Archive for May, 2008

Savannah ’08: Going Home Day

This morning marked just about the only piece of unpleasantness about our whole trip. With plans to do virtually all of our packing before we left and then check out by 11am, we had an 8am wake-up call. Wake-up calls hadn’t been a problem for the whole trip and, in fact, had been very prompt. This morning we woke up, on our own, at 9:41am. No wake up call. WTF!?!? Joe called down to Guest Services and the girl he spoke to said she DID call us at 8am but no one picked up the phone and she had made a notation as such. Joe reiterated this to me, which I replied, “Bullshit.” The phone in the room was LOUD and although Joe has been known to sleep through an alarm on occasion, I’m not EVER one to sleep through an alarm or phone ringing. So the girl messed up somehow…either dialed the wrong room or didn’t call at all…but even if she DID call like she said and no one picked up the phone, wouldn’t it make sense to call again at, say, 8:15am? Dumbass. Now, don’t get me wrong…this didn’t ruin our vacation at all and, of course, if we had solid plans (like if we needed to catch a plane at a certain time), we would never, ever “just” trust a wake-up call and would have set our own alarm as well, like we always do. But it was still annoying that we had to rush. Joe did tell her that because we were up an hour and a half later than we thought, that we might wind up checking out later. She asked, “How much later?” so Joe replied, “I don’t know. Probably up to an hour and a half.” DUH. She said she would tell her manager about the possibility but as it turned out, we managed to check out a few minutes before 11am anyway.

We had breakfast/Sunday Brunch at a cute little restaurant called Firefly Cafe (it was another one from Trip Advisor. As it turned out, we ate at 4 of their Top 7 places in Savannah).

(Joe sitting outside Firefly Cafe)

Joe had the Bay Street Hash and I had the Savannah Eggs Benedict with a side of hash browns. Both of our meals were terrific!

After brunch, we went back to the Savannah Visitor’s Center to buy a door hanging/planter I had seen the other day (didn’t want to carry it with us all day on Friday).

(Savannah Visitor’s Center. It used to be a train station.)

The lady at the ticket window for the museum said “Welcome back” and the guy at the gift shop remembered me as well (swear to god, it’s a curse. I can NEVER go somewhere unnoticed, hehehe). After a quick pee for the road, we were officially on our way by 12:45pm.

The trip was uneventful. We made a few quick stops, including the Florida Welcome Center…

(In my 3 trips of riding I-95 south towards Orlando, I had never stopped at the Florida Welcome Center)

…and the Stuckey’s near St. Augustine (I was happy to see that we passed 3 or 4 Stuckey’s on the trip. I don’t care how ugly and outdated Stuckey’s are…they’re kitchy and I’ve always loved ’em! They’re back up to 200 stores now).

(I’m stuck on Stuckey’s!)

We finally got to J&A’s house at 6:30 or so, picked up Pippi and drove home, tired but happy.

Overall, I think Savannah is a beautiful little city, with lots of history. The people are polite as can be and I love the architecture and the old trees with the Spanish moss hanging from them are just a sight to behold. Do I think we’ll be going back on vacation there in the near future? Probably not. Granted, it’s lovely but we’ve both been there now and it’s sort of “done”, with little that we would really want to see a second time. However if and when we plan other car trips that would requiring driving through or even near Savannah, I’m sure we’ll make it our business to stop by our favorite places, like Mrs. Wilkes and the Old Pink House. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a trip to remember!


Savannah ’08: Big Ol’ Opulent Houses, Ice Cream, Shopping, Food, Dessert

What a lovely, relaxing day we had today! Now THIS is a vacation day!

We woke up around 10am and took our time getting ready…didn’t even leave the room until 12:30ish. Joe found out about a natural/organic coffee shop, The Sentient Bean, that was a 5-minute walk from our hotel so we went there for coffee and a small snack (me: bran banana currant muffin, him: chocolate croissant).

