Two nights in Savannah would give you time to see it, but three nights allows you to better savor it in all its verdant mystery. We chose to go at escargot pace and loved every minute of it!
I went back and forth about where to stay in Savannah. You have the town with its leafy squares and you have the river. We chose the river and booked at The Bohemian. And it was. Bohemian, that is. I have never stayed in a hotel with a quilted red velvet headboard or faux fur throw or crustacean-decorated chandelier. Which is to say, I suppose, that I have never stayed in a place that seemed quite so much like a brothel.
We were of two minds about our hotel stay. Admitted hotel snobs that we are, we found our surroundings a bit peculiar. Yet, the riverside location of The Bohemian has a lot going for it. We checked in, arched our eyebrows at the decor, and headed over to the breezy, busy Vics on the River for dinner with great views, good service and their contemporary interpretation of low-country cooking..
First order of the day was to explore the town and collect a few squares. We strolled up Bull Street and picked off Wright, Chippewa and Madison squares en route to one of Savannah’s most revered tourist traditions. Lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room is a rite of passage for Savannah visitors, and waiting in line is part of the experience. We thought that by arriving at 10:30 am ahead of Mrs. Wilkes’ 11 am opening that we would be ahead of the crowd. Wrong. We were right around fortieth in line and had the unlucky cut-off spot for the first seating. We stood in line for nearly ninety minutes, but enjoyed getting to know our fellow would-be diners.
The original Mrs. Wilkes has gone on to her reward, but her granddaughter continues to oversee what used to be a boardinghouse dining room. The food is served family-style at tables for ten. We counted twenty-three different dishes on the table when we were seated. The piece de resistance, fried chicken, is presented after guests have had a chance to fill their plates with mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, okra, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, meat loaf and a host of other low-country specialities. Plastic pitchers of sweet tea are placed at the table; you will have to wait a bit if you’re a Yankee who prefers your tea unsweetened. A word to the wise: pace yourself and save room for dessert; our choices were berry cobbler or banana pudding.
We needed a walk after lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ so we picked off a few more squares. Fans of Southern Gothic literature should note that Flannery O’Connor’s birthplace is on Charlton Street near Lafayette Square.
It probably would have been better to pass on dinner after lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ but we had reservations that evening at another of Savannah’s famed establishments: The Olde Pink House.
Built in 1789, the Olde Pink House is both a fine dining establishment and a history lesson. Our server tantalized us with arcane tidbits about the house while she steered us toward an award-winning first course: Fried Green Tomato Salad.
We learned that the house was originally painted white but that the pink in the bricks used to build it eventually bled through to give it its rosy hue of today. A Savannahian we met during our visit told us that some years back a wealthy young transplant to the city demanded that her father purchase the home for her to live in and that when he failed in that attempt, he built her a similar home a few blocks away. I don’t know if the story is true, but it sounds like something that would happen in Savannah, where the buildings that escaped Sherman’s March to the Sea are cherished as crown jewels of the South.
Some people follow up dinner at Olde Pink House with a a digestif at the popular Planters Tavern in the building’s cellar. We chose instead to take advantage of the fading light and visit a few more squares as we walked back to our hotel.
Next day, we headed uptown once again, curious to see Forsyth Park. Its thirty-acre swath gives it the appearance of being one of Savannah’s squares on steroids. Named for Georgia governor John Forsyth, who donated twenty of the park’s acres. the park features a Confederate War Memorial and a fountain modeled after one at the Place de Concorde in Paris, France.
We had lunch near the park at 700 Drayton in the Mansion at Forsyth Park, which is a sister hotel to The Bohemian. It features a similarly bold decor.
After lunch, we paid a visit to one of Savannah’s finest sights: the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The interior of this church is stunningly beautiful!
The CE had his heart set on a river cruise, so once again we headed back to the riverfront and boarded the Georgia Queen for a leisurely look back at River Street from the water.
After the boat cruise we somehow found ourselves in one of the many candy shops that dot the riverfront. It was, of course, the one where they were handing out free samples of freshly-made pralines. It would have been impolite to resist, right?
Then it was back to the hotel, briefly. No sooner had we settled back into our room (still giving that chandelier the side-eye) than the fire alarm went off. “This is not a drill. Leave the building immediately. This is not a drill”. So we did. We walked across the street to Moon River Brewing Company and sipped a beverage while we watched the fire trucks and emergency vehicles arrive at The Bohemian. The all-clear was sounded half an hour later and we returned to find our room – and that scary chandelier – intact.
Our time in Savannah was coming to a close, so off we went to search out a few more squares. As we walked through Savannah’s City Market area, we discovered A.T. Hun Gallery’s homage to The Dude. If the price point had been a bit lower, several friends and family members (you know who you are!) would have received this as a souvenir:
After dinner at Circa 1875, the CE announced that he had saved up a surprise. As we stood at Reynolds Square and the dusk turned to dark, a carriage pulled by a handsome white Percheron named Pepper pulled up, and off we went for an evening tour around the city squares. What a lovely way to say farewell to Savannah!