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For “Hard Hearted Hannah the Vamp of Savannah GA” Introduction & Day 1

Some days I look around at vacation photos and the mementos I have collected thus far and I wish I could scoop them all up in my arms and hug them. They are my constant reminders that I have seen some of the things on my very long bucket list. While I hold some of those journeys closer to my heart than others, each trip, milestone, object, is just one piece of the puzzle that creates the life I live. Thus each trip is worthy of some individual attention. Today it is Savannah Georgia’s turn.

I have wanted to visit Savannah just as badly as I wanted to visit any other southern part of the U.S. I knew Paula Deen had a restaurant there and I dreamed of going. I knew it was a hub of history and that was a big draw too. But mostly I wanted to go to say that I have been in Georgia at least one time in my life. Last June, I got my chance.

I was looking to go away someplace, anyplace, because I hadn’t traveled (especially on a plane) in well over a year at that point. A sale on airfare set my plans towards Savannah and I didn’t look back. I was so excited. It was literally part of my lifetime dream coming true.

I would only be in Savannah for three days so I knew ahead of time we would be constantly on the move. I knew my itinerary was really ambitious but thought a good deal of it would be doable. That was until I got there.

On day one we hit the ground running. Actually I hit the ground sweating and I didn’t stop until I was back in New York for more than a day. But I forged ahead. We arrived at our hotel in no time at all ( and it was pleasant enough. Though as you will know from reading about my hotel series blog it was a little underwhelming and stuffy. I had a so-so feeling about it. In a quick few minutes we were on our way.

We headed towards the free bus that takes you all around the city center. I had planned on using this extensively during our weekend but the times and the crowds prevented this even though it was helpful those few times I did get on.

Apparently for our first stop we wanted to go to Ellis Square. Savannah is made up of twenty-four squares and they create an original landscape when you are walking around. Each has some historical significance, statute or memorial, and when you are done it is a nice spot to sit for a few minutes. I liked these squares although I had pictured the entire city differently. I don’t know what I was thinking. All I knew was that I was having a girl’s weekend and I was going to enjoy myself.

Ellis Square turned out to be my favorite square and it was the very first one I saw. It is right outside of City Market. We were going to grab a quick bite before a tour but we ended up spending most of the afternoon there. It was completely charming swarmed with little stores and restaurants. Right off the bat I saw two stores from my list that I didn’t even realize when I was planning would be so close.

For lunch we ended up choosing just the perfect place; the Café at City Market. With Marilyn Monroe blowing kisses at the entry way I knew we were in the right spot. It was fairly crowded but we got a great table in the back near the large fan. That was perfection for me. I ordered a mini pizza but I didn’t have time to wait for it to arrive. I left my friends to eat and drink while I literally ran down the block to catch the last tour of the day at the First African Baptist Church.

Those of you who watch the Real Housewives of Atlanta will recognize this as the place where the descendent of Pastor Williams, granddaughter Portia thought had an actually train underneath! I guess she missed that day in the second grade when the rest of us learned about the Underground Railroad. I am still pissed she is that dumb for all of us to see. Especially since her family was instrumental in that movement.

Now that I have said my piece about her, being there I can’t imagine she acted like that. From the moment you are inside you can feel the energy. You know you are in the presence of a precious place in time and space.

The First African Baptist Church is the oldest black church in the country and has existed since 1777.  This tour is something I have dreamt about doing forever. Seriously it was the major reason, I have come to Savannah. To say this church played a role in the civil rights movement is an understatement.  As I mentioned before it has a similar look and feel as the Plymouth Church in Brooklyn ( I climbed upstairs to see the original organ and see the carvings created by the slaves who built it and their initials that had stood the test of time. The ceiling had a very specific pattern on it known as a “Nine Patch Quilts”. It was a sign for those traveling to freedom that this was a safe haven.  Every aspect of this building was for the use of those in need of prayer and help to safety. I cannot think of a better use of religion.

Not only it this church gorgeous and very much a fixture of Savannah now, the history never leaves your mind for more than a minute. This couldn’t have been more true that when we finally made our way downstairs to the basement. There they had some of the very first pews (more delicate than the ones inside the chapel) which were to be displayed only. But the part that moved me the most was of course the reason I was there at all, to see the holes in the floor. I can’t believe how many there are. They were used so that those traveling and hiding underground could breathe. It is one thing to think about but quite another to see. There are NO words just emotions rushing to the surface. I couldn’t stop staring at them or touching them. They are forever imbedded in my mind. I noticed that the holes were in a pattern, sort of like a hexagon. I learned that they are called Congolese Cosmogram after an African prayer meaning “Flash of Spirits”.  And that is exactly what remains.