It was another “walking day”, so we first hoofed it over to the Owens-Thomas House to see a tour of the inside of the home. Our tour guide, Chris, was very knowledgeable and you could easily see that the original owners were VERY wealthy.

(ABOVE: Owens-Thomas House from street view. BELOW: Us in the garden of the Owens-Thomas House)

After the tour, we decided to stop off at Leopold’s Ice Cream, which was a staple of Savannah life from 1919 to 1970 and now reopened in 2004 (the current owner, movie producer Stratton Leopold, is the son of one of the original owners).

It’s built to look like a mid-1930’s ice cream shop, with a mix of authentic and period equipment intermixed with things invented by the “movie magic” talents of Stratton’s movie co-workers. I got 1 scoop each of Chocolate Chewies ‘N Cream and Girl Scout Thin Mints ‘N Cream, while Joe had 2 scoops of Caramel Swirl and it was AWESOME!

Our next stop was the Davenport House, which was another big ol’ opulent house. The house was lovely on the outside. On the inside, not so much. They didn’t have a lot of original pieces of wallpaper or rug patterns to work from so they just used what was popular at the time. As for the results, well, Joe repeated something he read on the ‘net and it really said it best…bad taste is timeless (grin). Sorry we don’t have pictures of the atrociousness…we weren’t allowed to take any photos while inside this or the Owens-Thomas House. Our tour guide for this house was a very young (late teens, tops) girl who tried very hard and was very polite but still needed some work before she could be considered a “good” tour guide. Hopefully she’ll become a bit more comfortable with the role as she does it more.

(ABOVE: Front of Davenport House. BELOW: Back of house, as viewed from its garden)

We went back to River Street after the Davenport House Museum. We still needed to buy crap at the crap shops, plus they were having an art show (think “Festival of the Masters” or “Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival”, but on a smaller scale) and Joe was interested in trying to find some artwork for his bathroom. No luck in that, but we managed to buy the crap we wanted to get.

By this point (6pm or so), we were both getting really tired of walking and decided to find someplace to eat. Joe had discovered Bistro Savannah online and saw it had gotten a lot of good reviews, so we agreed to go there and look at the menu. If the menu looked good, we’d try for seating. Without a reservation on a Saturday night, we figured if they couldn’t seat us, we’d try somewhere else (Joe, ever the planner, had 1 or 2 other places up his sleeve as backups). As it turned out, the menu looked great, it looked like the kind of place we would visit (Joe’s observation: all of the patrons “sort of looked and dressed like us”) and they had a table available for us so that’s where we ate. This was another natural/organic type of restaurant and the food was just terrific. We started with an appetizer of baked pita chips with 3 dips (goat cheese, hummus and an olive-based), then I had the lamb loin (SO tender!) with Swiss chard, while Joe had halibut with wild mushrooms. We shared a side dish of risotto to round the meal out. YUM! Definitely a place I would visit again.

Bistro Savannah

Us outside the restaurant

Their dessert menu sounded good but we decided to skip dessert in favor of continuing on our walk and getting dessert later on, perhaps at the Olde Pink House. We walked into a few shops on Market Street, went past Paula Deen’s place (sorry Rob & Scott…the boys weren’t there for us to take home to y’all) and, when we saw the faded Pepto Bismol pink hue of the Olde Pink House, we went down to the lounge bar.

The piano player was the same guy that had been there on Thursday night and he remembered us (Well, me. When you’re 4’7″, you’re memorable). We got our drinks and eventually got some seats near the piano player so we could hear him play and, more importantly, talk. Turned out he’s had QUITE the life…he worked with Liberace in Vegas in 1972 and 1973, played at Jim Williams’ parties (not in the “main room”, but, as he put it, “on the other floor, where the REAL party was happening”), his 86y/o mother lives with him and his live-in maid (who had been working for him for 14 years), he plans to build a 6,000 square foot replica of Rudolph Valentino’s house .. his family has owned for 125 years, he was half Italian and half Irish (I didn’t even smile when he said this. Well, not on the outside) and his Italian aunt and uncle were in “the family”. Which meant this guy was actually in TWO families (grin).

