Welcome to Savannah
Bob and Terry on Tour 2012, with Ellen and Richard
The Best of Savannah


“It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here.”

Haven’t we all heard some version of that statement?

For me, I try to be on the positive side of the thought, and I always wonder of something similar in tone when I think about Florida.

Look… Florida has a bit of everything. Beautiful weather. Friendly people. Key West to Ocala… dolphin swims to theme parks... sunset cruises to tropical drinks. Love it.

And yet… in the back corner of my mind… I know that if I do move to Florida, I won’t be able to go to Disney World every day. Which, of course, is kind of a downer. Those trips to the Mouse are a small part of what makes the visiting so much fun and, in those daydreams, even more exciting than the concept of everyday Florida living.

(Of course… it is Florida… and time may tell a different story when I do eventually pick up my roots and look for a new locale to settle and explore.)

The trick is… and the reason I’m mentioning it here… I have no doubt that Savannah is one of the greatest places in the country to live.

The people we met were, without exception, wonderful. More often than not, they were so much more… amazing, kind and helpful.

The setting was breathtaking. Virtually every view had the potential of being a photograph you would mount on your wall. Water views… historic buildings… monuments… trees and fountains and so on.

But the end result was inescapable. For us -- to turn the phrase -- Savannah was a nice place to live, but I don’t know that we’d visit again.

I will not tell you which one of us said this, but it is evident all of us felt it…

“Now that we’re back home, I can’t really describe what I expected from Savannah during our visit. What I can tell you is Savannah wasn’t what I expected. You could probably talk me into going back, but… I don’t feel a need to return, and likely won’t plan a return on my own.”

Beautiful? Yes. Savannah has some of the prettiest natural scenery you could ever encounter along with some amazingly interesting architecture.

Good food? Yup. We found one restaurant that was equal to some of the best restaurants that any of us have ever enjoyed.

Shopping? Sure thing. We visited several very interesting places with really unique items for sale.

Tourist attractions? Check.

Non-tourist attractions of equal significance? Double-check.

Savannah has a deep, rich, and lengthy place in history. We’re talking centuries.

The problems? Well…

We’ll start with a person that we actually all enjoy… Paula Deen. She’s all over the place. And I mean bus tours, cookbooks, and a combo-restaurant-retail-shop-tourist-attraction-building all over the place. And yet, The Lady and Sons we experienced was not a terrific restaurant. It was ok… great, attentive staff… and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

(I’m sorry Paula… I really am. Love you… love your recipes… enjoy seeing you and the boys on television. But the four of us like food… and without comparing notes, three members of our group went with the buffet. The buffet! And we thought it was so-so. It just didn’t connect.)

Let’s move on to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Or… more precisely… the Bird Girl. She resided in a cemetery with no worries until a picture of her was placed on the cover of a sensation. The statue became a tourist must, was removed from the cemetery, and now resides in a museum.

In short… I think you might have some good evidence that the very tourism, that has so many speaking in glowing terms about Savannah, is actually the foundation of tearing it apart for tourists, if you are so inclined to attempt that argument. If you go for Paula or the Bird Girl, you’re going to miss just about everything that makes Savannah fantastic.

In a way… like Bird Girl… Savannah was there, a fantastic place with few worries, until everyone learned about it and started visiting in gigantic waves. And now the flowing tourism to Savannah has forced the best of it to be moved and protected.

The real Savannah… the great Savannah for us… involved the visual aspects and hidden delights no one told us about in advance. The real Savannah is the kind, gracious, personable nature Paula has… and it is the material and quirky personalities found on the pages of the novel and not the image on the cover.

Does that make any sense?

I hope so. Because… honestly and truly… I do believe that Savannah is an amazing city, filled with incredible people.

What were your favorite things we did in Savannah?

Bob: My favorites with the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room. One was awe-inspiring and the other brilliantly jaw-dropping. If you are going to Savannah, these aren’t simple must-do locations -- for me, you didn’t truly experience Savannah unless you visited both of them.

Terry: St. John’s Cathedral and Forsyth Park.

Ellen: Shopping at the different stores.

Richard: Mrs. Wilkes’ was fantastic.

What were you most impressed by during the Savannah trip?

Bob: Let’s see…

I did enjoy the story about the ballast stones. That really did make a connection to the history of the city. And, along the same lines, I did enjoy the squares, the Mercer House, and other aspects that really brought the centuries of Savannah to life.

I was very impressed by several people -- at our hotel and The Christmas Shop in particular. For the most part, virtually without exception, they were smiling and willing to help out. If you asked a question, they were prepared to go beyond a simple answer and have a very friendly conversation.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist was dazzling.

And Mrs. Wilkes… well… I honestly believe I may have had the best meal I will ever enjoy in any restaurant, and it was in the Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Just awesome. No menu. And while funny to say… and I’ve been using it as a joke… it isn’t a stretch to call our one lunch at Mrs. Wilkes three of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

Terry: Mrs. Wilkes’ restaurant.

Ellen: The architecture and the moss on the trees.

Richard: I’d agree with the architecture.

Favorite things we did…

Bob: The specific things that come to mind are St. John’s Cathedral and Mrs. Wilkes’.

Simple as that.

The river front… the parks and squares… the historic homes… the good shops featuring unique items (not the tourist shops)… all nice.

But if someone wants to plan a trip to Savannah, those are the two places to see.

Terry: I suppose the shopping.

Ellen: Mrs. Wilkes, most of the shopping, the kitchen store we stopped in, and definitely the delicious cupcake.

