Day 1 - Arriving in Savannah

Savannah Visitor's Center - Once our plane landed at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, and we had secured a rent-a-car, we made our way to the Savannah History Museum and Visitor's Center just to get our bearings. It's located at 301 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, and is a great place to find out what to do in the city - what tours are going on, any festivals or events that are happening, etc. They have a film that you can view that gives a visitor a good feel for the city's past. There are many other cool things there, including a replica of the park bench from the movie Forest Gump (some of it was filmed in Savannah). We had a great time; it was raining when we got there, but by the time that we'd explored everything the rain had stopped and we had a handful of fliers, rack cards, and maps... we were ready to begin the trip.

Lunch at the Pirate's House - Around 1753 Savannah had become a thriving seaport town, and one of the first buildings constructed was naturally an Inn for visiting seamen. Situated only a block from the Savannah River, the Inn became a rendezvous of blood-thirsty pirates and sailors from the Seven Seas. Here seamen drank their grog and bragged on their adventures from Singapore to Shanghai and from San Francisco to Port Said. Those very same buildings have been converted into one of America's most unique restaurants: The Pirates' House. Even though every modern restaurant facility has been installed, the very atmosphere of those exciting days of wooden ships and iron men has been carefully preserved. We arrived at the end of their lunch buffet, and it was delicious - the restaurant's reputation was well-earned!

The Juliette Gordon Low House - After lunch we went to a Mecca of the Girl Scout organization, the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. This house was built in 1821 as the home of Savannah Mayor James Moore Wayne. From there it passed to the Gordon family, and eventually Juliette Gordon was born there. On December 21, 1886, her parents' 29th wedding anniversary, Juliette married William Mackay Low, a wealthy Englishman, at Christ Church in Savannah, Georgia. Although the couple moved to England, Juliette continued her travels and divided her time between the British Isles and America. Juliette would eventually found the Girl Scouts of America - she placed a historic telephone call to her cousin, Nina Anderson Pape, saying, "Come right over! I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" The house is owned by the Girl Scouts, and is a wonderful tour home, maintained in the style of the 1800s. The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is filled with collections of pieces that originally belonged to the Gordon family and Juliette Gordon Low. The collection includes family inventories, wills, letters and photographs, and many other interesting historical items. It was a fascinating visit!

Checking into our B&B - The Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn consists of several mid-1800s rowhouses, built in the Federalist style. We had booked the Pulaski room, which is named in honor of the legendary revolutionary war hero and Polish military commander, Casmir Pulaski. The room is furnished with a classic, queen-sized sleigh bed, comfortable reading chair, antique desk, warm colors, and classic exposed brick. The Pulaski is located up two flights of stairs directly next to the main house... so we did have a bit of a walk to get there, but it was worth it. We loved the room. Parking - which is a major issue in Savannah - is included with the room. The great thing is that if you're staying there for two nights or more, the B&B provides you with a parking pass. The parking pass permits a visitor to park free at most meters anywhere in the city, to park longer than posted time limits, and to park free in three city parking garages. It's kind of like a "get out of jail free" card in the game Monopoly... but more about parking later.

A City of Squares - Savannah was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and he incorporated city squares into the city's design to provide colonists with space for military exercises. The original plan resembles the layout of contemporary military camps - something quite familiar to General Oglethorpe. A square was established for each ward of the new city. The original plan actually called for six squares, and as the city grew the grid of wards and squares was extended so that 24 squares were eventually created on a six-by-five grid. When the city began to expand south of Gaston Street, the grid of squares was abandoned and Forsyth Park was allowed to serve as a single, centralized park for that area. Today it is great fun to visit all of the squares, because each one has its own unique beauty and identity.

"The Book" Gift Shop - When people in Savannah talk about "the book," they're talking about Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. That book typifies Savannah, and in fact the movie features many actual people, true events, and more facts than some in the city are prepared to admit. The book itself is a work of non-fiction. Read it, and you'll learn a lot about Savannah! While we were out walking around, we ran across "The Book" Gift Shop, which featured everything that you could possibly imagine about... the book. If you've been to our house, you may have noticed that we have a statue of the "Bird Girl" that was featured on the cover on the book - we got it at this store, and had it shipped back home.

Dinner at Kroger Deli - We were tired from traveling and touring, and still a little full from lunch, so instead of going out to a restaurant we decided to grab a deli sandwich, a bag of chips, and head back to the room. There was a Kroger food store near our B&B, and since we shop at Kroger back home in East Texas, we thought that it would be a great place to procure our dinner. Tami had their turkey deli sandwich, I had the roast beef, and we snagged a couple of bags of chips. When we got back to the Savannah Bed & Breakfast Inn, we had a little carpet picnic, talked about the trip and everything that we did that day, and then turned in... we were exhausted.

