24 hours in Savannah, Georgia

Last weekend, I visited Savannah with my younger sister and her family. We arrived in “Georgia’s first city” on Saturday a little after noon and made our way back to North Carolina just before noon on Sunday.

Conceptually, that doesn’t seem like much time at all! But beautiful Savannah has so much to offer in terms of history, culture, and architecture that it’s astonishing what one can see and do in just 24 hours.

Our first stop was The Marshall House, one of Savannah’s oldest hotels and the place at which we would be staying. The concierge directed us to a nearby public parking deck, where we deposited our car for the next 24 hours–Savannah is a walkabout city!

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The Marshall House, one of Savannah’s oldest hotels, served as a hospital during the Civil War and during two outbreaks of yellow fever.

Our growling bellies led us to The Olde Pink House for lunch. Erected in 1789 by cotton mogul James Habersham, Jr., this pink stucco, Georgian mansion is one of the only buildings in Savannah to survive the fire of 1796.

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The Olde Pink House in Savannah, GA, served up one of the best eating experiences I’ve ever had. No exaggeration! (Pictured: My sister, me, my nephew, and my brother-in-law; taken by one of the friendly restaurant staff)

The Olde Pink House is the Mary Poppins of Savannah, Georgia. From the moment we walked up the steps to the moment we left, the experience was practically perfect in every way.

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What’s a quintessential southern meal without fried green tomatoes? I didn’t want to find out, so I ordered a delicious dish complete with mixed greens, fried green tomatoes and brown sugar-crusted bacon. Oh my! — The Olde Pink House Restaurant in historic Savannah, Georgia

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The maitre d’ was particularly proud of The Olde Pink House’s pastry chef, and the house-made pecan pie did not disappoint. (Savannah, GA)

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A statue of city founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, stands in Chippewa Square. (Savannah, GA)

The Olde Pink House is located on Reynolds Square, which is one of 22 squares in historic Savannah. City founder, James Edward Oglethorpe, planned the city on a grid, with lovely garden squares surrounded by eight city blocks. Each eight-block area was called a “ward,” and this design enabled the city to grow. (There were originally four squares when the “Oglethorpe plan” was laid out in 1733.) Savannah’s gardens are charming, and the District that contains them is considered a National Historic Landmark.

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Savannah’s squares, with their Live Oaks and Spanish Moss, exude southern charm. But beware the enticing hanging moss–it’s full of chiggers, which burrow under the skin and irritate! — pictured here: Johnston Square (Savannah, GA)

After lunch, we returned to The Marshall House, where we relaxed in the hotel’s tastefully decorated library to await our chief reason for visiting Savannah.

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The Marshall House’s Library, (Savannah, GA), contains intriguing artwork, books and historic artifacts. My young nephew particularly liked the complimentary lemonade available each day in the library for thirsty guests.

Our chief reason for visiting Savannah? A behind-the-scenes tour of Hunter Army Airfield. Our “tour guide”–an officer with nineteen years of service in the military–arrived on time, and we spent the next couple of  hours gaining an even greater appreciation for the skill, discipline, and sacrifice that goes hand-in-hand with duty to country.

Rain had set in, and we returned to The Marshall House once again to check in and freshen up for dinner. After dinner at 45 Bistro, (which I am sorry to say was a culinary catastrophe and hopefully an exception to an otherwise highly regarded restaurant in the historic district), we made our way down the street to the famous Leopold’s Ice Cream, established in 1919 by three brothers who had immigrated from Greece.

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Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has left its mark everywhere in the city–in a good way. Next door to this cinema is Leopold’s Ice Cream–a must-have when in Savannah.

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Years later, Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, GA, is still in the Leopold family and operated like an old-time soda fountain.

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During our wait in line at Leopold’s Ice Cream, (the line was out the door!), we enjoyed the movie posters–they are rotated out periodically and are films produced by current shop owner and operator, Stratton Leopold. I was delighted to see (pictured here) two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Ben Affleck, and (for better or worse) my favorite Affleck film, Paycheck.

Following our dairy delight and mini trip down the Hollywood walk of fame, we ventured toward the Savannah River to explore River Street, which is home to several hotels, shops, and restaurants, and offers an up-close view of the boats and ships passing through or docked for a spell.

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Historic steps leading down to River Street in Savannah, Georgia. The sign: “Use at your own risk” — We did. :)

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The World War II Monument along the river walk (River Street) is one of several war monuments in Savannah. This one is referred to as “The Cracked Earth,” because it depicts a world divided.

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My sister took this picture of me surveying the names of all the fallen WWII soldiers from Chatham County, GA, who are memorialized inside “The Cracked Earth” World War II Monument. Also inside the monument, on the top right, is a Purple Heart and a Metal of Honor. — On River Street in Savannah, GA

As twilight was settling on the city of southern hospitality, we came upon the monument of John Wesley in Reynolds Square.

