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jent103 goes to Savannah: Quick trip report

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Mar 14th, 2011, 08:56 AM
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jent103 goes to Savannah: Quick trip report

I just got back last night from a three-day trip to Savannah with a couple of friends. I wanted to post this to help others planning trips, but also to say THANK YOU to the Fodorites who gave us suggestions! starrs was especially helpful. We were on somewhat of a budget, so this won't be a foodie report. (Well, none of mine ever are.) Just a heads up.

We left Nashville Wednesday night after work and stayed in Morrow, GA for the night (thanks to Littleman for the city suggestion, and starrs for the tip to eat at Truett's Grill for breakfast - waffles and a waitress at a Chick-Fil-A!). We got up early and made it to Savannah around noon. We parked at the hotel, grabbed a quick and tasty lunch at the Kayak Kafe on Broughton, and met Dirk of Savannah Rambles (savannahrambles.com) in Johnson Square for our "Savannah high points" walking tour.

We all enjoyed the tour - it was probably my favorite thing that we did. We were the only three on the tour that afternoon; I think his site says it's a two-hour tour, but he spent nearly three hours with us. Dirk does focus heavily on architecture (I believe he used to be an architect), telling the history of Savannah through the structures. There was a building or two where I think I could have moved on a little sooner than we did, but overall it was really interesting. And it was a great thing to do our first afternoon, because we learned about the carriage lanes and squares and Oglethorpe's vision for the city. The only other complaint we had was that one of my friends would have loved to hear more about the Civil War era. Otherwise, we'd all highly recommend it. It was $20/person.

After the tour, we checked into the Staybridge Suites on East Bay. This hotel was in a great location - we only used the car to get to Bonaventure Cemetery and Tybee Island, and walked everywhere else. The room was plenty big for the three of us, and having the fridge, microwave and coffeemaker was really helpful. We only had two complaints: the free wifi was really slow at times (not sure how typical that is), and we could hear everything going on at the bar across the street when we were trying to go to sleep. Our room was at the back of the hotel, so maybe the other rooms don't have that issue, but I was really glad I had earplugs!

Once we checked in, we walked to Crystal Beer Parlor for dinner. I had about four people recommend this place to me, on Fodor's and in real life , and it was a great choice. All our meals were tasty, and it felt like a very "local" sort of place - at least one person asked for a specific waitress while we were waiting on a table. One of my friends got a Moon River pale ale that she really liked (and tried in vain to find on draft everywhere else we ate!). Service was great.

More later!
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Mar 14th, 2011, 09:41 AM
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Hi jent, I'm looking forward to the rest of your TR. Savannah has been on my wish list for quite some time now, but I still haven't made it there yet.
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Mar 14th, 2011, 09:46 AM
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Same here...I've wanted to see Savannah for years.
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Mar 14th, 2011, 02:28 PM
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Thanks, y'all! Savannah has been on my list for years - I'm glad I finally made it!

Friday morning, the three of us split up to wander for awhile, then met in line at Mrs. Wilkes for an early lunch. I think my feelings on Mrs. Wilkes will be a little different than most that I've read here. We got there around 10:25 and waited in line 35-40 minutes, getting in at the first "seating." The family style dining was really fun (we made friends with a retired couple from Michigan in line and got to sit with them, two girls from California and a nice couple from somewhere I didn't catch). The food was mostly very similar to what my grandmas used to make, so if you want authentic Southern food, this is a good place for it! However, our dining experience felt REALLY rushed. The ~35 minutes in line was longer than it took us to actually eat. As soon as we sat down, a waitress came to ask if we wanted something other than the sweet tea already by our plates - but I was getting my bag/jacket settled, didn't hear her at first and she was gone in about two seconds. The food was in dishes on the table already, and we were told "y'all go ahead and eat; the food's already been blessed," so we did. They came back in about 20 minutes, passed the dessert tray and told us to take our dishes to the kitchen when we were done. We were all stuffed when we left, but agreed later that it wasn't that we ate a ton of food (we all had a plateful), but that we ate it so fast. I do understand that they've got a line of people out the door who want to eat, but I just felt like I couldn't enjoy it that much. BUT the food was definitely authentic and tasty, so the pace might be worth it for you especially if you're not from the South and want to experience the food.

