The Paris Market – in Savannah!

Savannah, Georgia, brought us many surprises.

As a recovering retailer, I still get a twinge when I find a store that I would love to own.  Such is The Paris Market on 36 West Broughton Street in downtown Savannah.

This ‘consumer experience’ has it all:  toiletries, decorative accents for the home, books, childrens toys, jewelery, candles, furniture, bedding, tableware … and more!

I wandered into this place on our last day in this wondrous city and stumbled around, speechless, looking at all the beautifully chosen items but also at the inspired vignettes that were everywhere.

I love creams, balms, brushes, sprays and soaps as much as the next girl, but it wasn’t until the lovely ex-Aix-en-Provence sales woman behind the counter said, “Take a look downstairs – it is beautiful down there as well,” that I knew I had entered my very own retail Nirvana.

Here.  Try to resist.  I dare you.

Are you still with me?

Is this not a treasure trove?

You’ll be lucky to get out of here with your life….and your wallet.

The details here are so striking, you’ll be haunted by them.

Go.  If you get a chance.  And spend.  You won’t find another store like this.  Anywhere.

Savannah: then and now

I am in love with this historic, evocative city.

This is Savannah, Georgia.

First, some history.

What is now the state of Georgia was really only just a buffer zone in the early 1700s between the American colonies to the north in the Carolinas and the Spanish territories in what is now ‘Florida’.

Wormsloe Plantation; established by one of Savannah's earliest English settlers, Noble Jones (c.1700-1775) in 1736

The coastal city of Savannah occupied a strategic position and thus was the first English-speaking colony in what was to become ‘Georgia’ (as a tribute to King George) .   In 1733, a group of 21 British ‘movers and shakers’ drafted a charter in the hopes of creating an English territory in this area of the New World.  The paper was signed by King George (what king wouldn’t want a colony named after him?) and soon afterwards a clutch of English military men with political connections set sail for the southern coast of North America.

James Oglethorpe (1696-1875), one of the initiators of this idea, had been born into a wealthy English family but also had a storied past:  he had witnessed his father and oldest brother go off to fight and die in the War of Spanish Succession (1702-14), had studied at Oxford, then became aide-de-camp to the English ambassador to Sicily (and other Italian states) all before the age of 20.  In that year he was appointed Lieutenant Captain of the Queen’s Guard, which brought him to the attention of Prince Eugene of Savoy.  Oglethorpe was taken under the Prince’s wing and fought in several battles defending Hungary against the Ottoman Empire.  However, when this English hero to the Hungarians returned to England, it is possible that he stirred up nationalistic fervor because a brawl ensued where Oglethorpe killed his adversary and promptly wound up in prison for the next five months of his young life.

Soon after he left prison, Oglethorpe pursued his political ambitions and became a member of Parliament, where he was continuously re-elected for the next 32 years.  He was considered a philanthropist, a friend to children, colonists, slaves and ex-cons.  He and his fellow charter writers envisioned this new colony in Georgia being populated by ex-prisoners as a “family farm” type of economy, where each family was given land in 50 acre increments, dependent on the number of indentured servants (rather than slaves) they supported.  After completing their term of service, the servants themselves would be granted land of their own to farm independently.  No more land could be purchased or passed along though inheritance.

However, in the end the Crown over-ruled the idea that Georgia would be populated with ex-convicts but rather the ‘worthy’ poor; that is, English, Scots, Swiss, French and German tradesmen, artisans and religious refugees made up the first settlers.  Interestingly, the charter provided for colonists of all religions except Roman Catholics.

More than this, Oglethorpe’s ideal vision of this new, egalitarian society in Georgia was soon squelched.  Part of the Crown’s reason (other than ideological…if that) for banning the use of slave labour in this new colony, was the fear that runaway slaves would go south and find freedom in the arms of the Spanish, de-stabilizing the English colonies to the north.  But new settlers were not in favour of such a slave-less society and were choosing the Carolinas in which to start their new lives instead.  So in 1750 when Oglethorpe returned to Britain, the ban on slavery was revoked, opening up the road for a more profitable and less restrictive lifestyle, for the landowners, that is.

Today Savannah is a city of just over 135,000 people (according to the 2010 census).   The population is predominantly a mix of African American and white; shockingly, the median household income from that year was a hair over $29,000 and 22% of the population is below the poverty line.

