Surrendering to Savannah

For those of you who know me well, you know travel has never meant relaxation but instead discovery. Whether it’s a place I’ve been before, or a new adventure to an unfamiliar destination, the focus is always the same. Open your eyes, actively look to expand your mind, and make a real effort to find something new; a purveyor, a place, a perspective, you get the idea. Whether close to home or far away, the formula never really changes. Explore, experience, record (Intellectually/Emotionally/Physically) and repeat. And as a general rule, say yes more than you say no. Such was the exercise to the historic city of Savannah, Georgia on the 26th of August, 2021. And what I discovered was more rewarding, fulfilling and nurturing than I could have possibly imagined.

Why Savannah in August you may ask!?  What…the Midwestern Summer not quite humid enough for you?! No, the celebratory excursion involved the 50th birthday of my best friend and wife Julie. No matter the place or the season, quality time spent with her is always the best part of the trip. Too thick? Maybe, but I mean it. Now on to the overall theme of this blog. Here it is: The best trips, in some form or fashion, find a way to follow you home. In short, good travel should always travel with you…but only if you’ve allowed the experience to become a part of you. Beyond the social media selfies and the boastful bucket lists is something greater. A chance to let a place mold your soul and affect you forever. An opportunity to soften the edges of the box in our mind, that is crafted by the comfortable routines of life. In this historic and artistic city, it just seemed appropriate to let it reshape us like a piece of clay, creating a one-of-kind experience full of substance and soul.

Make no mistake about it, please don’t approach this blog as some how-to-guide to navigate the city of Savannah. Instead think of it as this artist’s visual collage, footnoting the most important elements and experiences of the visit. The ones that resonated with me personally and found a way to follow me home as I physically and mentally unpacked from that amazing weekend. For those of you who have been to this grand, gritty and glamourous city before, there may be a few notable omissions. Please feel free to layer on the local knowledge, as I can assure you we’ll be back to surrender ourselves to Savannah again in the near future.

Let us begin with the arrival to incredibly inspiring Perry Lane Hotel. Seriously, I could not have envisioned a better start to our visit than highly-stylized timeless design, paired with well-placed vintage vignettes, fine art and complimentary Champagne. And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, the staff was as attentive, friendly and knowledgeable as the environment was appointed.

There’s a thought that well designed environments have a way of raising the bar as you make your way through them. I believe this to be absolutely true. They have a particular way of intentionally slowing you down, as you begin to fear you’ll miss something special if you move too quickly. Which was literally the case as we made our way up to the Peregrin Rooftop Lounge while we waited to get settled into our room. From the elevator lobby to the interior of the car itself, there seemed to be a surprise around every corner. When we finally made it up to the lounge, the experience was as intimate as it was grand. And as we peered down on to the Savannah landscape, sipping an afternoon cocktail, we instantly knew this city was going to offer us an experience that was distinctively different.

As we made our way back down and to our room, the accommodations were stylized and thoughtful. From the leather panels on the walls and headboard, the design and other details were totally in keeping with the fantastic visual introduction made upon check-in. What a welcome…right down to the Hendrick’s Gin and Templeton Rye Whiskey. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought the concierge was stalking my social media profile. It was time to start our adventure, knowing that our home base felt like home.

As we explored this fascinating city over the next few days, the colors, textures, art and architecture piqued my interest from block to block, square to square and district to district. These are the images that for me captured the essence of Savannah from a sidewalk perspective and from the outside in.  Worth a deeper digital dive are the following highlights featured below: The Grey Bar & RestaurantThe Armstrong House / River Street / SCAD / Forsyth Park / World War II Memorial / Plant Riverside District / Cathedral of St. John the Baptist / It’s also worth noting that this pictorial could have literally been without end, as Savannah has a visual signature unlike any other. If you’re ever fortunate enough to visit, I encourage you to not just walk it…but study it. Take the long second look, linger and hang for a bit like the Spanish Moss that grows from the trees. I’m confident you’ll find that it was time well spent…and in classic Southern fashion, there will most likely be a bench to happily welcome you and hospitably oblige.

Like the carefully crafted cocktails one finds in abundance in Savannah, let’s distill this blog down to a few specific and less obvious experiences that made this trip truly something special. If this blog had been penned in ink inside a small weathered leather journal it would read as follows:

The morning spent at Collins Quarters at Foryth Park was absolutely unbelievable. The only thing more inventive than the cocktails was the menu itself. Mary our server was incredible, and like my drink, equal parts salty and sweet. It’s safe to say the height on brunch has new bar.

