For Memorial Day this year we took the flying RV, Alaska Airlines, to The Low Country on the eastern seaboard. We made Savannah Georgia our home base, booking 4 nights at The River Street Inn, right in the heart of the original colonial settlement, and literally on top of the original cobblestones that paved the walks and paths of the waterfront. The River Street Inn is built around the foundations of the original cotton processing warehouse on the riverfront.
A fun fact: the cobblestones in the streets and sidewalks, which are large, clunky chunks of granite and other rock types, were used as ballast to stabilize the freight in the holds of sailing ships of colonial times. Once their wares were delivered to the new lands, the load-stabilizing ballast wasn’t needed any more, and was dumped ashore to make roads and paths. Mind you, they aren’t too terribly easy to walk on, but are really effective at keeping the speed of cars down below 2 mph.
We discovered Free Walking Tours, a company that does business in most large cities. You pay $2 to reserve a spot, and then take the tour, deciding at the end of it what tip the docent deserves for the job they have done (typical is between $10 and $20). Our tour guide was a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), majoring in Architecture and History, and she was excellent. Very entertaining, chock full of historical tidbits, and also very up to date on the best places to get a cheap bite to eat, some rockin’ night life, or great ice cream (my favorite). Our tour included a downpour (see photo below) and a stop at the Merritt Webster House, which was the real life home of Jim Williams (played by Kevin Spacey) in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. A ton of movies were filmed, wholly are in part, in Savannah, including the famous bench-sitting scene in Forrest Gump. The actual bench is right there in Jefferson Square, but there was a line to take a photo, so we skipped it. There were plenty of other benches that looked exactly the same, but by the time we noticed, the thrill was gone, and we moved on.
We were entranced by the historical tale of James Oglethorpe, who founded Savannah, and how he managed to talk 114 Debtor’s Prison candidates into coming to the New World with him in exchange for freedom from their debts and some land. But he found out how fast that 114 could shrink to about 50, losing most to drunken fights or disease: about 1 year. So he set down some rules: 1. No hard liquor, which he reasoned would help to hold down the fights; 2. No lawyers, same reasoning; 3. No Catholics and 4. No Jews, his colonists were almost all Protestant Christians, so let’s try to avoid the religious in-fighting, 5. No slaves, Oglethorpe was an abolitionist, and remained so his entire life. The rules didn’t hold though, and began to fall apart when the only doctor left to return to England, and his replacement was a Jew. This Jew must have also been very prolific because today Savannah has a fairly large Jewish population. The local synagogue, Mickve Israel, throws a big community food fest every October in Forsyth Park called “Shalom Y’All!” You can even buy a t-shirt!
SCAD, the Savannah College of Art & Design, has a huge presence in town, and all over the coastal southern states. While we were visiting, their women’s golf team won the National Collegiate Golf Tourney, and one of the team members won the individual National Title. I’m not sure SCAD has any other athletic teams or endeavors.
Our trip was as much about the food as it was about the history. We absolutely loved 2 Cracked Eggs, a breakfast and lunch place right on the riverfront. Christine, the owner, previously owned The Cobblestone Restaurant up the road, but lost her lease when they converted the building for other use. The grits are fantastic, and everything is served in a cast iron skillet, of all differing sizes. The first morning Wendy opted to lace her grits with the house mixed berry jam. I had the house specialty, White Trash Hash. The biscuits were the best I’ve ever had, and one could easily feed 3 people. Everybody gets one for themselves, of course, so I felt obligated to finish mine.
Barracuda Bobs on the river front was good seafood, and we opted to share the Southern Seafood Boil, with shrimp, mussels, crab, corn, and potatoes. Very yummy! We opened that act with a bowl of their Seafood Stew, a sort of bouillabaisse, and another of Clam Chowder, also very yummy.
Our last night there we partook of The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, about 30 minutes east of Savannah, and right on the Atlantic coast. This place looks like an old moonshiners camp, found by driving down a road, which turns to gravel, then turns to dirt, then just dead ends in a swamp with cars parked all over the place under trees. A bunch of wooden shacks have sprung up over the years, and they have a huge deck right on the slough, with round tables that sport a central hole with a trash can underneath. Pretty handy for seafood, just crack, eat, and chuck the shells! We gorged on shrimp, corn, crab, scallops, crayfish, slaw, and chowder. We also paid the pet alligator pen a visit on the way out. I got the feeling that’s where you get tossed if you don’t pay the bill. Highly recommended, The Crab Shack, for both food and ambiance, and very reasonably priced!
Tippy even does Savannah tips!