My best friend from high school lives in Savannah, GA, so we decided to spend a few days over the New Year's down there. Although I've been to Savannah many times since my friend took up residence there after college, the boy had never been, so we acted like total tourists by hopping on a trolley tour (so much fun and little tidbits of info you'd never know, I'm seriously thinking of doing one in Philly) and visiting historic houses.
With the tourist season at it's lowest, and most of the 9000 Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) students away on winter vacation, the small and absolutely gorgeous historic district (thanks to SCAD's heavy hand in historic renovation) was a virtual ghost town. We had the city almost to ourselves, but also found it hard to find businesses and attractions open on New Year's.I was in heaven walking around all the squares and streets lined with huge mansions as the sweet perfume of the tiny blooms of tea olives wafted through the air. Often described as the sweetest floral fragrance in the plant kingdom, tea olive is my favorite floral scent, even surpassing jasmine and gardenia. Sadly, tea olive does not grow in Philadelphia. I inhaled deeply in Savannah. Upon arriving in town, we grabbed lunch at the Firefly Café, a cute little cafe serving salads, sandwiches, and larger entrees with veggie and vegan options. Above is the Mediterranean tofu sandwich with eggplant, red onions, tomato, feta cheese, lettuce and kalamata olive, and a side of their pasta salad chock full of veggies. Simple, good, nothing earth shattering. Lunch.We just grabbed a drink at the cozy and beautiful Circa 1875 (has sort of a Southwark in Philly feel), but they do have food. Yep, I had a sweet tea vodka on the rocks!
Had sushi at Tantra Lounge, and it was a weird experience, I think due to the holidays, so we'll skip that.No trip to Savannah is complete until one visits the beautiful and restful Bonaventure Cemetery filled with stately oaks draped with Spanish moss (everything is draped in Spanish moss), so I drove the boy just outside the downtown area to the banks of the Wilmington River where Bonaventure started as a family cemetery on a plantation.My interest in Southern African American culture is also entertained at Bonaventure. If you poke around a bit you might find shiny or broken objects left on grave stones. The leaving of objects on grave stones is a tradition held over from the African Americans that came over from Africa as slaves, and can still be seen in cemeteries in the South. What do these offerings mean? It's unclear, but you can read more here.What you see above are called slave tiles, and were used to edge graves and gardens. While some of these tiles made in the 1700's and 1800's were made by slaves on plantations, most were probably made at brick companies. There are probably more slave tiles in and around Savannah than any other area, and they are plentiful at Bonaventure. It's illegal to take the tiles (that's stealing), and the selling of the tiles on the antique market is frowned upon, as any that surface are most certainly stolen.I said I wouldn't eat at Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady and Sons, not because I don't like the woman (her classic Southern recipes are dead on, y'all; and I can't stand all the bashing of her with "she's killing us with butter" stuff, which may be true, but you're not supposed to eat that stuff every day, plus what do you think the scallops you just ordered at that fancy French restaurant were cooked in?), but I don't like tourist traps with long lines. There are lots of meat-and-three's and buffets in the South, so there's no need to stand in line for country cooking.
I had heard Paula's new venture with her brother, Uncle Bubba's Oyster House, had good seafood, and since we were in the area (right before you get to Tybee Island) and I had a fish lover with me, we caved in to celebrity and went. Yes, you can see Uncle Bubba and Paula's husband at the restaurant, and occasionally Paula, but we only saw Uncle Bubba and Paula's husband. Some people were getting pictures with them, and they were genuinely pleased to pose and chat with people. I skipped that, since I don't know them from Jack. There ain't nothin' vegetarian on the menu except fried pickles and fried onion strings. And most of the fish is fried, which surprised the boy, but I had to tell him that at most seafood restaurants in the South that's what fish is -- fried! He got the fried scallops and fried fish, I got the fried pickles. We felt greasy and nasty afterward, but the food was decent. Go if you need a picture with Bubba or want to sit outside on a huge deck on the marsh, otherwise there are plenty of seafood places around.My Dad likes the divinity at Savannah Candy Kitchen; I like the the dark chocolate gophers (pecans covered in caramel and dark chocolate). I tried both, and I prefer my tastes to his. Go figure! I've also on occasion ordered their collasal apples and had them shipped to me.For New Year's Eve my friend wanted to try Cha Bella, an Italian restaurant downtown. The menu looked good, but unfortunately was a prix fixe for that evening. It did, however, let us opt out of the 3 or 5 course dinner and let us order à la cart. I ordered a salad and a flatbread. The flat bread was the largest flatbread I've ever seen; it was larger than some small pizzas I've ordered (and they expected me to eat four more courses?). Not great though, as it was heavy with sauce and so many toppings the bread bowed under their weight. Chalk that night up to New Year's Eve crappiness, maybe?River Street on the banks of the Savannah River is a total tourist hell hole with bars you'd never want to go in and shops selling trinkets you don't need, but go there at least once (walk up the stairs to Factor's Walk and it's not a hell hole). We spent New Year's Eve on River Street waiting for midnight to roll around and fireworks over the river. In case you didn't know, you can walk around Savannah's historic district any time of day with alcohol in plastic cups (one cup of no more than 16 ounces) 365 days a year and not get arrested. That means you can order drinks to go. Alcoholics, pack your bags!Ouch! It's hard to find food on New Year's Day. Typical Mexican American at Juarez Mexican Restaurant, but maybe a little better, as they have whole black beans and more quesadillas varieties than just cheese. I cleaned my plate of rice, bean burrito, and cheese enchilada in a jiffy, I was so hungry.One of our favorite things to do is drive over the Savannah River into South Carolina and go on a gator safari through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, a large plot of land previously used to grow rice that is now inhabited by all sorts of creatures. Typically, there are gators everywhere, but it was cold (in the 50's!), so all the gators, except for this guy, were hunkered down out of site.
And then we were off to Asheville, NC!