Apparently Savannah is the most haunted town in America. But whilst it was definitely one of my favourite road trip spots on the tour, I can’t say it filled me with the major spooks. After arriving at 2pm, we spent an afternoon pottering round the hot and sweaty streets of the historic district, walking up the water front and accidentally purchasing Vikki some of the most uncomfortable flipflops known to mankind. Following an excessively large portion of fried chicken at a local bar, we embarked on a Blue Orb ghost tour, one of the city’s most popular attractions. The tour was guided by an extravert drama student called Topher, who turned out to be a fabulously flamboyant story teller. Although his tales were fascinating and the shadow-shrouded buildings were creepy, I’m afraid to say Topher himself was about as frightening as a newborn kitten. I suppose that’s what happens when your name sounds suspiciously like a soy-based vegan meat alternative. Nevertheless, I absolutely loved the tour and its host for the fantastic historical content and introduction to Savannah. There’s few things better than a good old-fashioned ghost story.
Some people are Double Tree enthusiasts, others swear by Holiday Inns. I’m an independent B&B obsessive. Find a good B&B or a pretty little boutique hotel and you’ll get character, better value for money and an altogether more unique experience. Having been warned that Savannah is ‘kinda dangerous’ (rough a badger’s arse in British English), we decided to splash the extra cash to say in the touristy historic district, which is far safer than anywhere else. After several painful hours spent with Mr Google, I eventually found the Foley Inn, a pretty, centrally-located B&B offering a 6pm happy hour. In addition to free-flowing wine and homemade canapés in the early evening, this B&B had afternoon tea and cake, and enthusiastic managers keen to tell you about the hotel’s live-in ghosts. Ironically enough, we had the best night’s sleep of our entire trip. I guess those poltergeists must have liked the English accents.
After getting our geek on with a morning trip to the Civil Rights museum, we set off for Atlanta, with a few little stops on the way. The first was courtesy of the Georgia police force, who followed us down the road, angrily flashing their lights until we pulled over and put our hands in the air. Well, not quite. But the southern states are known for their trigger happy exploits, so as the cop waddled over to the window, we kept our hands where he could see them.
“Y’all know why I pulled you over”, he demanded, brow knotted in combined anger and delight, practically salivating at the prospect of issuing a road fine.“No, we’re not from here.”
“Don’t give me that. Y’all a’ from Florida, I know you gots the same pull over laws there.’
“No, we’re from England. I’m sorry, we’ve never heard of this law.”
“But you live in Florida?”
“No. This is a rental, we’re on holiday.” Finally comprehension dawned and despite his disappointment at not being able to brandish his immense power and issue a hefty fine, he switched into uber polite mode. Just an FYI for those driving round America, always slow down or pull into the left-hand lane if you spot parked emergency vehicle in the hard shoulder. Them’s the rules apparently.
Luckily the next stop was an international one. Just an hour south of Atlanta, slightly off the beaten track, lies a tiny little town called Juliette. Aside from incomprehensible gas station attendants, run-down trailer parks and more evangelistic churches than human beings, Juliette is home to the original movie set from ‘Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café’. (If you’ve never seen that film you must. Watch it with tissues and some butter-soaked popcorn.)
The Whistle Stop Café itself is exactly how I’d imagined. Quaintly retro with a menu full of southern goodies. We shared a plate of spicy fried green tomatoes (obviously) and a pulled pork sandwich laden with coleslaw and BBQ sauce. I’m not sure I’d rush to order the green tomatoes again but the batter was crispy and I’ve definitely eaten much worse. (I’m looking at you, Bangkok jellyfish salad of 2008.) We hung around for a while after lunch to take the obligatory rocking chair pictures, before setting off in pursuit of Atlanta.
As we only stayed one night here, I can’t claim we got the full city experience. Most of my evening was spent in a Queen size bed, dipping room service French fries into macaroni cheese as part of my weekly carb and saturated fat overload. Turns out planning a road trip with all the energy of a 21-year-old is all well and good until you realise you’re 30, old and fucking exhausted. Following operation ‘battery recharge’ we celebrated our new found vitality with brunch at Buttermilk Kitchen, which featured the best pancake I’ve ever tasted.
With the maple syrup bouncing round my blood stream, we took a quick stop at the Margaret Mitchell House before getting on the road. Author of ‘Gone with the Wind’, one of the most widely read and famous books in American history, this little tour is well worth it for fans. And, as with any good American tourist hotspot, there’s plenty of movie memorabilia and toot for sale in the gift shop, as well as copies of the novel. Sadly there wasn’t much more time for exploring Atlanta, but perhaps we’ll do it next time. To quote Scarlett O’Hara, tomorrow is another day.