Savannah, Georgia

The Mansion on Forsyth

Savannah – Georgia

Charleston to Savannah, and we stopped off in Beaufort for lunch on the way. Savannah is the second place on this trip you can drink in the street. Not something I feel the need to do but good to know you won’t get arrested if you do.  My research for things to see here relied almost entirely on the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.  Freddie and François gave me the movie on CD for Christmas giving me ample time to watch, anyway that escaped me.

Savannah laid out in 1733 is a town of 22 squares, horse drawn carriages, and delightful architecture.

The Mansion on Forsyth our hotel, is our first stop, to dump luggage and car and then to head out to wander the town rummage round some of the squares, and to visit Jim Williams’ house on Mercer Square. The scene of a shooting decades earlier where Jim Williams shot dead his gay lover. Three trials later he was exonerated, as it all happened in self-defence.

I spotted the house, which didn’t seem very open but had a tourist plaque on it, which was all I needed to know, so I knocked on the door and asked the very nice lady if the house was available to view and could we visit.  She said yes we could look round, it was actually her mother’s house and she wouldn’t mind either, but that the house we actually wanted was over the road!  (Had I been on my own I would have taken her up on her offer, you don’t often get to see inside people’s houses.) With Sandra in tow and her sensibilities it was unfortunately a no go.  We beat a hasty retreat and found the entrance not actually in the square at all and had a docent guided tour. Relatives now live here so only the ground floor is open, but it is a marvellous example of a large family home in Savannah. Many of these houses had fallen into disrepair, Jim Williams was responsible for buying and renovating several of them and today still, houses are being fixed up all over town.

We eventually wound up at the lovely rooftop bar at the Bohemian hotel  overlooking the Savannah River, which is twinned with the Mansion.  A good reason to stop here was the benefit of the free shuttle back to our hotel. Both these hotels are modern, up to the minute fittings, and contemporary art abounds everywhere.

Dinner was at The Grey a converted Greyhound bus station run by John Morisano, very hands on and he stopped to say hi.

The chef is Mashama Bailey. 

I found this place as she was the subject of a Netflix Prog. The food was terrific and well worth booking in advance for.  After dinner ready for some music we ubered over to the Cellar Tavern underneath the Olde Pink House. Such a good night was had that the next day was a somewhat subdued affair Sandra bought drinks all round several times, all of Savannah was grateful.

 Olde Pink house with cellar tavern and live music

Horse drawn carriages are a must do so we decided to have one just to ourselves this time in the morning, which meant little thinking and some recovery time. The Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah houses a number of famous folk. Jim Williams for one, Johnny Mercer of “Moon River” and “That Old Black Magic” for another.  And we took a picnic for lunch from the Back in the Day Bakery.  If you call into the office as it is a huge place, they will give you a map (for a donation of course) and there are picnic tables


The Pinkie Masters bar featured heavily in my essential reading before I got here so we decided we had to stop by. A real dive bar with a good old jukebox, lovely locals, and the owners are so keen on cocktails that they could even conjure up a Pimms; pretty unusual for the USA. Parking is pretty easy you just need to pay, but then you need to pay for everything her except for the air.

Dinner at The Atlantic a short trip out of town where a barbecue was cooking oysters rounded off Savannah. We left Saturday morning and I wandered over to farmers market in Forsyth Park over the road from the hotel worth a look if you’re there.  All manner of produce, herbs, meat, cookies, pickles, bread.



Charleston – South Carolina April 2019

Charleston – South Carolina

Charleston was established in 1670 as Charles Town honouring Charles II of England. This isn’t a guidebook but the place burnt down a couple of times, moved and was rebuilt, but you can Google all that stuff.

I was the advance party Sandra would arrive in time for dinner from Los Angeles.  The flight from New Orleans on American Airlines was uneventful and I hurried out to pickup my Avis car.  A short queue, but they had all my info in advance so gave me the keys with no further paperwork.  As I walked down the hill to the car park I thought I would need to drop Sandra off with the luggage when we flew to Philadelphia later in the week, as we wouldn’t want to push our luggage up hill.

It was then that it dawned on me that I had walked out of the airport without my bag!  Had this been any airport in the UK it would have been impossible to get back into the baggage hall. As it was the US, the baggage hall is essentially on the street so any Tom Dick or Harry can come and steal your bag.  Making my way back I called into the American Airlines office to find the person absent, I saw her soon enough she was making her way back to her office with my bag. In fact she had two, so I was not the only stupid one that day!

The Planters Inn is an old hotel full of charm and charming people. Supposedly with one of the best restaurants in town, as our first breakfast was so abysmal and as the next meal could be my last on this earth, we didn’t bother trying it. The staff though are delightful, have lots of other ideas for breakfast lunch etc, and are great at valeting the car.  Rooms are big and each comes complete with a Teddy Bear, just in case you need a cuddle while you’re here.