Really enjoyed my visit to The Paris Market on Broughton Street. Purveyor of elements both new and old, familiar and fantastic…do yourself a favor and start this adventure in the basement and work your way up to the main floor. For even the most experienced veteran of vintage this shop it a must stop.

Lunch at The Public Kitchen & Bar was an awesome experience. The perfect neighborhood pitstop after walking around town, and only minutes from the Perry Lane Hotel, the design of the interior was just as appealing as the menu. In short…get there.

Part custom leather shop, part retail boutique best describes Satchel . A true gem, and just the kind of local purveyor of handcrafted items I love finding when traveling. A quality experience and products await you at this small shop that delivers a big experience.

Rooftop hopping is definitely worth your time while in Savannah. In fact, we probably wished we had more time to experience them both during the day and the evening. Not only do they offer amazing views and vantage points of the city, but the exterior environments and innovative drink menus will have you rethinking your porch or patio. Be sure to perch for a bit at the J.W. Marriott’s Myrtle & Rose Rooftop in the Plant Riverside District.

Speaking of the J.W. Marriott, a visit to the anchor of the plant riverside district is another absolute must. Whether your staying at the hotel or just visiting this “hospitality campus” the variety of galleries, shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques is really something to behold. More than an experience, it’s a spectacle for the senses and something you’ll need to see to believe. That said, make time to wander and explore this part of town.

I’m not quite sure what it is about basements that has me in them quite a bit. The Ordinary Pub is maybe the only time I’ve experienced brunch…in a basement. And it was incredible. Again, I cannot stress to you enough the level of innovation in the various menus we reviewed from meal to meal. But I can tell you this, if you’re in Savannah, do yourself a favor and find this establishment that is anything but ordinary.

After 25 years in the business it’s not often I feel overwhelmed. But stumbling upon one of the best antique resources in quite some time had my head spinning. Jere’s Antiques is like a 33,000 square foot treasure chest of authentic English antique, furniture and finds. From and hand-hewn to the hand-detailed if they don’t have it, they’ll find it. And if they can’t find it, his workshop in England can make it. How do I know this? I spoke to Jere for quite some time…and let’s just say his unbelievable collection and passionate conversation about the business he loves left quite an impression. Two words: National. Treasure. No seriously, it’s like the Knights Templar Treasure in that place. Do yourself a favor and get lost for a while in the rows and rows of ornamental history.

One of my favorite things about Savannah are the some of the less obvious places of business that look more residential than commercial. A refreshing change to the predictably formulaic combination of shops in so many places. If you’re a lover of vintage maps, prints and images like I am, you’ll love getting lost in time at V. J. Duncan. Organized by category this was one of my favorite experiences. And yes, we did come home with several precious prints…and the satisfaction of opening a door I almost missed.

Full disclosure, I’m generally skeptical of most popular tourist areas…but Savannah’s City Market did not warrant such suspicion. Charming, approachable and authentic the businesses attractions and overall feel of this outdoor marketplace was great. As an avid history buff, I simply I couldn’t resist the temptation of the American Prohibition Museum and attached Speak Easy 220 Up on Congress Street. Not only was it the quality of the displays and the entertaining nature of the historical content, but the combination of history and cocktails was more than I could handle. Even if you’re not an museum lover, you’ll appreciate the level of detail and research this venue offers. Not to mention the Mixology class we came back to take to end our trip. Bartenders Paul and Nicole, made the evening fun, informative and incredibly memorable. True ambassadors for their establishment and their city, this will be a sure-fire stop for us every time we’re in town.

Needless to say, Savannah exceeded even our highest expectations and we simply cannot wait to get back down there. Special thanks to the the crew at Elizabeth on 37th for what can only be described as a life changing culinary experience from start to finish. But with everything I saw, and everything I experienced during our visit, the one site indelibly etched in my mind are the smiles on this women’s face throughout this amazing weekend away. Happy Birthday babe, and thank you so much the amazing adventure that found a way to come home with us in more ways than one.

Special thanks to Jane and Albert Fiorillo for your local knowledge and guidance. We are forever grateful. And thank you Savannah…until we meet again.