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!
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Years later, Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, GA, is still in the Leopold family and operated like an old-time soda fountain.
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.
Historic steps leading down to River Street in Savannah, Georgia. The sign: “Use at your own risk” — We did. :)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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!” ;)