We eventually bought and split a slice of their signature 3-layer chocolate cake, since we loved it so much on Thursday. And when we were done, we just sat and enjoyed the moment, thinking about our vacation, with the fireplace burning and the piano playing. It was great.

We decided we needed to get back to the hotel and start to get ready to leave tomorrow. The walk home was quiet, save for whenever we (quietly) made fun of the passing ghost tours (“watch out for the orbs!”). Tomorrow we need to wake up relatively early, finish packing and make a handful of stops before we get back on the road. Can’t believe our mini-vacation is almost finished already!

Savannah ’08: The Wilkes House, Visitors’ Center and Museum, Walking & Ghost Tours

We were up by 8am and out the door a few minutes before 9:30. Mrs. Wilkes’ was just a short walk from our hotel so we enjoyed the Savannah morning while strolling to brunch.

The Wilkes House opened as a boarding house in 1943 and moved to is current location in 1965. Although Mrs. Wilkes passed away in 2002, her family continues serving people traditional southern homestyle food, family style, from 11am to 2pm. They take no reservations; you must stand on line, which is why we got there at 10am for an 11am opening (and were still about 20th on line). By the time 11am came around, the line was LONG. By the time we left, the line was REALLY long.

But it was SO worth the wait…they served fried chicken, beef stew, corn casserole, beans, okra salad, black eyed peas, macaroni & cheese, macaroni salad, sweet potato casserole, cornbread, biscuits and gravy, white rice and gravy, snap peas, squash casserole, some sort of noodle dish, sweet tea and that’s just what Joe and I can REMEMBER. And it was all SO good!

There was one older gentleman a few people in front of us who said he had been going there to eat for 34 years and in 34 years, nothing had changed. Well, except that they used to serve Flounder on Friday but didn’t anymore because flounder got too expensive. But otherwise it had been exactly the same for 34 years.

We rolled out of Mrs. Wilkes’ and walked a few blocks to the Savannah Visitors’ Center and Museum. We saw a brief history of the early history of the city at the museum, followed by exploration of exhibits of transportation, farming, education, involvement in wars and the arts (which included one each of Johnny Mercer’s Grammy and Oscar awards, as well as the bench that Tom Hanks sat on in “Forrest Gump”).

(the bench was a studio-made prop and was placed at the north end of Chippewa Square for the movie)

Before we left the museum, we bought a walking tour and started following the route.

We spent about 2 hours following the map and directions, seeing and learning more about the big ol’ opulent buildings

We eventually got a little bored with the walking tour so we stopped off at the Sorrel Weed Mansion to get a tour of the INSIDE of one of those places. The tour was fun and rather interesting, especially because the restoration is something of a “work in progress”.

One guy on the tour, though…what a PITA he was. He was apparently a Civil War buff and he challenged the tour guide (obviously just a college kid) on several little petty things that no one but him would care about (“his name wasn’t “Smith Jones,” it was “Jones Smith.” Shit like that.). But I guess it made him feel superior. Pity it just made him look like a pompous ass. Gee, who does THAT remind you of? $2 says he was a Lt. Colonel at some point in his life.

After all this walking, we were starting to get a little thirsty. Kathy & Geremy had recommended a pub to visit if we felt the need, so we stopped off for a pint.

We next stopped off at Temple Mickve Israel, which is the only Gothic style synagogue on the U.S. We took the tour, which lasted about a half-hour, along with 4 other people who were obviously much more impressed with the whole “Jewish thing” than we (a non-practicing Jew and a non-practicing Catholic who married a NPJ) were (I don’t care about the religious aspect of the whole thing…I just love cathedrals, period). But we still enjoyed learning about the congregation, its history, choir, stained glass windows, etc. As Joe said, “I had never seen a synagogue that looked like a church”.

(Above: outside. Below: inside)

(Live long and prosper?!?!?!)