I had a very decent lunch in the Palmetto Court across the road which is the restaurant that belongs to the Belmond hotel. I would stay here next time. The food was good on both occasions I tried it. Plus there is a rooftop pool and bar. The Thoroughbred bar downstairs exudes southern comfort.

Husk was booked for dinner one of the best restaurants in town, needs booking, and way in advance. They also have a bar with bar snacks, where less or no booking is required. Both are excellent. Sean Brock started this place and I found him on a Netflix programme with Anthony Bourdain.  He has other joints in town too, if you have time to visit.

A horse and carriage ride seemed a good way to start to get our bearings.  As we clip clopped round town our driver explained a little of the history. The houses many of them antebellum (from the Latin meaning pre-war, there have been several so take your pick). They were built in the days of no air conditioning. So were aligned in order to catch any breeze going. Many with outdoor porches or piazzas. These areas would have the equivalent of a front door, or hospitality door. If the door was open then neighbours could drop by for tea or mint juleps!

Later we opted for a guided walk for just us, rather that join a tour. This was useful to understand the history of Charleston and that it was the seat of the start of the Civil War of Independence. Having got somewhat wet on this walk and the anorak in the bag being deployed, I am pleased to say the day improved as we crossed the new bridge aka Arthur Ravenel Jr bridge to Mount Pleasant. Lunched at Shem Creek where the fishing boats come in and watched some Pelicans sunning themselves and fishing for their lunch.  There is a lovely walk along the creek here and the place is all set up for fishermen, with water and a table for cleaning the fish.

Having seen one plantation house in New Orleans we decided another might be in order and made our way to Boone Hall. Not unlike Oak Alley outside New Orleans’s, indeed has its own oak alley, but their slave accommodation was made of brick, rather than wood. And there are 9 original slave cabins. Very small 12’ x 30’ single story houses with a hearth for cooking.  The place is still farmed 320 years later. Peaches mainly. The slaves here also made bricks when they weren’t growing sugar or indigo.   The house was rebuilt in 1936 so not v interesting but still gives a fascinating insight to southern history.

A couple of rooftop bars, the Market Pavilion Hotel and The Vendue at Charleston’s Art Hotel were great.  Fig was booked for dinner also a must do and also book way in advance. I used the concierge to help here.  Planters Inn is famous for its coconut cake and 11 layers.  So after dinner we tried out the bar and the cake.  Not sure it’s worth the effort.  Bar is nice cake is ordinary.

As breakfast at the Inn had been such a disappointment, we found Millers All Day for breakfast on King St. The name is a misnomer it shuts around 3pm! But it’s very good for breakfast. We are in the land of grits and biscuits. Grits think weird porridge and I can do without it. Biscuits are like scones and they are fine.

As we had a “ghost walk” planned for the evening we just dipped into the Husk Bar before hand for some southern fried chicken and a cocktail.  The chicken is their idea of a bar snack. I think it was a whole chicken; anyway we couldn’t manage it all.  Go hungry!

A boat trip to Fort Sumter is interesting as this is where the first shots were fired that started the American Civil War. There is a montage inside the fort that explains the back-story and this is interesting if your illiterate as far as US history is concerned.  Otherwise as a fort it’s not that great. Wales has better castles. Pages Okra Grill beforehand conjured up a good American breakfast. The boat ride there gives great views of Charleston and I imagine in summer a little relief from the heat.  April is a good time to come here. Weather perfect for sightseeing. The humidity in summer is supposed to be high and of course there are more tourists.

Planters Inn sits opposite N & S Market Street between which sits a craft market.  The sweet grass baskets are famous here, the craft originating in Africa and made by Gullah weavers.  They are very expensive but worth a look. Considered and I quote “among the nation’s most prized cultural souvenirs”. There are some in the Smithsonian. There are none in Covent Garden.

There is also the Confederate Museum at the end of the market, full of artefacts to do with the civil war uniforms with bullet holes and the like, only a dollar or two for a quick run round.

On N Market Street was my favourite bar. Henry’s On the Market with live jazz and roof deck. Set over 3 floors, with a very comfy 1st floor area complete with fire where I whiled away an hour or two with a book.  Our final dinner was at Felix’s on King St a short Uber away.  I’d booked The Ordinary which was a converted bank next door, but the noise was unbearable, so we repaired to Felix’s, light, bright good and Frenchish.

Charleston is eminently liveable, historically very pretty, the food was good, and southern hospitality is all it is cracked up to be, and the pace of life is slower than the big cities of the North.

Leaving Charleston for Savannah we dropped in on the Angel Oak on St Johns Island a live oak tree between 400/500 years old.

New Orleans Louisiana – Las Vegas without the flash and trash

Arriving in New Orleans I took a taxi a standard $36 into town. I knew I was in the land of tipping everything that moved, when I handed over my $40 bucks and got no change!