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John Wesley was secretary to James Edward Oglethorpe, Savannah’s city founder. Wesley later became rector of Christ Church in Savannah. Also in his lifetime, Wesley was a missionary to the Indians, started the Sunday School movement, and was the founder of Methodism.

Our night at The Marshall House was comfortable and pleasantly uneventful–the hotel is reputedly haunted–and the next day we headed back to River Street for Sunday brunch at Huey’s On the River. As we later made our way to Bay Street for a history tour in a horse-drawn carriage, we encountered an interesting sight–a palm leaf artist feeding the pigeons some of her morning oatmeal.

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Scattered throughout the touristy spots in Savannah, GA, are the “palm leaf people”–vendors who craft roses, swords, etc. out of palm leaves. This particular palm leaf artist had quite a following…of pigeons. Without being commissioned, she crafted my nephew a sword, which she said could be turned upside down and hung as a cross in his bedroom once he got home. He was quite pleased with it, and my brother-in-law felt obliged to give a donation for her efforts.

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A carriage tour of Savannah may seem a bit touristy, but it’s a great way to get an interactive view of the city and determine what and where you’d like to explore in more depth. Our guide was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and allowed for two-way conversation and questions.

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Along the carriage route, we saw the historic Scottish Rite Masonic Center. If the story our tour guide told us is to be believed, the blue trim work on the top facade (beside and above the columns in this photo) is worth a pretty penny.

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This fire bell, known as “Big Duke,” was purchased in 1872 by the Savannah Fire and Police departments. It’s said that each eight-block ward/square was given a designated number, and that number was struck in an emergency to communicate the location of the fire/trouble. Big Duke was quickly decommissioned, because in practice it was difficult keeping track of how many times the bell tolled.

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On a whim, I captured this church steeple through the trees during our Savannah carriage ride tour. Turns out, it’s the steeple of Independent Presbyterian Church–where the feather floated down in the movie Forrest Gump! Portions of that movie were filmed in historic Savannah, perhaps most notably the “life is like a box of chocolates” bench scene.

We passed by many other historic places and notable sights during our carriage ride, such as the home of Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts. Fittingly, the building where the first meeting was held (just behind her house) was surrounded by a troop of chattering tourist Scouts.

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Savannah’s City Hall, with its impressive gold-colored dome and waving flag was a majestic sight, and one of the final ones we saw as we left the grand old city.

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The last thing I photographed in historic Savannah–though the window of our retreating vehicle–was The Savannah Cotton Exchange, which harkens back to the 1880’s when cotton was in its heyday and the area was considered “The Wall Street of the South.”

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As we bid the low country and marshes adieu, we all vowed to return very soon–there was still much to be explored. …My nephew enthusiastically added, “I want to live in Savannah!” ;)

A Look at Lake Johnson

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Stairs leading to the paved trail from the South Parking Lot off of Advent Ferry Road. (Lake Johnson; Raleigh, NC)

With a forecast of 90 degrees on tap, I arrived at Lake Johnson before 9AM to beat the heat. My visit was part of an ongoing quest to explore the various city parks that Raleigh, North Carolina, has to offer.

I parked in the South Parking Lot off of Advent Ferry Road, where there was ample free parking at that hour. From the parking lot, I took the wooden stairs up to the paved greenway, which is part of the Walnut Creek Trail.

I passed several walkers as I followed the winding path through the tall trees. When I reached a sign for “Scenic Overlook,” I headed straight for the scenery. Soon, curiosity took me off the paved trail and onto one of the unpaved foot paths—this one leading me right down to the banks of Lake Johnson. It was steep going and seemingly remote, but the hum of traffic still audible from the rather busy Advent Ferry Road encouraged my exploration.

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Lake Johnson (Raleigh, NC) from an unpaved path along the shoreline.

Unsure of where this rustic route was taking me, I headed up through the woods and onto the paved greenway again. (In case you’re keeping notes, I never did make it to the scenic overlook!) Back on the paved greenway again, I passed a picnic shelter—one of three that can be rented for a modest hourly fee (with a two hour minimum).

I continued along the greenway and came to the pedestrian bridge, which runs parallel to Advent Ferry Road and spans Lake Johnson.

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Lake Johnson from the pedestrian bridge along Advent Ferry Road. The boat house/park office, complete with restrooms and concession, is in the distance on the left. (Raleigh, NC)

I stopped to chat with a friendly, bandana-clad Air Force veteran out for his morning stroll before making my way to the boat house/park office, where boats can be rented for a small charge and fishing rods and reels can be checked out for free (NC fishing license required).

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A view from the boat house/park office. Motor and non-motor boats are available for rental by the hour or by the day. (Lake Johnson; Raleigh, NC)

A little further down the 3.5 miles of paved greenway, I came to the Lake Johnson dam. I must say, it was rather calm and underwhelming, so I went in search of the dam’s spillway.

