Field Trip: Savannah

So, I have always had a bit of a crush on Savannah, Georgia. But I must confess that last weekend I fell HARD for the historic, artsy, slightly-spooky city. My husband Chris and I took a jaunt to Savannah for a quick 25th anniversary celebration weekend. Our actual anniversary date is later in the month, nicely bookended on either side by our son’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony and his high school graduation day, along with my dear mom’s birthday… so we decided to scoot away early to toast our quarter-century milestone before the true craziness begins.

Having been to this oh-so-Southern river city several times in the past, I thought that I’d wrung dry all of its sights, sounds, and tastes, but I was proven wrong again and again this time as we ventured around each cobblestoned corner.

In the past decade, I would say that this Georgia gem has undergone a renaissance: the further restoration of buildings and historic homes, the springing up of new hotels, restaurants and bars, and on top of all that a new energetic, hip vibe that emanates from the entire historic district and beyond.

 

 

On this gorgeous spring weekend, there was a palpable air of festivity, and folks of all ages (both visitor and local) were out and about. Too many “hen parties” to count, locals grabbing coffee, couples on get-away weekends, SCAD students rushing past, middle-aged girls’ weekend groups hooting it up, and families enjoying a vacation mixed and mingled on the streets and in the establishments.

Romance was on tap as well, with Saturday’s sights presenting myriad weddings glimpsed in churches and on the gorgeous historic squares with bride-and-groom pairs being squired around in horse-drawn carriages. We even witnessed a sweet marriage proposal in front of the “wedding cake” fountain in bustling Forsyth Park!

To get the lay of the land and an overview of the rich, rich history of Savannah, I do truly recommend grabbing one of the tours (no matter how cheesy you think it!) that are available throughout the historic district. There’s a tour to please every taste: trolley car tours, horse-drawn carriage tours (we were pleased with www.plantationcarriagecompany.com), Segway tours, walking tours, ghost tours, pedi-cab tours, and even the super-fun-looking pedaling beer tours (see https://www.savannahslowride.com/).

A full recap of our weekend adventures would turn a blog post into a Rick Steves-esque book (we love walking, so we walked... and walked… and walked), so I’ve pared down our favorite moments and recommendations.

The Olde Pink House is a must for that traditional, historical-bordering-on-touristy meal. Everyone (and I mean everyone) heads to this venerable location overlooking Reynolds Square, as much as (maybe even more than) for the food as for The Olde Pink House itself. After each time I’ve dined in a cozy front room of the original home, we’ve then asked the maître d’ if we can explore the rest of the mansion. Up the narrow, curved staircase you go to walk through the bedrooms converted for dining. Then keep going… and going… into an elegant ballroom either full of diners or getting set up for a reception. Take the elevator down to the basement, and you pop out into a low-beamed-ceiling pub straight out of Harry Potter. Seriously. With a dine-in wine cave. And a grand piano. After taking that in, escape back into the elevator to the first floor, and out you walk into a modern cocktail bar. (P.S. I won’t mention the ghost stories associated with the place…. You’ll have to Google those for yourself!)

Broughton Street is the main shopping street of Savannah. With SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) buildings scattered throughout here and the whole historic district, this is a real downtown tinged with nostalgia, sporting a mixture of artsy locally-owned stores, chain stores (of course), hotels (like the haunted Marshall House http://www.marshallhouse.com/) and restaurants.

On Broughton we found The Paris Market and Brocante, which transports one to Europe and has its own sidewalk café. The shop is museum-like in its displays (including a taxidermied white hart!), with almost too much to take in in one visit. So make sure you go back. We did.

Also on Broughton is the Savannah Bee Company. I wanted perhaps to purchase a small jar of the sweet stuff. I ended up being persuaded to do a mead tasting. Yes, a mead tasting! Apparently I had no idea what mead is; I’d always thought it was a type of beer; very English beer. No, ma’am – it’s fermented honey, dating back thousands of years before beer. We ponied up $7 each and tasted a flight of mead (varying from light and bubbly to dark and heavy) and went on our merry way, forgetting to buy that jar of honey.