We left the synagogue around 4pm and walked back to the hotel. I wound up napping for a half-hour or so, while joe looked on the ‘net for places to eat. Once I woke up, we went to a coffee and sandwich place one of the bellmen recommended, called Gallery Espresso Cafe. I got a BLT on whole wheat while Joe got a chicken salad sandwich and we shared a slice of peanut butter pie for dessert. After stuffing ourselves at Mrs. Wilkes earlier in the day, it was just enough.

We walked back to the hotel and hung out in the lounge until our trolley from Old Savannah Tour’s Ghost Tour picked us up at 8:15pm. We them picked up some more people at other local hotels, then started the tour, which lasted from 9pm to 11pm. Our tour guide, Omer, showed us several “haunted places” while telling us the background stories of each. We were able to get off the trolley at one point to take pictures of “one of the most haunted buildings in Savannah”…where you can take pictures and “orbs” mysteriously show up on your picture (before the boarded up the windows, flash pictures would reveal how a “man” would show up in the upper right hand window”). What’s more, if you zoomed in on the orb, they would often take the form of a human face. Amazing and incredible, huh?

Or more a bunch of bullshit, if you ask me…orbs are nothing more than dust and atmospheric crap caught up in the light of the flash. As for the “human face”…humans are programmed to see “faces” in things…look at a cloud or the moon long enough and you’ll see a face in it…ESPECIALLY if someone has just placed the thought in your head that you’re going to see a “human face” in whatever you’re looking at. We also stopped at The Pirates House, a local restaurant, because their basement is supposedly very haunted.

Welp, we all went down there but nothing supernatural happened, saved for photographing more orbs (orbs in 250+/- year old dusty basement. Who’dve thunk?)

(Above: glass pane on the way down to the basement. Could that be the profile of a woman’s face?!?!?!?!? Below: Orem and another person on the tour, surrounded by “orbs”)

Now don’t get me wrong…I don’t watch Ghost Hunters on TV because I don’t like the idea of unexplainable spirits from the Great Beyond. And I certainly won’t want to ever MEET a ghost or spirit. But ghost stories and orbs? Puh-leez.

Omer dropped up off first and we got settled for the evening. Tomorrow is our last full day and we plan to take it easy…no wake-up call and no set plans yet.

More when I can…

Savannah ’08: Spa, Tea, Riverwalk, nap, Olde Pink House

The day started with a 7:30am wake up call…why are we always more willing to wake up early when we’re on vacation? After quick showers and getting ready for the day, we drove the mile downtown to get to our 10am Spa reservations. We purposely left early so we’d have time to stop off for coffee. Good thing we did because parking was a BITCH to find. The first 2 garages we hit were already full but we finally found one a little further away, on MLK Blvd., that had some open spots.

After walking the 3 or 4 blocks towards the spa, with 5 minutes to spare we stopped off at Panera for coffee (for those of you who have followed our exploits on past vacations, no, we didn’t stop at the Starbuck’s that was next-door to the spa. Starbuck’s coffee is good for when you’re overseas or in unfamiliar territory and don’t know what the local coffee could be like…too dark like espresso? Or flavorless colored water? You just don’t know. At least with Starbuck’s you know what you’re going to get. But given a choice of Panera or Starbuck’s, right across the street from each other, Panera will ALWAYS win out, hands down).

With our coffee gulped down, we went to Vanilla Day Spa to start our day. Joe had a 60 minute facial scheduled, followed by a 90-minute massage, while I indulged in a 60 minute facial, 60 minute body scrub/exfoliation and 30 min head/neck/shoulders massage. We agreed it was wonderful although it sounds, from his description, that the girl who did Joe’s massage was really, REALLY good. Funny story though…I’ve had multiple massages and facials in my day but have never gone for the body scrub…so I didn’t really know what to expect. The woman who was scheduled to do my scrub was giving me directions (I’ll be out of the room – do this, do that, take your clothes off, lay under the towel on your back, with your feet facing in this direction and with THIS sheet covering your boobs – I’ll be back in 5 minutes) when she handed me this plastic-wrapped package (dime shown for size reference):

And before she explained what it was, my first thought was, “This is a little big to be a rubber, and why the hell is she giving me one of those, anyway?!?!?!” The next moment she explained that it was disposable panties which, yes, would make sense. So she tells me to put them on. OK fine…have YOU ever seen one of these thing outside of the package? I hadn’t.

