Friday, March 24, 2017

Sashaying through Savannah

Azaleas and a gazebo in one of the many squares
Savannah, Georgia is a wonderfully historic city, and three of us were delighted to find that the QuiltCon East was to be there. We joined just a few of the 21,000,000 US quilters to enjoy this extravaganza. Only one of us, Barb, is an experienced quilter but that didn’t mean that Linnea and I weren’t enthusiastic fabric collectors. Someday we’ll get a quilt completed! In any case, Savannah is a wonderful city to explore, the weather was perfect, and the food was great!

QuiltCon East was a fabulous array of artistry; of the thousands of quilts entered in the
Best in show: bling
competition, only the 300 best were exhibited. If you’re thinking Sunbonnet Sue and Framer (Overall) Sam quilts, this quilt show would have either left you surprised or disappointed. Neither of these traditional quilting patterns were anywhere in evidence. There were, however, oodles of wonderful modern examples of the age-old practice of quilting. This particular type of needle craft is the stitching together of layers of padding and fabric, and may have begun as early as the ancient Egyptians. European quilting was probably introduced in the 1100s by Crusaders as a garment worn under their armor. The 12th century was also a time of decorative works and there are surviving from that era. The quilting art form became de rigueur in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but only for the very wealthy. It wasn’t until quite a bit later that quilts made from scraps or old clothing became a common bed covering. When she was young, my grandmother made pieced quilts that were then hand-quilted on a frame the size of the finished quilt. I remember her working on ‘whole cloth’ quilts when I was a child. Unfortunately, these have all vanished from our household;
evidently they were presents. From what I recall, the backs of our quilts were quite plain; not so at this exhibit. Many of the quilt backs were just as beautiful and interesting as the fronts. For instance, the back of the Abraham Lincoln quilt was actually a plain piece of fabric onto which the artist had transferred the image of the president.

Although we spent two full days looking at the quilts and shopping with fabric vendors at that Savannah International Trade and Convention Center, we did take a day to tour the old part of the city. Named for the Savannah River, the Savannah area was home first to the Westo
Top L to R: Curved stairs, Buggy tour
Bottom L to R: Tall and short bridges, Ballast rocks
then to the Shawnee tribes. These peoples lived here until the arrival of Europeans. The city of Savannah was established by General James Oglethorpe in the mid-1700s after he made contact with
Tomochichi, the Yamacraws Indian Tribe, and Indian traders John and Mary Musgrove. By 1751, Savannah was made the colonial capital of Georgia and the southernmost commercial port of the Thirteen Colonies.  With the mild climate aiding in the growth of the agricultural economy, silk and indigo production became big money-makers for the colonists. And because of its location on a navigable waterway, Savannah was soon a major center for troops in the American Revolution. Once the city, and the colonies, was firmly in the hands of the US citizens, things settled down and cotton, rather than silk, became the dominant agricultural commodity. This also led to the construction of the Port of Savannah. With shipping a viable industry, the European immigrants who worked the docks began to create their own businesses to achieve wealth and prosperity. In this area, you can still see streets made from the ballast of ships. These stones are not only attractive, but are of interest to anyone with a geological bent since they come from all over the world. However, because of this success, Savannah became a prime objective of the Civil War. Saved from destruction by an early negotiated surrender, Savannah has retained its parks and monuments, along with becoming the largest single ocean container terminal on the U.S. eastern coast, and the fourth-busiest seaport in the nation. The Eugene Talmadge Bridge that spans the Savannah River is breathtaking from a distance and as you are driving over it. This new bridge is a result of several container ship collisions with the old bridge. From a height of 185 feet (56 m), you can see the ships coming and going, along with the original pylons from the previous bridge.

Our hotel was situated in the heart of historic Savannah. In this district there are 22 squares
Cathedral of St John the Baptist, inside and out
that provide green space, gardens, monuments, and fountains. All are named and usually have a small historical plaque providing a brief summary of the area. There were three ‘lost squares’, victims of the urban development of the 1950s. One of those, Ellis Square, is newly restored and opened in 2010. The other two squares are under US highway 17. Savannah has always been proud of its history, with an early group of rather well-to-do women raising money to save an historic home by emptying their husbands’ bank accounts. These ‘feisty women’, as they were called, became the core of the Savannah Historical Society. One of the houses under the care of this group is the Flannery O’Connor house. This three-story rather typical Savannah townhouse faces one of the lovely squares and is near the Catholic Church that played such a huge part in her life. There are several churches on the squares, the grandest being the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist; its architecture makes it an uncommon site in southern cities. A much more modest place of worship is the First African Baptist Church, which was established in 1773 by slaves from nearby plantations. As you walk away from the squares and toward the
Top L to R: African Church, O'Connor house
Bottom L to R: Gryphon, City hall and riverboat
business district, you’ll encounter the gold-domed Savannah City Hall. Designed by Savannah architect Hyman W. Witcover and built 1904-1905 in Renaissance Revival style, it originally had a copper dome; gold leafing was applied to the copper in 1987. One of the many other structures I admired was in front of the Savannah Cotton Exchange. The building was guarded by a winged lion that was demolished in a car accident; residents worried that this historic statue could not be replaced, but fortunately, that was not the case. A new gryphon now sits on the same site.