Day 2 - Exploring Savannah

Forsyth Park - Forsyth Park is a grand park in the historic district of Savannah, and in fact was the first big park to be created in the city. The huge decorative fountain was originally put in place in 1850 - you've no doubt seen it as the backdrop for movies and TV shows. There are many benches to sit and rest under the giant oaks covered with Spanish moss. It is a majestic and beautiful park that is a must see on your trip. There are playgrounds for the little ones, tennis and basketball courts, and plenty of beautiful, grassy space to enjoy. There's even a garden for the blind; although anyone can enjoy it, it was planted with fragrant flowers so that the sight-impaired can enjoy the experience as well. Oh, and like everyone else, be sure to have your photograph taken in front of the fountain!

An Early Lunch at Clary's Cafe - Clary's is a Savannah institution... it was established over 100 years ago, back in 2003. Their food is incredible, and the place is just, well, a lot of fun! The staff is very friendly, the decor is energetic, and you can tell it's a great place to eat because of all the local traffic. You may also recognize it from the movie that was made from "the book" - Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We had a busy schedule ahead for the afternoon, so we stopped in for an early lunch - we had hamburgers that were not only massive, but were incredibly delicious. We decided to try to have another meal here before the trip was over.

Owens-Thomas House tour - The Owens-Thomas House was built from 1816-1819 for cotton merchant and banker Richard Richardson and his wife Francis Bolton. Mr. Richardson’s brother-in-law was married to Ann Jay, the architect’s sister. Three years after the house’s completion, Richardson suffered financial losses and sold his house, which later came under possession of the Bank of the United States. For eight years, Mrs. Mary Maxwell ran an elegant lodging house in the structure. Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette was a guest of the city in 1825 and stayed at the home. On March 19, he is believed to have addressed a throng of enthusiastic Savannahians from the unusual cast-iron veranda on the south facade. A National Historic Landmark, the stately former residence is now a historic house museum. It boasts a decorative arts collection comprised primarily of Owens family furnishings, along with American and European objects dating from 1750-1830. The site also includes a beautiful English-inspired parterre garden and an original carriage house—which contains one of the earliest intact urban slave quarters in the South.

Dinner at Moon River Brewing Company - We love brewpubs, and were delighted to find Moon River Brewing Company. We were hungry, so we ordered their chicken wings, and started sampling their beers. As it turned out, our favorite was their WitBier, and their Porter... although everything we tried was delicious. As an added attraction for us, though, the brewpub is also haunted by several resident spirits. Apparently there's a ghost named Toby who appears as a shadow in the billiard room at the rear of the banquet cellar, who visitors feel walking by, and sometimes pushing them out of the way. A lady in a white dress has been seen by many on the third floor, and was even caught on video by the SyFy channel when they were visiting. While we didn't encounter any supernatural activity there, we greatly enjoyed the food and beers, and highly recommend Moon River.

Mercer-Williams House tour - The original owner of the house was General Hugh W. Mercer, great grandfather of Johnny Mercer. Construction of the house began in 1860, was interrupted by the Civil War and was later completed around 1868 by the new owner, John Wilder. For a period in the twentieth century, the building was used as the Savannah Shriners Alee Temple. It then lay vacant for a decade until 1969 when Jim Williams, one of Savannah’s earliest and most dedicated private restorationists, bought the house and began a two-year restoration. This house is one of the more than 50 houses Mr. Williams saved during his thirty-year career in historic restoration in the Savannah area. The house was the scene of the shooting death of Jim Williams' assistant, Danny Hansford, a story that is retold in the 1994 John Berendt novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil ("the book"). Be forewarned, however - there is no discussion of the book, the murder, or anything related to it on the tour. Questions about such will not be entertained - it is only a tour of the house and its furnishings... which are magnificent!

Savannah City Hall - Most people think that Savannah's city hall is one of the most distinctive buildings in town - it has a clock tower that is topped with a golden dome, crowned by a towering American Flag. It is truly a majestic, inspiring sight as you walk around town. Originally the dome was copper, but it was coated in gold leaf not long ago - back in 1987, in fact. There is a plaque on the building that tells its story: City Hall is the first building constructed by the citizens of Savannah expressly and exclusively to serve as the seat of municipal government. Opened on January 2, 1906 it has served continuously in this role since that date. City Hall was preceded on this site by the City Exchange, built in 1799 and razed in 1904. Along with municipal offices, the City Exchange housed the Custom House, a post office, and newspaper offices. City Hall was designed by Savannah architect Hyman W. Witcover and built 1904-1905 by the Savannah Contracting Company during the administration of Mayor Herman Myers. It is a Renaissance Revival structure of granite and limestone exterior. The original copper dome was first gold leafed in 1987.

