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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sweet Treats on River Street

Any visit to Savannah must include, or better yet, start on River Street. In 1733, General James Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River and pitched his tent at Yamacraw Bluff, which is now a park between Factor’s Walk and Bay Street. The economic success of Savannah hinged on its port and the River Street area was the hub. Today, the centuries old buildings lining River Street are filled with boutiques, restaurants, antique shops, and pubs but when it functioned as our wharf, the buildings were mainly used as warehouses.

The streets, alleys, and retaining walls along River Street are cobbled stones and a geologist’s idea of heaven. Why? Because the stones paving River Street come from all over the world! Ships coming into port empty or under loaded would have a hold filled with rocks, or ballast. They’d throw the stones out on the shore then load the cargo. Since Savannah was a busy port the rocks started to pile up. The city’s ingenious solution is what we’re walking on!
Between River Street and the Savannah River is a wide boardwalk called Rousakis Plaza. In the plaza you’ll find Savannah College of Art and Design students offering portrait or caricature drawings, street musicians serenading the crowds, and The Waving Girl Statue.

Florence Martus was born in 1868. The daughter of an ordnance sergeant, she lived at Fort Pulaski (on the Savannah River, near Tybee Island), and then with her brother, a light keeper about five miles upriver. Florence was fascinated with the ships she saw coming into port and from an early age she’d wave her handkerchief to the sailors as they passed by; to her delight, the sailors often waved back. When she moved to the lighthouse, Florence began waving to every ship that passed—a table cloth or dish towel during the day, lantern by night. For 44 years she never missed a ship. She became a familiar and welcome site to sailors from around the globe and, as their ships passed, they returned her wave with three short blasts of their whistle. Florence passed away in 1943 but her legend lives on as her monument welcomes every ship to Savannah.

River Street and Factor’s Walk are now filled with the traditional tourist spots instead of cargo. A favorite for my daughter and me is River Street Sweets; one word, PRALINES!

But even down on tourist central you can find great local flavor. I'm thinking of my favorite night spot, The Bayou Cafe, which appears in Ring of Lies as the No Quarter Saloon (I know, the Bayou is much more 'Savannah'ish but at the time that I wrote Ring of Lies I didn't have contact with the owners so I didn't want to use the real name; they are now very obliging :).

The Bayou is located on the upper levels of an old cotton warehouse. The walls are old brick and the ceiling is low and shows the original wood. Deep set windows with wavy old glass run almost to the floor and they look out over the Savannah River. I sit and watch the huge freighters go by while I listen to the amazing Thomas Claxton.
My favorites? Too many to list but his rendition of Bowie/Queen’s “Under Pressure”, and The Beatles/Joe Cocker’s ‘With a Little Help’ are in the top five. I love him solo but with the whole band … they ROCK! My fav with the whole crew has got to be the Pink Floyd set, Unbelievable and KILLER! In fact, I’m hanging out with the band at the Bayou tonight – come join me!

In Ring of Lies, Thomas is playing at the No Quarter the night Dom and Ivy stop in during their first date, (I know Thomas so I used his real name. You can find him on Facebook . Hear him singing ‘Under Pressure’ and ‘With a Little Help’ . (Go listen, really, he is that good!!).

I also had Dom and Ivy walk along the river front and watch the ships before they visited the Waving Girl Statue, but they don't linger there too long because the little park holds bad, bad memories for Dom --no, I'm not saying anymore, you'll have to read the book!

I feel bad for leaving' ya’ll hanging so here’s an excerpt!
Ivy and Dom are calling it a night and heading back to the car.

