We left our area early on a Wednesday morning and caught an early train to New York, connecting to another train to Savannah, for a total ride time of 25 hours. We were about 1.5 hours late into Savannah, which worked in our favour as the original arrival time was 6:45 a.m. and the hotel check-in time wasn’t until 4 p.m. We arrived around 8:30 or 9, took a cab from the train station to the historic district of Savannah, where we stayed, registered (no rooms ready) and stowed our luggage in their office.
Then we headed out to Huey’s, a creole place on River St. that I had read about online, which serves beignets and cafe au lait. They were fabulous, and we also shared a creole shrimp omelette.
That brought us to about 9:45 a.m. We thought about doing a house and gardens walking tour but they’re offered only at 10 and 1 and it was too late for the early one, so I called and made reservations for the later one, and we took the free ferry over the Savannah River to Hutchinson Island, about an 8-minute ride. The Westin hotel and conference center is over there and lots of parking lots. Not much else. We walked around a bit, then took another ferry back, walked around the River St. shops and the squares of the historic district for an hour (I had a map), and then conked out in the hotel lobby from about 11-12:15, when they found us a room. We showered fast and made it to the walking tour spot with plenty of time to spare, since it was only a couple of blocks from the hotel.
The woman who gave the tour, Liesl, was Austrian and had a lovely accent though she had lived in the U.S. for 30 years. She recommended a place for tea, Gryphon Tea Room, which I had read about beforehand as well, so we stopped in there for a couple of tea sandwiches and some tea. The place used to a pharmacy and it still looks it. The ceiling is incredible.
This brought us to fairly late in the afternoon. We were tired from interrupted train sleep, so went back to the hotel for a nap and some downtime.
We chose Tapas by Anna for dinner, partly because I had read good things about it and partly because it was where we wanted to be afterwards for an evening horse-drawn carriage ride we had reserved at 4 that afternoon. But the salad was anemic, with one piece of tomato and one slice of cucumber, and the she-crab soup, of which I had high hopes, was just awful, the consistency of wallpaper paste and the taste of a white sauce gone horribly wrong. The sangria tasted of Koolaid, not like anything an adult would drink. The service was deplorable; our waiter took our order and then we never saw him again until I chased him down for the bill. Someone else delivered the order (not that unusual), and no one asked us how our meal was, brought water (we flagged down another waiter for that), or took any notice of us. My shrimp was actually well-cooked and well-sauced, but all-in-all, we were disappointed. Nothing seemed tapas-y about the place.
We went from there to our carriage ride, which was great. Kat was our guide and she rattled off history for over an hour as she also guided the horse (Clark) through the city streets and watched for traffic and pedestrians. We ended up with a private ride at a deeply discounted price, because no one else had signed up for the early time slot. She also gave us a tip for the next day, which was to see the Owens-Thomas House.
We had to retrieve our rental car from the airport — the car we were going to use all week. The Savannah-Hilton Head Airport is about a half-hour out of town. I’d gotten instructions and a timetable for the city bus online before we left home, so at 8 o’clock a.m. we were stationed on the correct street corner to catch the #3 to the airport. It came on time and we paid $1 for the 1/2-hour ride through some not-so-great parts of Savannah (the stuff I always want to see) and through a lot of the adjoining airport properties, like a big Gulfstream campus, something military, some apartments rented by the week, FedEx and other delivery services, etc. We rented the car with no problem — other than the usual, that they didn’t have the compact car we reserved and tried to give us a minivan; we ended up with a mid-sized car.
We drove it back to town, parked it in the lot adjoining the hotel (for free), and took off on hoof to see the Owens-Thomas House, a few squares away. It was built from 1816-1819 and housed slaves as well as its owners. No photos were allowed in the house but I took a few in the garden and of the exterior. With that admission, we paid a little more for admission the Jepson Center for the Arts, which we visited later.
We walked some squares, through the cemetery, and down to Forsyth Park, where it began to feel unsafe for tourists.We quickly walked a couple of blocks over to the west, and then back north to find the Jepson, which we spent about 2 hours exploring. It’s an interesting museum, because there is a lot of hands-on stuff to do, for adults as well as kids. There was also a great photo and art exhibit by William Christenberry which I particularly liked. The rooftop scultpure areas were cool, too, especially in the stormy weather than was brewing.
After that, we walked back to the hotel. T. rested while I walked through the River St. stores, took some photos, and bought some Zots! After a while, we went together to Moon River Brew Pub, on E. Bay St., and he got some food while I got a small salad and a Wild, Wacky Wit brew (a tasty Belgian ale).
Later, for dinner, we took the car out of the garage and drove to Wilmington Island, which is technically part of Savannah and only about 6 miles away from the historic area, to Barbara Jean’s, a southern restaurant we have always loved in St. Simon’s. We sat outside and had crabcakes and veggies there, watching a preying mantis and eavesdropping on another table’s conversation, and then we shopped at Publix for most of the stuff we would need at Jekyll the next week, except the dairy and frozen perishables. Things like beer, spring water, peanuts, bread, bananas, toilet paper, dish soap, etc.
After we drove back and re-parked the car, we wandered down to River St. where the weekend was beginning — lots of music (singing, drumming), dancing, drinking (we were amused to see bouncers standing outside one place that advertised the cheapest beer in town, casually facing two policemen leaning on their squad cars about a sidewalk’s width away), etc. Fun. Then to bed.
We ate breakfast at the hotel (free) and then walked along River Street, took the free ferry from another location, and packed up the car for the drive to Jekyll.