Sa­van­nah: A Win­ter’s Tale

Make it a joy­ous shop­ping week­end in this rich Low­coun­try city

Southern Living (USA) - - Travel & Culture - BY ELLEN MCGAULEY

ICAN’T TAKE MY EYES off him— this older man stand­ing in front of a bench in Chippewa Square. He’s got a Santa hat and a flute, and there’s a string of col­ored lights draped around his neck. It’s not clear whether he’s set­ting up or clos­ing down, so I fig­ure I’ll wait. He’s got no Christ­mas hus­tle, but that’s what I like about him.

The last time I was here dur­ing the hol­i­days was 1988, when I rode up on an Am­trak from Jack­sonville, Florida, with my dad and two of my sis­ters. I re­mem­ber step­ping into the lobby of the Hy­att Re­gency, a mid-cen­tury gi­ant strad­dling River Street, and gaz­ing up at a Christ­mas tree so bright it could have been on fire. Out­side, a street fair lit the river­front. The old city sparkled.

The irony of that mem­ory is that show­man­ship isn’t re­ally Sa­van­nah’s style. Be­hind the ev­er­green-decked manses and swing­ing shop doors is an old soul who car­ries no airs, a grande dame who mixes decades of fin­ery with new-school funk. It’s per­fect for re­tail drifters like me, who see hol­i­day shop­ping as less of a sport and more of a ram­ble around cor­ners, like a trea­sure hunt with­out a map.

I’m stay­ing at The Mar­shall House, a 19th-cen­tury ho­tel with an aged brick fa­cade and a pa­rade of emer­ald shut­ters stretch­ing along Broughton Street, the city’s re­tail thor­ough­fare. Though the neigh­bor­hood has seen an in­va­sion of fa­mil­iar chains among its store­fronts, a sharp mix of lo­cal shops re­mains. The jewel of the group is The Paris Mar­ket and Bro­cante, a cafe and bou­tique de­signed in the spirit of a French flea mar­ket. There’s a va­ri­ety store feel to the well-cu­rated space, an air of dis­cov­ery that fol­lows me off Broughton and through a net­work of his­toric city squares. New and old

are wo­ven to­gether, thanks in part to Sa­van­nah Col­lege of Art and De­sign (SCAD); its artis­tic fin­ger­prints are ev­ery­where—in alum-owned shops like leather bou­tique Satchel and in mini de­sign labs like Gryphon, an early 20th-cen­tury phar­macy on Madi­son Square that stu­dents have turned into a pop­u­lar tea room. Farther south is Whi­taker Street’s de­sign district, a col­lec­tion of home stores and niche bou­tiques that has emerged as a shop­ping neigh­bor­hood (think Ital­ian pot­tery, vin­tage maps, and hand­made jew­elry). It’s the kind of place where you find your­self lean­ing on coun­ters and chat­ting with own­ers, many of whom are be­hind reg­is­ters.

At night, I cozy up in warm, af­fa­ble eater­ies such as At­lantic, an up­dated 1930s fill­ing sta­tion south of the his­toric district. Out on the pa­tio, folks hud­dle around fire pits, and in­side, the scene re­minds me of those shop coun­ters.

It’s less South­ern folksi­ness and more of a gen­uine, ap­proach­able na­ture that drifts through the city. The sparkle that I re­mem­ber from 30 years ago is still there, but it’s dif­fer­ent. It’s like she’s lit from within.

My fi­nal morn­ing, I grab break­fast at Lit­tle Duck Diner—a dap­per, vin­tagein­spired spot—and head south to­ward Jones Street, where oaks form a mossy canopy over cob­ble­stones. Christ­mas trees peek out from be­hind tall dou­ble­hung win­dows, and a pa­rade of iron ban­is­ters curves down half a story from col­or­ful front doors, their long, el­e­gant sym­me­try like a South­ern ver­sion of the Rock­ettes.

It’s quite a Christ­mas show, but

I’ll be back for the street mu­si­cian wear­ing the lights, too—the lo­cals as­sure me he’s around. I want to see his ver­sion.

Hol­i­day In­dul­gences From left: The bounty of of­fer­ings at The Paris Mar­ket and Bro­cante in­cludes in­spir­ing placeset­tings, host­ess wear, and pretty dishes. Above: The Mar­shall House’s “pineap­ple tree”

Win­ter Won­ders Left and top: Lit­tle Duck Dinerfea­tures a bright, buzzy vibe and hearty break­fasts. Above: Score sea­sonal swagat One Fish Two Fish.

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