Although we planned our long weekend in Savannah to run our Georgia quest race, we found that in addition to the quintessential Savannah landmarks, we uncovered several slightly less well-known gems. Here are 10 of the things that we loved about Savannah.
- The Best Damn Race
Having run the Best Damn race in Safety Harbor, Florida we knew that the inaugural Best Damn Race in Savannah would absolutely live up to its superlative name. Plus, the opportunity to leave frigid Maine in February to travel to a semi-tropical locale (at least in our minds) seemed perfect.
We woke to gray skies and temperatures in the low 60’s on the morning of the race-my favorite running weather. We followed the pumping music to the starting line and with an enthusiastic send-off from the race announcer we were on our way. Our 5K route was flat and traveled past squares fringed with trees dripping with moss and through residential blocks of homes ranging from modest to stately. The entire race was heaven after running in single digit temperatures on snowy, hilly roads at home. We crossed the finish line together feeling strong and pleased with our run. We collected our medals…and were soon enjoying a hand-mixed cocktail for me and a beer for Mike. All by 8:30 in the morning.
2. Meeting An Instagram Friend in Person
I was thrilled to meet Judy of Chocolate Runs Judy, who was running the half marathon. This was the first time I had the opportunity to meet one of my Instagram friends in person and it was a true delight to have a chance to chat with Judy and her husband, Lloyd.
3. Booking an Airbnb Three Blocks From the Race
Choosing an Airbnb just three blocks from the start of the race meant there was no need to arrange transportation or figure out where to park. Instead we enjoyed a scenic three block warm-up on our way to the starting line at Forsyth Park.
During our quest travels we have run the gamut (pun intended) of lodging to starting line distances. The Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor absolutely wins the prize. The starting line was immediately outside the front door of our hotel. Having the opportunity to stay in our warm hotel room with our private bathroom until it was time to line up at the start was true bliss! On several occasions complications with actually finding the race have made for a less than cheerful start to our morning. Having learned the hard way, we now try to swing by the start the day before the race.
4. Rancho Alegre
The colorful, festive atmosphere of Rancho Alegre caught our eye as we strolled by on Friday evening in search of a spot for dinner. After a wait of just a few minutes we were settled in, listening to a fabulous live jazz trio, and enjoying what is truly the best chicken I have ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a LOT of chicken.
It was a wonderfully serendipitous dinner choice that was not originally on our Yelp-curated list of possibilities. In fact, some of our most memorable dining experiences have occurred when we have literally veered off the beaten path and have chosen a restaurant that we have encountered by chance or that has been suggested by someone “in the know”.
5. Rum Runners Bakery
Another lucky find was the Rum Runners Bakery which we walked past after the race as we returned to our Airbnb. We were hungry, chilled, and ready for more sustenance than the post-race cocktails and bananas.
The cozy interior was charming. Shelves filled with cake stands circled the shop. We sipped hot cups of coffee and tea as our quiche was heated and our turnover was packed up for us to bring with us. Once again we had found just what we needed-without even knowing it was what we were looking for.
6. The Squares and Architecture
Having visited Savannah once before we knew that we would be happiest if we avoided renting a car and relied on walking to get around. Savannah is said to be the first planned city in America. The grid layout of streets and squares, designed by General James Olgethorpe, (I just love that name) makes Savannah a very pedestrian friendly city. Strolling along the streets offers a chance to really take in the architecture. The trade-mark squares that appear every few blocks, like little verdant oases of trees and flowers, are also absolutely packed with historical markers that tell the story of Savannah’s colorful past.
Forrest Gump’s famous “Life is like a box of chocolates” scene was filmed in Chippewa Square.
Virtually every block offered spectacular examples of a myriad of architectural styles which we happily perused as we traveled along Savannah’s streets.
7. The Book Lady Bookstore
After walking several miles throughout the day we were ready to head back to our Airbnb for a break. Mike was in the market for a book so we were on the lookout for a second-hand bookstore. We were thrilled to find The Book Lady Bookstore right off Chippewa Square.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spot. Within minutes we had lost each other as we meandered from room to room each with ceiling-high bookshelves brimming with old and new books.
I purchased a copy of the quintessential Savannah book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. As soon as we got back to our apartment I started reading and was soon captivated by the story as well as the fact that we were surrounded by the very places mentioned in the book.
8. Mercer Williams House Tour
One of the most notable settings in the book is the Mercer Williams House which is an integral part of the story. By the end of the first couple of chapters I had made tour reservations for the Mercer Williams House for the next day.
The tour through the house was one of our absolute favorite parts of visiting Savannah. The house itself has a fascinating history and if you were to simply walk through the house the architecture and antiques would be sufficiently enthralling. But our engaging guide packed the forty minute tour with a multitude of mesmerizing details, secrets, and tidbits. This included divulging that the dining room baseboards designed to look like marble were actually artfully painted wood created by the owner, Jim Williams. A famous statue in the hall has an unexpected feature. And a surprise behind a closed door was revealed. If you visit Savannah I highly recommend this tour.
9. Soho South Cafe
After our tour we were ready for lunch and happened to walk by Soho South Cafe. We were delighted to have discovered this welcoming, whimsically decorated restaurant.
The décor was ecclectically appealing.
I ordered their signature combo-a grilled cheese sandwich with pimento aioli and a cup of Soho tomato basil bisque. It was divine. I think Mike ordered an equally regional fried chicken sandwich but I was so engrossed in my lunch I didn’t pay much attention.
10. The Flowers and Gardens
Coming from the frozen north we were desperate for a landscape that wasn’t monochromatic. As soon as we stepped out of the airport we breathed in that intoxicating scent of grass and vegetation that had been absent at home for months.
The grass was green, flowering trees were exploding with blossoms, and colorful gardens popped up everywhere.
A peek through an iron fence revealed this stunning landscaping that in a moment of completely irrational fantasizing I fleetingly imagined recreating at home.
Even the pansies surrounding this well-known fountain in Forsyth Park warmed my heart.
We reluctantly left the color and warmth of Savannah but felt rejuvenated by this enchanting city.
Quest Race #: 38
Date Run: February 16, 2019
Bottom Line: Start with a well organized, scenic race paired with a chance to meet an Instagram friend, add in a taste of springtime and some scrumptious unexpected restaurant discoveries and top it off with a chance to learn some of the fascinating history of Savannah and you have the “best damn” trip to Georgia.