My family and I take great pride in the fact that we live in a city so many people want to visit every year.
I last heard just over 14 million visitors come through Savannah every year. Some days, I drive around downtown and it feels like 140 million - all of them standing at the corner of Broughton and Whitaker waiting to cross the street.
Don't get me wrong; I think it's a great problem to have. I understand not everyone agrees with that. But hey, what might be right for you, may not be right for some, right? Indeed, it takes different strokes to rule the world.
Playing tourist not too long ago, we walked past the funeral home where, years back, we said goodbye to a good friend. Ron "Hollywood" Higgins and I became fast friends in the fall of 2008. Our love of the Miami Dolphins brought us together. Our friendship was fueled by a passion for what Savannah could be one day.
Hollywood was a native. I am not. When Michael Jackson passed in 2009, Hollywood lit up when he told the story of crossing paths in the late '70s with a jheri-curled Jackson on the corner of Liberty and Bull, the night before a concert at the civic center. Michael was standing there alone, waiting on a couple of people. Keep in mind, this was before "Thriller" shot Jackson into the stratosphere.
Higgins was probably most known for his work on movies in the area. He started Savannah Movie Tours and then Savannah Foody Tours. He was the first person I knew who recognized an opportunity to share some great eats in our city with visitors.
Today, there is more than one food tour around town. I see nice-sized groups walking the city, sampling here, there and everywhere. One of the tour companies even put together a book on the history of food in Savannah. There are plenty of people eating and liking. Hollywood was doing that a decade ago. Talk about vision.
Memorial Day weekend, I stood in the doorway at Sorry Charlie's waiting on a table, while looking out onto Ellis Square. I've lived in Savannah long enough to remember the eyesore of a parking garage that once stood there.
In the distance, on Congress and Jefferson, I could see a completely renovated building where a law office once stood. I had dinner with the gentleman in charge of that project last year in Atlanta. I haven't been given the green light to talk about it yet, but I can tell you it will be beautiful. The rooftop deck promises to be the most beautiful this side of Bay Street, for now. Because more are coming.
Not lost on me was the fact that for years Sorry Charlie's itself was a sorry-looking eyesore. No takers to make it what it could be. Now, it's a beautiful space and an anchor on the square. We loved the oysters, by the way. Shrimp Po' Boy with better bread would have been a star as well.
The next morning, I stood in the window of room 1301 at The DeSoto looking across at the DeRenne Building on Liberty Street. Rising behind was the Savannah Theatre on Chippewa Square. Church steeples dotted the line of sight and of course, the Talmadge Bridge, and the large cranes of the port in the distance. Clearly, the 13th floor of anything in Savannah will offer a phenomenal vista.
A part of that view included the cranes that are part of the Kessler power plant project on the west end of River Street. At that point, it didn't take a lot of effort to connect the dots on everything we had experienced that weekend. To connect the dots with the place this city will be in a few short years.
The Hyatt has gotten a significant and badly needed facelift. Their new restaurant space is gorgeous. I can't vouch for the food yet. I'll be getting to the all-new Moss + Oak very soon.
Meanwhile, back on Liberty Street at The DeSoto, sparks are flying and hammers are banging away on one of the final phases of that renovation. That phase will complete the remodel on the main dining room.
The 1540 Room at The DeSoto will be led by Executive Chef Kyle Jacovino, formerly of The Florence. I've said it before in this space and I will say it again: Kyle is one of the best talents in the city. As one business owner wrote on social media, Savannah got lucky when Kyle chose to stay here after the closing of The Florence.
Yeah, I know, there is a lot to digest. But in reality, it only scratches the surface of what is happening in Savannah right now. The train is clearly moving. Just make sure you allow yourself some time to enjoy the ride.
See you on TV,