March 30, 2013

Day 167 - March 29, 2013: Touring Savannah

Our plan was simple. Board the trolley for an overview tour of the historic district and take a break for lunch at the famous Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room, which has been in business here since 1943. However, sometimes there are surprises.

As we headed out, we noticed a surprisingly large number of visitors carrying maps and busily exploring the area.  It hadn't occurred to us that this was Easter holiday weekend and many people had Friday off. The horse drawn carriages were already out with people eager to see the town. We passed the statue in honor of Johnny Mercer, who wrote great lyrics to so many memorable songs, and who was born and buried in Savannah.

Johnny Mercer Memorial
Horse drawn carriages

We walked across the main street, across a couple of squares, and over to the Visitor's Center for maps and brochures. Nearby, we got tickets to the Old Town Trolley, which we had used and liked in St. Augustine. These trolleys provide well-narrated tours, and you can get on and off at the various stops. After four stops we got off and walked to Mrs. Wilkes. While we knew it was popular and there might be a wait to get in, we were shocked to see a line three people wide, down to the corner and all the way down to an alley. I was told it would be "over an hour." Because we were resigned to eat here, we got in line and waited patiently. This was to be great Southern food, served family style.

Anticipating lunch
About half the line we waited in

Persistence is to be admired. We waited three hours to get in but it was worth it! There was fried chicken, barbecue beef stew, collard greens, snap beans, butter beans, black eyed peas, squash, rice and gravy, okra and tomatoes, English peas and noodles, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, potato salad, candied yams, pickled beats, and Cole slaw, all on the table at the same time. We left feeling reminiscent of just having had a Thanksgiving Dinner.

While waiting, I got some good pictures of the restored housing in this neighborhood. I learned that the entries here are frequently on a second floor, probably because the streets were unpaved and noisy and odorous with horse traffic.

Row houses in the historic district
We have been reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. This New Yorker moved to Savannah and wrote about this town and his rather unusual experiences while here. The book is a humorous and factual story and a wonderful resource to understand what Savannah and its people are all about.

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