Savannah: All Things French

Photo by Mary Ellen Thompson

Un Jour de la France (for a day, anyway) in Georgia

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Discover the French heritage of Savannah. It’s the South where some people chase ghosts, drink before noon, speak with a heavy drawl, and wander around town in period costumes in the middle of the day.

Savannah is also filled with French architecture, history and culture. The French are all about sensory experiences, so let’s get yours going. Ladies: spritz on some perfume, slap on some red lipstick, and tie a scarf around your neck. Gentlemen: slather on some cologne, put a handkerchief in your shirt pocket, and slick back your hair. Everyone: don your espadrilles to step on out. Channel Catherine Deneuve, Edith Piaf, Madeline, Maurice Chevalier or maybe Marcel Marceau. Speak with your hands, adopt some attitude and say bonjour to everyone you pass. But do not wear skinny jeans because, people, you are going to eat some food today.

Sashay into Goose Feathers Cafe for breakfast. Linger. Enjoy every bite. Stand, stretch, and take to the streets.

Walk a few blocks down Broughton Street to the Paris Market and Brocante. Enjoy the window displays before popping inside. There’s no telling what you will find here, but do explore every little thing and then go downstairs and do the same. You might need a fragrance, taxidermied animal, sofa or chandelier. You will certainly pick up a few gifts. If all the excitement makes you slightly dizzy, have a liquid refreshment and nibble on a macaron.

Head toward the river and take a few laps around Reynolds Square to build up an appetite for lunch at Cafe M on Bay Street. We recommend the baguette sandwiches, but the quiches and salads are also delicious.

Now it’s time for a little history: grab a Savannah Pedicab. If one isn’t handy, call for one to collect you. Consider it a French taxi driver without a language barrier. Ask to be taken to Forsyth Park where there is considerable French influence.

Savannah: French History and Architecture

In 1779, the land currently occupied by Forsyth Park was an encampment for allied French and American army during the American Revolution. The park was founded in 1840 after ten acres of land was donated. Since Savannah city planners were influenced by Parisian urban renewal efforts, they sought to replicate them in this central public garden. The Forsyth Park Fountain was modeled after one in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Head to Lafayette Square, named for the Frenchman, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert de Motier, also known as the Marquis de Lafayette. He served as Washington’s aide de camp during the American Revolution. Duck into Mirabelle Cafe for a little something sweet, and an afternoon snack.

Then visit the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a most striking example of French Gothic architecture. It is open Monday to Saturday (from 9 am to 5 pm except during worship from 11:45 am and 12:45 pm). There is much history and beauty to appreciate within these walls.

Before checking into the Hamilton Turner Inn on the square, take note of the Second Empire architecture. You will be treated like royalty here.

Make a reservation for dinner at Circa 1875 French Bistro. You’re going to French culinary heaven. Start with Fois Gras en Torchon; it’s beyond the beyond. After that you’re on your own, since there are too many delights to list.

After dinner head back to the inn and tuck in for a complimentary port, a crowning glory for the day. Bonne nuit and fais de beaux rêves.

Linger over the morning newspaper and a lovely southern breakfast at the inn.

Merci, et au revoir; bonne journée!


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