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Sweet Savannah Calls My Name

Author: Peggi Stingle
Date of Trip: October 2010

Sweet Savannah calls my name…

I knew when we drove out of town and I heard “Honey, I could see myself living here” that he was smitten. Southern charm and hospitality hadn’t been lost on my Utah born and raised husband.

Savannah, Georgia. He loved everything about it. Everything, from cooking school — yes, I said cooking school — to drinking whiskey with tourists and locals elbow to elbow at Kevin Barry’s Irish Pub on River Street. That’s THE Kevin Barry, who brought Irish entertainers to Savannah. Quite a character according to the staff.

In fact, Savannah has a rich history of characters, from James Oglethorpe, the brainchild of a city built around “green” squares, to Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America, to Jim Williams and Mercer House of the famed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, to the smiling local writer we met in City Market — the infamous airline highjacker, Reds Helmey. If you haven’t read his book The Lemon Dance, you need to!

We knew as soon as we arrived at Kessler’s Bohemian Hotel that we were in for a treat. This newly built, contemporary 75 room luxury hotel fits right into the historic 18th century tree-lined cobblestone streets along the Savannah River. The hotel is filled with original works of art by world renowned artists. Our room was to die for, with a balcony view of the river and luxury in everything from the custom made furnishings of the woods and leathers to the scrumptious robes and slippers that hung in our closet.

Rocks on the Roof Lounge, the hottest hot-spot in town has a breathtaking rooftop view of the Savannah River and the Historic District. Enjoy live entertainment, a small plate “tapas” style menu and an extensive cocktail list. I tasted my first blackberry mohito there. Their Rocks on the River restaurant serves traditional American food with an upscale Southern twist. The attention to detail and the quality of the food are mere backdrops to the impeccable service. Everywhere you turn at the Bohemian someone is greeting you with a smile.

Our first day began with a tour of the Mansion on Forsyth Park, a cooking lesson and lunch with Chef Daren Sehnert, director of the renowned 700 Drayton Kitchen Cooking School and a massage at the Poseidon Spa. Both are located on site at The Mansion, sister hotel of the Bohemian.

The Mansion is an 18,000 square-foot Victorian home that has been restored to its original glory. Inside you will discover an onyx marble lobby, dazzling shape-themed chandeliers on each floor, a Century of Hats display, over 400 original works of art, 3 rare Bosendorfer grand pianos.

Don’t miss 700 Drayton, whose menu offers the freshest local seafood and regionally inspired dishes, nor Casimir’s Lounge or Bosendorfer Lounge where you can enjoy local musicians and the view of Forsythe Park, located just across the street. Forsyth Park, with its centuries old live oak, moss-laced trees, walking paths, monuments and Forsyth Park Fountain, a spectacular two-tiered cast iron fountain is a wonder to see.

The evening ended with a specially prepared dinner at 700 Drayton, the 28th annual Savannah Jazz Festival under the stars in Forsyth Park and nightcaps at Casimir’s.

On Friday, we struck out to discover the city for ourselves. A trip down River Street and further found us sampling Olympia Cafe, a popular Greek restaurant, River Street Sweets, a family owned candy store that prides itself on supreme handmade Southern candies and confections, fresh shrimp steamed to perfection and dipped in butter at The Shrimp Factory, scotch eggs at Six Pence Pub, the first sushi my husband has ever liked at Sakura Japanese Restaurant, international ships, paddle boats and tugboats sharing the river way, street musicians belting on the saxophone and smiling people everywhere.

I’m usually not a big fan of planned “tours” but I must recommend the Old Savannah Tours historic trolley tour. We quickly learned that shipping is Savannah’s largest industry, tourism 2nd. That Savannah is Georgia’s first city, built on a grid with 24 “squares” that are still used today as an extension of peoples homes where neighbors meet, talk, read the paper with their morning coffee, play with their kids, take a break from the heat, share a cocktail and enjoy the view of the graceful historic homes that surround them. That River Street is paved with ballast stone from the bottom of centuries old ships voyaging to Savannah to transport New World goods back to Europe. That Savannah is America’s most haunted city. That Savannah has the second largest St Patrick’s Day celebration in the U.S. That movie studios love Savannah – Forrest Gump sat on his bench in front of Chippewa Square,

Savannah is home to one of the nations’ largest Landmark Historic Districts. With 14 stops you can easily get on and off to enjoy the parks and squares, the museums, the churches, the boutiques, restaurants and historic homes. SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design has been instrumental in restoring buildings and homes that were once in ruins throughout the Historic District.

Before leaving town, escape to Tybee Island, just 20 minutes from downtown. This laid back beachfront community is known for great seafood and plenty of public access to the beach, the Atlantic Ocean and the incredible views. Tybee Island, Savannah’s beach is the perfect place to enjoy a sunny afternoon.

A short visit to City Market before leaving town kept us smiling through the rain at horse drawn carriages next to state of the art Vespa tours, an old fashioned ice cream store, a lively arts center and restaurants galore. Try a sandwich or salad at Cafe at The Market. We left town wanting to stay longer.

Savannah is known as the Hostess City of the South, and now I know why. I can’t wait to go back for more!

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