Hoffy Tours enjoyed its longest tour to date by visiting the most beautiful cities in the South: Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. I picked these cities for their unique urban design qualities and historic preservation fame. Great restaurants and friendly people only added to their charms!
With the able assistance of Stephanie Reid of Laguna Travel Service, we planned a six-day, five night tour flying into Savannah and out of Charleston. Our group was 16 strong - wonderful travelers, great friends, and strong appreciators of architecture and history.
|This Hoffy Tour group ate its way through the South. Oh, yeah, we also saw lots of beautiful National Landmark|
Our first stop was beautiful Savannah - home to the largest historic district in the US and the only city which incorporated plazas or squares every four blocks as the city grew. Thanks for forward-thinking preservationists in the 1960s, 22 of the original 24 plazas have been preserved. Each square has its own character, landscaping and surrounding architecture - a testament to James Oglethorpe who first hatched the plan in 1733. With azaleas blooming, beautiful statuary and gorgeous architecture, you can't believe how beautiful they were.
|Our Oglethorpe Trolley tour was a good way to see all the squares before exploring on foot.|
|Every square has its own character and spring is a great time to visit.|
In addition to exploring the plazas and home tours, we loved the food. For classic southern comfort food, I recommend Paula Dean's Our Lady and Sons and Mrs. Wilke's Boarding House restaurant, but for a real dining experience don't miss the Old Pinke House. Imagine great food served in the oldest home in the city and being entertained by a delightful singer and comic - Sidra.
|We dined in the Blue Room at the Old Pinke House. I enjoyed scored flounder with mango sauce.|
We also enjoyed an unforgettable side trip to Bonaventure Cemetery where many notables are buried, including lyricist Johnnie Mercer. The eery beauty of the site with its century-old tombstones, statues, Spanish-moss and gorgeous landscaping made a huge impression on us. A thunderstorm only added to the mystique.
|Unforgettable Bonaventure Cemetery - ten minutes from downtown Savannah.|
To experience the low country of the South, many of us took a side trip to Beaufort, South Carolina, only one hour from Savannah. This charming town is right on the water and has one of the most beautiful historic districts I have ever seen. No wonder they filmed Forrest Gump, The Great Santini, and many here. The ante-bellum architecture features Greek Revival, Victorian and colonial homes with multiple balconies facing the cooling ocean breezes. I highly recommend the 1-hour carriage tour. Our guide was excellent as he told tales of pirates, the Civil War, and heroic townspeople.
|If you go all the way to Savannah, don't miss a side trip to Beaufort, South Carolina.|
From Savannah, our group piled into the van (aka, the "mother ship") and the mini-van for a two hour trip to our next stop - plantation country outside of Charleston. We stayed at the wonderful Middleton Inn adjacent to the Middleton Plantation and gardens. What an incredible sight we saw that first morning - the nation's oldest landscaped gardens, modeled after Versailles, and situated on the Ashley River. Of course we saw alligators, water birds and azaleas, but I think the tour of the remaining plantation (most was destroyed by Union troops and an earthquake), the demonstration farm and crafts, and the sheer beauty of the place impressed us the most.
|Of course, one of the tour members - intrepid Larry Steinle - had to touch the gator's tail. Not smart, but fun!|
Next door to Middleton is the most famous plantation in the area - Drayton Hall. Preserved but not restored, this Georgian-style mansion is owned by the Friends of Drayton Hall, part of National Trust for Historic Preservation (which several tour members joined). After a tour, we enjoyed a wine tasting featuring vintages from Madeira, Portugal - popular in colonial times to the present. The sheer beauty of Drayton Hall was awesome. Check it out.
|A classic Georgian-style design, Drayton Hall was originally surrounded by rice and indigo|
fields tended by slaves.
Our last stop was festive and beautiful Charleston, the Holy City. With the oldest historic district in the nation and more great restaurants than you could ever visit, what's not to like? We enjoyed a trolley tour orientation, visited Fort Sumter where the Civil War started, did a Home and Garden Tour and ate at many a fine restaurant. Thanks to Stephanie, we stayed at the Francis Marion Hotel - adjacent to the College of Charleston - with views towards the Battery and the bay. The streets in Charleston are so well scaled that urban designers and developers have sought to recreate them throughout the US. I decided that King Street is one of the best walking streets I've ever experienced.
|Charleston is famous for alleys and the "single house" design. Notice that the home is only one room wide and the street door actually accesses the balcony or "piazza" which faces the ocean for the breezes.|
Hoffy Tours will definitely repeat this spring tour to Savannah, Beaufort and Charleston. The trip combines architecture, design, history and dining in cities which, for the most part, escaped the ravages of the Civil War. I felt so fortunate to be able to see such pride in urban preservation and design and am grateful that these landmark cities are so loved.
|Hoffy Tours and company at Middleton Place. What a wonderful group.|