Like many people who love to travel, I have a bucket list of places I still need to visit. One of my favorite books of all time is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which was based on “real life” characters in Savannah, Georgia. The movie with Kevin Spacey and John Cusack was equally as good. For the last 20 years since I first read the book, I have wanted to travel to this part of the South routed in deep, gothic history and ghostly intrigue. I booked a trip with my friend Stacey and we went about researching places to visit and things to do while there. I absolutely must go back to finish what I had started during this weekend break as I know there is still so much more to see.
In my mind, I knew I wanted to stay in a guest house with chintzy bedrooms, a courtyard garden with hanging moss and talked about southern hospitality. After some research and review checking we settled on what seemed to be the perfect place called the Eliza Thompson House on Jones Street, right around the corner from the famous Mercer House. This place is utterly delightful from the most welcoming staff the second you walk in, to the breakfast served in the courtyard lovingly made by Miss Virginia, to the offerings of complimentary little sandwiches, cheese and crackers and of course wine in the living room at 5.30pm every evening. I loved my bedroom with its bed so high I needed a step stool, dark furniture and cutely appointed bathroom. This house far exceeded all of my expectations of exactly what I was looking for and is a place I will go back to every single time I visit Savannah in the future. To quote my friend Stacey who is from the South herself, “if a woman named Miss Virginia is cooking breakfast for you, you know it’s going to be good!”
Dining and Cocktails
As much as I try not to go to English pubs when I travel the Six Pence Pub came recommended as the oldest English pub in Savannah and a must try, so we did. It didn’t falter with its grilled cheese on thick white bread and a surprisingly decent glass of wine for $6. With a red telephone box outside reminding me of the old days in England I am glad I stopped by this charming place for a taste and memory of my original home.
On Saturday, after one of our tours we noticed a restaurant called Sorry Charlies, which turned out to be a fun place for casual dining of solidly good seafood after a long walking tour. We enjoyed a dozen briny Southern oysters, blackened swordfish tacos and crab cakes, along with a great bowl of boiled peanuts, which Stacey showed me how to peel and eat.
I had researched our evening dining places ahead of time and made reservations before the trip. On Friday we dined at Circa 1875, a Parisian bistro and gastro pub. Someone suggested to us that we dine in the bar instead of the restaurant and I am glad we did given it was a little more lively and entertaining with locals and tourists. The charcuterie board with its cured meats and intensely rich cheese is a must order.
For Saturday evening, a friend recommended a restaurant called a.Lure. This decadently indulgent, casual but still fine dining restaurant in the City Market neighborhood is an absolute must visit for anyone who loves truly good food. The lamb carpaccio with an ingeniously creative blue cheese ice-cream is rave worthy. We sat for more than two hours slowly enjoying our three-course dinner with a terrific bottle of Cade Sauvignon Blanc. This place beckons indulgence both in food and time.
For cocktails we stopped by a cool little restaurant and bar called The Public Kitchen, which offers a very desirable wine list by the glass.
On our own, we certainly hit our more than 10,000 Fitbit steps with walking this historically beautiful city with its streets connecting at every block with picturesque gardens. We walked over to the Chippewa Square, famous for the Forest Gump scene with his mother and box of chocolates. Sadly, the bench is not there but I was still happy to see the square. We headed over to Forsythe Park with its ornate fountain and sat for while with a coffee and peacefully entertaining people watching. You can literally walk everywhere, which is great as you don’t really need to rent a car unless you want to head out of town.
For an official tour, we booked with Savannah Heritage Tours to do the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Bonaventure Cemetery Tour. Our tour guide could not have been more quintessentially southern if she tried. I loved her. She had us cracking up with her knowledge of the real people from the book as well as interjecting some funny personal stories and observations of people in the streets. While the tour probably wasn’t the absolute best one I have ever done, Angela (our guide) made it great. The Bonaventure Cemetery is so serenely breathtaking you forget it is an actual cemetery. This tour takes a little over two hours.
We also did a tour of the Owen-Thomas House, famous for Lafayette staying there during Civil War. This tour only takes about 20 minutes so perfect for a little stop gap and a tour I would recommended if you want to see how the wealthy lived and entertained back then. The curved mahogany bridge in the house is worthy of the visit alone.
Our day ended with a peaceful and spiritual visit to quite possibly one of the most magnificent catholic churches I have ever visited, the Cathedral of the John the Baptist. Even if you are not religious I encourage everyone to visit this sacred place.
Of course spending these types of trips with a great friend, I don’t get to see often enough is amazing. Add to that a city with a past you want to know more about and of course food which makes you need to diet for the next year, I could not have enjoyed a weekend more, except perhaps to add one more day.
Savannah, I will most definitely be back.