I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I tend to not make timely posts (i.e. – holidays post in mid-January, writing about trips months or years after they happen). And this post is no different! I don’t typically make New Years resolutions, but I decided that I had some definite goals this year –
- Develop healthier eating habits. Kind of cliche but I must say, I did the Whole 30 (successfully!) and I’ve never felt better! But this isn’t a nutrition blog and no one wants to hear about someone else’s dietary habits, so I’ll leave it at that.
- Visit at least two states that I haven’t been to. The list includes Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
- Post weekly to this blog and post more often to Instagram!
Since I have the first resolution out of the way, time to focus on the other two. This post is my initial attempt to work on #3, but we’ll see how well I’m still doing this time next week. If all goes according to plan, #2 will be easily met since I just today booked a vacation that will take me to Wyoming and I have a wedding to attend this year in Montana, so there’s another!
But we’re not here today to talk about my resolutions. We’re here to talk about one of my favorite places in the entire world – SAVANNAH!
As I’ve established in previous posts, I LOVE historic places, anything paranormal, good food and good drinks. It’s no wonder why Savannah is one of my favorite places – it has it all! I’ve been lucky enough to take three vacations there in the last three years and every visit. I have a bazillion pictures and stories to share but for the sake of efficiency, I think I shall divvy this post up into categories as opposed to each different trip.
Ghosts of Savannah
I’ll have you all know I was having a serious personal crisis trying to figure out if ghosts or food should get top billing in this post. It was a close race, but the ghosts won out.
Arguably the most haunted city in the United States, Savannah’s rise to paranormal mecca status began, in my opinion, in the 1733 when the town was established by General James Oglethorpe. It was the first city in the 13th colony, Georgia, and was also the first planned city in America. Almost as famous as its haunts, are Savannah’s squares. 22 of the original 24 remain today and they are absolutely gorgeous pockets of greenery laid out across the historic downtown area.
The entire downtown is draped in Spanish moss hanging from the old oak trees, creating a canopy overhead as you walk along the often cobblestone streets, passing ancient buildings (by American standards, at least!), and the air is thick. Not just thick with heat (although there’s plenty of that), but thick with history and energy and I know for me, as a sensitive to spirits, it’s almost difficult to breathe at times. Not in a bad way, just in an overwhelming awareness of the storied history, kind of way. Yes, I know I said difficulty breathing wasn’t in a bad way. I stand by it!
If you’ve seen or read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” you are undoubtedly familiar with the story of Jim Williams and the Mercer Williams House, where everything took place AND where many scenes from the movie were filmed. In a nutshell, it is a true story about the eccentric Jim Williams, a restorationist living in Savannah in the 1980s who winds up killing a man in his mansion, in what becomes a much debated case of murder vs self defense. He has since died, but the home is owned by his family who lives there but keeps the first floor open for tours. I’ve been on two tours (which I highly recommend) and on the first tour, I was only vaguely familiar with the MITGOGAE, and I definitely didn’t know the whole story, including the fact that a man had been killed in the house, When the tour got to Williams’ study, I immediately felt nauseous and like I was going to pass out. The hair on my arms stood up and I was overwhelmed with the very familiar energy of a spirit. I did not know at this point that this house was supposedly haunted (although I should have known… it’s Savannah… is there any building there that isn’t haunted??). Moments later, our tour guide informed us that we were standing where Danny Hansford was shot and killed by Jim Williams. By the time of my second tour two years later, I had read the book (FABULOUS) and watched the movie (also FABULOUS) and still felt the strong energy in the study but felt a calmer energy throughout the house. It’s an energy I often feel when I sense the spirit of a person who is hanging around a place they loved. Jim Williams put his blood, sweat, and tears into his beautiful home and the fact that many of his original furnishings still occupy the house makes me feel that he is happy that his home is still in his family and that the public is now able to enjoy and appreciate his hard work.
While most of Savannah’s squares have ghost stories associated with them, I have found that Columbia Square’s deceased inhabitants speak to me a bit louder than the folks in other squares. Every time I’m in this square, I get the familiar, overwhelming sense that I’m not alone. Not alone in the spiritual sense that is, obviously I know I’m not alone with the throngs of tourists milling about. It’s a neutral energy, neither good nor bad.
The two houses in the pictures below were homes belonging to the Kehoe family. The gray house was their original home and when they outgrew that, they built the massive red brick house across the square. The latter Kehoe home served a number of purposes after the passing of its original owners, including a boarding house and funeral home, before its current iteration as a bed and breakfast. Common reports from guests staying at the Kehoe House include seeing and hearing sounds of children playing when no children are present and being touched by unseen hands.
The Davenport House, a beautiful old gal, built in 1820, was a stately mansion that fell into disrepair and is a key location that spurred the preservation movement in Savannah in the 1950s. The grand mansion was set to be demolished but a group of townspeople pooled together to buy the property and save it from destruction. This was the the first act of the Historic Savannah Foundation, an admirable organization that still exists today and is responsible for the preservation of over 1,000 buildings, making downtown Savannah the largest historical district in the country. Paranormal reports from the Davenport House include seeing a young woman wandering the property. Today, the house is a museum and open to the public.
Food and Drink of Savannah
Have I mentioned I like to eat? Or that I love biscuits? I seriously think I can hear my brain whirring as it sifts through its memories of some of the best meals I’ve had and it’s sputtering as it gets stuck on some of my Savannah favorites.
