Friday, February 27, 2015

Sweet home Savannah: two years in a nutshell

As you may or may not have gathered by now, I went to grad school and lived in Georgia's oldest city for two years, and it’s a place I hold very near and dear to my heart. My Savannah is not the Paula Deenhorse-drawn carriage, hearse tour, ghost haunted, Girl Scout cookie version (though, of course, I've done and eaten all of the above), but the dog-walks-that-last-for-hours, drunken rooftop sunsets, pondering life on park benches/in coffee shops/in graveyards version of Savannah. 

Though a lot has changed since I graduated in 2012 and since I last visited in 2013 (my favorite bar, The Sparetime, where people would dance, DJs would play Motown mixes and Cuban and other special cocktails were served, closed; so did my favorite store, Arc, a cool vintage clothing and general goods shop), a lot remains the same. Savannah charm isn't found elsewhere and cannot be duplicated.

Two years worth of favorite things condensed into one weekend is just about impossible. In fact, there are things I very much wanted, but never got the chance to do during the time I lived there. A visit to Fort Pulaski on the way to Tybee Island (the beach town a quick 15-20 minute drive from downtown Savannah) is one of them.

Speaking of TybeeWhen people think of Savannah, they think of Southern food, Southern drawls and Southern Hospitality, but they don't think of the heat (or of Southern sunsets) as often until they've actually spent a summer there. It's freakin' hot--so hot that the weather is classified as "humid subtropical." There are a lot of mosquitos and you do sweat the second you get out of the shower... BUT, because of this, many of my sweaty summer days were spent at Tybee, eating tacos and drinking sangria at Tybee Island Social Club, usually after burning to a crisp on the sand. Not a bad way to spend summer days. 

A local option for fun in the sun, that not everyone knows about, is the pool at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa right across the river from touristy River Street. I'm not 100% sure that you're technically allowed to use the pool if you're not a hotel guest, but I crossed the river on its free ferry so many times for piña coladas and shrimp cocktail (also used the hotel's towels) and never ran into a problem. 

As for restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, sights and more stores in and around the historical downtown area, I'm going to do the list thing because a.) there's a lot, and b.) lists are easier and quicker to skim through. I've been to all these places and wouldn't include them if I didn't think they were absolutely, positively worth visiting.

Pack a picnic, spend the day at Bonaventure Cemetery (it's amazing, not creepy)
Colonial Park Cemetery- a quick stroll in one end and out the other will do 
Flannery O'Connor's home
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist  is gorgeous and a must-see, regardless of which religion you practice. 
The Telfair Museums
The SCAD Museum of Art, if only for its incredible revolving fashion exhibits (right now it's Oscar de La Renta)
All 22 of the city's squares
Any street fair, festival or Forsyth Park concert

Foxy Loxy (lattes, sweets, tacos, wine) and their sister shop, The Coffee Fox
Local 11ten- fresh food, locally sourced ingredients plus a rooftop bar only open on the weekends, weather permitting
The Hazelnut French Toast and crispy bacon at J. Christopher's
The Bay Street Scramble at B. Matthews
Zunzi's- tiny South African spot with the best sandwiches; there is never not a line 
Leoci's- veal risotto and sangria on the patio was my Italian go-to always
Elizabeth on 37th and The Olde Pink House- go to either with Mom for a fancy-ish dinner
Mansion on Forsyth (Sunday brunch downstairs, rooftop bar for drinks/snacks)
Watch the sun set over the river at Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian.
Abe's on Lincoln- local watering hole with a Monday open mic night)
Hang Fire AKA the hipster bar (a lot of SCADees hang here, but it's still fun)
Circa 1875- a Parisian-y bar/bistro across from Hang Fire minus the college crowd

E. Shaver, Bookseller (love, love, LOVE this bookstore!)
37th at Abercorn Antiques
Marc Jacobs (if only to check out the window display) and The Paris Market on Broughton
Custard Boutique, La Paperie, and One-Fish Two-Fish on Whitaker

In the slightly altered words of Otis Redding, I left my home (and a piece of my heart) in Georgia. But I know Savannah will be waiting for me, in all its floral glory next time I return. 

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