Savannah: Top 5 Travel Destinations

1  For low-country seaside it’s is a quick drive to Tybee Island.  Visit the Crab Shack: “Where the elite eat in their bare feet”. On your way back, stop at the entrance of Fort Pulaski and see fisherman catching trout at the Cockspur Island Bridge. If you go at dusk, you might see a herd of white-tailed deer grazing in the marshes.

Dabble does Savannah41

2  Seen the movie, read the book, know the story?  Tour the Mercer House in Monterey Square and you’ll enter the real-life setting of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The historic home still showcases much of Jim William’s collection of fine furniture, art and accessories.

Dabble does Savannah12

Mercer House

3  Looking for affordable souvenirs? The City Market has plenty. Plus  restaurants, bars, art, galleries and a little touristy shopping.

Dabble does Savannah33

4  If you plan to shop River Street wear comfortable shoes to navigate the cobblestone streets. Start at the top of the hill and visit the antique stores and restaurants at Factors Walk. 

Dabble does Savannah5

The Cotton Exchange

5  Perhaps North America’s earliest urban planning, Savannah’s squares (21 in total)  form a smart  grid and have been a backdrop to countless films including Robert Redford’s Conspirator.

Dabble does Savannah14

Forsyth Park

 

Savannah: Top 5 Restaurants

1  Although we can’t guarantee a ghost sighting as rumoured, at the Olde Pink House does deliver great food (try the Shrimp and Grits appetizer) and a charming atmosphere. Dine in beautifully appointed rooms and then take dessert in the  basement pub where the live music infuses the party.

Dabble does Savannah40

Sautéed Local Shrimp w/Country Ham Gravy & Cheddar Cheese Grits Cake

 

2   Experience southern food, boarding house style at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room. Come early and be prepared to wait in line for at least an hour (yup, it’s worth it!). Once inside you’ll sit family style at a table that’s set for 10 but ready to feed 20.  It’s all for sharing, so try a bit of everything, but save room for banana pudding. And mind your manners – return your dishes to the kitchen just as President Obama does when he visits.

Dabble does Savannah56

Home Southern cooking at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

3  A long day of exploring Savannah’s  squares earns you a treat from Leopold’s Ice Cream. Try  the Tutti Frutti and you’ll understand why Johnny Mercer wrote the famous song of the same name.

4  Looking for a taste of Manhattan in the south? Then Local 11 Ten hits the spot. Start the evening with a Gin, Lime Juice and Basil cocktail  on the upstairs patio.

5   For a great view and good food, Vic’s on the River rewards. Try southern classics like Fried Green Tomatoes and Crab Cakes . 

Dabble does Savannah2

Crab cakes at Vic’s on the River

 

Savannah: Top 5 Travel Experiences

1  Immerse yourself in history with a visit to the First African Baptist Church, built by enslaved people in 1859. The church was once a stop on the Underground Railroad as evidenced by the drill holes in the floor, just above a four foot crawl space that runs under the church and out to the sea.

Dabble does Savannah8

First African Baptist Church member, Rebecca Wilson

2  If design and decorating appeal, then touring Savannah’s Historic Houses  is a must. The Owen-Thomas House is a beautiful example of English Regency architecture complete with period touches like faux-marbre (marble) and faux bois (wood).

3 A riverboat cruise on board the Georgia Queen or the Savannah River Queen transports you up the Savannah River in style.  A sail on the one-hour stern wheel riverboat replicas includes a narrated history lesson. Plan ahead because the tours have fixed departure times.

Dabble does Savannah27

Georgia Queen and the Talmadge Memorial Bridge

4  The Savannah College of Art and Design attracts more than 8,000 talented students each year. Lucky for us as their art works are sold in stores and cafes and at the SCAD Art Museum Bring a southern memento home.

5- In Savannah, ghost are rumoured to be friendly and very much present. We didn’t have any encounters on our visit, but if you’re dying to see one for yourself, do one of the Savannah Ghost Walks and enter some of the cities most haunted buildings at night.

Savannah: Top 5 Food Experiences

1  Take tea at the Gyphon Tea Room and you’ll nibble on tea sandwiches and scones in a turn-of-the-century pharmacy with original stained glass ceiling and wood panelling. . Fresh salads are also worth digging your fork into.

2  Save some dough by sharing a New York style pizza at Vinnie Van Go Go in the City Market.

 The Pirate’s House may have been the drinking spot back in the 18th century, but it’s still a top watering (and dining) spot. There are fifteen separate dining rooms and a resident ghost, Captain Flint (made famous in Treasure Island) who is said to appear in the Captain’s Room.

Dabble does Savannah54

The Pirate’s House

4  Sure, fresh seafood is plentiful in Savannah, but if you love crab take a 20 minute drive to Deposito’s Seafood Restaurant (recommended by interior designer Lynn Morgan). It’s the locals’ secret spot, so shhh, we didn’t tell you.

5   Beautiful exterior window displays will likely draw you into The Paris Market on Broughton Street. Shop the French inspired wares and then enjoy a café au lait before you resume your walking tour of Savannah.

