Monday, October 06, 2008

I Love Savannah

I just realized I haven't posted in a while. Oops!

In a nutshell, I have been busy with my family genealogy project and taking a trip to one of my favorite places, Savannah, GA.

To be more specific...

I have been emailing with my mother's cousin, who as it turns out, is the "keeper" of the family history on my mother's side. This part of my family were German immigrants living in Illinois and Missouri beginning in the 1860s. So she has emailed me TONS of stuff, and it turns out that my great-great-grandpa fathered THIRTEEN children. Wowza. She also emailed me a pdf file of a photo of the family, taken around 1905, which is SO FREAKING COOL, I have been staring at it all day. I wanted to post it here to share, but it's a pdf file, which Blogger does not support, and I can't figure out how to save it any other way. Anyway, here's the cool part: my mom's cousin (Debbie) is going to be mailing me a family history book she has put together!!! I can't wait for the UPS truck. It is seriously like Christmas for me.

I won't bore you with all the family history bits of info I have learned today, because I've probably already bored you enough. I know MJ is sick of me talking about it. After a lengthy and overly-excited text message about all of this to her, I received a one-word reply. Hmmm. Not exactly the reply I was hoping for.

"I need to find a genealogy buddy, dont' I?" I asked her.

"Yes. Please." was her reply, if I remember correctly.

So enough about that. I am quickly becoming aware of how genealogy can bore some people. If you want more, let me know. "Genies" can talk about it all day, you know. :)

I will now move this post in an entirely different direction, to a topic most people really enjoy: travel. I had to go to Savannah this past weekend for a conference. Oh, woe is me. ;) Since CN and I never really did anything for our one year anniversary, I decided to take him with me so we could sorta celebrate. I have funny CN stories to share, but today, I want to give you a review of what it's like to visit Savannah.

OMFG we had the best time. This was the 2nd time we had been to Savannah. CN went about 8 years ago for their huge annual St. Patty's Day festival, and I went about 3 years ago for another conference. It was so much more fun to go with someone -- last time, I had to eat and explore alone. I was too worried about getting lost to do much exploring at all that time. This seriously impacted my dining experiences. This time was much better!

We drove down on Thursday and had lunch at Belford's. Holy cow was that a fantastic lunch: crab cakes and a kobe beef burger topped with brie and carmelized onions. I was wondering why the crab cakes were so expensive, until I took a bite to find that they were 100% crab meat and covered in a super duper yummy lemony-garlic sauce. Mmmmm!!!

This was just the first of many delicious meals. We also ate at Lady & Sons, which is Paula Deen's restaurant. Although it is a tourist trap and overpriced, it does have the BEST fried chicken I have ever put in my mouth. I think they are battered in a mixture of flour and crack. So if you ever go, just get a big plate of fried chicken. Skip the rest. You will be glad you did.

Also on our culinary tour of Savannah: fantastic Thai at Ruan Thai on Broughton Street, and excellent Italian at Corleone's (I highly recommend the baked beef tortellini in marinara sauce).

We really didn't have a bad meal the whole time. Even a dive bar we stopped in had great fish and chips. You really can't go wrong in Savannah. And all the people are so friendly! Everyone wanted to know where we were from and what we were looking to do while in town -- where else does THAT happen??

All throughout the downtown/historic area, nestled between neighborhood parks and along Broughton Street, there are lots of really cool home decor stores, galleries and boutiques. I went to many of these stores. Let me tell you about my favorites. Kilwin's makes some of the best fudge I have ever had in my life -- toasted coconut with chocolate swirled into it. Holy cow, it was a flavor explosion of joy in my mouth. I still can't believe it's a chain. Red Clover, Bleu Belle and James Gunn had really cool (expensive!!) clothes and a very friendly staff. Zia's had amazing handmade jewelry. But by far, my favorite stores were the home decor stores: The Paris Market, which sold lots of vintage housewares and French imports and DC2 Designs, which reminded me of a Z Gallerie. But by far, my absolute favorite was called @ Home Vintage General Store. Cute stationery, office supplies, cookbooks, linens, baby gifts, picture frames, sewing notions and other decorative household goods, all with a vintage 1950s flair. Half the stuff in there WAS vintage -- board games, school suppiles, sewing stuff, etc. CN had to drag me out of there. I would get back in my car right now, just to drive down and visit this store again.

Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in America, and since CN and I are both big ghost story fans, a ghost tour was obligatory. We went on this tour, and our guide was a great story teller, as well as very knowledgeable about Savannah and the homes he was describing to us. He had even been inside and interviewed a resident of my favorite haunted house of the tour. It is located on East Charlton St. Here's a photo I found on Google Earth:

Do you see the big trash bin in front of it? That wasn't there when I saw the house, but it was probably there recently, because it is being renovated. Why is it being renovated? Because they cannot get anyone to live in it, so they are trying to spruce it up! Which is quite odd, because it's in a gorgeous and old neighborhood in Savannah's historic district. It's practically next door to one of Savannah's most prominent landmarks -- the Hamilton-Turner house (which is also haunted). You might recognize the Hamilton-Turner house from the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. So why can't they get anyone to live in it? Because there's a poltergeist there! It opens the cabinets in the kitchen, moves the furniture in the living room and re-arranges the pictures on the wall. Anyway, the last people to live there left very suddenly, after only being there for less than a year. They were so freaked out, they didn't even take their furniture with them!!! It took them a year to work up the courage to come back for their stuff. That was in 1996. It's been vacant ever since. The house was listed at around $200k, the last time it was on the market. This is a total steal. If you're willing to live in a supposedly haunted house....where an old lady died in a bathtub....which may have been a suicide, because the woman had been talking to the ghost for many years...eek!!

