Greeting Blog Fans — it’s been too long! That means we’ve not been traveling enough! With Nicole now off at college it’s been harder to coordinate trips. In fact, this was a first in that we only had Alex with us this time. I was tasked with finding somewhere nice to go but not too nice since Nicole couldn’t join us! We’ll save the extra nice trips for summer!
At any rate, Savannah has been on our radar for awhile and this spring break was a good time to go. We’d visited Charleston many years ago and knew that Savannah would offer a good mix of history, small city sites, good food and some outdoor activities (with hopefully some warmer weather).
It was just outside my desired driving range so we flew down for 6 days / 5 nights at the end of March. Rather than our normal VRBO type accommodation, we stayed at the Embassy Suites and ate out a lot.
The bulk of our activities were in the Historic District. In fact, we only had a car for a couple of days. From our hotel, most things were 0.5 – 1 mile away so we got some walking in.
We did branch out for a couple of days. Tybee Island is about 30 minutes away (unless they close the road!). Hilton Head is to the NE — we didn’t go there though.
On to the photos!
Monday — Arrival and Walking Tour
We had an early flight which left us time to get acquainted with the city in the afternoon. I must be out of practice as I didn’t take any pictures! (I also didn’t bring my separate camera for this trip and just relied on the ole iPhone.) It barely cracked 50F on the first day, if that, which may have contributed to the lack of photos as well.
We signed up for a tour with Savannah Dan as we generally like walking tours. As you might guess from the photo, he’s quite the character and had no problem keeping us entertained while teaching us a thing or two. Food/restaurant info seemed to be his passion–that’s a good match for us.
Tuesday — A cathedral, old house and big meal
Time for a few of the city sites before gorging ourselves on a traditional southern meal for lunch.
First stop was the Cathedral of St John the Baptist. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, we’ve seen a lot of cathedrals. I was surprised to find such a nice one in Savannah. The church dates back to 1839 and became a cathedral in 1850. It had some ups and downs over the years and had some extensive renovation work done within the last twenty. We enjoyed the 15 minutes or so we got from the docent to tell us some of the history.
Next up was the Owens Thomas House and Slave Quarters which are part of the Telfair Museums. Savannah Dan talked it up (but it was on our list anyway).
From the website:
The house, designed by architect William Jay and completed in 1819, was purchased in 1830 by George Welshman Owens, a wealthy planter, lawyer, and politician. Owens moved in with his wife, Sarah, six children, and nine slaves. By 1840, 14 enslaved people resided on the property—including Emma and Kate, the enslaved nannies tasked with raising the Owens’ children; Diane, the enslaved cook, who worked to provide meals for everyone in the home; and Fanny, an enslaved child.
The house was visited by Marquis de Lafayette (in 1825) and was an early (first?) example of indoor plumbing on multiple floors.
I didn’t take any photos of the carriage house / slave quarters but enjoyed the back story we got there.
And now for the main event: Mrs Wilkes Dining Room–home style southern cooking served family style at a table of 10 and only open for lunch (11-2 nominally). The normal advice is to get there early but I didn’t want to eat that early so I knowingly got there around 12 expecting an hour or so wait. Well, it was more like 2 hours.
I asked Dan if it was worth it and he said yes (and we agree). Good thing we didn’t know it was going to be 2 hours though!
We had another historic home on the schedule but man we were too pooped after standing in line that long.
Dinner: Zunzi’s takeout (nice, light affair after that big lunch)
Shout out to Alex for working out while on break. We mapped out the way to Forsythe Park which was about a mile from the hotel. He used that for his warm up and did some laps around the park and then did his cool down on the way back.
Unfortunately something did feel right in his ankle for a few days and he stopped the workouts. Turns out he has a stress fracture!! Boo. He gets to wear the boot for a few weeks. Fingers crossed for a quick recovery.
Wednesday — more history: Prohibition, First African Baptist Church
A few more historical sites in the city on Wednesday. First up, was the American Prohibition Museum. This relatively new museum did a nice job taking us back to the 20s and 30s. My history of that time-frame is a little weak so I enjoyed the refresher. There was quite the groundswell to outlaw alcohol and then quite the movement to get it back (particularly after all the unintended consequences!).
Interesting nugget: at that time (of smaller government), alcohol tax funded up to 50% of the government’s revenue and they had to institute the income tax to offset the loss revenue from prohibition.
They had a nice speakeasy bar within the museum (but it was a little early in the day for us). They also had a nice tie-in with stock car racing and how it started with liquor runners.
Next up was another interesting historical site, the First African Baptist Church. See the sign for the basic info. Amazing that free and enslaved members built the church in their spare time (some after walking miles from their plantations).
Meals for the day:
Lunch: Goosefeathers (a neat locally owned cafe with fresh food — ate their twice!)
Dinner: East End Provisions— our nicest family meal out. Very good and a nice setting.
Thursday — to Tybee Island and back
After spending a few days in the city, we were ready to head out to see some of the nearby sites. I walked over to the local Enterprise and picked up a car for 2 days. The weather was starting to warm up finally so it was a good plan on this day at least.
The primary draw of the cemetery (for me) was the azaleas and general scenery. I’m not too interested in semi-famous headstones. The cemetery is near the river which also added a nice touch. It was certainly different to see so much sand and so little green grass.
