Summer Travel Series: Savannah

Well it has taken me two weeks to pull together this post on my trip to Savannah and I still don't feel like I've done this beautiful southern city justice. I've always wanted to visit Savannah, known for its rich history and architecture and I thought being there for four days would really be enough time to explore all the city has to offer. Boy was I wrong! Savannah is brimming with things to see and do--fabulous shops, historic tours, museums, excellent restaurants and more. If you're planning a trip to Savannah, you'll want to stay downtown, where you can be close to all the shops, restaurants and tourist attractions.

The first thing you must do when you get to Savannah is to sign up for a trolley tour. This will help you get the lay of the land and will touch on all the fantastic tourist attractions that you can further explore after the trolley tour is over. We rode the whole tour from start to finish, which took about an hour and a half, but you can get off at many of the stops and save your feet from walking to the various museums. The most central location to catch a trolley is City Market, an area in the heart of downtown where you'll also find a number of shops to browse in while you wait for your ride. Don't forget to do some walking though! There's a lot to see in Savannah that is best discovered on foot.

I admit, the guides can make or break a trolley tour. We lucked out and had a fantastic trolley guide (Rueben) who gave a great piece of advice during our tour. "Don't miss The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist," he said. "It's one of the most beautiful sights in Savannah and one of the most beautiful Catholic Cathedrals in the country." I couldn't agree more with his statement. My family's trip to Savannah happened to fall on Palm Sunday weekend and we attended Mass at the cathedral. I was in awe of the architecture, the stained glass windows and the massive organ. I was also struck by the fact that they had a musician playing the bagpipes as part of the processional. I'm not sure if this is something they do on a regular basis, but it really made the Mass special and one of the most memorable parts of our trip. I made sure to go back after Mass to take a few photos and to light candles for my three grandparents that are no longer with us.

So you may have gathered from my last post that I'm a bit of a francophile (a.k.a. lover of all things French). With a last name like mine, how could I not be? Well if you want to feel like you've stepped out of Savannah and into a Parisian shop, then don't miss The Paris Market at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker in the heart of downtown. I visited this shop three out of the four days I was in Savannah and I still feel like I didn't see everything the store had to offer. The shop is a mix of housewares, children's toys and clothes, gifts and they even have a refreshment bar where they sell French pastries, cookies and drinks. For me,  walking into The Paris Market was like a kid walking into a toy store. I wanted to buy everything and wanted to stay there forever. Some of their fabulous offerings are available online, but to get the full experience, you must go for yourself. For more information visit http://www.theparismarket.com/.

If you're traveling to Savannah in the summer, you may want to take a day trip out to Tybee Island, which I'm told is home to the beach for the Savannah area. Since we were there in early spring it was a bit dead, but I did go for a walk along the beach (in my parka, jeans and boots) in the blistering cold, windy spring weather. My parents elected to stay in the car where it was nice and toasty (my sister lasted 10 minutes at my begging), but I walked a good ways down the beach and was blessed to see one of the most magnificent sunsets, which is why Tybee Island makes my list of things to do when visiting Savannah (even if you're on the Island in the off season when everything else is closed).

I couldn't leave Savannah without tracking down a macaron shop (see I really am a francophile). I had come across the Facebook page for Maison de Macarons by accident when looking for more information on the macaron shop Bon Ami (see my St. Augustine post). Maison de Macaron is a bit out of the downtown area, but it's well worth a visit on your way into or out of town. This shop has so many flavors of macaroons! I was in heaven and desperately wishing I'd brought along my tripod so that I could photograph these little treats properly. I ended up buying a big box, so that I would have enough macarons to last me until we got home. I cradled those things like they were babies. It was a hassle, but worth it, as I got my proper photographs (photo 1 & 3 below) upon my return home.

The rest of what not to miss in Savannah:

Papillote: A fantastic quick-eat style restaurant that serves simple, but delicious French cuisine. You order your food at the counter and then grab a table. Everything is made fresh. We ate at Papillote for Sunday brunch (they have the best eggs benedict I've ever had) and popped in another day for a snack. Don't miss this little gem!

E. Shaver, Bookseller: I spotted this seemingly tiny bookstore while we were on our trolley ride. I made sure to go back later that day and discovered this old school bookstore isn't as small as I originally thought. The employees at E. Shaver were a wealth of information on other shops tourists might be interested in visiting.

La Paperie: The name alone told me this stationary shop was going to be a great shop. As soon as the folks at E. Shaver recommended it, I knew I had to go. Stationary is a great souvenir afterall!

Savannah Bee Company: There are two locations in the heart of the tourist area, so don't miss out on a visit to the Savannah Bee Company. They have samples of all their specialty honeys, so stop in and have a honey tasting, or try out some of their lotions and creams. The store even had a special section for kids with an educational hive.

Riverstreet: A trip to Savannah wouldn't be complete without a walk along the Riverfront. Riverstreet is lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and candy shops (free praline samples galore!).