 

 

 

Notwithstanding the hustle and bustle of Broughton, my very favorite thoroughfare in Savannah is Bull Street. It is a North-South Street that begins at City Hall near the river and ends at the entrance of Forsyth Park. Along the length of it, one has the privilege of admiring gorgeous, restored antebellum buildings and of meandering through the historic squares, including Chippewa Square, most famous for the bench scenes in Forrest Gump. From there, look up at the steeple of nearby Independent Presbyterian Church and imagine that white feather floating about.

 

Tucked into the street’s blocks between the shady squares are some true gems, of both the culinary and the merchant variety. Some tip-top recommendations armed with the reasons why:

 

 

 

·      Gryphon Tea Room
Run by SCAD, it’s their most elegant café. We popped in for lunch and found the dining room itself a feast for the eyes. With a 1930s arts and crafts movement aura, and music from the 1970s wafting in the ear (which somehow go together perfectly), the atmosphere and superior table service were like no other. Food is delicious and the flavored lemonades are a dreamy treat, rendering dessert unnecessary!

 

·      Artillery

·      The Public Kitchen & Bar
These are two separate establishments: both Daniel Reed “concepts” and both excellent for cocktails and people-watching. Artillery is more 20s-era elegant and quiet (housed in the gorgeous former Georgia Hussars HQ), while The Public has a more bustling, modern vibe. Both are top-notch in their menus and service.

·      Satchel 
Owned and run by SCAD alumni, this leather goods boutique and workshop is a joy to explore. We spent time chatting with the “Satchelettes” (as they call themselves) as they worked on the custom leather goods on machinery behind the counter, finding out their Savannah recommendations and their thoughts on the renaissance we had observed in the city. Oh, and I bought a pretty cute over-the-shoulder small messenger bag, too!

·      The Book Lady Bookstore
Oh, to have a whole day in this rabbit warren of new and gently used books in every genre. The secret-doorway-like entrance beckons and draws one in with 50-cent titles in a basket out front (I found one of my very favorite Rosamunde Pilcher books in said basket and was smitten with the place from the outset). Very cozy in feel and friendly in staff, I highly recommend taking the few steps off of Bull to explore this treasure. Bibliophiles, rejoice!

 

·      The Collins Quarter
Garden and Gun magazine recommends this epicure’s delight, and we concur. Atmosphere, check. Service, check. Décor, check. Interesting people to watch, check. Not a bad seat in the house, check. Our dinner was not rushed as we watched the sun fade outside and the candlelight begin to illuminate inside. And it was downright delicious. We recommend the fish or the paella for dinner.

Coming a close second in my Favorite Street Hall of Fame, Jones Street intersects Bull Street between Madison Square and Monterey Square, and is said to be the prettiest street in Savannah and among the most notable in America (Check out http://gosouthsavannah.com/historic-district-and-city/jones-street.html). Do take the time to veer off of Bull Street and amble down its leafy blocks. The term “keeping up with the Joneses” is said to come from here, and a quick look at Zillow will show you that it’s still the most prestigious address in this beautiful town.

 

These are but a few of the choicest sights, sounds, and tastes that we are pinning to our mental bulletin board about this excursion to a Southern treasure. I must say that I would jump at the chance to return to Savannah at the drop of a hat, for I am truly in love with the place. Let me know if you would like to go and I’ll pack my bag (and my new Satchel. purse!).

 

 

 

The What & The What?

In the throes of getting ready for our second big event, the English Fayre at St. Peter’s Anglican Church , I am pausing to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far at The Hare & The Hart. It’s already been an amazing journey, and we are meeting some pretty incredible folks along the way. My head is spinning and my heart is oh-so grateful.

One of the most-asked questions we field is: “Where did the inspiration for your name come from?” The “Hart” portion of the name is obvious – it’s our last name! 

However, through the years, our moniker has been linked with things like Valentines Day and the feeling of love. As an elementary school teacher for years, countless heart-shaped gifts were bestowed upon me with affection, and I have adored each one.