Getting a ticket... the "tourist tax" - We were very careful while parking around Savannah, because we'd heard that the city had basically brought in Nazi guards from the old Gestapo regime to run the city's parking program. As careful as we were, we found a parking place with no time limit to park in. When we returned to our car, we had a parking ticket - and on the REVERSE side of the meter, not the one that you saw when parking - it said 30 minutes only. I took photographs of the ill-labeled meter, and thought about fighting it, but after considering the fact that everyone said this would happen, we just paid the ticket. Perhaps the city would gain more good will if they would just charge every visitor for a parking ticket when they crossed into the city limits, and then let them park where they pleased... but that's not going to happen. Just be aware that parking is a nightmare, and no matter how hard you try not to, they'll probably find some way to give you a ticket.

Day 3 - And Even More Savannah

Colonial Park Cemetery - This cemetery, the second in colonial Savannah, was the burying ground for the city from about 1750 until it was closed for burials in 1853. Among the distinguished dead who rest here are Archibald Bulloch, the first President of Georgia; James Habersham, acting royal Governor of the Province 1771-73; Joseph Habersham, Postmaster General under three Presidents; Samuel Elbert, Revolutionary soldier and Governor of Georgia; Capt. Denis L. Cottineau de Kerloguen who aided John Paul Jones in the engagement between the "Bon Homme Richard" and the "Serapis"; and the remains of Major General Nathanael Greene who died in 1786, until they were re-interred in 1901 in Johnson Square. The cemetery became a city park in 1896, and we had a great time walking through the rows of tombstones and reading the old epitaphs.

Davenport House Museum - The 1820 Federal-style dwelling was built by upwardly mobile artisan Isaiah Davenport and his crew for his growing household, which included his wife, children, and slaves. It was his family home until his death in 1827 when his wife, Sarah Clark Davenport, converted it into a boarding house. She lived in the residence on Columbia Square until 1840 when she sold it to the Baynard family of South Carolina. The house remained in their hands for the next 109 years. As time passed, the once stately home in a fashionable neighborhood became a rundown rooming house in a seedy part of town. Even in an advanced state of neglect, New Deal surveyors recognized the architectural significance of the home when they identified and measured it for the Historic American Buildings Survey in the 1930s. Threatened with demolition in 1955, a group of community-spirited citizens joined forces to purchase the Davenport House. It is now a beautiful place to tour... part home, part museum, and very interesting. We really enjoyed this tour.

Lunch at Clary's Cafe - To paraphrase Jack Nicholson in his role in The Shining... "We're Baaaaacccccck!" That's right, we had such an incredible lunch at Clary's Cafe the day before, that we decided to eat there again. It's hard not to brag on this place - if we lived in Savannah, we'd be stopping by for a meal several times a week. On this trip we also saw a lot of locals, which is another indication of a long tradition of good food. The movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil may have made this place famous to Savannah visitors, but a century of good food has kept people coming back over the years. Trust me, if we come back to Savannah, we'll be here more than once.

Savannah's Waving Girl - The legend the waving girl goes back to 1887, when for 44 years Florence Martus lived on nearby Elba Island with her brother, the lighthouse keeper. No ship arrived or departed from Savannah from 1887 to 1931 without Florence waving a handkerchief by day or a lantern by night. Throughout the years, the vessels in return watched for her and saluted this quiet little woman. Few people ever met her, yet she became the source of romantic legends when the story of her faithful greetings was told in ports all over the world. After her retirement, the Propeller Club of Savannah, in honor of her seventieth birthday, sponsored a celebration in which a Liberty ship, built in Savannah in 1943, was named for her. A statue of Florence greets Savannah ships today.

The Telfair Museum - The Telfair Museum is the oldest public art museum in the South. The legacy of one visionary Savannahian, it was founded in 1883 through the bequest of prominent local philanthropist Mary Telfair - who left her home and its furnishings to the Georgia Historical Society to be opened as a museum. Today, Telfair Museums consists of three unique buildings: the Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas House - two National Historic Landmark sites built in the early nineteenth century - and the contemporary Jepson Center. There are some incredible pieces at the museum, including the original "Bird Girl" who was on the cover of "the book"... Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We enjoyed not only seeing that original statue, but many of their works of art as well.

Savannah Ghost Walk - There were some very interesting stories on the ghost walk... including the Marshall Hotel, the Kehoe House, Reynolds Hotel, and more. But one of our favorites is why there isn't any Spanish Moss in Johnson Square. Nathanial Green was a major general of the Continental Army, but he insisted in dressing in wool clothes. He had a heat stroke from the heavy clothing, and the doctors treated him by bleeding him with leeches for three days. The doctors didn't realize that he was hemophelic, and so he died from the treatment. He was buried in Johnson Square... but one of the things about Green was that he hatedSpanish Moss, and it suddenly disappeared from the square. The city had tried to get it to grow there, but to this day, it won't. There were many other ghost stories, and we greatly enjoyed the tour.

