A famous fountain in Savannah's Forsyth Park in the Historic district, constructed in the 1850's. Photo by @philiparambula.
As members of the SteamLine community take their first (vaccinated) trips since the pandemic, we are asking for submissions on where they went, why, and how it felt to be once again reclaiming the world.
For this first "Inspired By" place piece, our writer Cassandra Csencsitz reunited with childhood best friends in Savannah, Georgia, for their 30th Friendversary! Five mothers of two apiece who hadn't seen each other since 2019, theirs is a post-pandemic reunion for the memory books.
Enjoy this poignant snapshot of travel to a place that has inspired generations with its natural and cultural beauty.
SteamLine Founder, Sara Banks
Cassandra with her Canary Mini, due back in stock next year!
The Savannah Sweet Spot
A short flight and time zone away from each of us, and somewhere none of us had been, we felt Savannah was conducive to making the most of a long weekend. The coordinates mid-spring offered the beach weather and energy we desired, while the historic destination provided a sense of adventure as someplace worthy of our first post-pandemic trip!
To Beach or Not to Beach? Savannah versus Tybee Island
30 minutes from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is a gentle, beach-lovers dream. With most of our group coming from big cities, we were hungrier for sea than urbanity, so it was easy to choose Tybee over town as our home base. This said, we made the mistake of commuting into downtown for our first two dinners out. Not only is there adequate dining on Tybee Island (most notably at The Deck), we didn't get to see much of Savannah from our dining tables. After the time and trouble spent getting to and fro, we were eager to get back to our pool and beach, so next time (and we all agree there will be a next time!), we'll design this a bit differently.
Five alums from The Marshall School in Duluth, Minnesota reunite. From left to right: Cassandra Csencsitz (New York), twins Liza Hill and Abby Johnson (Minneapolis), Halima Cegur (Chicago), and Noemi Wierwille (Concord, New Hampshire).
How to Choose a Fabulous Airbnb
Airbnb, Vrbo, whichever platform you use, the option to rent a home versus a room has forever transformed travel. It's hard to imagine being crammed into a pricey hotel room when for less per night one can now have a three-bedroom beach house! While choosing an Airbnb can be hard, especially when you don't know the area, there are a few measures that make a difference. According to Abby (pictured above) who found ours, the keys are to:
1. Cross-reference a map and time out your most likely routes using your map app.
2. Read the reviews; there may be critical callouts not evident in the photos.
3. Don't hesitate to email and call ownership for local intel, from dining recommendations to grocery delivery and transportation options.
So thanks to Airbnb and Abby, we spent our long weekend in a picture-perfect property by Southern Belle Vacation Rentals humorously dubbed After Dune Delight. Forgiving the weak pun, we were in love with its porch, a shaded masterpiece with cozy seating in the round that was ideal for old-friend level catch-ups. An upstairs sundeck for some guilty tanning and its overall clean, modern aesthetic provided everything desired on the home front, given that the bulk of our time was spent at a shared pool, just five minutes away, and glorious Tybee Beach.
A Dearth of Transportation: Secure Your Rides
One of travel's many gifts are the random surprises that provide a big laugh or sense of achievement after narrowly dodging a bullet. If not for Al from Tybee Turtle Transit, who very much deserves this plug, we would have no-showed a coveted dinner reservation at The Olde Pink House because we couldn't find transport into town. A one-man chauffeur, Al is picking up the slack left by Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers who prefer their unemployment to work, and he's charging handsomely for it. We stumbled on "Turtle" our first night, and he came to our rescue the next day. This time he was driving a shuttle and told us he had "standing room only" before diverting his full bus to come collect us. We mounted the shuttle to find a miniature party bus with twinkling lights and music blaring. Nothing better could have happened to these five xennials than when Turtle played Lizzo's "Good as Hell." A couple of civilized locals seemed to wonder what they'd walked into. Sometimes being ridiculous feels just plain right.
Dining Highlight: The Olde Pink House
After just making our reservation time, we arrived at The Olde Pink House. A Georgian Mansion built in 1771 on land granted by the Crown of England, in 1811 it became the first bank in Georgia. The building enjoyed alternating eras of prominence and disrepair before being renovated in 1992. Today it houses multiple grand and intimate dining rooms, offering a classic menu and hyper-attentive staff accustomed to doubling as photographers, especially when you go all-out pink.
If Turtle's shuttle provided the biggest laughs, our trip's most poignant moment came when a large bridal party of beaming young women exited the restaurant for their photo shoot following ours. Looking at each other was a mirror backward and forward in time. We exchanged compliments, marveling at their beauty and milestones to come while touting our 30 years of friendship. They giggled at our "cuteness," and I heard one effuse, "Oh, that could be us!"
A Complicated History
Coming from the North—New York, New Hampshire, Minneapolis, and Chicago—we were sensitive to the cultural differences of the South, from the effusive hospitality and talkativeness to the casual manner and slow pace, all welcome changes from our typical Type-A lives. We were also sensitive to relics of the Confederacy written in the area's history and conscious of sad associations from architecture to food. Visitors to the most notorious land of our last Presidential election, we had the chance to examine our broader preconceptions and take the area on its current terms while absorbing the hard truth that our country's history is laced with war and untold bloodshed in the name of freedom, first from England, then for our Black countrymen on whose backs our prosperity was built. This acknowledgment is painful, but it deepens our reverence and gratitude for the ground on which we stand, the progress we should honor and how far we have to go.
200 years to the day before my birth, the Polish general Casimir Pulasksi, who volunteered his services to the American Independence cause, was mortally wounded in a failed attempt to retake Savannah from the British. Photo by Savannah Rohleder.
An Absurdly Beautiful Downtown
After my friends headed to the airport, I enjoyed a final day of exploration, lingering, and reflection. I had the taxi drop me downtown, instinctively heading toward the river and Savannah's historic shopping district. The phrase "historic shopping" makes me giggle but, in this case, the city does offer a striking string of uniformly handsome brick stores lining the waterfront. I got the beach bag and sunhat I'd needed plus souvenirs for the kids then landed for a late breakfast on the roof of the Plant Riverside Marriott at Myrtle & Rose Rooftop Garden. A Provençal-inspired spot with breathtaking River views, a jazz duo played for Mother's Day and the waitress gave me a flower with my check without asking if I was a mom. Perhaps at this stage it's just obvious, a compliment I'll take!
My Editor Hatbox (available in June!) overlooks the Savannah River.
Stendahl Syndrome: Being Prepared for Travel Overwhelm
A closing word on travel in our emergent new day. Named for a great French writer, Stendahl Syndrome is a bout of over-excitement at great beauty or discovery, most likely to occur when traveling. I've broadened my definition of "Stendalisme" to include overwhelm in less positive terms, such as when late and/or lost at an airport or any unfamiliar place. Prepare to take it easy if you find yourself dizzied by travel anew. As SteamLine's founder would say, "Slow down, and look up." Pause, take a deep breath, experience what you are feeling. Especially as the world's engines rev back up, give yourself extra time for unexpectedly long security lines and also taxi lines as car service prices may be prohibitive. There may be a mix of mask wearing and social distancing practices depending on where you go. You will stay calmer if you observe rather than judge, like the good traveler you are—once again.