The next major stop after Miami was to be Atlanta. Our wonderful friend Mary, who we met at culinary school, lived there and had generously offered to put us up for a few days. It being almost 10 hours of driving between the two cities, the initial plan had been to drive up via Orlando and treat ourselves to a day at Harry Potter world. Three too many extravagant Miami dinners later and $150 each for a ticket, even for the magic of real life Hogsmeade, just wasn’t going to work. Instead, we set about randomly scanning the map for an alternative pit stop. Enter stage left, Savannah.
Airbnb booked, car collected*, snacks sequestered, off we set on the seven hour drive up the Florida coast. I really knew nothing about Savannah, but as we rolled into town that evening the pastel clap board houses and twinkling road side diners were utterly enchanting in the fading light. We were staying on the edge of the historic district in the gorgeous home of Rabo, or Airbnb host. We were starving from a day of enthusiastic car karaoke so Rabo recommended we wander down the street to the Green Truck Pub. It is one of Savannah’s emerging number of restaurants serving seriously tasty, locally sourced, sustainably minded food. We were planning on having a night of drying out after Miami but our willpower crumbled as soon as we saw the beer list. Demonstrating our usual talent for over ordering, we were soon presented with perfect hand cut fries, a shimmering bowl of chilli non carne, coleslaw and a gorgonzola apple salad studded with candied pecans so good I could have wept. Even the ketchup was homemade. I don’t know if it was the first taste of Southern charm, the perfect understated attention to detail in the food, or the 9% abv beer, but the whole meal felt infinitely greater than the sum of its parts.
Intentions of sobriety already shot, next we headed over to the American Legion bar; apparently the cheapest place to drink in Savannah and home to a bouncer who was utterly baffled to be presented with a UK passport as ID. After having every credit card in my wallet inspected, we passed a happy hour (or was it three?) surrounded by an eclectic mix of SCAD students and very drunk veterans. Sinking into bed later that night, I couldn’t help but feel like I was home.
The next day, breakfast was at The Sentient Bean; a great neighbourhood vegetarian cafe with even more of the welcoming energy we were getting so used to. Mystery chef’s choice tacos, vegan grain bowl and iced yerba maté dealt with, we headed through Forsyth Park and spent the rest of the day strolling around town oohing and ahhing like kids at a firework display at quite how beautiful Savannah is. I can’t put my finger on what it is that makes the place so special; the whole city seems to be conspiring together to charm you into never wanting to leave.
The oldest city in Georgia, Savannah was originally the British colonial capital which might go some way to explaining the deep sense of familiarity and homecoming I felt by being there. It’s also ridiculously cheap to live in. When I found out you could rent the entire the five bedroom, four bathroom, stained glass window containing house we were staying in for the same money as my room in Brooklyn I may have sworn quite loudly. This means that all sorts of creative types who are being priced out of Portland, Austin and even New York are seeing Savannah as an increasingly attractive place to run to, and in turn they are turning it into a growing hub for the creative arts in the South.
As we pulled out of town, Atlanta bound, it was with a surprisingly strong sense of sadness. So long Savannah. I won’t leave it another 23 years until I return, I promise.
* Side note on the car – We had reserved a VW Beetle for the journey (you know, those cars famed for their endurance through long stretches of Texan desert) but due for a fortuitous fuck up at the rental company they had no cars for us and were forced to give us a convertible Mustang instead. Sometimes life just hands you a glass of iced lemonade straight off the bat.
Written by Laura.