Independence Day, America’s National day is made for picnics, fireworks, and hamburgers (veggie OK). Some people associated the day with baseball, but my first memory of the federal commemoration of the Declaration of Independence is of a carnival. The Annual Southampton Days Fair in Bucks Country, Pennsylvania was a rowdy conglomeration of live music, midway games, temporary rides, funnel cake, Bingo, a car show, and something strange called a Baby Parade. It doesn’t get more American than an inability to edit excess!
This year feels particularly memorable with the recent SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality. Yes, the country still has some issues. But, it has been said “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” I feel proud to be a citizen of the United States.
And what better way to show off that pride than with themed picnic gear and a flag-inspired fashion color palette?
A few days before the long, Memorial Day weekend, my little family impulsively decided to book a flight down south. Savannah, Georgia is so wildly picturesque. It was impossible to take a bad photo with such gorgeous background props as Spanish moss, Federal and Victorian Regency architecture, verdant squares, sunny skies, and live oaks. I felt like a better (more zen) person, mostly because everyone was so kind (it also probably didn’t hurt that I was in ‘vacation mode’).
Case in point: at an intersection when the pedestrian crosswalk sign was OFF and the cars had a GREEN go signal, traffic still stopped for my husband and I to cross the street. Hours after checking in to the romantic and historic Gastonian Bed & Breakfast, my husband I were approached to be filmed in a segment on “Romantic Georgia” tourism. Basically, we’re silver screen celebrities in the state. It was too magical!
We stayed in The Gastonian, located just blocks from Savannah’s beautiful Forsyth Park, consists of two adjoining luxury mansions built in 1868. The experience feels like a charming time-warp, replete with communal breakfasts made-to-order daily, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, conversational concierges who are local experts, period style furnishings, and a perfectly manicured lawn. We slept in a room called the Julia Scarborough, named for the wife of a nineteenth-century British-American businessman and cotton broker who became one of the wealthiest people in the southeastern United States. The inn was also incredibly walkable to everything in the historic district.
Leopold’s Ice Cream – A restored marble soda fountain with a storied family history, featuring regular and seasonal flavors, as well as classic sandwiches like Pimento Cheese and Olive.
Local 11 Ten – Situated a block south of Savannah’s Forsyth Park, the restored 1950’s-era downtown bank houses a casual, elegant restaurant devoted to popular southern flavors using local ingredients such as fresh seafood caught from Georgia’s coast. We went crazy for the warm marinated castelvetrano olives with prosciutto, candied ginger, orange juice, and cornbread. Don’t miss dining in front of an historic Mosler co. bank vault.
Bonaventure Cemetery – Though not Savannah’s oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. Part natural cathedral, part sculptural garden, Bonaventure transcends time. My husband and I were proud to visit during Memorial day and to pay homage to our nation’s soldiers.
SCAD Museum of Art – The museum’s collection of more than 4,500 pieces includes works of haute couture, drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints and more. The museum building itself is a work of art, demonstrating a commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Constructed in 1853, the original walls feature handmade Savannah gray bricks, forming the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the country. In 2011, this National Historic Landmark was transformed into an award-winning, modern museum building by architect Christian Sottile, a SCAD alumnus. During our visit, we saw clothing by Vivienne Westwood and massive installation Xu Bing.
Congregation Mickve Israel - Originally founded in 1733, this house of worship is the third-oldest Jewish congregation in America. Forty-two intrepid Jews set sail from England aboard The William and Sarah with little more than their beloved Torah (which the Congregation still uses annually in our anniversary Shabbat service). They arrived in Savannah, a border colony town with an innovative vision for religious tolerance, to start their lives anew in a land of freedom. The story of its congregants is the story of America. Not to mention, the impressive gothic revival architecture!
The Collins Quarter - This must be the best coffee in Savannah. Serving cold brew, Toby’s Estate coffee, this concept cafe brings Australia’s café capitol to Georgia. The service is a bit lax, but the fresh fare is worth the wait. I humbly suggest a mint lemonade or a lavender mocha.
Tybee Island – A small beach town, with an even smaller artist enclave, this island is a perfect Savannah day trip, just 18 miles from the city. The barrier beach is around a 2 mile stretch and didn’t even feel crowded on Memorial Day weekend. Housed inside a vintage trailer at 1209 Highway 80, we stopped for delicious, from scratch, gelato near the Seaside Sister, and then double-treated ourselves to cold drinks at the charming Tybean Art & Coffee Bar.
Angel’s BBQ – This snug mom-&-pop offering is tucked away on a side street. The hours are simple, they remain open from 11:30 am until whenever they sell out of ‘cue for the day! The homemade sauces cleverly titled like, ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ and their collared greens with peanuts and mac n’ cheese are exceptional. My favorite taste of the day were the ‘Angel Drops,’ a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce, made with Savannah Bee Comany honey – sweet and tangy.
Red Clover - The best friend opened boutique is named after a unique bloom found in nature, because those who shop at the eclectic store are just that. The nicely curated and sourced shop doesn’t breaking the bank!
Circa 1875 – Simply put, it’s an unpretentious Parisian bistro and pub serving traditional French cuisine, with full flavor, and a friendly staff. Get a glass of wine.
As one of the oldest cities in the nation, Savannah exudes old world charm.