(I promise this are a new, clean pair. I asked for a new set specifically for amusing picture-taking opportunities)

And it’s not like I’m a thong sort of gal (yeah, I know y’all needed to know that) so I’m not quite sure HOW they’re supposed to go on. So I try one way and no, they don’t feel right AT ALL. So I put them on the other way and they’re still not COMFORTABLE but they’re definitely better than the first way I put them on.

(Above and below: Yes? No? Right way? Wrong way?)

And the only thing I could think of was Kurt’s Graves saying, “I’m wearing a thong! (pause) Backwards!” Hopefully no one was listening at the door or they’d hear me laughing to myself at the thought.

So anyway, the spa was a successful plan and very relaxing, overall. But the disposable panties, not so much.

Joe noticed a tea house, The Savannah Tea Room, a few doors down from the spa so we agreed to go there for lunch.

Our server was a very cute lady who I would bet anything was from Japan (no, I didn’t ask. But I was THIS close). They didn’t serve High Tea until 2:30pm and it was only 1, so we had lunch instead of traditional Tea. That was fine though…Joe got a shrimp caesar salad while I got a delicious cheddar turkey quiche. Both meals came with a side salad, a scone, a biscotti that tasted like shortbread, apple and orange slices, a small piece of cake (which, sorry, although good, tasted like it came from Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mix) and, of course, a small pot of tea (me: Savannah Breakfast, Joe: Green Earl Grey). It was a nice, refreshing atmosphere, although a little more contemporary than, say, the Grand Floridian Tea. The food, tea and service were good though and we definitely enjoyed ourselves.

After Tea, we walked the block or two to the Savannah Riverwalk, which looked like a bunch of 18th  19th century buildings (warehouses and factories?), parts of which had been converted to restaurants, bars, candy stores, crap shops and touristy trolley stop-offs.

We walked up and down the strip for an hour or two but didn’t find a whole lot that piqued our interest.

We were getting sleepy by 3:30ish so we walked back to the car and, after buying gas at the teeniest tiniest BP station we’ve ever seen (had to leave the gas station property to turn around), we drove back to the hotel and took a delicious 90-minute nap.

We woke up at 6-6:30 and, after doing some research, decided to get dinner at a restaurant called The Olde Pink House. Here is the description of the place in Fodor’s: “This pink-brick Georgian mansion was built in 1771 for James Habersham, one of the wealthiest Americans of his time, and the old-time atmosphere comes through in the original Georgia pine floors of the tavern, the Venetian chandeliers, and the 18th-century English antiques.” Any 18th-century building piques my interest. The fact that it was rated the 2 restaurant in Savannah (just behind Mrs. Wilkes, which we’re visiting tomorrow) on helped even more.

The building was adorable and really, REALLY old. The service was terrific. And the food was just AMAZING! Joe had the calamari appetizer, which was fried in cornmeal and dusted in powdered sugar, while I had a salad with a sweet & sours dressing which was to die for. For a main course Joe had the flounder, one side flash fried and the other side left to sit in the base sauce for extra flavor, with a side of hoppin’ john (black eyed peas, wild rice and collard greens), while I had the crispy duck with crepes of seasonal vegetables and fruit in a vinegar-based sauce. We shared a triple chocolate cake for dessert that we both thought was AEWSOME. The whole meal was just WOW and honestly, any other restaurant is going to be hard-pressed to impress us more!

With our bellies full, we drove home and finished out evening. Tomorrow we’re planning Mrs. Wilkes for brunch, a Ghost Tour scheduled at 9pm and in between we’re probably going to do a walking tour to oogle at the big ol’ opulent houses of Savannah. Until next time…