I admit the cliche—I’ve wanted to visit Savannah ever since seeing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in the mid-nineties.
My ever-susceptible-to-suggestion personality longed to wander New Orleans after reading Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles, and I made it to Cortona, Italy when Under the Tuscan Sun got into my soul.
Ah, the power that writers wield over us unsuspecting readers, drawing us in to try the new this and the new there.
Look for the rusty-red colored Cotton Exchange and the lion fountain in front of it. There is every shop imaginable located along this row from gelato to fine dining to t-shirts.
Along with New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, the Rivers Walk becomes a very touristy, congested area in the summer. As it was, we ate our only so-so meal at one of these restaurants and avoided dining there the rest of the week, opting for quieter choices. With places like Circa 1875, Corleone’s, Prohibition, and Chive to pick from, wander the upper streets of Savannah and opt for one of them instead, saving the River Walk for a pre-or-post dinner drink.
The beauty of our dinner on River Street was watching a cargo ship from Hong Kong stuffed stories high with containers make its way up the Savannah River. Alex had no sooner mused, “I wonder if the river is large enough for cargo ships,” than this one came into view. (I’ve long wondered why when I have said something like, “This setting is ideal for Sean Connery,” he has never appeared, so often do coincidences or serendipitous events happen in my life. Sigh.)
One note when you leave Bay Street to explore River Street, on either end of the park-like area are slopes to get you there. In between are any number of staircases. You’ll see multiple signs: “Historic Steps – use at own risk,” which translates to: these stairs are super steep, so be wary. We opted for each cobblestone ramp on various days, but they also present a unique challenge with uneven surfaces, so wear comfortable walking shoes. There is probably an elevator tucked somewhere in the Factors Walk buildings.
In the arbitrary way we often do things, we wandered around town one evening until we wound up at the Circa 1875 restaurant. No reservations, but the maitre de graciously fit us in at a perfect table. I was distracted throughout dinner by staring at the beautiful painting (the original is in The National Gallery in London) of Manon Balletti by Jean Marc Nattier sometime in the 1700s. She was captivating.
Given the size of Savannah at 147,000 people in roughly 109 square miles, it was nice to see many locally owned businesses mixed with national chains. As we’ve all seen, the larger the city, the more likely it is to lose its uniqueness. Not so with Savannah and it would seem the historical societies are largely accountable for this preservation. A chain reaction started when seven ladies got together to save the Owen-Thomas house from destruction and continued on from there.
Historic Savannah is an inviting place and one that invites you to return throughout the seasons to see what new foliage comes to life or goes to sleep, what new events are taking place, and what finery the homes will be adorned with. Southern hospitality truly exists in this—one of our nation’s oldest intact cities—so make sure to put it on your list.