Day 4 - Off to Tybee Island

Green-Meldrim Mansion - Before leaving Savannah, we had one more place that we wanted to visit, which was General Sherman's Civil War Headquarters... the Green-Meldrim Mansion. The literature about the place calls it "one of the South’s finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture. This Savannah treasure features a beautiful cast iron portico at the entrance and a covered porch on three sides of the house surrounded by ornate ironwork. The most expensive 19th century house in Savannah, its unique crenellated parapet and oriel windows add to the Gothic flavor." The builder of the house, Mr. Green, was a cotton merchant and ship owner who built this house in the 1850s. When the Civil War came, he wanted to protect his home, so when Sherman was approaching he rode out and offered the house for the General's Headquarters while he was in Savannah. Both the beauty of the house and the story behind it made it a great stop during our visit.

Lunch at Lady & Sons - Everyone in America has probably heard of Paula Deen, and her world-famous restaurant in Savannah called "Lady & Sons." We were told by several people that it was one of the best places to eat in the city, and that there was always a line outside. When we got there - about 30 minutes early - sure enough the line was wrapped around the block, but we fell in place and waited. When they started serving a lady came out with a large triangle and rang it to signal the beginning of lunch, and we all filed in. We chose the buffet, and it was seriously some of the best southern-style food that we've ever eaten. You name it - fried chicken to mashed potatoes, yams to fried okra, any southern dish that you can imagine was there, and prepared magnificently. The food was so good that we bought Paule Deen's cookbook set as we were leaving.

Fort Polaski - Fort Pulaski is located on the drive between Savannah and Tybee Island, so it was a great place to stop, rest, and take a look around. The fort was constructed after the War of 1812, when President James Madison ordered a new system of coastal fortifications to protect the United States against foreign invasion. Construction of a fort to protect the port of Savannah began in 1829 under the direction of Major General Babcock, and later Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a recent graduate of West Point. In 1833, the new fort was named Fort Pulaski in honor of Kazimierz Pulaski, a Polish soldier and military commander who fought in the American Revolution under the command of George Washington. Its walls were eleven feet thick, thought to be impenetrable except by only the largest land artillery - which at the time were smooth bore cannon. These cannons had a range of only around a half mile, and the nearest land (Tybee island) was much further away than that. It was assumed that the Fort would be invincible to enemy attack. Someone remarked, "One might as well bombard the Rocky Mountains as Fort Pulaski." In 1862 the Union's rifled cannons penetrated the walls of the fort, and the Confederate garrison inside was forced to surrender. The siege was a landmark experiment in the history of military science and invention.

B&B Tybee Island Inn - The Tybee Island Inn is located in the Fort Screven Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1902 and originally served as the day room of the Fort Screven hospital, formerly next door. Constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers, the construction pieces for the building were milled off-site, coded with Roman numerals and transported via barge to the island for assembly. The hospital buildings, including what is now Tybee Island Inn, were constructed with basements (unusual for island property) and linked with tunnels to be used as bomb shelters in the event that the Fort Screven was attacked. Part of one of the tunnels has been excavated and is in the Captain’s Quarters guest room. Although altered through the years, the Inn has many original features such as the tin front and back porch roofs and heart pine flooring in the living and dining areas, back porch and gathering room. We stayed in the Mermaid Room, which was very welcoming and comfortable.

Tybee Island Lighthouse - The construction of this majestic lighthouse was ordered by General James Oglethorpe, Governor of the 13th colony in 1732. The Tybee Island Light Station has been guiding mariners safe entrance into the Savannah River for over 270 years, and sports a very distinctive black-and-white design. The Tybee Island Light Station is one of America's most intact, having all of its historic support buildings on its five-acre site. Although it has been rebuilt several times over the course of its life, the current light station displays its 1916 day-mark with one hundred and seventy-eight stairs and a First Order Fresnel lens which is nine feet tall. Don't get me wrong, it's quite a climb, but the view is definitely rewarding.

Tybee Island Museum - The Tybee Museum was established in 1961 by The Tybee Island Museum Association. The Association is now known as The Tybee Island Historical Society, a non-profit organization which also operates The Tybee Island Light Station in addition to the Tybee Museum. The purpose of the museum was the same in 1961 as it is today - to interpret the rich history of Tybee Island. Within the walls of Battery Garland are seven rooms which contain artifacts and exhibits covering more than five centuries of history. Most of the lower rooms which now contain the Museum’s exhibits were originally used to store smokeless gun powder and projectiles which weighed over 700 pounds each. Battery Garland was named in honor of Colonel John Garland, Eighth Infantry, who “served with distinction in the Florida War, and died on January 5, 1861.” The museum turned out to be a great visit, and if you find yourself on Tybee Island, it's a must-see.

Day 5 - On To Charleston, & The Police Raid Our Motel

(yes, you read that correctly)

The Charleston Visitors Center - After spending a little time on the road, our first stop when we got to Charleston was to the Visitors Center to get a little information about the city and the various sights there. The staff was very helpful, and they had all sorts of info that helped us plan out the next couple of days. After looking around for a while, we decided that we had a good handle on how to proceed in Charleston, so we headed off to check into the hotel - the Country Hearth Inn. When Tami was booking the room, she asked how far they were from Charleston's famous "Battery Walk" on the shoreline, and they said, "Oh, we're only five minutes away!" It sounded perfect.