Dabble does Savannah19

The Paris Market

Savannah: Top 5 Design Stores

Author Susan Sully spent a day with Dabble and shared her favourite shopping spots.  As Savannah’s design scene is really a combination of coastal, West Indies and southern country style we’re sure you’ll find plenty to love.

1 Paris Market & Brocante is two floors of European charm. Furniture, art, accessories and antiques are acquired by owner Paula Danyluk who shops the globe.

Dabble does Savannah18

2  It’s easy to find something you love at One Fish, Two Fish, located in the Design District (near Mercer House and Mrs. Wilkes),  Jennifer Beaufait Grayson’s store has an eclectic mix of new and painted furniture, bedding, bath, books and jewelry.

Dabble does Savannah47

 3  The ultimate coastal store is No. Four Eleven. In addition to a disciplined nautical theme, the store specializes in monogram linens and vintage finds.

4  Shop  Savannah College of Art and Design’s shopSCAD for painted canvasses, photography, sculptures, jewellery, clothing and more. Buy a piece of art and who knows, it might be worth millions one day!

Dabble does Savannah45

5  Interior design duo Sim Harvey and Phillip Harvey are the masterminds behind Arcanum, the spot for furnishings and antiques.

Dabble does Savannah64B  

Colonial Style in Old San Juan

Puerto Rico Living8

A passion for improved education keeps Adelisa Gonzalez engaged in local and national politics. But there’s always time for a social life.

Puerto Rico Living4

Within minutes of returning from work she’s greeting her dog and throwing open the balcony and patio doors of her comfortable colonial style apartment. Friends drop in for an impromptu visit and, by all appearances, living in Old San Juan is a joyful experience.

Puerto Rico Living5

Puerto Rico Living7

BELOW Adelisa strolls with Arena, an abandoned pup she rescued from the beach (the name means sand in Spanish).

Puerto Rico Living3

Weekend Escape to Puerto Rico

blogimg352

Travel by Design: Puerto Rico

After multiple visits to San Juan I’ve learned that getting in sync with the locals means slowing down, even embracing the predictable tardiness and laid back attitudes. Not always easy for this multi-tasking Northerner. In my experience, the only things that move quickly in Puerto Rico are conversations and cab drivers. I suggest you fasten your seat belt for both.

Here I share a few additional photos from my most recent trip to Puerto Rico:

blogimg353

blogimg354

blogimg355

blogimg356

blogimg357

To read more on Puerto Rico and Beth’s trip, check out Travel by Design Puerto Rico, Issue 2 May/June 2011.

La Vida Activa – Staying Healthy in San Juan

Puerto Rico Yoga

Staying healthy in San Juan takes some effort, especially when local delicacies are deliciously fried. Dabble’s guide and puertorriqueña Ana Dapena keeps her long limbs toned and her mind serene by living la vida activa. 

Yoga
Ashtanga vinyasa classes at It’s Yoga are a joyful experience thanks to the open air studio and lyrical chanting of instructor Valerie Santiago. A $17 drop-in fee nets a mat to use and a bottle of water.

Biking
Wheeling to work is somewhat dangerous with weekday traffic, but weekend excursions are a joy. Piñones has a six-mile trail through pine forest and past ocean views. For an extensive list of bike trails online, try Single Tracks.

Paddleball
“At low tide there’s more playing field,” jokes Ana, who explains why she wears a watch that tracks such things. Come to Ocean Park beach on any weekend and you’re sure to find a paddleball companion.

Puerto Rico Paddle Ball

ABOVE: Ana Dapena and Adelisa Gonzalez enjoy a game of paddleball in Ocean Park.

Volleyball
The former national and professional volleyball player says the summer tournaments at Ocean Park and Condado beach attract a larger number of fans. New friends are always welcome.

Healthful Eats

The setting at Sushi Nagoya is unspectacular, but the sashimi and sushi are fresh and light.

At Pure and Natural expect a great veggie burger and island-slow service.

Satisfy a craving for green salad with a visit to the Sidewalk Café at La Concha Hotel.

Parque de las Cavernas del Río Camuy

Puerto Rico 21

Yawning before us is the opening to Cueva Clara, the largest of likely more than 1,000 caves within the Camuy River Cave Park. Archaeologic evidence suggests these natural limestone caverns may have been explored by the island’s first inhabitants, the Taíno Indians, but they remained undocumented until 1973. A fraction of the system is open to visitors who wait patiently to step onto a tram and journey down into the natural wonder.

Feeling like a time traveller who stepped into Jurassic Park, we descend by tram to air that is thicker and mustier than the stuff on top. Fortunately, there is penetrating daylight in most sections of the cave and no one feels claustrophobic. The tour lasts about one and a half hours and is led by a local guide for a fee of $15, which includes the supplementary audio guide.

Puerto Rico 20

Dabble Savvy: Most hotels offer packages to see main tourist sites.

If you’re travelling with children, a trip to Arecibo Lighthouse Park can extend the day’s adventures. The small theme park is well kept and its replicas of Columbus’s ships, the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, remind you of all that history you learned back in school.

