Collards, cornbread and crabcakes-cookin' Southern style!
14.02.2013 - 18.02.2013 45 °F
The first thing that hits you when you arrive in Savannah is the gorgeous Spanish moss dripping like tinsel from the oak trees. Technically, neither Spanish nor moss, this air plant is, infact, a distant relative of the pineapple! After an extremely relaxing eleven and a half hour train ride from Washington DC, and traversing four States, (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia), I felt eager and excited to experience yet another facet of the USA.
My Fulbright colleague and friend, Jane, (from Fettes College, Edinburgh), had kindly offered me accommodation in her apartment. Could those really be oranges pinned to the tree in her back yard?! Yes they were, and for breakfast the following morning, I savoured the best pink grapefruit I have ever tasted, hand-picked from a friend's garden!
St Vincent's Academy is a Catholic girl's school,(approximately 300 students), founded in the 19th Century by the order of the Sisters of Mercy, Irish nuns who came over to settle in Savannah. The school is adjacent to the catherdral and makes for a stunning setting for anyone's education. It boasts a proud history including providing education to the children of Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. I was fortunate to spend a good part of the day at the school and enjoyed meeting staff, taliking to students and observing classes in English and World History.
Favourite Food No.1:Ice-cream
"Leopold's" has been a Savannah tradition since 1919. As its promotional literature says: "One of the top 10 ice-cream shops in the World!" That had to be the first stop on my walking tour of the downtown historic district with Jane and Carmela. So many flavours and so diificult to decide...
tutti-frutti and butter pecan won the day!
Reluctant as I was to pull myself away from the pavement table where we sat in full sun enjoying our ice-cream treat, I realised that Savannah is the perfect waliking city, and the best way to experience its many wonderful squares and buildings is on foot. We duly set off to walk along by the Savannah river, a mighty stretch of water which carries megalithic container ships up the river to the container port, the third largest in the USA. The waterfront is a bustling tourist centre, filled with restaurants, shops, street musicians and vendors. Trolley cars carry residents and tourists alike up and down the thoroughfares and all for free! The legacy of Savannah's pivotal role in the cotton and tobacco trade is seen in the restored warehouses which line the waterfront and are now used as offices, restaurants and apartments.
Favourite Food No. 2: Chocolate Peanuts
Can you believe a shop devoted entirely to the selling of peanuts? Where else but in Savannah! My dream of heaven unfolded as I was encouraged to sample as many varieties and flavours of nuts as I wanted and inevitably, I ended up purchasing a few of my sampled nuts in larger quantities! I did pick up a copy of their mail-order catalogue as well, (just for future reference!).
Favourite Food No. 3: Grits
A very Southern food, similar to semolina in texture but milled from corn, smooth (not gritty at all!) and very delicious! It can be served plain, sweet or savoury and is used to accompany several dishes, e.g. shrimp and chicken.
Downtown Savannah is set out on a grid system and is reknowned for its very beautiful, charming and quaint squares which serve as welcome havens, especially when the weather gets so hot. I was pleased to see that even my family name lived on in "Johnson Square"!
On Sunday, we headed north by car, courtesy of Cade and Katie, friends of Jane, to Charleston, South Carolina, one of the most architecturally stunning cities I have ever visited. Think "Gone with the Wind" and "Tara", times that thought by three score and more and you have an idea of the type of mansions that you see in the historic area. Just off the coast lies Fort Sumter, where the growing friction between North and South erupted in civil war on April 12, 1861. Confederate artillery opened fire on this federal fort in Chaleston harbour, resulting in the fort's surrender. Sadly, no time on the schedule for the boat trip out to the fort but all the more reason to return!
Before I knew it, Monday arrived and it was time to get on board for my journey back to D.C. but "just an' old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind"...