What a truly beautiful city this is. I am staying on the edge of the historical district, the largest one in America, two and a half square miles of wonderful architecture, leafy squares, great restaurants and shops, and churches. I start my day with a carriage ride – it’s a beautiful day, but chilly, and a fleecy throw is most welcome over my lap… I feel like Scarlett O’Hara being driven through the town by a lovely young native Savannahian called Elizabeth who gives myself and my four companions a very wonderful and informative tour.
Every square contains a statue or memorial of some sort, there are swags of Spanish moss (which we are told not to touch under any circumstances as they contain ‘chiggers’ – nasty little red insects that bite hard!) hanging from the live oaks. We pass Chippewa Square where the Forrest Gump opening sequence was shot – the bench isn’t there, it’s in the Historical Museum, but there’s the steeple of the church where the feather begins its spiral downwards. Love that movie!
Savannah is, we are told, one of the most haunted cities in America, and spookily, there is no moss at all on the tree’s in the square which has the courthouse on one side and had the jail on the other…. because the tree’s were used to hang those who didn’t get jail time for their crimes! ( I wonder if someone clambers up in them to remove any moss that dares to grow and reduce the cities stock of ghostly stories!)
There are some wonderful old homes, and I decide to visit at least one of them, the Owens-Thomas house. It was designed by a young English architect and built in Regency style between 1816 and 1819 – the architect, William Jay, was only about 21, he was related by marriage and hence got the job, and went on the build several other homes in the city. Completely symmetrical, fake doors and windows where required to maintain it!
Fascinating to visit the slave quarters, urban slaves had it much better than their rural cousin’s, and to see the plumbing system – this house had running water on all floors before the White House in Washington. What puzzled me was where on earth they kept their clothes… one tiny wardrobe per room – but the houses were used for the winter season only, summers were spent on their plantations in the country. I had hoped to visit a plantation, skipped it in New Orleans thinking I’d find one near Savannah, but I had forgotten my history – Sherman burned and destroyed everything before capturing Savannah itself in the closing days of the Civil War. Ah well, next time.
After lunch I make my way down the Factors Walk, a cobbled path leading down past the cotton warehouses to the river bank from which the cotton buyers checked out the loads coming in from the plantations by wagon. It’s been beautifully restored, with apartments created in the warehouses and some lovely shops beneath, and there are buskers about, one particularly good one playing steel drums catches my attention for ages. There are also people weaving palm frond strands into baskets and more interestingly, roses. These are called peace roses, they are a Savannah tradition used by the slaves at their weddings and given to soldiers during the Civil War – they are not for sale by law, only donation, and I do get one from a lovely old lady.
There is a sailing ship there, beautifully restored by a family of American Indians, and then, blow me down, here comes another gigantic container ship steaming full pelt up the river!
I finish the day with a visit to the Historical Museum, very interesting especially the clothing and textile exhibit and a Mexican dinner over the road from my motel. And that’s it, I fly to Canada tomorrow to meet my dear friend from school and spend a few days at her home near Toronto.