Richard: Mrs. Wilkes’.

Best place to eat (overall)…

All four of us: Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room.

Fabulous. Outstanding. Delicious.

Best place to eat (inexpensive)…

Bob and Terry: Mrs. Wilkes’ restaurant. For the price (under $20 per person with everything included), it is the bargain of all bargains.

Ellen: I’d say Mrs. Wilkes because that certainly wasn’t expensive. But, since you are saying inexpensive, I’ll mention the food at the hotel was good and free since it was part of the stay.

Richard: I agree with Ellen, on both thoughts.

Biggest surprise…

Bob: I’m back to St. John’s and Mrs. Wilkes’.

One was good-god-almighty spiritually overwhelming.

The other was good-god-almighty culinary brilliance.

Terry: Mrs. Wilkes’ restaurant.

Ellen: The interior of The Lady and Sons… it was not what I expected.

Richard: I honestly expected to have more to do.

You know, I never thought about this before, so I found it interesting when…

Bob: Go read “A Tale of Two City”… then get back to me. That pretty much covers all the ground.

Savannah kicked off our stay by confusing me. It was over time, as we met the people and recognized the history that it bloomed.

Amazingly though… the differences and similarities for touristy and historical were unparalleled here. I have never encountered anything like it anyplace else.

Ellen: I arrived in Savannah and it was just not what I expected other than the architecture being beautiful. I can't explain what I had envisioned but it was not that.

Richard: Same as Ellen. It was not what I expected.

If I had to recommend something that a person had to do, regardless of expense, I would say…

Bob: Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room.

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.

Apart from those two musts, try a picnic in a square or park, or a visit to one of the historic homes.

Include Mrs. Wilkes’ and St. John’s, and Savannah will impress you.

Terry: I’m not sure on this. We didn’t do anything that really could have been considered expensive. The two things that stand out to me are eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ and visiting the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Ellen: Honestly? I don’t know. There really was nothing to do in the area.

If I had to recommend something but expense did matter (so go cheaper), I would say…

Bob: Same things as before. Definitely Mrs. Wilkes’ and St. John’s, and then add in the parks and some history like a house tour. The best of Savannah was either priced quite affordably or actually had no cost at all.

Terry: Same concept holds true here as my previous answer. We didn’t really do anything too expensive, so Mrs. Wilkes’ and the cathedral stand out.

For something different, I thought our hotel was good for the price. Between the breakfasts and snack hour we did utilize it for a lot more than simply the room.

Person/people that impressed me the most…

Bob: Ok… look… there were a few people that were either going through the motions or almost annoyed by our bothering them. But not many, and I actually would have to think hard to recall where and when we encountered them.

That said… the exceptions prove the rule… and sincerely, everyone in Savannah impressed me. Anyone we asked was there to help. They seemed to genuinely care about us enjoying our day and experiences.

Terry: I found everyone to be very friendly.

Ellen: I found the people in the kitchen store to be very nice.

Richard: All of us.

Event that impressed me the most…

Bob and Terry: The tour of St. John’s.

Ellen and Richard: The wine tastings and snacks at the hotel each night.

Thing I’m really glad we included…

All four of us: Mrs. Wilkes.

Thing I wish we had done…

Bob: I think we covered it all. I can’t think of anything we didn’t do that I’m disappointed I missed or would tell you to check out even though I didn’t.

Terry: Maybe one of the tours that were led by a guide, such as the ones on a bus. But honestly, I feel like we saw everything we could have wanted to see. Once we got acclimated to Savannah, knowing we wanted to do St. John’s and having recommendations like Mrs. Wilkes’, our schedule came together nicely. And I still can’t think of anything I feel like we missed.

The thing about the bus though… I don’t know. It seemed like everyplace we went on day two a bus stop was right there. Maybe they went to a different house or historical building. Maybe it would have been more convenient to be driven. Maybe I would have gotten tired of waiting for the next bus after I was done in a place instead of just getting into our car. I can’t be sure if it would be worth it or not. I do know I was much happier with the things we didn’t know about ahead of time… the stuff we found, like Mrs. Wilkes’… than I was with anything we had pictured in advance.

Ellen and Richard: Tour the lighthouse.

Suggestions from this experience…

Bob: Mrs. Wilkes’… St. John’s… look around at the history.

Terry: Eat at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room… and get there early!

Ellen: Don’t get your hopes up about Savannah from the hype.

Sure, this will be set up as a best of column, but you should always warn people about the bad, so here is something I think we need to mention…

Bob: The tourism concepts are everywhere… and almost without exception when we did something touristy, we were disappointed.

Terry: The peddlers selling flowers. Watch out for them.

Not sure it’s worth a long story, but the afternoon when we arrived, a guy was selling flowers made from palm leaves. They looked very nice, seemed unique, and so I gave him a couple of dollars for one.

The next day in Forsyth Park I got stopped by a guy trying to sell me a different flower made from palm leaves. I looked at all of the flowers and other items he had on the ground nearby first, and figured it was the same person. It caught me by surprise when I started asking “didn’t we meet yesterday” and as I looked up to finish my thought realized it was someone completely different but with basically the exact same creations.

Later that afternoon, I began seeing people all over the place selling things made out of palm leaves. In squares, down on River Street, and so on. I can’t say I felt it wasn’t worth a buck (or two or three or more) for one, but it sure felt different when I realized it wasn’t just one person that had figured out a unique creation but rather an item found all over the place.

Ellen: There are some crazy loonies walking the streets yelling things.

Richard: The way the streets are set up.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com