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In actuality, the word “hart” means an adult male deer, especially a red deer over five years old. See https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/hart. (I especially recommend clicking on the pronunciation button to hear it said with an English accent; so very charming!) It comes from an old English word and was used in medieval times to describe a fully antlered stag.

 

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Legends abound about the rare white hart in English folklore (read http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-514249/How- magical-white- hart-inspires-legends- thousand-pubs.html), and most self-respecting villages in England can boast a pub by the name of The White Hart. We stumbled upon several on our recent trip to the Cotswolds. Of course, we had to get a shot of Chris in front of one of such eponymous inns. This one is in Stow-on- the-Wold, a stone’s throw from where we stayed in Lower Oddington.

In more current mythology, think Harry Potter and his Patronus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, or the white stag that the Pevensie children hunted as kings and queens toward the end of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.

So, now we’ve established that the word, and hence the name, “hart” does not mean a vital organ, nor does it mean a symbol of love. Hand over heart (pun intended), I frequently have needed to spell out our 4-letter surname because it gets misspelled more times than not. But it truly is a fun last name to have, no matter how confusing it can be. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

Choosing names for our children was interesting, as we found that we really needed to test out how the whole name sounded. For instance, one consideration for our son’s first name was to use my maiden name, Coleman. However, I knew that it would get shortened to Cole, and putting it together with Hart made it sound like “cold heart” (and who can forget Paula Abdul’s anthem to cold-hearted snakes everywhere in the 80’s?).

Later, as we dreamed of names for our new business, we found that one could come up with multiple iterations of plays-on- words, like “From the H(e)art”. However, none had the imagery that I wanted to evoke.

Because we wanted the business name to exude our lifestyle of “English at heart with a Southern soul (and a French twist!)”, we were searching for inspiration, and the timing of that search happened to coincide, as so many wonderful things do, with our trip to England with two other couples, dear friends and fellow Anglophiles. Among many things English, we love the pub culture: the décor, the food, the coziness of it, and how it truly is an extension of the Brits’ home and family.

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We were so very fortunate to eat at many such establishments (and to be a fly on the wall in small village pubs, but that’s another story). Some favorites were Sheep on Sheep Street  and The King’s Arms both in Stow-on- the-Wold, and a lovely pub with outdoor seating in the shadow of the clipper ship The Cutty Sark in Greenwich called The Gipsy Moth … excellent Sunday roast!

And we mustn’t forget the historic Oxford pubs we had the pleasure of patronizing: The Turf Tavern, The Eagle and the Child and The Head of the River.

 

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A pub that we passed many times whilst walking to and from the London neighborhood of Pimlico (where our friend Christie found us an adorable flat via www.airbnb.com) is called The Jugged Hare. While the timing was never right for dining there, we did peek in, and I fell in love with the whole place… and I have to admit that I was slightly coveting its décor, which includes a cheeky bronze statue of a reclining hare. (If visions of Mr. McGregor from Peter Rabbit frequent your nightmares, you will not want to look up the meaning of jugged hare; do not say I didn’t warn you!)

I’ve forever loved the jauntiness of hares: they are long and lean in body, leg, and face and are rather untamed in attitude, complete with sharp elbows and long, ridiculous ears.

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So much more interesting than cuddly bunnies! I have had them scattered throughout our home’s décor for years: a concrete statue on top of our brick mailbox, a needlepoint pillow here, a candlestick there. And, like the hart, the hare has lived in English legend for centuries. See the photo of a magazine tidbit I read while staying in the Cotswolds cottage that our friend Belinda found for us via https://www.jigsawholidays.co.uk/cottages/longwood-house/.

All of which culminates into one huge epiphany that dawned on me while standing in front of The Jugged Hare one fine morning last September! Why not combine our love of the two fine creatures with our affinity for English establishments and choose a name that evokes that old English feel of a pub (with the added quirkiness of alliteration)? And why not create a logo that hints at the modern pub culture while paying homage to the colors of the Cotswolds?

 

And thus, the name The Hare & The Hart was born.
(Ask a short question, and you’ll get a long answer, I always say!)

