A January 2005 trip
to Savannah by Mary Dickinson
Quote: During a short visit to Historic Savannah several years ago, I became acquainted with the book called "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." It included so much of the history and culture of that city that I became fascinated by it. We returned to discover the real thing.
Hotel | "Days Inn"
We discovered the hotel in a discount coupon book available at the Georgia Information Center on Route 95. I noticed the coupon because it had a picture of a historic building in the old part of the city of Savannah, and it was our intention to tour the old city. Even though the building was old, it had been completely renovated. We got the room for $99 per night for two nights; without the coupon, it would have been $129.
We could see the rooftops and church steeples all over the historic area from the arched window in our big room on the seventh floor. The king-size bed had an attractive comforter and good-quality mattress. Cable television brought in all the stations, and we could hook up our computer to the telephone line. We like to play cards at night, and the large desk served as a table, and the upholstered arm chair and desk chair served as seating. The room also had a triple dresser. The Federal-style mahogany furniture and formal drapery and matching carpeting made the room quite elegant. The clean bathroom had a tub with shower and toilet, but the sink was in a vanity in the bedroom. There was a closet with an ironing board and iron and a safe for our personal use.
Behind the hotel was a swimming pool, but we didn’t have time to use it. We also had free downtown parking with the room. The Day Break Restaurant, part of the complex, had a menu and prices for breakfast and lunch, similar to Denny’s. We had breakfast there both mornings, and we could watch for the CAT because the shuttle stop was right there. Free parking is available for patrons behind the hotel.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
Inn at Ellis Square A Days Hotel
201 West Bay Street
Savannah, Georgia 31401
Restaurant | "The Cotton Exchange Seafood Grill and Tavern"
It was later in the afternoon, so we decided to order a dinner. The menu offered several things from the low country. That means the land, like Savannah, that has a lot of swamp and is near the ocean. In Savannah, cooking recipes were affected by the Creoles, and their traditions were offered on the menu as well. Most dinners were either seafood or steak.
I’m trying to find delicious ways to prepare grouper, so I ordered that, fried. The meat was firm and fresh and deep-fried in bread crumbs. The waitress allowed me to substitute veggies for the potato. They consisted of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and yellow squash and were fresh. Coleslaw was also included, and it was crisp and fresh. Of course, Southern hospitality insisted on hush puppies, and it was a nice touch. That dinner cost $16.95.
Bob ordered a 12-ounce chopped sirloin, charbroiled. It came with French fries and coleslaw. It was very nicely done, but 12 ounces is a lot for any man at one sitting. The fries were excellent. That dinner cost $10.95.
The menu offered interesting desserts like Bourbon Pecan Pie, $3.95, but we’re trying to diet, so we decided not to indulge.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
201 East River St
Savannah, Georgia 31401
+1 912 232 7088
A sign on the cast-iron gate in front of the house informed us that the tour would start around back in the carriage house, now a gift shop. Our tour guide, Marsha Dodd, invited us to follow her into the garden. She had the same Southern accent Kevin Spacey used in the movie when he portrayed Jim. She told us about the house and all Jim had done to improve it, along with thirty other historic homes in Savannah. The double veranda, with vines growing up it and white wicker furniture, was in perfect taste, of course. We climbed the steep slate stairs and went into the entrance hall through the big double doors.
All the rooms, the double front and back doors, and the grand, free-hung circular staircase, with the stained-glass window/light fixture above it, led to the wide, 60-foot entrance hall. She explained that Jim had a gourmet kitchen built next to the formal dining room, where he ate alone. Inside the china closet was a set of porcelain, miraculously retrieved from an old, sunken sailing vessel, along with other priceless pieces. The study was exactly like the setting in the movie. I’m a purist in restoring and was shocked to hear that Jim had taken a huge ornate fireplace front from the Armstrong House and transplanted it in there. I wasn’t able to discern the meaning of the white arm of an oversized statue that was placed above the secretary, but I’ll keep it in mind. Marsha gave a clue, but she wouldn’t allow notes, so I forgot it.
It's hard to imagine two hundred of Savannah’s elite gathering in the double living room, with its collection of taxidermied animals and other fine things. If you’re really impressed with Jim’s way of living, the house is on the market for $8.95 million.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 28, 2005
429 Bull Street, Monterey Square
Savannah, Georgia 31401
Attraction | "Savannah Visitors Center and History Museum"
All the tour trolleys come into the visitors center and are lined up. They are all different colors and offer a variety of tours, so if you have something specific in mind, be sure the trolley will go there. If you buy a ticket on one color trolley, you can only get on and off that color if they offer on-and-off service. The shuttle stop for the CAT (free trolley and green in color) is right in front of the center. If you have nothing in mind but seeing historic Savannah or you know exactly what you want to see, take the CAT.
