There is an invisible clock that sits in the corner of my mind reminding me of the passage of my children’s childhood. It does not sound an alarm, but the gentle turn of its hand reminds me that higher education, career placement and life responsibilities are the burdens of freedom being inherited by my children. Not wanting to live a life that is constantly worried about last time opportunities, Jonesy and I purposely decided that we are entering a season where scheduling difficulties and treasured independence will make more difficult the reality of our family of seven vacationing together.
In our planning, we believed Savannah would offer the desired down time of a coastal destination with a city rich in history and culture which would season the week with some variety. Savannah did not disappoint.
Five of us drove, with an overnight stop to visit with family in Atlanta. The older two children flew down for a long weekend as their work schedules were less accommodating. Traveling within the school year was possible due to my college-aged children being in virtual classes as a consequence of Covid. Days of exploration and relaxation were interrupted by class assignments and zoom calls. However, the freedom to travel despite school responsibilities is a silver lining to the pandemic challenges.
Upon our arrival, we asked the hotel staff to share with us the limitations and rules the city was mandating for Corona. Masks were mandated indoors and in population dense areas. Social distancing was required and restaurants and other indoor entities were working within limited capacities. Savannah, a walking and biking city, provided ample to do outside allowing for mask free activities. The unique times were not dampened as phone apps offered directed walking tours through the city and cemeteries, sharing information and stories while allowing us the freedom to be mask free and to move about on our own.
The children favored Tybee Island as their go to spot. We settled into the beauty of North Beach where the warm Atlantic Coast was sparsely populated and the views of the lighthouse added to the landscape. We learned rather continuously that August’s warmth means jellyfish are abundant. With stings to my leg and hand, Jonesy’s back and Jordon’s foot, we experienced the painful burn of invisible inhabitants. Shocking at first, there was an hour or so of discomfort and the tell-tale redness of whiplike marks, but it was a small inconvenience to enjoy the beauty of Tybee.
Early morning visits allowed us the opportunity to see dolphins jumping and playing as they fed just yards away from where we swam. The midday heat would have been severe if not for the continual breezes that broke the intensity. The sand gnats and lovebugs proved a minor inconvenience in the late afternoon. Although, the deep coral and hot pink sunsets that framed the fresh lit Tybee Lighthouse distracted you from their annoyance. In our final night, a lightning storm rolled in the distance at the horizon. As the moon approached its full stage, casting ample light on the water, lightning would explode in the distant sky as pink sun reflected the water in matching hues. The majesty and artistry a reminder of the Creator.
We enjoyed The Crab Shack for a late lunch, sitting outdoors viewing the river marshes. With seafood offerings and casual dining, we enjoyed low-country boil and ribs. The trees and canopy of the eating deck allowed for cool breezes. A handful of cats walked around greeting tables individually, receiving adoring pets by guests. An enclosed gator pond allowed for guests to feed gators and watch as they sunned themselves. The Crab Shack offered that tacky, off-colored humor that seems to fit just perfectly by the sea. The food was enjoyed by the adults more than the children, but if you enjoy seafood it is a fun place to enjoy good food and a fun atmosphere.
Whether the architecture of the antebellum homes, the majestic gothic cathedrals, the cobbled and bricked roads, or the beautifully designed squares, Savannah’s beauty is abundant. Every major American era is represented within the two square miles that comprises the Historical Downtown area. The gridded city which culminates in a large Central Park gives Savannah the easy navigation similar to New York City. The Spanish Moss hanging from centuries old Oaks adds a haunting charm and a cool reprieve from the humidity. You could not go a block without finding a home of note, a statue memorializing significant figures or plaques telling the story of American evolution. Art galleries, live music venues, fragrant horticulture, antique shops, brightly hued entrances, and the smell of southern cooking created a sensory experience you don’t want to miss.
The food culture of Savannah is vibrant. Feeding seven, this trip we limited our fare to middle price point establishments, but there was no lack of flavor and fun. Treylor Park Hitch provided re-thought American classics with creative twists and unexpected flavor combinations. In Savannah, Fried Chicken is King. However at Hitch, fried chicken was reimagined. Fried Chicken and waffles with blueberry compote and pecan maple syrup, black pepper pancake tacos with fried chicken, chili aioli and strawberry salsa, Sour dough toast sandwiching fried chicken, grilled cinnamon apples and melted cheese, and a spin on nachos with waffle fries, dill pickles, fried chicken and a cheese sauce took an old southern favorite food and infused it with the wit of millennials. Deep fried banana peppers and fried avocado fries left us feeling like we had been to a high end state fair. Leopold’s Ice Cream was a much wanted refreshment after standing in line to receive it. The small shoppe managed Covid restrictions by lining guests up and allowing five patrons in at a time. The rich creaminess and fun flavors made for an indulgent treat on our hottest day. A highlight was the larger than life slices of pizza at Vinnie van Go Go pizza. The spicy sauce, ample size and perfectly thrown crust was among the best I have ever tried. We sat eating these aromatic slices on benches in City Market. To cool off after lunch, we enjoyed air conditioning and free praline samples at Savannah Candy Company. The gentleman making fresh pralines shared he had been making their candy options for 15 years and still had a hard time not splurging. He joked he had to be sure he was keeping up with the standards by sampling his creations.
Lady and Sons seemed a must-do in culinary Savannah. We enjoyed fried chicken, pork chops and chicken and dumplings, as well as green beans, creamed corn, Mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes. The cheese biscuits dripping in melted butter did not disappoint. Every guest gets dessert and we feasted in ooey-gooey butter cake and peach cobbler. the family style dining allowed us all to share in a common food experience while each getting a favorite option. We were stuffed at the end of the meal. Carb-loaded, butter fat, lick your fingers, stuffed.
Touted as the most haunted city in America, The Bonaventure Cemetery was among a favorite stop. Again, using a phone app to direct us in a tour, we explored the crypts and history of Savannah’s deceased elite. The beauty of the statuary, the mossed oaks, with the floraled shrubbery and the river provide for a walk through American history and cultural views of mortality and theological understanding of the dead. Savannah is a city where southern socialites require their proper place in life and in death. Those concerned with being interred for all posterity in the most fashionable of locations made sure they and theirs were buried in Bonaventure. Apparently one would not be seen dead anywhere else.
Among the beauty of the city is the story of humanity. Immigrant women sitting in the river walk braiding reeds into baskets and roses, selling skills from their homelands to American tourists. Under a bridge, a tent city was established where the community of inhabitants was as connected as those of Pulaski Square, even if the residences were a far cry from others. Life-worn men sat in cobbled curbs holding cardboard signs identifying as homeless vets asking for money. Nuevo-riche southern millennials in shorts tighter than they needed to be and whimsical collared shirts welcomed you into trendy establishments, while southern women striving to embody the American Dream served up soul-food and stories. The coastal trade and accessibility of river inlets that made Savannah a colonial city of note has evolved into a entrepreneurial hotspot. Trade still beckoning goods and services to find payday.
Savannah has stories to tell and our family, now, will tell our stories of Savannah. We leave satisfied with what she has to offer and curious for more. We will return, if opportunity allows, to dig deeper into her offerings. We leave grateful for the matching of God’s majesty and human ingenuity. Savannah is a reminder that the past impacts the present, but does not need to determine the future. The three, together, working like an imaginary clock telling the story of who we have been, who we are, and the great possibilities of who we can become.