Savannah is a feast for the eyes. We love old buildings and architecture, so today ranks as one of the most enjoyable days we have ever spent on vacation. Savannah has an incredible collection of beautiful old buildings, huge trees draped with Spanish Moss, and lovely flowers, plants, and gardens. When you put all of this together, it is truly stunning. We live just a few hours away, but we had never seen Savannah until today.
We saw buildings that date back to the mid-1700s; late 1800s buildings seemed new in comparison. In 1820, 464 homes were destroyed by fire, but with only a few rare exceptions, the people of Savannah have managed to save the city from those who would knock down the old to make way for the new. I don’t believe there is anything else like this anywhere in the country. Savannah also has clear rules about trees; no one is allowed to touch them – not a one. Barbara commented that if she were a squirrel, she would want to live in Savannah!
We have learned from our travels that an overview bus tour can be really beneficial in a new city, so we began our day with guide Annie and a busload of gray-haired people on an Old Savannah Tours trolley. We got the lay of the land and learned a lot. We left the tour and then walked the route to take a closer look. I took about 200 photos; I could spend days here and take thousands.
There have been a lot of movies filmed in Savannah. We took pictures of the Mercer House on Monterey Square – the home in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” And we visited Chippewa Square, where Forrest Gump sat on the bus bench with his box of chocolates. We were disappointed to learn that the bench is no longer there, as the bench has been one of the highlights that we planned to see. Guide Annie told us that the bench is now in the museum at the Savannah Visitors’ Center, so I paid the entrance fee to take my trusty camera in for the all-important photo. I got the picture, but it isn’t the REAL Forrest Gump bench; it’s just a similar bench that the motion picture company donated to the city. I hope they didn’t sell the real bench on ebay.
James Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah and Georgia was apparently a very strong leader, and it is clear that he was a genius as a city planner. Savannah was laid out with 24 wards (now known as squares), and these are beautiful parks with big trees and beautiful plants and flowers. 21 of the 24 have survived, and we saw them all. The squares are usually lined with great, old homes and equally attractive commercial buildings. Savannah makes extensive use of iron – wrought iron and forged iron – and the iron provides the character for many of the historic buildings.
History is everywhere. Savannah is surrounded by three forts, and the military has a strong presence here. There are more memorials to brave Americans and wars than I’ve seen anywhere but Washington, DC.
We took a break from history to lunch at the Soda Pop Shoppe, a small Mom and Pop lunch counter in the heart of the city. “Senor” took good care of us, and our hot dogs were very good.
We visited the Jack Leigh Gallery. Mr. Leigh is a top photographer, and one of his photos is the cover for the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We admire great photography, and we were really taken with his work.
We met a number of nice people on the streets of Savannah. We enjoyed chatting with Jane and her dog, Susie, and Sherry and her daughters, Morgan and Ellie. We also talked with a nice couple (both medical folks) from Delaware who we ran into several times.
I enjoyed taking photos of flags and patriotic displays. There were quite a few. I was puzzled by one home that had three flags hanging from an iron railing on the second floor. One was mounted properly, but two were upside down (and flying a flag upside down is a signal of distress). I’m not sure if it was an expression of concern about the Iraqi War or a dyslexic patriot. I am hoping that I will get enough good patriotic photos from each state to publish a photo essay book featuring flags across America.
On vacations in recent years, I always felt like the vast majority of the other tourists were quite a bit older than we were. After removing my glasses several hundred times to take photographs and to attempt to read maps today, I now recognize that the years have taken their toll. After this, I may just have to try the surgery to improve my vision as I hate being handicapped this way.
We had been planning to eat dinner at Mrs. Wilke’s Boarding House, but several people recommended a similar place, The Lady & Sons. Our southern buffet was exceptionally good. Each item was about as good as we have ever had – fried chicken, sausage and onions, spaghetti, green beans, butter beans, yams, black-eyed peas, and cheese biscuits. The peach cobbler and banana pudding were really good, but not special. I again had ½ iced tea and ½ lemonade; our singing waitress, Lisa, called it an “Arnold Palmer.”
Everyone we met and did business with in Savannah was nice. Even the street people were courteous, and they were surprisingly few in numbers.
Georgia is very clean. We believe people today are much more conscious of keeping places clean than they were when we traveled as children.
We capped off a special day by going to the Savannah Theater to see a musical production, “Lost in the 50s.” The Savannah Theater is the oldest continually operating theater in the country, built in 1818. The show featured 80 great 50’s songs. Nine energetic singers and dancers and eight musicians did a nice job. While the talent was not Broadway-quality, it was a very enjoyable two hours enjoyed by several hundred folks. It was an audience where you didn’t want anyone to take flash photography as many could have been blinded by the reflection from all the gray hair. It was definitely a Branson crowd.
We aren’t missing the continuous coverage of the war that we endured while home for the last few weeks. Barbara and I feel very strongly about the reasons for the war, and we feel it is very important for Americans to support our government and our troops. We are boycotting anything and everything from or related to France, and we may have to add Germany to the list. The news coverage has really shown the liberal political bias of many in the media. When we watch war coverage, we will only watch Fox News, as they are the only network that we’ve seen that seems to be patriotic and supportive. The finale of “Lost in the 50s” was the song “Stand By Me,” and it struck me that the message in the song should have been all the French and Germans should have needed to hear to support our government’s efforts with the UN.
As we walked back to our hotel after the show, we reflected on the day and agreed that we had learned an important lesson today: There are significant benefits to preserving and protecting history and “old stuff.” It bothered us when we saw an ugly CVS Pharmacy on the corner of one of the most beautiful squares, a really tacky-looking chiropractic office in another square, and an orange A-frame Howard Johnson’s motel just a block or so from the Historic District. The job that generations of folks in Savannah have done to preserve the history and beauty of their community is truly amazing. Interesting that I could draw this same analogy to the war — it’s the brave who make possible the land of the free.