explorations | savannah + jacksonville

I and my sister are theoretically preparing for a visit to Seattle this winter, but in the meantime we both craved a mini-adventure to tide us over until the great expedition comes to fruition. One steamy July night, after a couple of beers and cheap storebought pizza, we pulled Savannah out of the hat as our choice. Away we went on July 27, pre-dawn, coffees in hand and bags stuffed in the trunk.

We started on the road at 5:30 a.m., stretched down 70 miles of US 301 (past the town of Waldo, which sadly had no red-and-white stripped buildings) and landed after three hours at Bold Bean in Jacksonville for a midmorning pick-me-up. From there we finished the final two hours down the curvatures of the panhandle interstates, whisking by the “Welcome to Georgia” sign with its painted peach inviting us in with a splash of orange, The day sweetly smiled down in full sunlight, and we both acknowledged the ceaseless cerulean of the sky, but another accompaniment not quite as welcome: the heat. Not unexpected, but brutal still, as all summer conditions tend to be.

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Savannah is quaint, relatively walkable down most of the main historic and riverfront stretches. Tread down Bull Street and its parallel equivalents and you might find yourself a bit warier of your surroundings, but the compact center of the town moves like clockwork and flows like a stream. Around you are brick buildings and old white concrete churches and rickety but charming houses with raised porches punctuated by hammocks & hanging benches. We found a small eatery called the Soda Pop Shoppe for lunch (burgers & hotdogs), then meandered without real aim before a beer stop at Six Pence Pub and a visit for a cortadito at Coffee Fox down Broughton. Spots worth trying, even if they weren’t my personal favorites.

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Then there was dinner. After, it’s worth noting, an Olympic medal-worthy escape from the driveway of our B&B as the other visitors staying in a separate room parked their rental horizontally across the foot of the pavement, successfully blocking our way. Wherefrom this logic originated, I do not know, and can only venture to guess either an honest & intense lapse in judgment or a pointedly sarcastic maneuver. Either way, we managed. And then rewarded ourselves with some aggressively southern fare at Treylor Park down Bay, twisted in a direction I thoroughly adored and would certainly stuff in my face if I ever return to Savannah in the future.

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We didn’t find Savannah to be enough to consider staying longer than we did, even if we could have. Perhaps we visited on off days, but even the bakeries we both inwardly drooled over at the beginning did not live up to the standards Yelp and TripAdvisor outlined. We instead found our palates awakened in Jacksonville on Thursday, to our great surprise and relief.

Jacksonville, by population, is Florida’s largest city, and the contiguous US’s largest by area. I did not know this until a few minutes before writing those facts down. We first pulled into Sweet Theory Baking Company and were delighted by the selection of pastries displayed in the glass casings: maple bacon donuts, cinnamon buns, cupcakes with curly frostings, domes of zucchini bread and coffee cake, blueberry muffins. Coconut oil is the only fat used in baking, and most of the products are gluten free and vegan. Being somewhat conscious of my health of late, such declarations aligned with my preferences and the outcomes even more so. The bacon on the donut was candied and perfectly melded sweet with salty, and the body of the pastry flaked just enough to entice but not so much that the form collapsed into a pile of crumbs as I ate. I have currently two of the goodies in my freezer for emergencies. Later in the day we found the Ugly Cupcake Muffinry on Jacksonville Beach, with the most delightful counter worker and the most massive muffins, with beautifully formed tops, I’ve ever seen. I left with two cannoli chocolate chip muffins and my sister with salted butterscotch. One became my dinner. No shame.

Beans n’ brews did not disappoint either. We filled up on a $5 and a $7 beer flight at Engine15 Brewery, then completely satisfied our hoppy needs at Zeta. Coffee from BREW 5 Points came in clutch for the return trip, during which I fell asleep and the rain began to patter from the skies, as if the heavens, too, were sad that we had to leave Jacksonville behind.

You can find my recommendations for the trip below. Even if I was not supremely satisfied with all of Savannah’s hype, still I’d say to go: no bit of travel is ever a total loss. The town is pretty and a satisfying walk, and perhaps the bakeries and breweries and coffee spots will, indeed, be more to your liking. But please be sure not to pass up on pb&j wings. You might never find them again.

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 SAVANNAH HIGHLIGHTS

  • Treylor Park (pb&j wings, low country pizza, bourbon tea with muddled raspberries, and of tang rum. Try it all.)
  • Goosefeathers
  • Back in the Day Bakery
  • The Coffee Fox (unique drinks such as the Mexican Mocha & a Horchata latte)
  • Foxy Loxy (Coffee Fox’s older brother)
  • Perc Coffee
  • Book Lady Bookstore

JACKSONVILLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Bold Bean Coffee Roasters
  • Vagabond Coffee
  • BREW 5 Points (the lavender cappuccino stole my heart)
  • Sweet Theory Baking Company
  • The Ugly Cupcake Muffinry (the muffins are massive & the logo adorable)
  • Engine15 Brewing
  • Zeta Brewing

 

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