Unlike Plymouth Church in Brooklyn which had an entire floor and attic with their archives, sadly the First African Baptist Church have no such history. Those who took this journey have left only their mark through our souls.

After such an emotional and wonderful experience I went back to the Café. It turns out that my waitress was keeping my food warm for me until I came back. Talk about Southern hospitality.

Now that we were all full it was time to shop for the important stuff; cookies and candy. At City Market there are two stores that are a must, one is Bryd Cookies and the other is the Savannah Candy Kitchen. When you enter Bryd’s it’s like you have died and gone to cookie heaven. No, really. There is such variety in the kinds and sizes they sell. The packaging, design of the store, and the smell all create an environment where you will walk away wishing you could stay there forever. I tried their peach and their infamous
Scotch oatmeal flavors. Let me tell you when something is as famous as those cookies you know they are good. Mine did make it out of Savannah but sadly not a whole week in Brooklyn. I know I will be ordering some for myself soon.

From there we crossed the path to the Savannah Candy Kitchen. It was the closest thing to Will Wonka’s factory I have seen. For every kind of candy they made there were a hundred varieties you didn’t even know you wanted. There was the fudge, chocolates, candy apples, popcorn, pralines, cookies, and countless more goodies. This place was packed. It was like we had never seen candy before or since. There was another location on River Street that I am sure was just as popular. It didn’t matter your age there was candy from your generation, childhood, and the ones you will dream of in the future.

After we bought up everything we could carry and then some it was back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. By this point I was beat since we had been traveling since the wee hours in the morning. I was beyond sweating so a nice cold shower and change of clothes was exciting. It was also exciting because I had this dinner reservation made as soon as I booked my airfare. We were going to see Paula Deen!

For the purposes of full disclosure we didn’t actually see the matron of this restaurant but I did get a picture with her cutout. The Lady and Sons opened in their current location in 1996 but had two prior businesses that helped pave their way. This restaurant is still family run by Paula Deen and her sons. Her brother used to have a restaurant as well, known as “Uncle Bubba’s “ but that suddenly closed down in April 2014. I had planned on going but with this option no longer available it freed some time in my schedule.

When we pulled up the line was out of the door. We had reservations and still had to wait about an hour to be seated. This did not make me a happy camper. However the place smelled amazing and they had probably one of the best gift shops I had ever seen. Seriously, anything you could think of and then some was there.  I was able to buy butter chapstick!! Believe me it’s something you didn’t even know you needed. Shopping kept me occupied and before I knew it we were in.

We were all so excited and having a hard time deciding what to eat. The infamous fried chicken was only offered via a buffet and I didn’t really want that. So two of us went with another specialty; the chicken pot pie, and the other two (ironically sitting across from us) had the chicken fried steak.

The food was piping hot but I managed to take a bite right away. The first thing I noticed was the crust. I am using that term loosely. It was more like the lightest, greasiest (but in a good way) biscuit you have ever seen crisscrossing the top. The rich cream that engulfed the chicken and vegetables was literally the best thing I ever tasted, for exactly five bites. After that you think you might die and cannot even comprehend another bite. You feel like you are weighed down with lead. I guess lard will do that to you. My companions with the steak were thrilled with theirs as it was a more reasonable meal choice, less grease, no biscuit topping.

I was glad to had been there and done that. And as Paula says “We send y'all love and best dishes, from our kitchen to yours!”

Finally we brought the day to a close by bringing out the “girls”. Those of you who are fans, like me, of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” will realize that much of what I did, like most tourists; have a connection with events from this book. This final item on our itinerary brought us to Club One where we are going to see the drag show of all drag shows and meet Lady Chablis.

Lady Chablis is a central part of that book and of Savannah itself. This town doesn’t have the kind of night life you would expect. It is fairly quiet despite those in the mood for drinking and having some fun. Club One where the Lady and her friends perform and was the spot to be at. It was one of the funniest and most entertaining shows I have ever seen. Half of the time I was jealous of their bodies and the other half of their self-esteem for being able to do this with a “straight” face.

I took some photos but they came out really dark. This is the Lady a few years ago.

After the Lady did her thing it was time to meet the other girls. They all had a signature look and songs from pop culture. It was kind of like karaoke with a flair for the dramatic. We had a great time. It was definitely worth a visit.

This was just a little sampling of what makes Savannah, well Savannah.

For More Information:

Up next:
For “Hard Hearted Hannah the Vamp of Savannah GA”
Day 2


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