Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Girl's Roadtrip: Savannah Pajama Party!

            When Flannery O’Connor, Savannah’s gothic Southern writer and winner of the National Book Award, was six years old she taught a chicken to walk backwards and said, “That was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. It’s all been downhill from there.” Obviously, she needed to get out more. To bad she didn’t live long enough to see Savannah transformed into one of the South’s best girl’s roadtrip destinations.

        Don’t remind Mayor Edna Jackson that her city was a Christmas gift from General Sherman to President Lincoln. As the city’s first female African American mayor, she’s having none of that attitude. She’ll tell you that today Savannah is full of people with many differing ideas but it “maintains Southern graces.” Her role, she says is to “bring a level of calmness.” That may not be so easy since she’s surrounded by feisty women like Diane McCray who turned an abandoned duplex full of transients into the quaint Green Palm Inn. Or Shannon Romaine who manages the Dresser Palmer House where the resident ghost of a child killed in a house fire leaves lucky pennies for guests. Or Teresa Jacobson of the Azalea Inn where rococo murals feature Juliet Lowe, Ted Kennedy, Oglethorpe, Indian chiefs and the inn’s building contractors among others. These women are savvy and smart and they’re taking care of business…all while wearing their pajamas.

       Yes, pajamas. And they’re inviting you to wear pajamas too. Imagine a girl’s trip where all you had to do was pack your toothbrush and pj’s. No dressing up. No big suitcase. Not only are they making you comfortable but they’re giving you fifty reasons to come in December. That’s the number of merchants, tours, restaurants and galleries offering discounts if you stay in one of the historic inns and shop in your pj’s. They’re calling it the “Pajama Shop Hop”. You’ll meet go-getters like Shoshanna Walker from “Nourish”. The story of how this aromatic soap store began stars Shoshanna’s mother, a serial crafter, who got carried away with a soap-making hobby. Soon all of her closets, tables and drawers were full of soaps. They took over her kitchen. She called her daughter who left college to help and Nourish was born. And there’s honey fanatic Ted Dennard of Savannah
Bee Company. Climb inside the store’s giant bee hive sculpture. Learn the subtleties of honey in a tasting and see the myriad of products made from the nectar.

       Or take a city tour with Old Savannah Tours. If you’re lucky you’ll get Angel as your guide. She’s sassy and ready to set you straight as she explains her city to you. “There’s haint blue and there’s ain’t blue. Haint blue keeps the spirits away. Ain’t blue is neither green nor blue.”

        Girls gotta eat too, right? So there’s the incomparable Ms. Wilkes Kitchen where Grandma’s original recipes are still served, every table is laden before you sit down with twenty items from collards to fried chicken to rutabagas to banana pudding. All you can eat for $18. No credit cards and everyone clears their own plate. Even President Obama. Their shirts say it all: “If the colonel had made chicken this good, he’d be a general.” And don’t miss one of Savannah’s landmarks, Leopold’s Ice Cream, where Mary Leopold carries on the
family tradition that began 93 years ago. Tutti Fruitti was invented here and they make all their own ice creams, syrups, cookies, even the gummy bears. Still hungry? Kick it up a notch and head to Vic’s on the River for a riverside dinner of gourmet creations.

        This is the city where Juliet Lowe is almost elevated to saint status for founding the girl scouts. Talk about feisty. Despite becoming deaf from a piece of rice that was thrown during her wedding, got caught in her ear and became infected, she started a counterpoint to the Boy Scouts and saw 168,000 members in her lifetime. There are 3.8 million Girl Scouts today. This year is the 100th anniversary of the founding and they’re expecting 185,000 visitors to tour her house.

        And what would a girl’s trip be without a little wildness? Well, the Pajama Shop Hop includes a key to Savannah’s secret speak-easy, Mata Hari’s. Down a steep staircase by the river, in a dark alley you wouldn’t normally venture, there’s a door. Give the secret knock and a small panel opens. Say the password and you’ll be welcomed into an exotic hidden nightclub. Absinthe is ignited and poured over antique spoons and sugar cubes. Torch singers in elbow length gloves emote. A red velvet curtain theatrically parts to reveal a mysterious stage show of dancers, fire eaters and singers.

        Actually everyone knows that Mayor Edna Jackson’s calmness is a cover for a fiery soul. For over fifty years she has participated in countless campaigns to improve her city beginning with “wade-ins”, sit-ins and “kneel-ins” that marked the start of Savannah’s Civic Right era. Today she is one of Savannah’s spirited women that makes the city vibrant, exciting and a great place to visit. And maybe to shop in your pajamas.

If You Go:


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