Recently, Max and I celebrated our 25th anniversary in Savannah, Georgia. Neither of us had been there previously, so it was a new chapter in our book of shared adventures. In fact, we have never visited a place channeling the antebellum south before this trip to Savannah. We both love history, but we have never been south of Williamsburg, Virginia.
But wait, you may say… don’t you live in Florida? Is there anyplace in the USA that is more south than Florida? Before I lived in Florida, I would have had the same reaction. In fact, it used to confuse me that the Miami Dolphins do not play in the AFC South division. Again, how much more South can you get than Miami? And every team that is in the AFC South division plays in a city north of Miami. The Dolphins do play in the AFC East division, which I guess makes the same argument. How much more East can you get than Miami?
In reality, I think that the traditional South is a bit suspicious of Florida. We Floridians are a different breed. When you think “Florida,” I am not sure you think of sprawling, lazy plantations and oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. I am okay with that. I am not sure that the residents of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, or the Carolinas necessarily are. Those of us who live in Florida must work harder to get a southern card.
But I digress. This blog is about our trip to Savannah, which is probably the most culturally southern city in the nation. It is beautiful. Just being in Savannah was soul food. Even though we did not invest substantial time on our trip visiting tourist attractions or engaging in outdoor recreational activities, we definitely vacated real life and lived in a different world for a few days. The mood and atmosphere of Savannah is enriching. The city just drips with culture and history like fresh biscuits drip with honey. Walking around the squares and riding around on a sightseeing trolley is enough to allow that honey to stick Savannah to your fingers.
It was different kind of trip for us. Typically, when we vacation, we go to amusement parks, visit museums, see shows, and immerse ourselves in scheduled activities unique to our destination. We have a great time, but we are definitely tourists. I think we rarely experience much of our vacation destination’s real life. I’m okay with that. I like being a tourist. Max and I are not very adventurous, so it is comforting to fold ourselves into a planned and scheduled tourist culture when we travel rather than risk the trials and tribulations of real life. We both also tend to be rather anxious people, concerned about making sure we do the “right” things and get the most out of a trip. If we live as true tourists while we are in a strange city, we will probably manage to experience all the “important” famous sights.
On the other hand, sometimes it is better simply to be than to do. In Savannah, we rented a beautiful old Victorian mansion from a private owner instead of going to a hotel. We walked down the block several mornings to a popular local coffee shop for a beverage and pastry. We went to a normal regional mall the day the weather torpedoed any kind of outdoor activity and compared the department store in Savannah to the same one in the mall in our town. We strolled around Forsyth Park, petting neighborhood dogs and smiling at babies enjoying outings in jogging strollers. One of my favorite stops on our travels around the city was a local jewelry store. It was not famous. It was not a traditional tourist attraction. I did not even buy anything except a Christmas tree decoration, as the store was too rich for my blood. I still spent a very pleasant hour or so there- looking at pieces, trying them on, chatting with the friendly store manager. In another situation, in another location, I might have felt awkward about the encounter as soon as I realized that I would not be purchasing any of the beautiful pieces the manager showed me. I am sure that the manager realized, after seeing my reaction to a few price tags, that I was not a serious buyer. Still, she seemed to genuinely enjoy spending time with me, talking about our shared taste in jewelry, and examining the artistic, one-of-a-kind items. She was more like a museum curator, passionate about sharing her collection with a visitor, than a salesperson. I almost sent her a thank you note when I got home.
Then there was the food. Of course, we do enjoy dining out on every vacation. Rarely, though, do I think of the food as a major factor in a vacation. For one thing, I am a picky, unadventurous eater so unique regional food does not thrill me. For another thing, we are usually so busy on vacations that we tend to eat around other planned activities rather than building our day around a restaurant. In Savannah, food tended to be a marquis attraction each day. From our coffee shop to the famous diner featured in the movie Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, we ate superbly satisfying food. The diner, though famous and able to attract customers because of its movie association, still had a healthy local trade… because the food was absolutely delicious. I never knew pancakes could taste so heavenly. We had our anniversary dinner at The Old Pink House restaurant. The whole place was gorgeous and sublime. The service was remarkable. The food absolutely pole-vaulted over any expectations I might have had. The first thing I noticed about the food was that it was like I had died and gone to Bread Heaven. They served three different kinds of bread fit for royalty. I would have been over the moon if I had just eaten bread. I did not just eat bread, however. I ate way more yummy salad, fried chicken, and green beans than my capacity to consume calories could handle. Then, just because, we had dessert. It was some sort of unlikely concoction of praline candy woven into a basket, filled with ice cream, caramel, guava jelly, and berries. It was a burst of joy in my mouth. I would say we only ate about a quarter of what was put in front of us, despite how wonderful it was. There was just that much food.
All in all, it was a fantastic way to celebrate our twenty-five years together. Our twenty-five years together has been special and satisfying and sweet and spectacular in many ways. Part of what has made our time together so mutually rewarding and supportive is the comfort that our traditions and shared memories provide. We fit together well because we do approach things, even vacations, in similar ways most of the time. Because we do tend to be a bit anxiety-prone, we love that we can enjoy sameness together. Going on vacations that are planned, scheduled, and familiar helps us keep anxiety at bay and allows us to enjoy ourselves without stress.
On the other hand, after twenty-five years, it is good to shake things up a bit. I don’t see us ever falling off our foundation, but it is good to know that we can survive and thrive while exploring new adventures in new ways. As we celebrated a milestone anniversary, marking a quarter of a century of shared history with each other, in Savannah, I realized that our couplehood is more versatile and adaptable than I realized. Growing old together in the old South showed me that sometimes you must ease the grip on old memories to make new ones.
Do you tend to go to the same places on vacation or are you more apt to pick a new place each time? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternate, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a bright shiny new day!