At 8:45am, our shuttle arrived to take us to the tour bus to start the Paula Deen Tour. We were the last ones to board, so got stuck with the cheap seats all the way in the back of the bus. Which was okay. Mom and I each got a window that way. Our goodie bag that the website draws folks in with really wasn’t anything special. There were a few coupons, some pecan pralines (more on these later), and a coupon for preferred seating at Lady and Sons.
Our bus traveled through historic Savannah right through Congress Street. As our tour leader Mary Jane talked on her headset, she pointed us all to notice a small building located at 311 West Congress Street. This was the first location of the Lady and Sons restaurant. As chance would have it, it is now the location of Molly MacPhearson’s ~ the very same restaurant we ate at the night before. What a fluke! We then drove by the current location of the restaurant before heading down through River Street and then on our way to our destination.
Our first stop on the tour was to Polk’s Market. Anyone who knows me, knows I’m a foodie. I love food. I love to cook. And I love to eat. This place was awesome. Lots of fresh produce and shelves full of locally made salsas, jellies, dips, etc., etc. They also had samples laid out so we tried a little bit of everything during or 15 minute stop before we boarded the bus to head out for our next destination.
After driving by Paula’s former residence in the historic district, we then headed towards Savannah proper where we drove by the house Paula lived in when she first started The Bag Lady and then reached our second stop, The Byrd Cookie Company The Byrd Cookie Company which is the store that Paula buys all of her key lime coolers for the key lime tarts she makes at her restaurant (okay, she doesn’t really make them anymore ~ she’s never at her restaurant, but you get the idea). Again, there were lots and lots of samples. Benne was waiting for us and gave us all the recipe for the key lime tart recipe. Then we went to the back of the store to enjoy all of the samples. And believe me, there were lots of samples. And I indulged in almost all of them. Mom and I browsed and bought a few little things, but decided we would definitely be going back.
We all hopped back onto the bus and headed out towards the banks of Moon River (anyone familiar with the song by Johnny Mercer? Yes, it is one and the same) to Bethesda Home for Boys Bethesda Home for Boys, which is one of Paula’s charities. Not that I wasn’t interested in other parts of the tour, but this one really peaked my interest because I work at a similar facility at home. Bethesda was founded originally as an orphanage in 1740 and is, in fact, older than the United States itself. It is now used as a residential treatment center for at-risk boys. The campus was beautiful and had miles and miles of live oak-lined drives and was full of just these awesome old brick buildings. It was an extraordinary campus. We then stopped at the chapel where Paula and Michael were married (and later, Paula’s son Jamie and his wife Brooke married there as well). I did get out of the bus to take a few pictures because I love churches, I love history, and it was just a beautiful little chapel. On a Paula side note, evidently she and her husband Michael dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Clause every year and visit Bethesda at Christmas. They bring wrapped gifts for the younger boys and give money to the older boys who are nearing the end of their stay at the home.
I should also mention what was to become a tradition for us while on River Street. There are two candy companies there: River Street Sweets and Savannah Candy Kitchen. Evidently, there used to be just Savannah Candy Kitchen. When the owners of the candy store got divorced, the judge gave them each the recipe for their Pecan Pralines. So, the ex-wife purchased a shop just one block away and opened River Street Sweets. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it makes for a funny story and hey ~ the pralines are awesome. I should know. Our tradition was we would walk up and down River Street and get free samples from both. Sometimes up to 4 or 5 times a day. Yummy.
After filling our stomachs, we headed down River Street to view the Waving Girl statue. The statue was erected in honor of Florence Martus, who was a lighthouse keeper’s sister. Before I went to Savannah, there was only one story I knew of about Florence, but once we were actually down there, there are quite a few different stories floating around. The first story I heard was that Florence waved at all the ships that passed through the harbor for over 40 years ~ day or night she waved a white handkerchief at all the ships as a way to welcome them ~ she never missed a day; nor did she ever miss a ship. The second story I heard was that she was in love with a sailor. When he left, he promised her he would come back for her. So, when he never came back, she started waving at all the ships the passed through so that if it was ever was her sailor, he would know she was still waiting for him. I also heard a story about how Florence and her brother saved over 30 sailors when their boat capsized. She and her brother sailed out to the ship and brought them all safely to land. From the point forward, Florence would receive gifts from all over the world ~ some from the sailors that she rescued, and some from sailors who had just heard the story and wanted to thank her.
We then headed back to our room for some rest before we started out on our adventures the next day.