Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Scouting out Savannah: Part 1, Where to Stay

Forsyth Park fountain.
Savannah, GA, is a gem with unique cuisine, beautiful scenery and a fascinating history.

Savannah is a charmer, a Southern belle from her brick pavers to the curlicues of moss that swing flirtatiously from her gracious oaks.

She calls herself the Hostess City of the South and with good reason. Residents greet visitors with smiles and genuine Can I help you's.

Tip: Best news of all for Levelers, she's flat. Not such good news, it took a long time to pave all of the streets so historic buildings and houses were built with entrances and   living rooms on the second level to avoid the dust and to better catch cooling breezes.

Like any tourist-popular city, she has attracted hotel chains, major and minor, many of which are conveniently located.

Professional hostesses of Savannah, (from left) Shannon Romine, Dresser Palmer House; Theresa Jacobson, Azalea inn and Gardens; Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, Jackie Heinz, Zeigler House; and Diane McCray, Green Palm Inn.
But when you visit a city known for its charm, why not put yourself in the hands of a professional hostess? Not that kind - this isn't Lady Chablis writing, you know. I'm talking about the kind of hostess your mother would have admired, one who assembles striking, comfortable spaces, serves outstanding meals and sees to her guests every comfort.

Recently I was invited to "try on" the four inns of www.Savannahinns.com. Here are my impressions.

Back entrance, Dresser Palmer House
Dresser Palmer House, circa 1876
Rock coffee or cocktails on Savannah's longest gallery.

Enter from the front and the longest gallery (that's front porch to non-Southerners) in town greets you first.

Park and enter from the back and you pass through wrought iron gates to a gracious, wisteria-topped patio with an elevator (!) to the porch if you'd rather not do the stairs, although they aren't bad. Either way, innkeeper Shannon Romine is there to welcome you.

Elevator is on the right.
The 16 rooms are large, high-ceilinged and comfortably furnished; the bathrooms are modern and the bedding is luxurious.

Tip: This may be the only historic B & B with an ADA-approved room (it's in the back) and there is a large front bedroom suite at porch level.

Cheery, welcoming parlor.
The front parlor includes a Steinway grand piano and the "back room" features a handsome bar. Honor system if a bartender isn't on hand and guests are welcome to raid the kitchen refrigerator for cold drinks. Wine and hors d'oeuvres fill the dining room table in the afternoon and at breakfast, swell, prepare yourself for a delicious start to the day.

If you hear strange noises at night, it might be little Madeline, the playful ghost child.

Tip: Step count - six steps at front entrance, seven steps sidewalk to back entrance main level, 18 steps to the second floor.

Green Palm Inn, where sailors once roamed.
Green Palm Inn, circa 1897
With only four rooms, this is the smallest of the four inns, but its charm is big, thanks to innkeeper and owner Diane McCray. A former history teacher, she loves to tell you about her adopted city and to share stories of its highlights, lowlifes and secrets. She's also a superb cook.

Parlor, Green Palm Inn.

Originally a duplex built for two old seamen, it is closest to the river (four blocks) and sports eight fireplaces; the stately Sabal Palm suite has two. Fodor's described it as "a gem of an inn" and its small size belies the large suites within.

Sabal Palm suite.
Tip: Step count - five steps up from the parking level, six from sidewalk to front porch and 20 steps up to the second floor.

Rock lively at the Azalea Inn.
Azalea Inn and Gardens, circa 1885
The brightly covered chairs on the small front gallery barely prepare you for the lively decor inside.

Who knew Teddy Kennedy was with Oglethorpe when he met with the local Native Americans?
Innkeeper owner Theresa Jacobson turned the handsome home's dining room over to students from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and the result is a series of tongue-in-cheek murals portraying the city's history. Guests have a ball spotting the faces of Teddy Kennedy, Obi Wan Kenobi and a host of other notables.

One of guests' many temptations.
That is if they can tear themselves away from the food. Theresa cooks up a storm and there are always goodies out for the tasting. Watch where you step because Joey, a diminutive Yorkie, will be underfoot, hoping for a handout or dropped crumbs.

Pool and garden cottages.
Behind the house is - surprise - a pool, the only one at a Savannah B and B that goes above your knees, and a two-story cottage, one bedroom suites with kitchenettes on both levels.

Tip: Step count -  12 steps from sidewalk to house, 19 steps to the second floor, six steps to the pool level.

Street cred comes with Zeigler House.
Zeigler House, circa 1856
You've heard of keeping up with the Joneses? Jones Street may be where the expression began: it was the first paved street in the city to be paved because the residents paid for it themselves.

The Zeigler House is on Jones Street, just around the corner from the famous Mrs. Wilkes' Dining Room, some good shopping and several of the city's prettiest squares.  In its past, the structure has been a boarding house and a bordello. "My ghosts are very friendly," quips owner innkeeper Jackie Heinz.

Fruit, juices and baked goods are delivered to your suite each morning.
Jackie, a former Atlanta caterer so you know the food's good, has created a unique experience. Each of the seven suites includes a kitchenette stocked with fruit, baked goods, juices and other beverages. Each day breakfast, including freshly baked treats, is delivered which means you can come and go at your own schedule and need not join a sit-down meal.

Suite with private outside entrance.
There are three first level suites with private gardens, one with a sidewalk level entrance, all of which means men really enjoy staying here.   

Private garden.

Tip: Step Count: 12 steps up to house.

NOTE: Recipes from each of the inns will be
featured on www.foodafar.blogspot.com
with each Savannah post here.


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