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My search for the spillway at Lake Johnson’s dam began here.

An overgrown but still visible path led me to my reward: the Lake Johnson “waterfall.” I found two vantage points for viewing the spillway, both of which were a bit obstructed by tree branches and one of which offered a park bench.

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The waterfall at Lake Johnson dam. (Raleigh, NC)

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Lake Johnson’s spillway/waterfall. (Raleigh, NC)

All in all, the park has much to offer the residents of Raleigh. Not only is it a peaceful and natural place to get out and walk, there are picnic areas and even a conference room for gatherings, as well as water-related activities for all ages, including a pool on Jaguar Park Drive. If you live in the Raleigh area and haven’t visited Lake Johnson yet, I think it’s well worth a look.

 


My visit to Lake Johnson took place on Friday, May 9, 2014.

Chocolate-covered Cherries & Soap-on-a-Rope

“Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.” –Bill Cosby

I laughed when I came across this quote. It brought back memories of Old Spice and the early days, when my parents sacrificed their physical needs for those of my two sisters and me.

For sure, there were two presents that my Dad could count on year after year: soap-on-a-robe and chocolate-covered cherries. I’m pretty certain that my Dad received them with a true heart of gratitude. After all, and all jokes aside, fatherhood is more than pretending—it is being.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Fifteen Minutes at Fletcher Park

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Fred Fletcher Park has been “owned and operated” by the city of Raleigh, NC, since 1982.

I found myself in the rare situation of being early for church the other Sunday. With nearly thirty minutes to spare, I headed to the nearby coffee shop. En route, I happened to see the sign for Fred Fletcher Park.

I’ve probably passed the park a dozen times, but I only noticed it that day because of my quest to visit as many Raleigh City Parks as possible this Spring and Summer. (I am a bit clueless, but I must state the obvious: the sign is just a tad-bit concealed.)

With hazelnut frappuccino in hand–and more than fifteen minutes on my hands–I decided to take a peek at the park, which was purchased by the city in 1982 and is the former site of the Methodist Home for Children.

The park is named after Fred Fletcher, (1910-2000), who was a Raleigh native, a radio broadcaster, the Vice-President and General Manager of WRAL-TV, and President of the Capital Broadcasting Company until his retirement in 1975. Fletcher’s early professional roots in the YMCA (in Chicago) no doubt sparked his more than 50 years of involvement on commissions and as a chair for the Parks and Recreation in Raleigh and Wake County.[1]

I entered the 21-acre park from Glenwood Avenue, (there is also an entrance off of St. Mary’s Street), and was greeted by the rather abstract sculpture entitled Redbird, created by Harry McDaniel. (You can read more about this “puzzling” work of art at the sculptor’s website. There is more to the sculpture than meets the eye! Here’s a hint: Although it looks like a bouquet of bright red flowers, all the pieces actually come together to form a cardinal, North Carolina’s state bird.)

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“Redbird” by Harry McDaniel — Fred Fletcher Park; Raleigh, NC

I passed by an athletic field, which was already filling with spectators and children kicking soccer balls. I was somewhat surprised by the buzz of activity, particularly at this 8AM hour, but it occurred to me that the  park must be well used, well liked, and somewhat safe. Thus encouraged, I parked in a (free) lot just beyond the ball field. The lot led to the park’s amphitheater.

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The lovely Fred Fletcher Park amphitheater. (Raleigh, NC)

After meandering the walkways of the amphitheater, I followed a path from there to the two-story, historic Borden Building, (circa 1900). Peering through the windows, I spotted antique furniture and wall hangings. I later discovered, (thanks to the trusty internet), that some of the pictures in the house are of Fred Fletcher, as well as some of the children who lived at the Methodist Children’s Home.

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The Borden Building on the grounds of Fred Fletcher Park dates back to 1900 and is listed as a Raleigh Historic Property.

The Borden Building, grounds, and amphitheater can be rented for special events, such as weddings, parties, and conferences.

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Lilies along the ridge of the amphitheater, overlooking a shelter that can be rented for events and special occasions. — Fred Fletcher Park; Raleigh, NC

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An inquisitive squirrel watches me from a tree near the Garris Building at Fred Fletcher Park. The Garris Building, adjacent to the Borden Building, is headquarters for the park’s school based youth programs. (Raleigh, NC)

Fifteen minutes flew by and it was time to head to church—or else I would now be late!

Hopefully, I will have more moments to spare, because what I didn’t see at Fletcher Park are perhaps some of the more intriguing aspects: a water garden (with four deep pools!) and a wetland boasting butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, ducks, and other animal species.

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L&R: Pretty peonies in the Borden Building gardens. Center: Beautiful blue perennials alongside the winding paths in the nearby amphitheater. (Raleigh, NC)


[1] http://www.capitolbroadcasting.com/history/the-people/fred-fletcher/