Lunch at O'Charley's - One of our rigid rules on vacation is that we don't eat in chain restaurants... we want to experience the local flavor, so we always try to find local places. We were hungry and didn't know where we were, though, and worse that that, didn't know where our lodging was for the evening (clearly it wasn't on the Battery as they'd told us on the phone), so we stopped at a place that was very much like at Chili's restaurant. It was called O'Charley's, and the food and service was great. Since we were already tired and frustrated, this was a great place for lunch.

Ah, the Country Hearth Inn - Finally we found our hotel, a placed named "The Country Hearth Inn" - sounds quaint, doesn't it? Their motto is "Home is where the hearth is", and their advertising touts, "At Country Hearth Inn we want your stay to be as close to home as we can make it... That's why we go out of our way to provide service and amenities above and beyond what you would expect." On their website, one photo showed a bed with an antique-looking headboard, and rooms looked very comfortable. I was looking forward to staying there, because they advertised high-speed Internet connectivity, so I was anxious to plug in my laptop and get caught up on email. Well, we arrived in town, and started looking for the hotel. After we'd actually left Charleston, still heading north, we began to wonder whether we'd made a mistake. We kept going and going and going, and even passed the airport. Finally, we saw the sign for the Country Hearth Inn - it was easily thirty minutes from the Battery Walk, and that's without traffic. The place was a standard two story, low-budget motel made of cinder blocks (in their defense, the cinder blocks had been painted). There was a man on the second floor who had dragged his chair out of his room and was sitting there with his arms crossed, staring out over the parking lot. He watched us as we unloaded our computer, cameras, etc. I just thought, "Uh-oh". There was only one towel inside the room, some lights didn't work, and the place just looked nasty. Tami immediately said, "Come on - we're leaving." Since it was late in the day I convinced her that it wouldn't be that bad, and the fact that they had a washer/dryer on the premises meant that we could do laundry (it was halfway through the trip, and we needed to). I couldn't find the internet connection in the room, and I soon learned that the "high-speed Internet" they advertised was actually a computer that they had set up in the middle of the lobby, so you would have to sit there and use it. So much for that. As we walked back and forth to the washing machine - which was sitting outside of one of the rooms - we noticed that occasionally a car would drive up, someone would get out, and the creepy man from upstairs would come down, and the two would rendezvous at the back of a pickup truck parked there at the motel. They would rummage around in these large painter's buckets in the back of the pickup, and the person from the car would hand creepy dude some money. We were pretty sure that we witnessed several drug buys. By then, Tami was scrambling to find alternative accommodations for our remaining three nights in Charleston, and that's when she found the "1837 Bed and Breakfast" - but only for the last two nights. We figured that we could tough it out for two nights at the good ol' Country Hearth.

Drayton Hall Tour - Leaving the Country Hearth, we drove out to Drayton Hall, which was constructed in 1738 by John Drayton. It's the only plantation on the Ashley River that has survived intact to the present day. Both the Colonial and British armies used it during the American Revolution. The epicenter of the great Charleston earthquake of 1886 was just a few miles away, and major hurricanes have battered it during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries - yet it still stands proud. This isn't a restored, recreated home with period furnishings - it is instead a preserved home that is one of the oldest that you're ever going to tour. We had a very interesting time.

The Police Raid The Country Hearth Inn - Later that evening, we'd been folding laundry there in our room, unpacking, and things like that, when I happened to take a seat on the edge of the bed and cross my legs. I saw that the bottom of my sock was black with dirt and grime. Not gray, but black. I really weighed telling Tami about that, because I knew that she would literally lose her mind. She was barefoot, so I finally told her to look at the bottom of her feet - I'm surprised that you didn't hear the scream from where you're sitting now. She immediately set about the task of finding us a place for the next night, and got us into a wonderful hotel named The Indigo Inn - a quaint building downtown with a courtyard and very plush accommodations. We knew that all we had to do was get through the night, and we'd be okay. That in mind, we went to sleep, figuring that nothing else could go wrong. That was until the police raided the motel around three in the morning. We heard yelling and screaming, loud footsteps as people were running around outside, and several squad cars rolling in with sirens blaring full blast and blue and red lights flashing in our window. I don't know if they were arresting creepy dude or one of the motel's other guests, but we just pulled up the covers and hoped that no one started shooting. When the sun came up, we IMMEDIATELY checked out of the place where, "Home is where the Hearth is" (along with most of the other guests).

