I have been blessed with the opportunity to get to travel. Some of this touristing has been initiated as an area of interest to visit a new place nd others have been a victim of circumstance from my husbands whereabouts with work in the military. I appreciate discovering cities, delicious new foods and especially to explore the essence of a city and it’s tale. And within any area, it is the story of the citizens that make the overall culture.
My favorite thing to do anywhere that we go, is to sit and talk (even if briefly) to people and to ask questions and see where the dialogue goes. One way to start this has been through small talk or to ask simple questions. I have found that people generally love to share. A routine question is, “How did you come to be here (insert city name)?” Or to ask how they came to do their chosen carreer. It is fascinating to hear peoples evolution to how they came to be with me right in that moment. I have spoke to taxi drivers in Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and New Orleans and learned so much about their story, challenges and joys even just over a short ride. I have struck conversations with other tourists and business owners and the list of possibilities go on and on.
I have thought for years, that I would like to blog about what I learn from these stories and interactions. As a kick-off to this dream, I find myself in the beautiful southern town of Savannah, Georgia. I have always wanted to come and experience what I have envisioned as the “southern charm” of a city that I have heard about.
I started a conversation with a hotel staff member who walked us to our room. His name is Henry James. Is this not the coolest name ever? He is an African American gentleman, with a welcoming smiley way. When I asked him where his favorite place to eat was, near our hotel, he exitedly answered, “I am so glad that you asked. I would love to tell you.” His enthusiasm to share captured me. He began telling us about his favorite restaurant just blocks away. He even offered to go get us the menu and spent a few minutes talking about the history and his favorite meals to eat there.
Taking tips from people that are so passionate like this is something I feel one must follow up if possible. I love to learn of places not necessarily listed in all of the tourist brochures or on websites. As we left the hotel, we told him where we were headed and he smiled big and told us to let him know how we liked it. We walked down a few blocks through a quiet little neighborhood full of townhouses. It is so interesting to do walk through neighborhoods in different cities. The architecture so unique, yet the feel of the buildings placed right next to the other, the same as any other place.
We ended up at Crystal Beer Parlor. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crystal-Beer-Parlor/110319556448?fref=ts. This is a restaurant that has stood the test of time and if it could talk may have so many rich stories to tell. The inside was full of memoabilia and photos of Georgia, from boxing athletes to old city photos. We were greeted nicely and the staff were very accomodating throughout the night.
We were waiting for friends to join us at the bar and I met Katherine, who came in greeting all of the bartenders by name and they by her own as well. She sat down on the barstool next to me and asked, “Is this seat open?” She ordered the ‘kids spaghetti to go, a drink and began talking with the staff. Somehow we struck up a conversation and time was lost. Katherine is a beautiful blonde woman, dressed nicely and perhaps close to my age. I got the sense that she was well educated and probably finanically well off and honestly I never asked about these particulars. She is a native to Georgia, leaving the area briefly in her adulthood for 18 years (living south of Georgia then). Recently, she moved back to the same childhood neighborhood within the city. We spoke as if we had been friends for years about happenings in our lives, history of the city from her perspecitve and so much pride for the culture here.
This stranger that I just met gave me advice for my walk-about of the city today and said, “If I didn’t have to go to the hospital to be with my step-father, I would be glad to show you around.” Her step-father is in his 80’s and is dying. Her mother cannot go to the hospital to be with him due to her own failing health. Katherine goes to the hospital daily to be with him at this time. I was overcome with such kindness from someone that just met me as well as her willingness to share the loss that she is facing. We spoke also about proud moments with our children. She also talked about the 80 year old restaurant that we were sitting in and earlier memories for her of this place. She made recommendations for the food and especially the well known southern red rice, that she swears tastes just like her grandma’s recipe. She said that they make the best friend shrimp, beyond any other restaurant. The conversation flowed non-stop and truly time was lost.
I think that we both were sad when the conversation had to come to an end when our large group of friends arrived and our table was ready. I said goodbye and thanked her for how lovely it was to meet her. She wished us the best time in Savannah and reminded me to check out the Cathedral here, saying it was very beautiful and to be aware of the era that this was built.
Later I saw her still sitting at the bar, eating the spaghetti she had ordered for take-out and striking up another conversation with someone. I reflected on the simplicity of this moment and the learning and love for connecting with others even if brief in nature. I also was so aware of this place where it has it’s own community and everyone knows your name. We had a great meal and evening. We left the restaurant thankful for the synchonous unfolding of the night and the connections made. We walked back through the quiet neighborhood a different way. It was now gently raining, something that we love about walking through any city is walking in the rain. It was the perfect end to a cool Savannnah day.