In the gift shop are beautiful Gone With The Wind porcelain figurines, and if you want a copy of the Bird Girl statue from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, they have them in every size. A copy in the original size was on display in the museum. They also have copies of "the book" and a newsletter that has a great map with all the places indicated that were in the movie. You can sit on Forrest Gump’s park bench, as well.
Articles from the original train station were on display in the free part of the museum, and for a few dollars, you can go through the rest of the museum. The fee includes a movie about historic Savannah. A quilting guild is always working on a beautiful quilt and had several for sale. A big bale of cotton and a working cotton gin, invented in Savannah by Eli Whitney, are on exhibit. Johnny Mercer’s Oscar is there (songwriter who wrote Moon River, Autumn Leaves, etc.) and Juliette Gordon Low’s (founder of the Girls Scouts) family carriage is displayed next to a very early horseless carriage. Expect to find a lot more.
Someone is always at the information desk and can help you find exactly what you’re looking for and, if you’re not sure what is offered in Savannah, they will suggest ways for you to enjoy your visit.
Savannah Convention & Visitors Bureau
301 Martin Luther King Jr
Attraction | "Touring on the CAT"
James Oglethorpe founded the colony of Georgia and designed the city of Savannah in 1733. Twenty-four squares were evenly spaced throughout the city, and that design continues to this very day, most of the squares still intact and magnificently landscaped with beautiful tropical plants and surrounded by magnificent historic homes. The CAT (Chatham Area Transit) goes along many of the squares on Bull Street, the most elaborate street in the historic area, but it goes in or near other important places as well.
The Internet, public library, and/or the visitors center in Savannah are your best sources for information about the historic area. You can pay $19-25 for a guided tour, or you can get on the free shuttle, the green trolley, at the visitors center (Stop 1), where there’s free parking as well. The CAT takes a few five-minute routes that are not part of historic Savannah, but most of the time, you’ll be close to or on the same routes taken by the paid tours.
Since the publication of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (1994), Savannah’s tourism has increased by 40%, so the tour companies definitely include places related to "The Book". The movie version, directed by Clint Eastwood, uses the actual locations involved in that non-fiction novel. Monterey Square, where most of the scenes took place, was only a two-minute walk from Forsyth Park, on Stop 9. The only source for a good walking tour of "The Book" is a newsletter available in the visitors center for $5, and it’s well worth it. Don’t expect the tour companies to inform you because that’s what they want to get paid for.
There is a lot more you will want to see in the old city. Stop 30 is a short distance from the Telfair Museum, a unique fine arts museum located on beautiful Telfair Square, and Stop 20 is a two-minute walk from Davenport House on Columbia Square. You’ll want to see the Juliette Gordon Low Girl Scout National Center on the corner of Oglethorpe Street and Bull Street, Stop 16. Those magnificent examples of Savannah’s fancy homes are all open for tours, and you can get back on the trolley when you’re ready to go on.
Walk a short distance east of Stop 22, and you’ll find the Pirates’ House Restaurant on East Broad Street, known to be haunted by the likes of Captain Flint (Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson). Stops 25, 26, and 27 go along Bay Street, and it’s just a short walk down the beautiful, steep stairways or the ramps (made from ship ballast stone), leading to River Street and all the shops and restaurants on the waterfront.
Touring on the CAT (Chatham Area Transit)
Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Savannah, Georgia 31401
Attraction | "Riverwalk Shops"
We went into a few of the antiques shops some years ago, and they were more like flea markets, but we didn’t have time to look recently; however, the situation on River Street was different. A new park exists all along the waterfront. Millionaires’ Casino Boat was docked but wasn’t presently in service, but the tour boats, Savannah River Queen and Georgia Queen, were ready to do business.
The Chart House, River House, and Dockside Restaurants were near the underpass for the Hyatt Regency. Nearby, a talented street musician with a saxophone played haunting music that seem to echo off the old warehouses. Young people were weaving sculpture from palms and making jewelry to sell. We stopped for lunch at the Cotton Exchange Restaurant so we could sit and enjoy that renovated warehouse and imagine what it was like during Savannah’s heyday.
Ghosts are in high demand in that city. Out on the street, a group of youths were starting off on a haunted places tour from Ghosts and Gravestones, one of the many spectre specialists located in Savannah. Believe it or not, they were headed toward the cemetery in town as part of the tour. We didn’t do any of the haunting tours, but I did buy some of the many books that were offered on that subject and concluded that the more you pursue it, the worse--or better--it gets, depending on how you look at it.
If you like nautical items, True Grit had some exquisite things, and nearby, Jezabel’s had exotic clothing, but bring your checkbook, because blouses were priced in the $115 range. If you like to shop for kids, Kids Ahoy had some beautiful things, and River Street Sweets gave a free praline sample. There’s a lot more to enjoy, and some parking is available, but all the tour buses stop right along River Street, and the free CAT stops up on Bay Street.
Savannah, Georgia 31401