It is hard not to see the disparity of wealth in this city.  There is beauty in the architectural grandeur and verdant city squares.  But there is also unemployment, a high drop-out rate, crime and disillusionment.  It is sometimes difficult to feel the glory of Savannah’s wealthy past knowing that much of it was achieved through the enslavement of human beings.

Today, though, I hope the tide is turning.  There seems to be new life breathing into this city.  Much of it is through tourism but also through the vibrant and youthful students at the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD).

I choose to think it was one of these kids that posted this in Forsyth Park.

Florida snapshots

I had to share with you some more images from our time in the Citrus State, Florida.

These are the giant, multiple trunks of a Ficus benjamina tree on Anna Maria Island, off the coast of Florida, just south of St. Petersburg.

There were lizards everywhere.  This one clearly has wanderlust.

This beauty is Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri, colloquially known as the donkey ear plant, but it has many other common names: Giant Kalanchoe, Good Luck Leaf, Leaf of Life, Life Plant, Miracle Leaf, Palm Beachbells, Sprout Leaf Plant, Sprouting Leaf and Tree of Life.  Wow; it is not your little florist’s kalanchoe.  It is a monster that is native to Madagascar but will live practically anywhere, in a tropical climate, that is.

The flower spikes reach upwards to 2 and 3′, making themselves available to hungry hummingbirds.

What a striking partnership; this kalanchoe with Pennisetum setaceum, straw coloured but essentially evergreen by late winter in Florida.

Have you ever seen a bromeliad (Aechmea fasciata) so large?!  I actually looked under its ‘skirt’ of leaves to see if it was in a raised pot, but no, it wasn’t!

A Florida still-life.

And a living still-life.

Some trees just need a helping hand.

Honestly?  Talk about a balancing act… it would help if they had tails!

Phaius tankervilliae or P. ‘hirdii’; I say we start a petition!

Although we have left Florida and have been battered by high winds, rain and stormy skies on the coast of Georgia, I am not yet ready to leave some of those memories behind.

This is the weirdly elegant nun’s cap orchid, Phaius tankervilliae, a terrestrial orchid that comes to us from the other side of the world (China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, New Guinea and Australia).  It can also be found in the swampy grasslands or forests of Hawaii and is now endangered due to habitat loss and illegal collection by plant hunters!

Like so many exotic orchids that were ‘found’ and kidnapped by European plant hunters, this genus was brought to England from the Far East around 1778.  It was transported to the West under the auspices of the renowned and very wealthy English physician and botanist, John Fothergill, but it was the East India company chaplain/plant hunter, Swede Pehr Osbeck (a disciple of Carl Linnaeus himself), who handed this striking orchid to Fothergill after he returned.  Osbeck brought many species of plants back from the Far East and this particular orchid was known in China as the ‘Crane’s head orchid’.  According to Jane Kilpatrick in her book, Gifts from the Gardens of China, Fothergill didn’t keep it but sent it along (in its original black Chinese pot) to his niece, Sarah Hird, in Yorkshire where it flowered for the first time in Britain in May 1778.

Kilpatrick says that perhaps unfairly this species of orchid was named by the larger than life contemporary English plant hunter, Joseph Banks, in honour of the Countess Emma Tankerville, who was an orchid aficionado and powerhouse plant collector of the same era.

I say, let’s ask for a name change:  Phaius hirdii!  It’s only fair…

Valentine sweet tooth

For two weeks now we’ve driven by this place.  I am not a ‘sweets’ person, per se, but I do appreciate good chocolate and  homemade treats.

So in honour of Valentine’s Day, when everyone should get to indulge, I give you the Candy Kitchen.

Scary, yes?

But wait … there’s more!

We’ll take one of everything!


New ‘Old’ Florida

We went to Anna Maria Island today and took in some laid-back, small-town Florida living.

Although these homes are small by St. Pete standards (or anywhere else in any other marina/beach/yacht community within Florida, for that matter), they are nonetheless very charming and also very pricey; even cottage-y homes are approaching half a million dollars!

Although I normally dislike homes with garages in front, this would be an exception…

I could also live here :c)

This home was actually on the main street that ran through Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island.  I had to stop the car and turn around to get this picture.  What’s up with the sand dune with sea oats and coral rock in the front yard?   Well I’ll tell you:  it is hiding a swimming pool!   Genius.