Planters Inn - quite a contrast to our usual digs (Days Inn, Sleep Inn, Comfort Inn - anything that is cheap and on the highway). Here they serve wine and cheese in the afternoon, piano plays, time flows slower, and one feels content. Especially after retirees in shorts (there should be an age limit for that) drink their wine and - well - retire to their rooms after pestering the staff for a photo. It’s a place to don those designer clothes or, back to reality, whatever we managed to get out of the truck before it was valet-parked, and let the concierge make a reservation in an elegant restaurant next door: The Olde Pink House.
After an incredible meal (did you notice how you can never tell entrées from desert in Southern cuisine) we come back to the hotel sober enough to register a local variation of the turndown service. Not just 2 chocolates on a bed, but also a replenished ice bucket. If you ask me pulling out sheets so one doesn’t sleep in a movement-constraining cocoon would be more useful. Judging by how they make their beds Anglo-Saxons live their lives in a constant fear of cold feet. On the continent sheets are folded under, not over the sleeper and comforter is in its case instead of on top of the sheet.
If there is a recipe for a perfect city, Savannah follows it to the letter: plan 24 large squares connected by wide avenues, add enough time for trees to grow and houses to mature. Befriend Indians and don’t use slave labor - sadly the latter prevailed only as long as James Oglethorpe, the city founder, remained in Georgia.
Next day we tour Owens-Thomas House where a lady with an elegant Southern accent describes state of art facilities of the day: water closets, ice room, cast iron stove, rain water cisterns, bed warmers and coal-burning fireplaces. Coal being imported from England, not Pennsylvania.
This time we decide to dine in something less touristy, Local Ten 11. Food is even better. Familiar dessert confusion returns when our rhubarb tart arrives adorned with foie gras. We find an unexpected company in a French-American couple next table (so much for locals supposedly eating here). Damian attempts to impress with his French but mercifully gives up before causing too much damage. We top the evening talking drunkenly about why Americans always smile on pictures and about open source of course. Walking back to the hotel we realize locals greet everyone even in the middle of the dark park.
We’ve decided to visit Savannah, like so many others, because of the Book. One way of sightseeing: take an electronic copy of Midnight… with you and when you see a house or a street catches your attention just search for it and read a delicious story. Having it geotagged would be even better.
So we had to see the Mercer Williams House. It was restored to the state it might have been when built, but in fact wasn’t. Its handsome rooms are furnished with an eclectic collection of approximately period furniture and art objects. The tour is a sycophantic description of all the items amassed by Jim Williams including candleholders owned by the Washingtons. The questions are of course about the murder.The best feature of the house is a sunken garden made of rescued Savannah grey brick in 1970 that makes it look much older complementing the house perfectly. Unfortunately photography is not allowed and I cannot find a picture online either.
John Berendt praises Savannah’s seclusion but his book and subsequent film put it on the map and attracted hordes of visitors. Savannahians took it in a stride making guided tours into an art form: walking tours, carriage tours, hearse tours, trolley tours, bus tours. The guides definitely dress better than tourists. We see one of the groups being driven around the square several times and suspect locals to play a cruel joke: Savannah in truth has only one square - everything else is just a clever illusion.
I can imagine myself living here. If only something was done about those pesky visitors. And weather.