After waiting several hours for Office Max to deliver something several DAYS late, we finally left Charlotte about 1:00. We made it to Rock Hill, about 25 miles south, before realizing that we’d have to go back because someone (who shall remain nameless because this is his website and he has that privilege) had left his wallet on the kitchen counter.
The brief showers that had been predicted for the Carolinas had become thunderstorms and a tornado watch by the time we cleared Columbia, so the drive was extra fun. We arrived in Savannah just in time to be the last customers of the day at the suckiest Piccadilly Cafeteria in the world. We drove around a bit and opted for sleep, knowing Thursday would be better.
Thursday WAS better. I was almost over my cold, which was a very good thing. As we got started too late for breakfast, we started the day with lunch at the original Carey Hilliard’s on Skidaway Road, where we were served by a very nice lady named Savannah (yes, Savannah…) who was dying to tell us where to party. In retrospect, we probably should have asked her where to find the Lady Chablis (of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame), but we didn’t think of it. She did, however, recommend a good breakfast spot for Friday.
We toured the ‘burbs early and then headed downtown to see all the “official” sights, one of which was the really scary line waiting for reservations at Paula Deen’s restaurant. Said line cured any craving we might have had to eat there.
Downtown Savannah was really nice, what with all the moss and the trees and the history lying around everywhere. It’s much less precious and cute than Charleston, and it’s possible to imagine mere mortals living amid the blocks and blocks of quaint. I rather liked it, especially the sort of spooky underground area in front of the Cotton Exchange.
After a rather long drive, we found A Taste of India, the perfect place for dinner. Who would have thought that I’d find the best Indian restaurant I’d ever visited at the front of a nondescript office building behind a mall in Savannah, Georgia? It was quite amazing, despite the decor which was disturbingly reminiscent of a country-themed queer bar I once visited in Las Vegas. It seemed a little like what I’d imagine an Indian restaurant in Cheyenne, Wyoming might look like. The food, again, was incredible.
Breakfast was at the restaurant attached to the lobby of the Days Inn by the mall, per Savannah’s suggestion. It was really good, and it amused me just a little that we’d eaten three of our four meals in Savannah within a block of this same suburban shopping mall.
We drove around Savannah a bit more, finding a near-mint condition Alamo Plaza motel in a really scary area just west of downtown, and visiting the convention center on other side of the river for skyline shots. Then, it was off to Charleston via Highway 17. Somewhere along the way, I was reacquainted with my cold.
Sometimes you see a restaurant listing in the newspaper and you know it was the precise spot where you were MEANT to eat. Gullah was that place for us in Charleston: an unpretentious place, a little rough around the edges, and more about the food than the “fine dining experience” or whatever such rubbish. ‘Twas heaven. I had shrimp grits, collards, and gumbo. Mark had roast duck, she-crab soup, red rice, and succotash. We split an order of gator tails for an appetizer. Yer Humble Host LOVES alligator.
We drove around a bit in the historic district and were very relieved not to have eaten among its assorted metrosexuals, hipsters, and other fashion victims. I’m hoping that the severe obnoxiousness of the tourist crowd had to do with the fact that we were there for New Year’s.
We decided that today would be a good day to explore places other than downtown, since the New Year’s Eve crowds were rather intense today but probably wouldn’t be on Sunday when they were all hung over. It proved to be a wise choice.
Breakfast was at Alex’s in Mount Pleasant. Then we covered most of Greater Charleston. It was all very nice and all, but I was amazed at how downtrodden most of the neighborhoods on the peninsula (Charleston north of downtown and the suburb of North Charleston) seemed. They weren’t scary bad, just very depressed. I’m sure the gentrification from downtown Charleston will catch up sooner or later, making them suitable for nothing but upper middle-class white folks.
On the west bank, however, there were some nice enough 1940s and 1950s areas I wouldn’t necessarily refuse to live in, if only they weren’t in South Carolina, whose sole purpose for existing seems to be to give North Carolina something to feel superior to.
We had our New Year’s Eve dinner at a very good Japanese steakhouse and went home to our ghetto motel to watch Dick Clark, and listen to fireworks and airplanes landing in the parking lot.
We tried to have breakfast at two different Waffle Houses. The crowd scared us at the first, and the fact that no one would wait on us drove us away from the second. So we moved on to lunch at what is apparently one of the last remaining S&S Cafeterias. We had our Hoppin’ John and our collard greens and our assorted pork products, thus assuring a happy and prosperous New Year.
Finally it was time to walk around downtown. We limited ourselves to Meeting and King Streets, and the verdict was that either is much better north of Calhoun, which is where the hipster shopping mall zone ends, or south of Broad, where it becomes largely residential. All in all, the New Year’s Day crowds were much less infested with hipster clones, although a few could still be found roaming around in ugly shoes and brand new sweatsuit jackets which had been “aged” using godonlyknows what chemicals.
Downtown Charleston, like downtown Savannah, illustrates the history of a city which was initially one of the largest in the southeast, but which had become rather irrelevant by the 1920s. The extremely long, but low-rise main street indicates that Charleston’s day had come and gone long before that early twentieth century period that screams “urban” to most people today. Thus, it seems very small and quaint even though it was clearly once regarded as a very big city.
After covering the commercial strip, one very nice boneyard, a bit of residential, and the Battery, it was time to stop by the Harris-Teeter (simply because it was there) and drive home to Charlotte.