After lunch, we wandered around City Market for a bit, then drove out to Bonaventure Cemetery. It is beautifully creepy - I would have no desire to be in there at night! It was neat to wander around - it's very different than most cemeteries I've visited. The grave markers were much more elaborate, with sculpture on a lot of the stones. We found the famous "Gracie" sculpture, looked around more, and headed back after an hour or so. The drive was interesting as well - as soon as we left the historic district, it felt like a completely different world. We passed what I assume were the housing projects Dirk had mentioned on either side of the historic district, then drove through Thunderbolt on our way.

On our way back, we drove around Forsyth Park, but couldn't find parking, so we headed back to the hotel for a bit before walking to The Cotton Exchange Tavern for dinner. We had seen this place walking along River Street earlier in the day, and decided to try it even though it wasn't on any of my recommendation lists! It was very good, we all thought - I had fried shrimp, one friend had the stuffed flounder and the other had the pork chops, and we were all very happy campers.

We had booked tickets for the 9:00 "City of the Dead" tour with Blue Orbs Ghost Tour. (Anyone who saw my earlier threads knows that I was not enthused about going on a ghost tour, but my friends were very excited. Two against one, so we went. ) Our tour was led by Tobias (I think he leads most of them, though we had a leader-in-training with us). This is definitely not one of the "haunted hearse" tours - Tobias takes the paranormal very seriously and my understanding is that he moved to Savannah specifically for that reason. He encouraged photos and asked people with "interesting" photos to email him. He's a good guide - informative and entertaining. I was thoroughly creeped out after the tour, and so were my friends who actually wanted to go on this. It wasn't "ghost jumping out from behind a door" scary, but more Ghost Hunters-ish, I think. Anyway, without getting into opinions on what exists and what doesn't, if you're interested in this sort of thing or want a serious, non-hokey tour, I'd recommend it.
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Mar 14th, 2011, 05:38 PM
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thanks so much for posting, jen. I am adding your report to my file for October!
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Mar 14th, 2011, 05:54 PM
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Great trip report! Glad you enjoyed Savannah Rambles and the Staybridge Suites. They are my two new favorites in Savannah. I bet I know which corner you are talking about - but I found the house and the surroundings so interesting too. He just had lots to say there (ground floor windows, siding on front vs side, chimney mystery, original roof, etc. He's definitely a fount of knowledge. Did your friend ask him about the Civil War? I asked a question about John Wesley and he had lots of interesting info I'd not heard before. Interesting about feeling rushed at Mrs. Wilkes. I don't remember feeling that way. Maybe it was the waitress. Maybe the line out front was really long. Anyway, glad you enjoyed the food and sorry you felt rushed. I agree - the food is just like grandma cooked. Anyway, it sounds like a great trip and I'm loving reading your report.
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Mar 14th, 2011, 08:06 PM
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Starrs, that's a good point - my friend didn't ask about the Civil War period, and Dirk seems really open to questions. I'm not sure if she had specific questions or just wanted to hear more about that period.

I was really surprised about Mrs. Wilkes too, since I hadn't heard anything like that. Maybe it's usually not like that? The line seemed long when we left, but I have no idea how it compared to the norm. Those green beans and butterbeans tasted just like Grandma's, though!
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Mar 14th, 2011, 08:08 PM
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cmcfong - so glad it's helpful! I'll finish up tomorrow.
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Mar 15th, 2011, 08:17 AM
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Saturday was beach day! Huzzah. We ate our hotel breakfast, then piled in the car and drove to Tybee Island. Our first stop was the lighthouse, but we decided to skip the steps to the top and museum and headed to the beach instead. After meandering awhile, we found a metered space on 7th Street and walked down the boardwalk. We probably spent an hour or so on the beach, just walking around taking pictures. So relaxing.

We drove back to Savannah, parked the car and went to the antique shops on West Bay. One of us was very excited about finding old medical stuff. The other two of us were bored before we even got in the shops. So after 20 minutes or so, we split up to shop and wander, and decided to meet at the Gryphon Tea Room. One of my friends lived in England for several years and I've spent quite a bit of time there, so we thought it would be fun to do their high tea (which runs all day on Saturdays). It was an experience - they brought out three-tiered tea sets filled with sandwiches, a scone, fruit, and four (four!) little desserts for each of us, and we all chose a different tea. It was really fun, though a sugar overload for me. We all loved the teas we chose and ended up buying boxes to take home. The tea room was fun - nice but not stuffy, a nice mix of modern and traditional decor. Something you'd expect from a place affiliated with a design school, I guess! High tea was $15/person.

