As soon as we knew we were moving to New England last fall we started planning a late winter getaway. With months of cold and snowy weather ahead of us, we knew by March we would have cabin fever and need some warmth and sunshine. So we decided to go to Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina. A little southern charm, and little beach; what could be better?
Of course we had no idea that this would be one of the craziest winters ever on the east coast. While the locals up here complained about the dearth of snow and the lousy skiing, down around Washington D.C. and Virginia they were digging out from major storms that left record amounts of snow on the ground. The whole southeast had an unusually cold winter. So, we left sunny snowless fifty degree weather in New Hampshire and flew into rainy chilly fifty degree weather in Savannah. Wait a minute!
Savannah was as pretty as every picture I’ve ever seen of the place but it was barely spring there and hardly any flowers were blooming. But still, all the historic houses, the beautiful little squares, the riverfront, the fresh pralines from a local candy store….we were not at all disappointed. We stayed in the Dresser-Palmer bed and breakfast, a beautiful old house close to Forsyth Park. For dinner that night we went to a restaurant right around the corner, 700 Drayton. We began the trend for the week, which involved many, many meals of southern-related food, all very good and very filling.
Our first full day in Savannah, a Thursday, dawned rainy and cold. Not to be deterred, we grabbed a couple of umbrellas and headed out for our first house tour, the Owens Taylor house on Lafayette Square. There are lots and lots of very beautiful, historic houses in Savannah. Most of them date from around the early 1800’s. It’s hard to believe now that most of them were in severe disrepair until a group of ladies decided they should be restored and preserved back in the 1950’s. I had a recurring thought throughout most of our time in Savannah. What makes an old object valuable? When and what decides that something should be preserved? A couple of weeks ago when we spent a weekend in New York City we visited MOMA. There was an architectural exhibit there that included items from the 50’s and 60’s that Lee and I could both remember seeing in people’s houses back then. When did this stuff become something to put in a museum? It’s a puzzling and confusing thought to which I currently have no answer.
After the house tour we walked to an antique shop at 37th Street and Abercorn. It was farther than we thought and along the way it started raining harder. The antique store had cufflink bracelets like the one I have. We asked the shop-owner about them and she said that it was one of those ideas that get passed from one artist to another. Shucks, I thought mine was unique! Nowadays when I go to an antique store in the US I’m always looking for stuff from Asia. I like to smirk at the outrageous prices for things that could be gotten for a song in the markets of Hong Kong. I guess its just another example of things acquiring value just because they are not common to the area where they currently reside. After lunch at the adjoining French Cafe, we decided to walk back to the B&B. By now the rain is just pounding down so I’m not quite sure what possessed us to keep walking and not call a taxi. Sometimes I love walking in the rain, although living in Hong Kong has diluted some of the romance involved. But this was a cold, hard downpour, and we got soaked. My linen trousers, perfect for sunny southern days, were wet to the knees, but since they were my Outfit For The Day, I wasn’t about to change into something else and mess up my efficient packing plan. So instead I propped my feet up on a chair in front of the gas fire in the parlor of the B&B and dried myself out that way.
For dinner we went to a Savannah institution, The Olde Pink House. We ordered a bunch of appetizers, trying not to overeat, but we ordered a lot of appetizers so we weren’t very successful in that regard. Everything was good, but the southern-style shrimp sushi was amazing. Too bad we weren’t hungrier. I’m afraid we were starting to feel like a couple of stuffed pigs.
Friday dawned to nicer weather, no rain but still chilly. We toured the Juliette Lowe house (the founder of the Girl Scouts) and had, a really good docent that made the tour lively and interesting. Then for lunch we went to a place called Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House. This was more than just a Savannah institution – it’s listed in the book 1000 Things to Do Before You Die – and the long, long line to get in was a testament to its popularity. The amazing southern style fried chicken and seventeen accompanying side dishes included biscuits, okra, black-eye peas, gravy, three kinds of potatoes, turnips, beets, endless glasses of sweet tea, and dessert.
We waddle slowly back to the B&B where we discover that they have an electrical problem. At first they move us to another room. But then the entire house has to be shut down. They help us move to a different B&B and refund our two nights stay. I feel very sorry for them since next this weekend begins a big St. Patrick’s Day celebration in Savannah and they are going to be out a lot of money, but I’m also excited about two free nights lodging. With using miles for our airline tickets this is turning into a pretty inexpensive vacation, even with our voracious calorie consumption.
2nd B&B and Lee
Our next B&B is the Hamilton House. Right across the street is the Flannery O’Conner House, where she spent the first thirteen years of her life. Since she is one of my favorite authors we go straight over and even though they are supposed to be closing the very kind docent recognizes a fellow O’Conner enthusiast when he sees one and gives us a great little tour. The house is nothing special, but the stories are great, including ones about O’Conner’s sharp tongue and love of chickens.
We stick to salads for dinner. We aren’t hungry at all, but need to have something in our stomachs for the next activity, a Haunted Bar Tour. This is something completely out of character for us. We don’t go to bars, haunted or otherwise, and we don’t normally stay up late, but this sounded like lots of fun and it was. I drink margaritas as we go from one bar to another listening to stories about all the ghostly things that have happened in Savannah’s bars. I don’t believe in ghosts but the drinks are good, it’s not raining and we manage to stay up after midnight.
On Saturday we head to Hilton Head Island. First we take a short detour to see the lighthouse on Tybee Island. We climb the stairs and take in the view. We decide on barbeque for lunch and end up having one of those foodie experiences that make life worthwhile. Lee finds a highly recommended place called Wiley’s Barbeque on the road out of Tybee. It’s crowded and the only seats available are at the counter, which we don’t mind at all, especially when we discover that we are sitting right next to Wiley himself. He says he cooks KC style barbeque and we order a sampler platter to share. Then he lets us have a sample of his special secret sauce with some pulled pork – this is true South Carolina barbeque, vinegary, sweet and spicy at the same time. It’s just amazing…the whole experience reminds me of sitting at the chef’s table at Bo Innovations and getting to share some of Alvin’s private stash of Laphroag !
From there we head to Hilton Head, which is beautiful, in a resorty sort of way. The Marriot is nice but our room seems plain after the ornate B&B’s of Savannah. We have an AWESOME ocean view though. We have dinner at a local place recommended by the concierge. Its fine, but I can’t remember the name, and I’m temporarily sick of eating rich restaurant meals. It’s like a vacation we took to New Orleans many years ago where I was so frantic to try the food that I completely overdid it. I feel like I am permanently overstuffed.
Sunset at Hilton Head
The remainder of this vacation involves running and biking on the endless beach, watching the sunset over the ocean, an afternoon massage, and general laziness. If there had been more sunshine and more warmth it would have been perfect. We did enjoy one final amazing meal at a restaurant called CQ’s which I highly recommend. It was one of the best meals of the trip, and considering how much we ate on this vacation, that’s saying a lot.