While chatting about Savannah my traveling partner, who has never been there, brought up the name Paula Deen. She said, "Paula Deen is a big name in Savannah." Even though I tried to look like I knew what she was talking about, she caught the underlying puzzled look in my eyes and followed up with the remark, "You don't know who Paula Deen is, do you." She lives for these moments. She continued, "She has a cooking show and a restaurant in Savannah." I innocently responded, "Well, I'm drawing a blank on the name right now, but I am sure I have seen her before." I could see she was basking in the moment.
So, to account for my apparent lack of knowledge on the matter, I quickly formulated a plan for redemption and presented a challenge. I contested, "When we get to Savannah, I bet you the first man I stop on the street and ask if he knows who Paula Deen is he will draw a blank just like me." "I'll bet you they will know who Paula Dean is," she reaffirmed. The challenge was on.
A hour and ten minutes later we crossed the Savannah River into Georgia and in a few moments were making our way to the heavily touristed Bay Street. Our first objective-finding a parking spot. It was a Saturday, so locating a parking spot could have been difficult, but we were fortunate and found one quickly. Our first stop was the ticket office for the River Queen located on the historic and very popular River Street near the Hyatt. We bought two tickets totaling $85.90 for the Saturday Luncheon Cruise. Boarding would begin at 11:30am. Since it was 11:00am, we had time to walk around and do what Keri does best, shop. There were already plenty of tourists milling around on the street and in the stores.
We boarded the old riverboat and selected our table on the restaurant deck. It was elegantly decorated with fancy dressed waiters. We noticed the drinks being brought to an older couple seated next to us and I inquired about their selection. Her drink caught my curiosity. Conversation continued from that point. The couple was on a three month vacation traveling up the East Coast.
I decided it was now time to put my challenge to the test. I asked the older gentleman if he had ever heard of Paula Dean. I was feeling pretty confident I had this one in the bag seeing he was an older man from Iowa. He smiled, but his wife answered, "Funny you should ask. We have plans of going to her restaurant called The Lady and Sons for dinner." I looked at Keri, now grinning from ear to ear. She toasted her victory with the declaration, "See. I was right." I quickly sought a recovery. The waiter had just then arrived with our drinks. I asked him, "Do you know Paula Deen?" Wrong person to ask. So, I figured it was time to put the controversy to rest and accept the defeat.
It was time to eat. The buffet had a selection of honey glazed barbecue pork loin, Southern fried chicken, Chef's special, creamy squash casserole, fresh fruit, assorted salads and deserts. The Captain related the history of Savannah and the riverfront as we cruised up and down. The food was excellent and the warm sun on the upper deck was great. Most of the scenery was uninteresting, consisting mainly of old docks and rusted warehouses, except for the section along Old River Street, which was more picturesque. You can take a picture of The Waving Girl Statue as the boat passes by. It honors the bittersweet life of Florence Martus, Savannah's legendary "waving girl." She had a tradition of waving at all the ships that passed by her cottage with a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night. She did it for 44 yrs. It remains a mystery as to why she did this, but there are unsubstantiated stories of a lost love with a sailor that never returned to Savannah.
After the cruise, we spent a considerable amount of time checking out all the old stores and candy shops along the riverfront and up on Bay Street. We did some wine tasting at a shop that sold wine from the Horse Creek Winery in Nashville, GA. I bought a bottle of strawberry wine called Red Jewell and Keri bought a bottle of blackberry wine called Blackjack. We had some brews at the Moon River Brewing Company on W. Bay Street. Very rustic atmosphere and attentive bartenders. Regrettably visited Paula Deen's restaurant and asked the question one more time. Kissed Paula Deen goodbye. More shopping in the City Market, a four-block area of restored warehouses and shop fronts adjacent to Ellis Square. Listened to some live entertainment while having a free beer on a rooftop bar. There is a story associated with the free beer, but I'll save it for another time. Walked through some of Savannah's famous squares taking pictures.
We ended the day back on River Street where it was packed with people enjoying the lights and nightlife. Ate at the Exchange Tavern. More shopping and picture taking. Bought a t-shirt at the Blue Parrot. Watched a trumpet player annoy a bride with the "Wedding March" song. Solo musicians playing for tips are common along the waterfront at night.
What I learned-There are two things you will see plenty of when you visit the shops and stores of Savannah, Paula Deen and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil", a movie filmed in Savannah and directed by Clint Eastwood. You can even take a tour called "A Walk Through Midnight". Sadly, there is also a "Paula Deen Tour". Savannah has been rated by Walking Magazine as "one of the 10 Best Walking Cities in America." A city of tree-lined streets, beautiful squares, and magnificent parks.
It was a fun day visiting the sister city of Charleston. Two very different and very similar cities of the South.