At this point we needed some relaxation, so we headed back to the room for awhile, shopping on the way. One of my friends wanted to visit the St. Patrick's Day carnival (or something along those lines) across the street, so she went out for awhile. We hadn't really noticed any St. Patrick's craziness on Thursday or Friday, but on Saturday everyone seemed to be out. The carnival/fair/whatever was in the green space right across from our hotel on East Bay, so I don't know if that's what brought out all the green t-shirts and leprechaun hats, or if people were just rolling into town for Thursday's parade already. Anyway, sugar doesn't last long, so after awhile we went to Vinnie Van Go-Go's for dinner. It looked so busy when we got there that I was afraid we'd have to wait awhile, but we only had to wait 20 minutes or so for a table. It was packed but our service was great, as was our pizza. A nice end to our time in Savannah!

Thanks again to everyone who helped us - we got so many recommendations from you all.
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Mar 17th, 2011, 02:09 PM
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Enjoyed your report!! Thanks -- sounds like a great trip!
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Mar 17th, 2011, 02:09 PM
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Enjoyed your report!! Thanks -- sounds like a great trip!
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Mar 18th, 2011, 01:29 PM
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Enjoyed your trip report, jent103. Thanks for posting.

Like starrs, I didn't feel rushed along when I went to Mrs. Wilkes the time I went. Some, but not all of the food was on the table upon seating -- other things were brought out as all were seated. I had plenty of time to eat my fill, and had dessert as well. Am thinking starrs may be right about the waitress you had -- oh well, it happens sometimes. But it looks like we all agreed on the quality of the food.
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Mar 18th, 2011, 01:55 PM
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Thanks for the report. We will be in Savannah in two weeks, and your report is whetting my appetite. I can't wait!
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Mar 18th, 2011, 02:27 PM
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I'm glad y'all enjoyed the report! It was a fun trip.

bachslunch, I'm glad to hear that most people don't have our experience. Given everything I'd heard, I was surprised that WE had that experience! It didn't feel like it was just our waitress, but maybe it was (or maybe it was just a particularly rushed day). Either way, I'm glad it's not the norm.
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Mar 27th, 2011, 08:38 AM
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topping
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Apr 7th, 2011, 09:23 PM
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Hi everyone - finally got my pictures posted and just wanted to add a link, in case anyone's interested or finds it later.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenthom...7626327172451/
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Apr 8th, 2011, 02:41 AM
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Great pictures! Even greater sense of humor
Your pictures and report could be an official travelogue of Savannah. Liked seeing Dirk at "the corner". And you are right - SCAD. It IS everywhere. Which is a very good thing (IMO) for downtown Savannah. They've made such a postive difference in reclaiming space in so many historic buildings. LOVED your caption for the Paula picture! Thanks for sharing your good times in Savannah!
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Apr 8th, 2011, 06:55 AM
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i too loved you report and pics--we must have been there at the same time--i too passed the wienermobile---am i the only person,besides you who recognize it--thanks again, BTW the pics were very well done froma photography viewpoint
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Apr 8th, 2011, 07:48 AM
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Thanks to both of you! starrs, I've heard that SCAD really helped preserve historic Savannah in a good way, and we definitely saw a lot of it. I'm so used to campuses being consolidated into one area - it was funny to us to keep seeing it EVERYwhere.

bigbomoho - we were very excited about the weinermobile! My mom texted me that afternoon to ask if we were having fun, and I told her "Well, we've already eaten at a sit-down Chick-Fil-A and seen the Oscar Meyer weinermobile." She said, "It must all go downhill from there."
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Apr 8th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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I agree, jent. I love coming across a newly renovated "vintage" building (such as a diner) and wondering if it's open for business again - and then realizing it's now a SCAD space. I think it would be a hoot to go to class in such an amazing collection of buildings. SCAD has had a huge impact on downtown Savannah in the last 5 years. It doesn't hurt that my favorite tea room and store ARE operated by SCAD students

It's in Atlanta now too. I wonder if they'll do the same - or if they have enough space in the old Equifax building.
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