Day 6 - Sightseeing in Charleston

A Boat-ride to Fort Sumter - Wow, what can you say about visiting Fort Sumter, the place where the first volleys of the Civil War were fired... it's literally the place where the American Civil War began. It was an awesome place to visit - decades of growing strife between North and South erupted in Civil War on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered only thirty-four hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back. While we were there, the sky opened up and the rain began to pound down, but that didn't break our spirits. We carried on with our visit to this historic old fort, and greatly enjoyed our time there.

Nathaniel Russell House - Once we had returned from Fort Sumter, we decided to visit one of the tour homes that we'd found. You may not be surprised to find out that the Nathaniel Russell House once belonged to a man named Nathaniel Russell. He was a Rhode Island merchant who spent $80,000 on this Adamesque building sometime before 1809. He and his wife, Sarah Russell, lived in the house during the early 1800s. It was sold to the state in 1955 by the Pelzer family, and today is used by the Historic Charleston Foundation as a museum and tour home. It's a beautiful place, and features an elliptical spiral staircase that goes up three floors. It's well worth visiting when you're in Charleston.

Lunch at Jestine's Kitchen - When asking about a place for lunch, we were pointed toward Jestine's Kitchen on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston that advertises "Home Cooking with a Spot of Soul." Apparently Jestine Matthews was a native to the low country of South Carolina who worked for the Ellison family in Charleston. Ms. Matthews and the Ellisons built a lifelong friendship. The owner of Jestine’s Kitchen is Shera Lee Berlin, the daughter to the only Ellisons’ child, who remembers Jestine and her wonderful cooking. Jestine lived for an amazing 112 years, but her Southern home cooking lives on at this Charleston restaurant. We absolutely loved our meal here.

The Indigo Inn - Fleeing from the Country Hearth Inn, we sought refuge in the Indigo Inn. The first commercial crops of indigo, a plant from which blue dye was extracted, were planted and harvested in Charleston. By the mid-1700s, indigo was a major cash crop in the Low Country. In 1850, a facility was erected in Charleston to serve as an indigo warehouse. In the spring of 1979, Buck & Frankie Limehouse transformed this property into the Indigo Inn. The Indigo Inn has been the recipient of AAA's prestigious Four Diamond Award since it opened in 1979. This recognition represents superior quality in service excellence, hospitality and exceptional guest accommodations. Nestled in the historic district, the Indigo Inn offers distinctive lodging with unmistakable southern hospitality. All the popular attractions are within walking distance of the Indigo Inn's location - something that we greatly appreciated!

Middleton Place House - This is a place to spend a little time... not only is there a house museum, but there are gardens that you can explore for a couple of hours. The House was built in 1755 and shows four generations of the Middleton family, including their furniture, silver, porcelain, rare books, and portraits. This was the birthplace of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, so Middleton Place and the Middletons have played an important role in American history. The property has miraculously remained under the same family stewardship for over 320 years - quite a feat. When you're done with the house tour, you'll find America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens surrounding the house. The Garden Club of America has called the 65 acres "the most important and most interesting garden in America." It's easy to understand why, because the place is beautiful, peaceful, and a perfect place to walk around and enjoy. We loved spending our time here.

Magnolia Plantation - We had time for one more tour for the day, so we went to Magnolia Plantation. It was founded back in 1676 - one hundred years before the birth of our country - by the Drayton family. It advertises itself as one of the oldest public tourist sites in the Lowcountry area of South Carolina, and the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants in its famous gardens. The famous travel writer Charles Kuralt once called Magnolia Plantation, "My greatest Charleston pleasure." It's also on the list of top 25 homes most visited in America. Early European Travel writers once said there are only three things to see in America... Magnolia Plantation, Niagara Falls, and the Grand Canyon. While we may not completely agree with that last statement, it was a great place to visit and we highly recommend it.

Dinner at Tbonz Gill & Grill - We spent the remainder of the day walking around Charleston, checking out the shops and specialty stores that were in the area. While we were walking around shopping, we saw a place that advertised the "best steak and beer selection in Charleston"... how in the world could we turn that down? It had a funky decor, and a menu that sounded delicious, so we stopped in for a bite to round out the day before we headed back to the B&B. I had their signature T-bone steak (after all, that's where the place got its name!) which came with shoestring onions and a loaded baked potato. Tami went for their grilled chicken breast, with a bourbon glaze and garlic mashed potatoes. The meal was delicious, and we had a few of the regional beers to go along with the food. Tbonz was a wonderful experience.

Day 7 - Charleston Home Tours

Joseph Manigualt House - Designed by gentleman architect Gabriel Manigault for his brother, Joseph, this three-story brick town-house is an exceptional example of Adam-style, or Federal, architecture. The Manigaults descended from French Huguenots who came to America to escape persecution in Europe. Joseph owned plantations, sat in the state legislature, and was a trustee of the College of Charleston. Gabriel, who owned plantations and commercial investments, is credited with designing Charleston's City Hall and the South Carolina Society Hall. One of Charleston's most graceful historic structures, the Joseph Manigault House reflects the lifestyle of both a wealthy, rice-planting family and the slaves who also lived there. Many of the rooms have been restored to their original (and often unexpected) color schemes, while a sweeping staircase provides access to the second floor. Furnishings, from the Museum's collections, include an outstanding collection of American, English and French pieces of the early 19th century.