Dom grasped her wrist and drew her hand up so the ring shone in the street light. “Something this valuable, you’d be better to have it repaired. You wouldn’t want the stone to fall out.”
Ivy chuckled and slipped her hand back up the sleeve. “It’s just a sentimental thing. I don’t think it’s worth much, but I would hate to lose it just the same.”
Dom nodded. “Where’d you get it?”
“The ring?” She smiled. “It belonged to my aunt, or at least I think it did.”
Dom frowned. “You think?”
Ivy laughed. “Yeah, with my aunt, you never know. Still, I found it at the bottom of a safety
deposit box, along with some old pictures of our family and stuff, so I’m assuming it was Aunt Fey’s. Probably something one of her boyfriends gave her.” She looked up at him and grinned. “That’s why I doubt it is anything but pretty glass. I never knew my aunt to date a man capable of buying anything real.” She shrugged. “Besides, what gem is this color of blue naturally? It’s too light to be a sapphire and I’ve never seen an aquamarine this clear.”
“It could be a diamond. The Hope is blue like that.”
Ivy threw her head back and laughed. “Oh yeah, I can just see Aunt Fey with the Hope diamond.”
Dom didn’t return her grin. He searched her face, his eyes intent. “Stranger things have
happened but I didn’t say it was the Hope diamond just that it’s the same color of blue.”
She broke eye contact and looked out at the river. “Nah, it has to be glass. It’s pretty glass, but
still, just glass.”
She looked up in time to see a strange expression on Dom’s face, a cross between
exasperation and irritation and the whole tinged with suspicion, like she was lying or had something to hide. She frowned, wondering what had caused it. The easy camaraderie of the night seemed to have slipped away, and for the first time, Ivy felt uncomfortable. The way he watched her now reminded her of the detectives who’d come to tell her about her aunt. She shook her head. Perhaps all cops, even former ones, had that look. Maybe they taught it at the academy. She looked up as he laughed. The intent expression was gone and she wondered if she’d imagined it.
Dom shrugged. “Well, whatever it is, you should get it fixed, since it means so much to you.” He gave her hand a gentle tug. “Shall we go?”
Ivy looked at her watch and nodded. “Yeah, I’d best get home. Lots of deliveries tomorrow. I’m so excited about my grand opening.”
“What do you have planned?”
Ivy chattered about the plans for opening night as they walked along the now deserted riverfront. They slowed as they neared the shadowed alley that led to the Factor’s Walk, allowing Ivy to pick her way across the jumbled cobblestones.
Ivy gave a rueful laugh. “I’m sorry. I thought these boots would be easier to walk in down here but they’re just as bad as high heels!”
She tripped on a loose stone and Dom caught her, turning her so their bodies were flush. His arms wrapped around her waist. “Easy now, don’t want you to twist an ankle.”
She caught her breath at the feel of his tall, hard body pressed against hers. There was no doubt
he wanted her, and God help her, she wanted him too.
She swallowed hard and wrestled with the voice in her head that insisted on pointing out what she already knew. They’d only known each other a few hours and she’d be a fool to rush in, especially with her track record. But her heart said Dom was different. He understood a childhood of loneliness and isolation. He’d felt the pain and vulnerability that came from losing a parent. They connected. She trusted him. He made her feel safe and cherished. It was time to take a chance.
Pushing the last of her doubts aside, Ivy leaned closer and moistened her lips. Her stomach fluttered in anticipation as he lowered his lips to hers. She swayed as he nibbled at her lower lip and traced its fullness with the tip of his tongue. A shiver, that owed nothing to the cold, ran through her and she parted her lips then gasped as his tongue swept inside, exploring and mating with hers. She moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck, surrendering to the sensations coursing through her.
Dom pulled his lips from hers and trailed a line of kisses across her cheek and whispered in her ear. “I’ve wanted to do that all night.”
She gave a breathless laugh. “Then why didn’t you?”
He groaned and took her lips again, crushing her to him and fondling her backside. Ivy squirmed
and returned his kiss, lost to all rational thought.
“Now ain’t this nice?”
The snide remark from behind her was like a slap in the face, shocking her from her stupor. She
felt Dom stiffen as he raised his head and looked over her shoulder.

Next up? Pizza, Paula, and Paris


Maria Zannini said...

I loved the stories about the stones and Florence.

What a rich history Savannah has.

Kasey said...

Great descriptions! I felt like I was there!

Rachel Lynne said...

Oh I'm so glad! I really do love this area and have the best time showing it off :0)