craft beer or sweet iced tea. There is no doubt, thanks to the traffic on Savannah River, that you will see at least one ship passing through from any part of the world. Savannah is known for its sea roving villains of the past, who cruised the coast and swarmed the streets of this town. With its trade and pirate filled past, River Street still stirs with this energy.
There are so many historical narratives that continue their legacy in Savannahs unique array of museums. From local art and design, famous historic figures to many magnificent mansions preserved and restored to their original style.
Ever since the 1700’s this four-block area has maintained its reputation as Savannah’s commercial hub. With rehabilitated warehouses and shop fronts you feel you are at a market place where farmers would have sold their yields and horses trotted along the narrow streets. Easy, laid back with a bustling nightlife and thriving energy.
Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos Saloon
There certainly is a first time for everything. With tummy’s full of delicious Southern-style food and locally brewed beer we found ourselves at Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos saloon. The concept of this boisterous bar was a first time experience for me and absolutely incredible. Members of the audience, who are sat down to pub style grub (Or like our party of 8; dancing at the bar) select random songs for two professionals on grand pianos to play; audience interaction and general humor are a must.
There are many options depending on budget, but for a party of 8 of us we found an entire house in a beautiful and safe neighborhood. With my heart a little fuller, smile a little wider and mind a little broader we left Savannah and made our way to Charleston, South Carolina. As mentioned above, John and I seriously wanted longer to explore, two nights is the minimum we would both recommend to anyone visiting. However, regardless of the time that you have available Savannah Georgia is a unique, jaw dropping experience and worth even one day of eating and idly walking the beautiful shady streets carved beneath the moss draped oak trees. It will never leave you.