And if you know anything about ghosts, you know that all renovations do is stir up more ghost activity, usually of the angry and violent kind. They probably should not be messing around in there, if you ask me. :)

Anyway, when the guide was telling us about this house, I got chills up my leg. Then, if we wanted, we could climb the steps and peer in the little window next to the front door (not visible in the photo above). Of course, I was all about this. But when I looked inside, I got an uber-creepy feeling and turned right around! This house totally gave me the creeps. Which only made me want to go back, of course!

But it will have to wait until next time, along with untested restaurants and unexplored shops. I can't wait until I can go to Savannah again.

The pervasive and excellent cuisine and shopping, combined with a laid-back and creative people (courtesy of the large art student population) and spooky atmosphere (Spanish moss, huge oak trees, witchcraft and haunted antebellum mansions have a tendency to create that) resulted in CN and I agreeing that Savannah is far, FAR cooler than Charleston.

Seriously, Charleston is the snobby, less-cool cousin of Savannah. Yes, that is how I would explain the differences in a nutshell. If you need a vacation recommendation, this one gets 5 stars from me!


Debbie said...

*debbie raises hand*

I'll be your genealogy buddy! lol

I have been researching my family history for over 10 years. I am enrolled at (about $200 a year but so worth it). I have found over 900 ancestors online and have about 300 documents; census records, draft records, headstones, etc.

Last month I actually located my gggg grandfathers last will and testement, and also his sons will.

You can actually go to and look for your relatives headstones! It's a little morbid at first... but after finding headstones for 6 of my ancestors that died in the 1700 and 1800's I am totally addicted.

I have a program at work that can change a pdf file into a jpg. If you want to email it to me, I'd be glad to change it for you.

Jonathan Zero said...

Savannah is amazing. Have not been in I guess 10 years now. I But I have family down there now and next year's reunion will be in Hilton Head and I figure if I am that close, I need to go to Savannah.

GrewUpRural said...

I'll be your genealogy buddy too. I have been doing some research on my own family and I find it quite interesting.

Meghan (The Declaration of MY Independence) said...

I'm so jealous! I want to go on that ghost tour! I love stuff like that. I'm going to go and Google things like that around here!

Coco said...

I have always wanted to go to Savannah, I am totally addicted to reading Midnight In the Garden of Good & Evil. I think I must have read it 4 or 5 times.

I also love doing genealogy stuff. I haven't been able to devote a TON of time to it, but I have a bunch of stuff that other people already found for me-it's incredibly interesting. I don't blame you for getting into it!
I actually found that I am related to Sir Robert of Bruce of Scotland. I found that impressive . . . other people just look at me strangely.

Lady Wanderlust said...

I went through a short gene kick. I never got past great grandparents. I think I was doing something wrong.

I used to live in Charleston, "the snobby, uncool cousin" of Savannah. I've only driven through Savannah so I'll have to take your word on it. My first impression is that they looked exactly the same.

Debbie said...

I sent you an email! :)

KT said...

I just had to say ...I'm backkkkk!!! I finally caught back up to all your blogs!!YAY!!! miss ya!! xoxoxo

teahouse said...

I was recently in both Savannah and Charleston, and I have to agree with you!

Jonathan Zero said...

I meant to add above that I have a cousin that he and his wife go to Savannah every 6 months or so and they always go to Lady & Sons.

Virginia Belle said...

debbie -- yay!! thank you!! this is so much fun. i love that blogging puts me in touch w/other people in this way! i got your email, and i'll reply in a bit.

jonathan -- you really should go. if you need hotel or restaurant recs, let me know.

grewuprural -- uh oh. if i don't watch out, this will turn into a genealogy blog....but i am SO excited to have genie buddies!!

meghan -- i did a google search for pittsburgh ghost tour, and one came up! check it out!

coco -- you are related to Robert the Bruce???!!!! OMG that is so cool. i am scottish, so i guess i'm more impressed than most people....LOL but seriously, that is really cool. see, i think everyone is related to someone famous. it's just that most people don't know it.

lady wanderlust -- i can help you! i'd love to help you! i thought i would only have fun researching my own family, but this has turned out to be untrue. i have started researching CN's family, too, and it's just as interesting. so let me know. and you totally have to check out savannah. much more culture there than charleston.

kt-- hi babe!!! i miss you too! and i just realized i never texted you bad! sorry! i get a little disorganized when i go out of town...

teahouse -- ok, so that makes two of us. i can't quite decide how savannah stacks up to nawlins, though...i think i need to do more research! ;)