Laura Haley-McNeil

8/20/17, Vacation

Hello, Everyone!

We’re plowing through summer. As always, the time slips by too quickly, and before you know it, it’s time to pack the kids off to school and buckle down on fall projects. For me, summer had many projects most of which centered around our lawn. I spent most weekends planting or weeding. Last spring, I did hire a professional landscaper to weed the front garden on our property, the garden everyone sees. What a difference that made! The crew really knew how to dig out those weeds and very few weeds had returned by the end of the summer. That left me more time to spend working in the gardens surrounding the house and in the backyard. I didn’t keep those gardens as well maintained as the landscaper did. I’ll definitely hire him from now on. It was great to have a little free time to focus on other things this summer. My husband and I actually left town for a week. Usually, we vacation in the fall or winter. Off-season, the popular vacation spots aren’t as crowded and those areas usually discount their prices to lure cheapskates like me to their venues. Of course, traveling during off-season usually means it’s cold and we have to pack warm clothes. One winter, we vacationed in the Czech Republic. I had expected to be trudging through snow every day, but that winter was unseasonably warm and we wandered about the city without freezing to death.

This year, I wanted to visit Savannah, and if I tell you why, you’ll laugh. There were actually several reasons I wanted to visit Savannah. I love the south and love the people. Whenever I’ve visited, I meet such friendly people who love to chat and aren’t in such a rush to make their next appointment. I had read that after World War II, the city had fallen on hard times and the downtown area had deteriorated. That isn’t the case now. The homes are now valued at several million dollars, not as expensive as Charleston South-of-Broad homes, but still more than I can afford. But I think that’s the case in many areas. I probably couldn’t qualify to buy my current home, if I were looking for a place to buy. Real estate prices are increasing everywhere.

We toured a few of the homes in Savannah. Many of the homes had beautiful gardens between the main house and the carriage house, but I was surprised to learn that these gardens didn’t exist when these homes were built. This area had previously been a work area for the servants. The kitchens were usually in a separate building because the cooking would make the house too hot. Meals were brought into the butler’s pantry or the basement for preparation before presenting the meal to the owners. Often these homes underwent major renovations as houses were modernized for plumbing and electricity. Kitchens were installed. Staircases were moved. Porches enclosed. Still these homes maintained their charm. I had always thought it would be interesting to live in such a city, but I’ve lived so long in an area that has almost no humidity that I don’t think I could tolerate the heat. During our vacation, I would check the weather app on my phone and read that the temperature was in the mid-eighties but because of the humidity the temperature felt as if it were in the triple digits. That I believed. We spent so much time walking around the city because I wanted to fill my eyes and my mind and the camera on my phone with these beautiful homes. Savannah was a planned city. There are 24 parks in the city and homes are built around the parks. River Street borders the Savannah River. These buildings along the river have been converted to shops and restaurants. We discovered some wonderful restaurants, but didn’t shop too much. I was more interested in the history than shopping. We did something every day with my husband driving up and down the coast so I could see all the sites on my list.

We actually spent one day at the beach. Savannah isn’t near the beach so we had to drive to Tybee Island. There are sites to see on the island but mostly it’s an area where people visit the ocean. The sea was calm when we went. I’m a fan of the beach so I was happy to wade into the ocean and ride the waves toward the shore. There’s a pier on the beach but it’s mostly for strolling or for fishing. If you like to fish, you can rent a pole and try your luck.

We also visited St. Simon’s, though there isn’t much to see there. I have an ancestor who owned a plantation there, a travesty, I know, but the plantation is gone. Most of that area is developed. I didn’t check housing prices, but the homes were lovely and I’m sure quite expensive. Next we visited Jekyll Island, the playground for the wealthy at the turn of the last century. The homes were extravagant even though the owners only lived there for a month or two. They had other homes in other parts of the country and the world.

I heard an interesting story about one of my favorite foods – hush puppies. The servants cooked the meals in a small house next to the main house. The owners owned dogs which would lounge on the porch connecting the kitchen to the house. When the servants carried the food to the main house, the dogs would bark and chase the servants because they wanted some of that delicious smelling food. The servants had an idea. They would deep fry leftovers from the meal. When the dogs chased the servants, the servants would toss them the fried meal remains and tell the dogs, “Hush, puppies!” Who knows if that’s true, but it makes for an interesting story. It also changed my view of hush puppies, when I realized I had a fondness for dog food. They just didn’t taste the same after that.

Near Savannah is a plantation, called Wormsloe, which we visited, though nothing remains. The original house was built in the early 18th century, but most of the materials were later removed when another nicer home was built. The planation is owned by a family, but we couldn’t see their home as it was in a gated area. What is beautiful about the planation are the live oaks bordering the driveway. These trees were planted near the end of the 19th century. Now they arch over the driveway, which is 1.5 miles long. It’s a beautiful site and that’s all that remains of the plantation that we could see. I’m not sure what the current owners’ home looks like, but I’m sure it’s magnificent.

Now to tell you another reason why I wanted to visit Savannah – a reason that will make you laugh because it’s so silly. I love the movie Gone with the Wind. There’s a scene in the movie when Scarlet is crying because she’s a widow and must wear black and can’t attend any parties. Her mother wants her to be happy so suggests Scarlet go to Savannah. Scarlet looks very confused, and asks, “Savannah? Why would I want to go to Savannah?” Needless to say, she goes to Atlanta, a better choice for her because it gives her the opportunity to see Ashley, the love of her life. Getting back to why I would want to visit Savannah, I laugh every time I see that scene. The actress who portrayed Scarlet, Vivien Leigh, had such a puzzled look on her face that I could feel her confusion. Why on earth would she want to visit a place like Savannah? I know, it’s a silly reason to want to visit Savannah, but I loved that scene from the movie and I love the name of that city. It rolls so easily off the tongue. Now I’ve visited Savannah, and need a new place to visit for our next vacation. No plans yet. I’m hoping there’ll be plenty of time to plan for this.

I hope you had a chance to enjoy your summer even if you had a stayvacation rather than visited some place. I wish you all a fabulous week and hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!