While author Henry James once said that his fleeting moments in Savannah were like “tasting a cup charged to the brim,” I’d like to politely disagree: in my experience, Savannah is less of a beverage brimming over and more like, well, a gentle sip of tea from a porcelain cup.
In the south, a region that is rapidly industrializing, finding gentle places might seem like an impossible task, but if you’re in the mood to take a jaunt to the coast, you can still find a place to sip this metaphorical tea in the historic 1851 Gluckenheimer building, one block away from historic River Street and Olde City Market in the hauntingly lovely Savannah, Georgia.
While not much of the original Gluckenheimer still stands except for a few of the original bricks and a plaque commemorating its historic significance to the city, what is now known as the “Grand Lady on Bay Street” is an architectural testament to the resilience of my beloved home state and its ability to lovingly rebuilt and restore itself. The hotel itself—whose grand entrance leads into a reception area with dangling Antebellum-style chandeliers, purple and gold Victorian-era chairs with espresso-colored legs and seats, and elegant table runners with thick gold-plated tassels—is a perfect replication of its original predecessor. Stepping into the Inn, I must admit, feels a lot like stepping into a scene from a Margaret Mitchell novel.
The rooms themselves fit the hotel’s theme of elegance and old-world charm beautifully. You can choose from two double beds or one king-size bed, and all rooms come equipped with the Inn’s faithful promise to combine “the elegance of the gilded age” (i.e. gold pillows?) with “the convenience of modern amenities.” (And if you still need some culinary enticement? The deluxe continental breakfast is a lusty array of southern delights: you’ll find a roomful with such Southern staples as warm biscuits, sausage gravy, homemade waffles, and fresh coffee.) So, for you who are torn between wanting to feel both the old and new south simultaneously, you won’t have to worry about finding free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen television, a coffee maker, or a microwave.
However, if you’re a light sleeper, you might want to request a room that doesn’t face Bay Street, because if you’re not into participating in rambunctious fraternity parties and festive high school reunions at 2 a.m., you might not sleep as well as you’d hoped. My dad, who we’d taken to Savannah on this particular trip as a birthday surprise, recalled his own fraternity days far too well that night.
If you’re looking for day-time activities, take a carriage ride around the old city. Sit on Forrest Gump’s infamous bench and take pictures of birds. Tour Juliette Gordon Lowe’s home and think about your own days as a Girl Scout. Snap a picture of the first Methodist church. Visit one of the local microbreweries and order a sample platter. Take a history lesson on how Sherman was so impressed by the beauty of Savannah that he decided to refrain from burning it to the ground and instead offered it to President Lincoln as a Christmas present. Head to nearby Tybee Island for a dip in the Atlantic. Feed some seagulls. Eat some fresh seafood. Ignore the calories (like we all do on vacation, right?) and have a delightful brunch at Paula Deen’s legendary artery-clogging mecca, The Lady & Sons. Or, spend an evening doing what we did: take a dinner cruise and let the gregarious DJ put your dad in a beaded sombrero because it’s his birthday.
Of course, whatever you do in Savannah, don’t forget to stop by the Inn’s in-house bar, Dominique’s Lounge, and say hello to the fabulously friendly bartenders. If you happen to see Julia, make sure to leave a little something special for her in the tip jar. She might even leave the light on a little later than she’s supposed to, if you’re in the mood to swap stories over a glass of whiskey or two. After all, that’s just what we do in the south.
The Inn at Ellis Square is located in the historic district of Savannah, Georgia, one block away from River Street. Prices start at around $100/night, depending on the time of year and the location of the room. Check out their website for more information here and to book your stay: http://www.innatellissquare.com/
Review and photographs by Kristin Mock.