Living in Old San Juan

Puerto Rico Living9

Extending a warm greeting, after a day’s work at the hospital, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez assures me he feels more like a ‘Carli’ than a ‘Dr. Gonzalez’ as he unlocks the door to his Old San Juan apartment. He offers chilled Medalla, the local brew, and talks passionately about his charming apartment, its tiled courtyard and the rare neighbourhood he calls home.

Puerto Rico Living2

“When you live in Old San Juan, everyone comes to you,” says Carli. And why wouldn’t they? “It’s a magical place that’s brimming with history and, unlike any other city in Puerto Rico, you can walk everywhere in the Old Town. In fact, on weekends, I rarely use my car.”

When you live in Old San Juan, everyone comes to you.

Puerto Rico Living1

6 Colourful Puertorrican Expressions

Puerto Rico Expressions

A special kind of learning takes place when you see a country through the eyes of a local guide. As I toured Puerto Rico with Ana Dapena, her pride and enthusiasm were infectious. Along the way, I learned some colourful expressions that added to my travel experience (all family approved).

“Cuando Colón baje el dedo.”
When Columbus puts his finger down. Compares to: when hell freezes over.

“Ese huevo quiere sal.”
That egg wants salt. That person has a hidden agenda or is up to something.

“A lo hecho, pecho.”
If you’re going to make a mistake, at least do it with a proud chest.

“Me lo da en arroz y habichuelas.”
Tell me in rice and beans. Or, dumb it down; give it to me in layman’s terms.

“Sudando la gota gorda.”
I’m sweating a big fat drop. Compares to: sweating like a pig.

“Puse cara de cabro degollado.”
To give the face of a slaughtered animal in order to illicit pity from someone.

1-2-3 Days in Puerto Rico

blogimg395

My passion for travel is well documented, and certainly part of the reason I launched Dabble. Following our successful launch, the folks at American Express Canada approached me to test drive their new travel rewards card, The American Express Gold Rewards Card. Since it offers double points on purchases I make regularly, the grocer, drug store, gas station, and on all travel spending I was keen to see what it could do. Even more enticing for a frequent traveller like me, the points transfer 1:1 with Aeroplan, don’t expire and have no restrictions or blackout dates.

To get me started, American Express offered me 50,000 Membership Rewards points, in addition to the 15,000 bonus points I received (enough for a roundtrip flight to Paris, London or Rome) when I signed up for the card. Let’s just say, I had some fun earning points over 3 days in Puerto Rico.

blogimg392

Day 1

MORNING Wake to the gentle sound of rolling waves and remember, ‘Yes, I really am on vacation.’ Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s even better when someone sings to you. So, visit Mares at the Ritz-Carlton when Jeremy Baptiste is working the omelette station. Jeremy moved from Boston two years ago and says he hasn’t stopped singing since. On Sundays, there’s also an unlimited Mimosa bar.

AFTERNOON Fortified with a proper breakfast, find a spot pool, or beach-side. Pack a juicy paperback and a big bottle of sunscreen.

LATE AFTERNOON Seriously, do you really want to move now? If you must, a walk on the beach and a swim in the ocean are restorative.

EVENING Dinner at Jose Enrique is guaranteed to be memorable, once you find it. Your cab driver can help.

blogimg393

Day 2

MORNING If you’re enjoying the food (and I bet you are) an early morning yoga class at It’s Yoga may be in order. Following class (let’s face it, you worked hard) cross the road to Kasalta and order a cordatito, espresso with a sheen of steamed milk. Then, good luck choosing just one of the tempting pastries on display.

MID-MORNING Make your way to Old San Juan and enjoy a leisurely day exploring. Kimberley’s suggestions are on page 132.

Include a visit to El Morro (seen here) with its 18-foot-thick walls rising some 140 feet above the sea. Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

San Juan’s sister protector, Castillo de San Cristobal covers 27 acres. As a strategic defense it’s something of a masterpiece, built around five self-sufficient, independent units connected by moat and tunnel. Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

EVENING Having enjoyed the shopping, history and setting of Old San Juan for the day, you’ll want to stay for dinner. In the mood for romance? Try 311 Trois Cent Onze.

blogimg394

Day 3

MORNING Whether you are renting a car or participating in an organized tour, you’ll want to set out early to explore El Yunque National Rainforest. Hike the trails and take a dip in the crystal clear waterfalls. Perhaps these are the fabled Fuente de Juventud (Fountain of Youth)?

AFTERNOON It’s a short drive to rest and relaxation at Luquillo Beach. Parking is tricky, but be patient and you’ll find a spot. If you’re hungry, there are 50 roadside kiosks at the ready with deep fried (and fried again in some cases) snacks. For lighter fare try Ceviche Hut #38 or Martes #26 for puertorriquenos meat tacos. It’s worth saying the kiosks at Pinones are more picturesque, so if you’re staying in San Juan it may be worthwhile to head in that direction.

EVENING For a casual beachside dining experience, you can’t beat the setting or the food at Uvva Restaurant. For an urban, NYC bistro vibe, try BLT Steak. They serve fresh pop- overs at the start of the meal and provide patrons with a copy of the recipe. The house red, Gnarly Head cabernet, at $8.00 per glass is great value.