Aiken-Rhett House - The Aiken-Rhett House was built for Charleston merchant John Robinson in 1820. A typical Charleston double house, the building consisted of a central hallway with two rooms on either side. The front door was located on the Judith Street side of the house, where the piazza (a Charleston term for a double porch) is now located. Robinson lived in the Aiken-Rhett House for approximately eight years. When he lost five ships at sea in 1825, he was forced to sell the house to meet his financial obligations. The house became the property of William Aiken, Sr., in 1827. Aiken, an Irish immigrant who accumulated a large fortune as one of the city's leading merchants, used the house as rental property. When he died suddenly in a carriage accident, his vast holdings were divided between his wife, Henrietta Wyatt, and his only son, William Aiken, Jr. In 1833, the young William Aiken and his new bride, Harriet Lowndes, decided to make the house their primary residence and began an extensive renovation of the property. Three main changes took place: the front entrance was moved, the first floor was reconfigured, and a large addition was added to the house. They made it, by all accounts, one of the most impressive residences in Charleston. William Aiken, Jr., ultimately became governor of South Carolina, a member of the U. S. House of Representatives, and one of the states largest slaveholders. He was elected governor of South Carolina in 1844 and became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1851.

Heyward-Washington House - This is Charleston's Revolutionary War House, located in the downtown Historic District, within the area of the original walled city. This brick double house was built in 1772 by rice planter Daniel Heyward as a town-house for his son, Thomas Heyward, Jr. The City rented it for George Washington's use during the President's week-long Charleston stay in May 1791, and it has traditionally been called the "Heyward-Washington House" for that reason. Thomas Heyward, Jr. was a patriot leader, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and artillery officer with the South Carolina militia during the American Revolution. Captured when the British took Charleston in 1780, he was exiled to St. Augustine, Florida, but was exchanged in 1781. Heyward sold the house in 1794. It was acquired by the Museum in 1929, opened the following year as Charleston's first historic house museum, and was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1978.

Edmondston-Alston House - Of Charleston's many fine house museums, only the Edmondston-Alston House (constructed in 1825 and enhanced in 1838) commands a magnificent view of Charleston Harbor. From its piazza, General P. T. Beauregard watched the fierce bombardment of Ft. Sumter on April 12, 1861, signaling the start of the Civil War. And on December 11 of the same year, the house gave refuge to General Robert E. Lee the night that a wide-spreading fire threatened his safety in a Charleston hotel. The collection at the Edmondston-Alston House Museum consists of pieces that belonged to the family, reflecting not only family history but American history. Despite the ravages of the Civil War, the Earthquake of 1886 and numerous hurricanes, the Alston family pieces remain in place much as they have for over 150 years.

Lunch at Sticky Fingers Restaurant - This is a regional restaurant group, not a national chain, so we decided to try it out. After all, how do you beat the deep south and barbecue? The waiter was bragging about their ribs, but we couldn't decided between their Memphis Style Dry, the Habanero Hot, Carolina Sweet, Tennessee Whiskey, or Memphis Original... so the rib sampler plate seemed to be in order. It was incredibly messy to eat... which is a REQUIREMENT for any respectable plate of ribs! We had a great dining experience here, and would go back anytime we visit Charleston.

1837 Bed & Breakfast Inn - We stayed in Carriage House Room #1. The Carriage House was constructed of old Charleston brick and stucco. It was originally built as the kitchen and servants' quarters for the house, and separated from the main house as a safety precaution to contain the spread of accidental cooking fires. Our room was a ground floor room with brick walls & exposed beam ceilings. It had a queen canopy rice bed, and private bath with cultured marble and glass shower. There are also a couple of fun ghost stories about this inn - it is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a young slave named George who saw his parents sold away in 1843, then died trying to swim out to their departing boat in the harbor. George has been seen playing around the house, and shakes the bed in one room. He also has been known to turn lights on and use the inn's rocking chairs. While we didn't have a ghostly experience there, we had a wonderful stay.