One of the reasons the city has such a rich art scene is the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). This is a private, nonprofit, accredited university that opened in the early
Left: Measure sign
Right: Interesting fabrics
1980s. This school not only produces artists, but works with the city to preserve its architectural heritage by restoring buildings for use as college facilities. Many buildings are on the famous squares of the old town. And it was in this area that we found a gem of a fabric store. Owned and operated by a SCAD alum, Measure: A Fabric Parlor, has a plethora of unusual fabrics including those that are out of production. There are also repurposed and vintage materials. The presentation of these goods stimulates creative ideas and the person with whom we interacted had a wealth of knowledge about how to use fabrics. If all of the SCAD grads are as well educated as this young lady, then the school is doing very well, indeed.

Savannah is definitely a city I want to see again. There are lots more historic places to visit, tours to take, and places to eat! (For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.)

Where we stayed:
Three and one-half carrots
The Hilton Savannah Desoto (15 East Liberty, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-232-9000) is in 
Top L to R: Linnea and her bed, Bath
Bottom: One of the beds
the heart of the historic district. From our room we could see the bridge and the City Hall. The room we had held three people with an extra bed snuggly. The bed didn’t fold up, but rather stood on its end, making setting it up and taking it down an adventure. The internet was free and relatively speedy, although it had a habit of hanging when everyone in the hotel was online. There were plenty of trash cans and plenty of toiletries. Once the maids knew there were three women in the room, they filled up the coffee products with extras and made sure we had lots of towels. There is only valet parking, which amounts to an additional $25/day with come and go privileges; the valets were efficient young people who always had a smile and a kind word, even though we checkout at about 4:30 AM. The hotel staff members (front desk, etc.) were sparse; many times we didn’t see a soul in the lobby area; getting questions answered was difficult because of this. If you don’t eat in the restaurant, the snack bar is only open until lunch; the restaurant serves a buffet lunch. We didn’t eat breakfast or dinner at the hotel.

What we did:
Four carrots

Monterey Square
Measure: A Fabric Parlor (311 Whitaker Street, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-209-0942) is a pretty little fabric store with an excellent selection of fabric and notions, as well as good service.

Old Town Trolley Tours (234 Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard, Savannah, GA 31401, 855-245-8992), like its branch in San Diego, has a hop-on hop-off service in Savannah. Our driver was Eddie; she was excellent! Not only did she know the spiel well, she added in her own sense of humor and additional personal information that made this tour a real treat. She was able to answer questions the guests asked her and to help several people with directions to places off of the tour route. I’d do this again and I’d want Eddie to be my driver!

Three and one-half carrots

Top: Logo
Bottom: Fabrics on the wall
Fabrika (2A East Liberty Street, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-236-1122) is funky and is located on the second level or what appears to be an old house. They have unusual fabrics, some stuffed animals, and the usual notions. The ladies were busy, but polite. It tickled me to see all of the fabric stretched in embroidery hoops. Now I know what to do with all of those warped hoops I have.

Top: Logo
Bottom: Kids books

The Book Lady Book Store (6 East Liberty, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-233-3628) resembles what my house would like if I didn’t curb my enthusiasm for books! It’s tough to walk through the store, but there are treasures in every genre available.

Where we ate:
Four carrots

Top L to R: Logo, Fish and chips, Fried green tomatoes, Fried avocado
Middle L to R: Salmon sandwich, Chorizo tacos, Eggroll, Tuna tacos
Bottom L to R: Crawfish roll, Pecan pie
Hitch (300 Drayton St, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-239-6970) was good enough and innovative enough that we ate there twice. Again, the later in the evening you go the noisier it gets, although it’s not quite unbearable; it’s still difficult to hear the waitress or hold a conversation. The décor is eclectic, with pictures of celebrities on the walls and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil playing soundlessly on the TV (the second night was an old Batman movie starring Adam West). The food was excellent! My favorites were the fried avocado sticks and the dessert eggroll with apple pie filling. Some of the dishes are pretty pricy, but you get what you pay for and the service is good.
Three and one-half carrots

Top L to R: Mural of artists, Menu
Bottom: Garlic pizza
I’d never been to a Mellow Mushroom (11 West Liberty Street, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-495-0705), so since we were tired from romping around the city and this one was within walking distance, we gave it a try. I really liked the decor, but the noise level is deafening. Our waitress, while fairly attentive, couldn’t quite hear our order and got it mostly right. The pizza was yummy, although not quite as good as the one we love at My Father’s Pizza in Black Mountain, NC. There was plenty to share three ways and the price was good. If I went back, I’d either sit outside or go earlier to try to avoid the noise.

Three carrots

The DeSoto Grille (15 East Liberty, Savannah, GA 31401, 912-232-9000) is inside the
Top L to R: Dining room, Fish with okra and cornbread
Middle: Salads
Bottom: Peach cobbler, Roast
hotel. We only tried it for lunch one day and could only choose the buffet. Our server was charming and helpful. The food was good but nothing stood out, possibly because we wanted small plates rather than an entire meal. We all did indulge in the desserts that had tempted us from our first look at the buffet.

Left: Soft drinks
Right T to B: Hot dog, Burger
Savannah International Trade and Convention Center snack bar (1 International Drive, Savannah, GA 31421, 912-447-4000) was about what you’d expect, except that the food was fresh. The burgers and dogs were made while you waited and were very basic. There were pre-packaged salads that folks around us seemed to think were pretty good. The food was expensive, though. We paid about $4.00 for a bottled soft drink. At least there were plenty of places to sit and converse with each other as well as other quilters.

Dog on the balcony in student housing
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