A Love Story Told in Toile

I think I have always been a little bit in love with toile. Even before I knew what to call it, I was drawn to the scenes of country life depicted on it: so calming and reminiscent of times gone by, in which people actually slowed down to take in the world around them.

As a young wife and mother, I sewed my little heart out in our first house, covering benches and making big comfy throw pillows out of a red toile fabric, bringing a bit of France into our Florida cottage. They matched the dishes we’d inherited from my husband’s English-Canadian grandmother depicting British castles on ironstone made in England. While the bench and pillows are now long gone almost two decades and several houses later, the dishes are still on display in our china cabinet and in use quite frequently. In more recent times (and homes), I’ve used several varieties and colors of toiles to create curtains, make other pillows, and line cabinets. There is just something timeless and cozy-yet-sophisticated about the patterns that draw people to them.

The word toile (pronounced “twall”) means “linen cloth” or “canvas” in French. The full and proper name of the cotton fabrics first produced in the late 18th century with scenes repeatedly scattered across them was “Toile de Jouy”, literally meaning “fabric from Jouy” – the town of Jouy-en-Josas outside of Paris. For more on the full, rich story of toiles and how they’ve been witness to and recorded history, shaped movements, and changed in modern times, check out http://patternobserver.com/2014/09/23/history-surface-design-toile-de-jouy/.

A wonderful book recounting the textile genre’s history and showcasing examples is Toile: The Storied Fabrics of Europe and America by Michelle Palmer.

Fast-forward to this past September and an amazing trip that my husband Chris and I took to the Cotswolds in England with dear friends. A few days were spent in London before heading back home to Tallahassee, and our in-the-know friends made sure we took in the London food scene at several choice restaurants and bars, which will most likely be a future blog post by Chris! One such establishment was the North Bank Restaurant near St. Paul’s Cathedral, overlooking the Thames with a view of the Millennium Bridge.

After taking in the scenery (and the drinks menu), we were drawn into the background design on the menus and on the wallpaper. Upon further inspection, we realized that it was a toile depicting a modern London, a London complete with scenes one might expect, like architecture, old and new… but also showing an edgy reality: a homeless person on a bench, a possible drug deal, a hold-up. Wow!! My mind was blown. Toile has changed!! (Upon research, I have found that this quirky toile was designed by a Glasgow firm named Timorous Beasties; love their name!)

This got my mind spinning, and my hands drawing after we settled back in at home in Tallahassee. An idea like this had been nagging in the back of my mind for years, but had lain dormant until now… a toile of Tallahassee.

I adore my adopted hometown, the beautiful capital city of Florida. It possesses a deep, rich history (and much of our family’s history as well) that is so much fun to share. Did you know that the first Christmas service observed in North America occurred here (Hernando de Soto and his 600-man army were encamped in what is now downtown Tallahassee)? Or that the State Seminary West of the Suwannee was founded in here 1851 by Francis Eppes, grandson of Thomas Jefferson (you know it now as The Florida State University)? Or that, on the short drive north to the Georgia line through rolling red clay hills covered in Long-Leaf Pines and Live Oaks dripping with Spanish moss, the Tallahassee area is home to dozens of quail-hunting plantations?

As a tribute to the town I’ve called home for a good part of three decades, I have designed a toile that shows some of its iconic sites and scenes. Depicting venues running the gamut from the new amphitheater at Cascades Park to the 1600’s-era Mission San Luis, I’ve brought my sketches together in a design that tells the love story of a town full of history, canopy roads, magnolias, rolling hills, beautiful architecture, gardens, and hip new hang outs.

Our family’s new business, The Hare & The Hart, has produced several options for displaying your love for our hometown beyond (but including) the traditional fabric: wallpaper, gift wrap, tote bags, mugs, phone cases, etc. The possibilities are endless, and that’s what inspires and excites us! We are continuing to develop products and more designs (check out our daughter Maddie’s “Woodland Creature” series!), including currently working our line of Hometown Toiles™, starting with Toile of Tallahassee™.

 

 

At The Hare & The Hart, we live a life that is English at heart with a Southern soul (and a French twist!), and we are thrilled to debut our toiles and other lines that embody all three! - Amy