The Hotel Monteleone boasts the only hotel bar with a carousel in it. Installed in 1949. If you are lucky (and I was once) you can hop on and spin round, 360 degrees in 15 minutes. This plus nightly music contributes to it being the busiest and noisiest hotel bar I have ever been in.  That said I did get chatted up by Mr Concrete from Fort Worth who bought me a drink one night and had a chat with a retired teacher and her daughter another.

Walking around in the dark on a Wednesday evening, the street thronging, bars buzzing, and music coming from all directions was more than I was expecting. Little did I know that this was pretty sedate and as the weekend came nearer things would heat up. More of everything. Bourbon St becomes pedestrianised in the evenings and a posse of policemen hang around keeping order. Though there doesn’t appear a lot for them to do. That said I didn’t stay up all night. I did however wander into Cafe Beignet and watched Steamboat Willie and his band (they appear nightly), while having a Margarita.

The food scene must be one of the best the US has to offer. Portions are sensible, as are the prices and so a three course dinner is not out of the question. Waiters are formally attired in DJ’s and dickie bows and tablecloths abound.

Cafe du Monde or Cafe Beignet are both good for breakfast and Beignets are the order of the day. Three deep fried bits of dough dusted in icing sugar for $3.50. I had one and gave the other two away. Akin to doughnuts without the jam. When in Rome.

The next day rained so much so I schlepped over to Frenchmen Street where there are an unlimited number of bars, with assorted bands, the only requirement is you buy a drink per set. So for $10 you are happily entertained and then can wander off to the next joint. So I started in the Spotted Cat then made my way to Bamboula’s where a doormen started chatting to me as I entered, as I wasn’t paying attention I got him to repeat his missive. He was advising me that I needed to buy a drink, really …… “I’ll write that down” ….. He says the drinks pay for the band. I don’t think so, the audience pays for the band as they come round with a bucket afterwards, which of course is fine.

There are plantation houses around and I visited Oak Alley in the morning. As it was pouring down, an hour each way on a bus didn’t seem like a bad idea. When the sun shines it can be very humid here and we are only early April, so I won’t be coming in the summer.

A trip on a street car is a must do, so with Claire and Mike who had joined me from Scottsdale we took the St Charles street car the end of the line, past some lovely antebellum houses (before the war, specifically the Civil War for those who aren’t Latin scholars). Plus some shot-gun houses. So called as there are no interior walls so if someone comes to the door and you are in the garden (and you don’t like them very much), you have a clear view and you can shoot them. We would probably call this open plan these days. End of the line found the Camelia Grill a great dive with counter seating and cheery wait staff in vintage uniforms, white jackets and bow ties.

Brennans for dinner and Mr Brennan seems like the Corbin and King of New Orleans as he has a chain of restaurants with no two the same. Lunch one day was the best (supposedly) barbecue shrimp in town at Mr B’s bistro and as that counts as an entree, during the week you can have either a Martini or a Bloody Mary for $1.5 bucks.  There are a lot of happy hours and happy hour deals. 25 cent Martini anyone! You can drink in the street and pretty much anything goes. Smoking dope in the street too I saw one day. That may not be legal. Drinking in the street is.  In fact for the nerdy among you there are only 7 places that you can drink in the street legally in the US.  Savannah, Hood River, Sonoma, Las Vegas, Fredericksburg, Memphis and New Orleans. More of Savannah later.

I decided I ought to learn how to ride a Segway so took a tour with the only Segway company in town and had a tour of the area and the outskirts. Many of the houses in what was the poor black area have now been renovated, painted gaily and now command $500k and upwards, in the French Quarter the houses hide courtyards, swimming pools in places, and fetch up to $10M US. What they don’t tell you before you go on a Segway ride is that your feet will hurt. They should sell you a foot massage as well. As we rode out of the Segway shop I saw a massage shop advertising all manner of massages little knowing that I would be availing myself of their services an hour or so later.

The rain stopped play a bit in New Orleans but it is certainly a fun place. So much music everywhere, people busking on the street, in the bars and restaurants.  I didn’t manage to eat my way through all the special dishes here but managed Etouffe, Gumbo, barbecue shrimp, grilled oysters, all excellent and the southern hospitality shines through everywhere.

Carousel Bar Hotel Monteleone

The only carousel you need to be 21 to ride.

Spotted Cat Dive Bar

Bamboula’s .. make sure you buy a drink here!

Camelia Grill and Claire and Mike

A dodgy segway driver

A great massage parlour run by a lovely Chinese family

Oak Alley one of the great plantation houses. Used to grow “White Gold”, no not Peruvian marching powder. Sugar cane! So called because of these very wet oak trees.

An example of the marvellous architecture to be found all over the French Quarter

Mr B’s the best barbecue shrimp in town!