Taking a Savannah Ghost Walk - There are a number of different ghost walks/tours/etc in Savannah, and by the time we got back home we realized that we didn't make a note of which one we took - a pity, really, because we'd love to specifically recommend them! For that we apologize, but will say that the hour-long excursion into the spirits of Charleston was very entertaining. Here are only a few places and stories from the tour, corresponding to the photos below, left to right: 1) The Old Exchange House is where Steve Bonnet, the "Gentleman Pirate," was sentenced to death by hanging. Some of the supernatural activity here is attributed to his spirit. 2) The South End Brewery (the Waganer Building) is a place where chilling, cold spots occur upstairs - especially in the area of the pool tables. The patrons often ask for the air to be turned off, even when the air conditioner isn't running. 3) Lodge Alley... a.k.a. Blood Alley This was the site of many duels in the past, and today has a very intense, creepy feeling. Legend has it that a man killed an opponent with a sword here, then continued on to church with his family. 4) St. Philip's Episcopal Church, where in the graveyard, a man snapped a photo with a new camera to use up the film. When it was developed, there was the transparent figure of a woman kneeling at a grave. When he researched the person buried there, he found that it was a woman who had died in childbirth, along with her newborn baby. They were both buried there together, and he happened to have snapped the photo on the 99th anniversary of their death. 5) Poogan's Porch restaurant is the place where a lady in a white dress has been seen screaming from top floor windows - as the story goes, when the building was a home, two sisters lived there who were teachers; one died, and the other kept the body in the house because of her grief. Female visitors to the restaurant have encountered a spectral older woman in the washroom, who vanishes as they walk in.

Dinner at Bull Street Gourmet - Between all the sightseeing from the day and the hiking on the ghost walk (as fun as it was), we were bushed. Our next day would be the last before heading home, so we also had some re-packing to do (to incorporate the dirty clothes and souvenirs into the bags). We were looking for a place to grab a deli sandwich, maybe some chips, and take them back to the room for a little carpet picnic. We found the Bull Street Gourmet located at 60 Bull Street - and were really impressed with this little gourmet shop. The folks there said that the location had been a corner market of one type or another since the 1850s, but the current incarnation was more than we could have expected. Not only did we come away with a couple of serious sandwiches and soup, but we picked up a bottle of wine to go along with it.

Day 8 - Wrapping Up The Trip in Beaufort

Greater Beaufort Chamber of Commerce - On the last day we headed back from Charleston to Savannah, since we'd be flying out of the Savannah airport where we started the trip. On the way we stopped in Beaufort, South Carolina, starting out at their Chamber of Commerce to see what all there was to do in town. The town is officially about 300 years old, but the history of the area dates back almost 500 years. It has roots in the Revolutionary War, where bitter rivalries led to scattered fighting between Tories and Patriots. The history books have a bookmark on Beaufort for the Civil War as well, because the first meeting to draft the Ordinance of Secession (by which South Carolina led the withdrawal of the Southern states from the Union) was held at the Milton Maxey House in Beaufort, known today as the Secession House. As a result, Beaufort was an early target of the Union forces. It has many more things to do and see than we could take in during our limited time there, so we made a mental note to come back on a future trip. We did spend a few hours exploring the city, however, and some of the images are here...

St. Helena Church - St. Helena's was established in 1712 as a colonial parish of the Church of England. The church was built in 1724 and today is one of the oldest active churches in North America. The building is constructed of brick, much of which originally was ship’s ballast for the trip to the Colonies. The original building was repaired and enlarged in 1769. In 1817, the 1769 building was extended to the west. The extension was retained in 1842 when the remainder of the church was demolished to ground level. The present sidewalls were constructed at that time, and the foundations of the 1769 church were used to support the interior galleries. During the Civil War, when Union forces occupied Beaufort in November 1861, and the church was converted to a hospital. The church was stripped of its furnishings, marble tombstones were brought in for use as operating tables, and the balconies were decked over to make a second floor. The church was renovated and restored over the following years, but by 1998 it was again of need of repair. The church was closed for nineteen months of work, and re-opened again on Palm Sunday 2000, in its current, beautiful state.

The Old Churchyard Cemetery - As interesting as St. Helena Church is, the cemetery is just as fascinating - it is a historic treasure. One of the earliest burials there was Colonel John Barnwell (1671-1724), better known as "Tuscarora Jack," a famous Indian fighter and a founder of Beaufort Town in 1711. You'll also find the graves of two British officers that were killed in the battle of Port Royal during the American Revolution. Recovered from a hasty grave on the battlefield, they were interred by an officer of the American forces, who read the funeral service from St. Helena’s altar prayer book and then reportedly said, "Soldiers and fellow citizens: We have now shown our enemies that we have not only the courage to face and best them in the field, but that we have the humanity to give their dead a decent and a Christian burial." Two Confederate generals - Lieutenant General Richard Heron "Fightin' Dick" Anderson and Brigadier General Stephen Elliott, Jr. - are buried there as well. The cemetery is a place where a visitor can spend a lot of time soaking up the history there... we certainly did!

Back home again! We did make it back to Savannah, where we stayed at an airport hotel before our early-morning flight the next day. To spare you all of the details, we flew out of Savannah's airport back to DFW, successfully found our bags on the baggage claim carousel, caught a shuttle bus, retrieved our car, drove the three hours back to Jefferson, rescued our bassets who'd spent the trip at doggie camp, and finally got safely back home. As you can see, the girls were tired, but then again so were we. It was a wonderful vacation, though, and I hope that you enjoyed going through it with us!