So let’s get right to it – the biscuits at 17Hundred90 Restaurant. I cannot even with these biscuits. They were brought around as appetizers and servers carefully placed a single biscuit on your plate from their baskets. They were piping hot out of the oven and glistened with sweet butter. The photo below is unaltered, no filter, no nothing. Just pure, candlelit biscuit. They were unfortunately not unlimited like the breadsticks at Olive Garden, and I couldn’t find anywhere on the menu were you could order an entire basket of biscuits as an entree. I’ll inquire the next time I return. I also had the Miss Annette’s Crab Stew and Crawfish Etouffee. Both delicious, but paled in comparison to the biscuit. To be fair, everything I’ve eaten since this trip has paled in comparison to that biscuit. Bonus – this restaurant and inn are haunted!
This is my favorite restaurant in Savannah. Treylor Park is an eclectic mix of comfort foods in weird, delicious combinations. Like the Popcorn Shrimp. Fried shrimp on a bed of seasoned popcorn. Or the Chicken and Pancake Tacos. Literally what it says it is. My favorite is the fried bologna sandwich with a side of collard greens paired with ANY of their creative cocktails. My favorite is the Recliner, which is basically bourbon and sweet tea. Scrumptious! The wait can be a bit long, but if the weather is nice, try to sit in the back patio – it’s a cozy courtyard with string lights and at least during the times I’ve been there, has a killer 80s playlist. Just the kind of music to listen to while you chow down on a fried bologna sandwich.
This is a fairly new restaurant to Savannah and my friends and I only happened to go in last September when a surprise rainstorm forced us into the nearest building. I call it divine intervention because that’s exactly what the Fitzroy is – divine. We enjoyed a fabulous brunch (bacon and egg roll with beer), and a Vietnamese coffee cocktail for dessert. The food and drinks were outstanding but I was even more impressed with how gorgeous this restaurant is. Be sure to check their website before heading over because their hours vary and they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
I would be remiss if I failed to give a nod to the adult slushy bar, Wet Willie’s. One of Savannah’s most charming aspects is that you are allowed to walk around town with alcoholic beverages. I can assure you that nothing is more refreshing on a sweltering July day in Savannah than a Monkeyshine slushy in a souvenir plastic cup. There are two locations in the downtown area and I must say they are perfectly placed, as you can pick up your Monkeyshine at the River Street location and by the time you meander over to the City Market, you’re due for a refill and lucky you, there’s one right there! Word to the wise – the Call a Cab (which comes with a warning), packs a punch. 190 proof grain alcohol will do that to you, I suppose.
In addition to the restaurants and haunted locations mentioned above, I have a few other general recommendations for your time in Savannah.
Books on Bay
If you like books, do not… I repeat, DO NOT, miss Books on Bay. Well, try not to, at least. It’s tucked away in a half-level on Bay Street that is easy to miss, as my sister and I did when we initially tried to find it. You need to walk down some stairs to the middle level of the building its in to get in. Betsy and Richard Thetford own the shop and are absolutely delightful. I was initially drawn to this shop because of their extensive collection of Nancy Drew books, of which I am a collector. The sheer quantity of Nancy Drews is unreal and I’ve probably bought no less than two dozen old copies from Books on Bay over the years. They also have rare first editions of many books and incredible cover artwork on display. Don’t be surprised if you wind up spending hours in the store looking at their collection and getting lost in conversation with Betsy about your favorite vintage series and prepare to be amazed at her memory when she posts about you on their Facebook page – my best friend, Heather and I from our July 2016 visit.
Vic’s on the River
Everyone needs to experience authentic southern dishes when in Savannah and for the three (in my opinion) quintessential southern dishes – shrimp & grits, biscuits, and she crab soup, you need to head to Vic’s. I opted not to put them in the food section because I feel like shrimp & grits, biscuits, and she crab soup are their own entity that need to be their own entry. I’ve already expounded on the gloriousness of the 17Hundred90 biscuits, but a close runner up in the biscuit category is Vic’s. The key with their biscuits is the honey butter they are served with. Laaaaawd almighty! These biscuits come in a basket that they refill and I will fully admit that I put several biscuits into my sunglasses case to safely transport them back to our hotel room. No shame. Their she crab soup is outstanding and I think about it daily (I’m not kidding), and the shrimp and grits is creamy and perfect. As a bonus, try the crawfish beignets and prepare to die a slow and delicious death (figuratively, of course).
There are not words that can accurately describe the beauty of Bonaventure Cemetery. Their website is modest and calls it “one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries.” Now, I haven’t seen all of the beautiful cemeteries in the world, but I’ve seen Bonaventure on numerous occasions and I would be shocked if there were a more beautiful cemetery in all the world. Expect to spend several hours here wandering the expansive grounds finding unique grave markers, notable people, and getting lost in the Spanish moss-canopied maze of the departed.
The main drag of downtown Savannah is Bay Street, which is lined with beautiful historic buildings. If you’re walking on the side closest to the river, you’ll notice a number of “Historic Steps – Use at Own Risk” signs. These steep and narrow steps take you down to River Street, where the back sides of the Bay Street buildings look out over the Savannah River and contain a ton of businesses that you don’t see from the front. Word to the wise – do not attempt the historic steps after you’ve had the Call a Cab from Wet Willie’s.
As I’m wrapping up this post and looking back through my photos to include, I’m realizing that I will surely need a Savannah Part 2. And 3. And 4. There is so much to see and do in this charming city that a single blog post will not do it justice. Stay tuned for more posts on this most haunted city!