Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Savannah & The AVIA Hotel - A Perfect Weekend Cure For The Post Winter Blues

Today's post is the first in a series to be tagged "Quick Cures For The Blue Nomad". Spring has not sprung but it is oh so close! Today, while riding my bike on a recently completed trail in God's Country with a blue, cloudless sky and a balmy seventy five degrees to keep me company, it occurred to me that weekend travel is not only fun , it also brings balance and symmetry to the warp speed of the 24 hour news cycle world we live in. A quick trip to a new or old place, especially one that is unplanned, will shake up your karma and relocate your center. How's that for some New Age hokum!! Anyway, ditch the IPAD, turn off the I-Phone  and focus on the road, the place, the food and the one you love. And don't forget your favorite road music CD's or MP3 player.  Good Music is essential to any quality road trip. And - NO TV!!!  Shake off the cob webs of winter and take to the road for a weekend to remember. Sometime back, we took just such a trip to one of the most enchanting cities in America.

Like New Orleans and Venice, Savannah is a city that combines beauty, mystery and eccentricity into a scintillating cocktail of visual, cultural and gastronomic pleasure. Founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe, this stylish southern city contains over twenty green city squares. Laden with majestic oaks and all manner of indigenous plants and flowers, the squares provide places of rest and relaxation and give the city a beautiful sense of architectural order. Savannah also has a unique and varied cultural heritage that is very much thriving today. Johnny Mercer, the great lyricist, composer and singer of such American classics as Moon River, Days of Wine and Roses and Accentuate The Positive was born and lived most of his life in Savannah. The Southern Gothic book and film Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil,  gives us a glimpse of the eccentricities of this must see place for the curious Nomad. But Savannah isn't just about Victorian houses and old singers. One of the many examples of the contemporary arts and culture scene is The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). With top tier programs in fine art, design, architecture and other creative fields, SCAD is in the perfect environment to produce future movers and shakers in the worlds of design, architecture and allied arts.

Proof positive that Savannah doesn't live in the past is the small, boutique hotel AVIA. Located in the heart of Savannah's funky downtown, across from Ellis Square, it is the perfect place to wine, dine and explore. The Lady and Sons Restaurant, Paula Deen's famous eatery, is across the street and you are only a block from the waterfront, River Street and more shops and dining choices than you could ever imagine. The Telflair Academy of Arts is a mere three blocks away, if you want to work in a little history and culture. And, Savannah is the perfect city for leisurely strolling, people watching and photography.

Getting to Savannah is a fairly easy drive from most southeastern cities. It also has the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport if you live too far away to drive. We decided to jump off  I-95 North and head into Savannah via The Coastal Highway which traverses the Georgia coastal plains region replete with bayous, marshes and long vistas to nowhere. We arrived at the front door of AVIA and were immediately met by a friendly, snappily dressed doorman and ushered into the concierge desk for check in. As first impressions go, so far so good. Once at the front desk, we were met by  a smiling, professional young lady who took our first impression and ran with it. She immediately offered an upgrade to a suite from a standard room at no additional charge. Second impression - so far really great. As we completed our check-in and followed the bellman to our room, I was struck by the interior design of the place. I would phrase it sleek urban eclectic. Wow, that sounds like some interior design wag on HGTV, doesn't it?  Suffice to say, the lobby, the dining room and the bar are what you would expect in an upscale, urban boutique hotel. Eclectic furnishings with a subdued palette of colors, fabrics and furnishings create serene public spaces that you can settle back with your favorite glass of red or white and enjoy the vibe after a day of walking and sight seeing.

The quality of this  unique little hotel does not end at the lobby however. Our suite was well appointed with a large comfortable red sofa, large overstuffed chairs and a bed of uncompromising comfort. The bath was also large and well appointed with double vanities and a soothing rain shower. The windows opened to a great view of the treetops of some of the most majestic oaks in the south and the busy Ellis Square below. And the best part of all of this well appointed and understated design quality? The Price. A mere $169.00 will get you a Classic King and $189.00 a Grand Studio Suite. An absolute steal for a hotel of this quality. When you take a great little boutique hotel for a ridiculous price and throw in fabulous service, you have a recipe for a great  weekend stay in The Hostess City of the South.

And the food!! Just like New Orleans and Venice, Savannah is one of those places where it is virtually impossible to get a bad meal. Upon the advice of our loquacious and informative bellman, we decided to check out a small little eatery - The Sapphire Grill. From the Buttermilk Marinated Calamari to the Benne Encrusted Sea Bass to the extraordinary wine suggested by our waiter, the meal at this small, intimate bistro was truly one to be remembered. And the service was excellent. In addition to dining after dark, there are many choices for breakfast or brunch. We decided to try the hotel's own AVIA Kitchen and it did not dissapoint. Custom designed killer omelets made with the freshest ingredients and all the sides you need from cheese grits to breads and cool little handmade sweet things to munch on will get your day started right, except you may need a nap before venturing out to enjoy the mysteries and eccentricities of a place that has managed to keep its history intact while embracing the future without flinching.

So there you have it - a great place, a great hotel and great food.  All you need is yourself and the great person in your life to shake off the dullness of winter and hit the road for a special weekend without breaking the bank.

This Week's Video Artist - Who better to accompany today's post about Savannah than the great singer, composer and lyricist Johny Mercer. His songs have become  a permanent fixture in The Great American Songbook

Travel Quote Of The Week - "I recall my fleeting instants in Savannah as the taste of a cup charged to the brim." - Henry James

Eat, Drink & Be Merry Y'all


D.L. Stafford

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