Saturday, March 16, 2013

Charmed - a travel journal (Part 2)

Day two. Sunny day but a bit chilly. And a bit of a rough start for me as we didn’t have time for breakfast before we hopped on a trolley tour of Savannah. My foggy mind was slowly waking up to the sights and sounds of the city. But when Forrest Gump showed up unexpectedly at one of our stops with a box of chocolates, looking for Lieutenant Taylor, I perked up. The tour guide pointed out the landmarks and the layout of the city around 21 squares. He also was my first introduction to the southern drawl. The easy pace of the place reflected in his manner of speech. What he narrated in 90 minutes I could have rattled off in 15 minutes flat. But wouldn’t be nearly as interesting, now would it?

Once the tour ended, we didn’t waste any time looking for a place to eat. 'B Matthews' was another one of those popular, well-recommended restaurants. Busy and a bit hip, the food was excellent. They had vegan friendly items on the menu and for once, it was nice to have a choice. Their black eyed pea cake sandwich tasted good and was filling. That and three cups of coffee and a nice long chat revived me.

After lunch, we took a tour of the ‘Owens-Thomas House’. It's an old Regency style mansion built in the early nineteenth century by an English whiz-kid architect, William Jay, for one of the wealthy residents of Savannah. The docent walked us through the house and explained the history, the structure, the architecture and interesting tidbits about the many residents of the house interspersed by reminders to not lean in or touch anything. Photography was not allowed inside the building, so we had to take it all in and rely on our memory to reminisce. What impressed me most was the huge rainwater cisterns built into the building that provided water for the indoor plumbing. This was about two hundred years ago. Wow!!  The Greek symbols, the eye-pleasing symmetry, faux finishes (none of us could understand why), the large dining room with amber colored glass skylights and the beautiful shades of green, beige and pink in the women’s parlour were the highlights of the house. But the most we talked about after the tour was the ‘haint paint’ in the slave quarters - a shade of blue paint to ward off evil spirits.

Strolling around the many squares, we stepped into SCAD’s art store to browse. The paintings, handmade jewelry and knick-knacks were all a little too abstract and daring, not to mention expensive, for our inartistic eyes. So we walked out the store empty handed. G was on a quest to capture every interesting door we came across for a collage she is working on. Almost every house had them - doors of course, but interesting ones at that. We admired the houses, the iron gates and railings and small gardens in quaint little enclosed alleyways. Walking by the famous Mercer-Williams house, we could picture some of the events that happened there from The Book but none of us felt compelled to take a tour of the interiors. We were content to just walk around and observe everything that caught our eye.

Working our way to Forsyth Park we couldn’t help but appreciate the sunshine and the mild weather. The fountain at the park was spouting off water that was colored green in preparation for the city’s famous St.Patrick’s day celebrations the following weekend. The wide path leading up to the fountain was lined with live oaks and flowering bushes. Azaleas were in bloom everywhere. We did some people-watching from a park bench for a while - tourists clicking pictures, a couple doing yoga in the park, a newly married couple still in their wedding garb and a bunch of scallywags (as E called them) lounging around.

Time for our evening cuppa. We landed at a one-of-a-kind store called ‘The Salt’ that sourced tea from all over the world and sold an unusual product, Himalayan salt. The store owner was doing the rounds answering questions about the tea and the Himalayan-salt cutting boards. An ingenious idea for a cutting board! Talk about an eco-friendly product. I made a mental note to buy myself one in the near future. All quenched and feeling a wee-bit educated about the million flavours of tea, salt and spices, we meandered our way back to our hotel.

E had booked a table for us at 'The Olde Pink House' to celebrate N’s birthday. The restaurant was in an old Georgian mansion with a pink stucco exterior (hence the name) and tables set in rooms and in multiple floors, all still intact. Each room was done in a different color. We were seated in the purple room. A huge portrait of the ex-Lady of the house, Mrs.Habersham, was mounted on one of the walls, her eyes staring down at us. Despite the elegance, the place had somewhat of an eerie air to it. Maybe the spooky feeling came from listening to all those stories about the haunted bathrooms in the mansion. But it was easy to distract ourselves by indulging on the menu.

The birthday girl chose Malbec for a birthday toast. I had a delicious arugula salad with pecans, walnuts and strawberries with sweet potatoes and grilled mushrooms with balsamic sauce. G’s flounder warranted a mini ‘how-to’ from the waitress. E gave her pan seared salmon ‘the best salmon I had ever had’ award. And N chose a chicken dish. Dessert was rightfully decadent. My cup of fresh, succulent, hand-picked (or so it seemed) berries, wasn’t decadent but I devoured it nevertheless and washed it all down with some excellent coffee.

We rushed to the Savannah theatre just in time to watch ‘Jukebox journey’. The show was a nostalgic musical journey from the 1940s through the 60s. It was not a packed theatre but the audience was engaged and visibly enjoyed the music. Most of the songs were familiar but I could not place some of them. Despite that, I couldn't resist joining the audience in cheering and clapping to the music. It was very entertaining to watch these talented musicians perform on stage. There was a little skit in the show where this young, shy and nerdy couple seated in a restaurant are looking over the menu. The girl, with humongous glasses and a goofy snorty laugh says she is going to have the ‘filet mignon’ pronouncing every letter in those words. The guy, wearing glasses mended with white tape right smack on the bridge of his nose, corrects her, leaving out the ‘t’ in 'filet' but still pronouncing every letter in ‘mignon’. And so the girl, with a dismissive wave of her hand smiles and exclaims ‘Oawhh.. Spanish!’ It served as fodder for humour during our subsequent meals:-) 

When the show ended, we took our time walking back through the lighted squares stopping for a brief pow-wow at Tomochichi’s grave. Focus lights shining on the monument reached up to the trees and made them seem surreal. If only the trees could talk... 

We stopped for a nightcap at the Moon River Brewing company, a haunted (or so the guide books said) micro brewery that was right across from our hotel. The coriander flavored beer was good but an utter waste on me - would they find it ridiculous if I asked for the beer in a shot glass, you know just so I can sample it? I didn't find out. It was some time before we called it a day. And when everyone was in deep slumber and it was all dark and quiet, I was wired and spooked out from all those ghostly stories I'd heard through the course of the day. Now why didn’t they think of using haint paint on these walls?

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