Next stop was Fort Pulaski. With all of their storms of late, the facilities in general and the flag pole in particular were in need of repair (and for the flag pole, unsafe). So, we weren’t able to go inside the fort but that was okay. We could walk around and go to the visitors’ museum.
Interesting (if a little sad) history: The US decided to beef up their coastal forts after getting bombarded by the Brits in the war of 1812. So they came up with a new plan and built forts like Fort Pulaski. Along comes the civil war and the confederates capture it. In the meantime, the Union has figured out that canons work a lot better if they are rifled. They were able to blast them out with the new cannons and retake the fort in 30 hours!
Next we were off to Tybee and the Lighthouse. Now, we seen a few lighthouses and this one isn’t particularly unique, but it’s still pretty, historical and has nice views so it was still worthwhile.
Next we headed Tybee Beach. Coincidentally, there were some friends from Alex’s school staying on Tybee for the week and we were able to hook up with them.
We said our goodbyes and started to head back to Savannah but the traffic was stuck (there’s only one road in/out). Apparently a fatal hit/run had occurred and the bridge was closed. After waiting for 1.5 hrs, we turned around and went back to the beach area to grab some food. Even after that long dinner, the traffic was backed up. We didn’t get back until late, but at least we got back!
Lunch: Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp — great little casual joint in Tybee
Dinner: Lighthouse Pizza — not per plan! It was fine. They did a nice job dealing with the crowd and shortage of staff (some of which were stuck on the other side of the bridge!).
Friday — a rainy morning at Pin Point and Alligators!
Unfortunately the weather for our second (and last) day with the car would not be as nice: rain, rain, rain. We kept to our plans for the first stop: the Pin Point Heritage Museum. Which turned out to be a hidden gem and our kind of regional/local place.
Pin Point was a rural settlement founded by freed slaves and is located ~10 miles from Savannah. It was once a plantation site, carved up and sold to blacks in the late 1890s and early 1900s. Many of the original lots are held by the heirs of the former slaves who bought the parcels more than a century ago. Pin Point is a small, predominantly African American community that has a well-established group of Gullah (Sea Island Creole) speakers. The one business in Pin Point — A.S. Varn and Son’s oyster and crab company — shut down in 1985. It’s buildings now form the Heritage Museum.
Pin Point’s most famous “resident” is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who was born there (but actually spent most of his youth with his grandfather in Savannah). The area has certainly suffered hard times and the Museum is trying hard to maintain the history and heritage of the area. We took a drive around after the tour and it was a little depressing for the most part. Hopefully the community and hold on and pull through.
Interesting, if somewhat dated, article on Judge Thomas’s connection to Pin Point here.
We grabbed some nice BBQ at the nearby Sandfly BBQ and were planning to head to Skidaway State Park for a hike but it was still raining and wet.
Though not close, we decided to take advantage of having a car and drove around to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge (which is actually on the South Carolina side). Though there were some trails (no thanks!), the main draw is a 4 mile car loop where you can hopefully see some wildlife. It was a great game of I-spy for the 3 of us.
We drove back to the hotel to drop off Alex then we returned the car. We managed to try a few samples at the Crystal Beer Parlor on the walk back to the hotel.
For dinner, Kuk and I were in for a treat. We grabbed Alex some wings for dinner and we headed out to Jazz’d Tapas Bar. We enjoy sharing small plates and trying different food and we weren’t disappointed. The extra bonus was live music starting at 9. That’s a little late for us old folks, but we managed to stay for a set. It was great to be so close (we lucked out there).
Saturday — taking in easy on the last day
Our flight back wasn’t until 7pm so we had some time to take in a few last sites. We had a laid back day for the most part.
I did some on the spot research to see what we might do. The Webb Military Museum rated high but that’s not really our thing. We instead opted for the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. From the website:
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is named in honor of the late Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert, the father of Savannah’s modern day Civil Rights Movement and leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dr. Gilbert served as pastor of historic First African Baptist Church on Franklin Square in Savannah for 16 years. In 1942, he reorganized the Savannah Branch NAACP, served as president for eight years and convened its first state conference. Under his courageous leadership, more than forty NAACP branches were organized in Georgia by 1950.
Basically, the Savannah folks were well organized and effective in their non-violent protests and boycotts. They were able to get some of the Jim Crow laws repealed ahead of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. I’ve studied a bit on Civil Rights (and watched the great series Eyes on the Prize) and don’t remember hearing much about Savannah. Well, I guess it is because there were no riots and they were fairly effective!
It was good to walk through the museum and share the experience with Alex.
The museum was a great find even if I didn’t take a lot of pictures!
We also took a quick stroll through the Telfair Museum since our ticket from earlier in the week was still good. None of the artwork particularly grabbed me but it was nice to walk through another historic home and see it decorated in period pieces.
Our final activity was to head to the river and ride the free shuttle to the other side where the Westin and Convention Center are located. It was mainly to see the riverfront from the water and enjoy the nice day.
So all and all it was a nice relaxing trip filled with some learning, good food and family time. Looking forward to the next trip when we get Nicole back too!
Thanks for reading.