Savannah …. the name simply whispers southern charm. It was the main reason I wanted to visit Georgia. It brings to mind Scarlett O’Hara and Forest Gump with all the history in between the ages. Savannah and the area around it is picturesque with the Spanish moss hanging from large Oaks, flowering Crepe Myrtles, and Palm trees.
I didn’t realize how many historical events took place here during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Many famous people involved with shaping our heritage lived here such as Juliette Gordon Low (founder of Girl Scouts) and John and Charles Wesley (founder of the Methodist Church). It’s the oldest city in Georgia and with the age comes history. Graceful old homes and churches rise like songs from the ground. Here they are grouped closely together singing majestically like a choir .
Jingle Bells was written by a pastor of a church in Savannah. I learned that by walking through one of their many park squares and reading a historical marker.
It is said that General Sherman didn’t burn Savannah to the ground when he ‘captured’ it during the Civil War because it was too beautiful to destroy, instead he gave it as a gift to President Lincoln. Now, you would think that the Civil War was ancient history, but when talking to an 86-year-old gentlemen in one of the parks. Sherman was brought up.
Mr. Yllis, “So what are you doing in Savannah?”
Me, “Enjoying the town. Just Passing through.”
Mr. Yllis, “Yeah, you and Sherman.”
I decided to go to Savannah, the first time, on a Sunday because I figured there would be less traffic on a weekend. I set out for the historic district. It was an easy drive and traffic wasn’t a problem at all. I parked in a public parking place and set out on foot. I was wearing my wedge heels that I wore to church. At the time, I thought they were comfortable enough to walk in, but let me tell you….by the time I finished walking, they were murdering my feet. I put 26,313 steps on my pedometer that day.
After parking, I just followed the crowd of people meandering through the streets. I met a couple of ladies with a map and they gave it to me, since they were about to leave. Maps are wonderful things!
They also shared that the City Market is a place where a lot of action happens. I checked on the price of the tours and decided $28 seemed a bit steep for an on and off tour trolley. I bought one of their tour books and decided to simply walk the tour.
In one of those quaint parks, I heard a man singing; His voice welcoming and warm. His name was James and he made flowers out of twisted palm stalks. Now, he ‘gave’ me one because he said it matched my shirt. Of course, he did want a donation, so I gave him a couple of dollars. He said, “Girl, you’re a teacher aren’t you?” I wondered if he could tell by my clothes because teachers do have a tendency to dress alike. He asked about what I was doing and where I was from. Then he said, “Girl, you’ll be back in two years. You can believe ole James because I know these things.” I couldn’t help but smile.
Savannah is laid out beautifully. Every few blocks there is one of those square parks with residential and businesses laid out around the square. There are 22 squares in Savannah. They are perfect for strolling through and stopping to talk and bring people together. The traffic moves one way around them and stops for the pedestrians to walk across without any crossing signs telling them to do so. In fact, the only time I was endanger of being run over was by two cars with Texas license plates.
I walked toward Bay Street and toward the river where the historic area begins. At the stairs are signs that reads, “Historic stairs. Use at your own risk.” They do look like caution is needed in order not to fall down them.
I walked, stopping to read every historical marker that I passed. There are markers in front of buildings, parks, fountains, and houses. Yes, I stopped often! I browsed stores and went to Leopold’s Ice Cream to have one of my favorite pit stops on vacation….ICE CREAM! There are also cobblestone streets going down and I took one of those. The river front is full of activity with lots of restaurants, bars, stores, people milling around, and wonderful smelling candy stores making pralines. They were delicious!
I didn’t make every historic street that day, but I left happy, tired, and ready to see more when I came back later in the week.
On Thursday, I had a room booked at a Historic Inn called 17Hundred90. It’s a combination Inn and Restaurant in the historic district on President Street.
Between packing up my campsite from Skidaway Island and finding my hotel, I stopped by the boat ramp under the Diamond Causeway Bridge crossing onto Skidaway Island. I had found the area one evening on the way ‘to my campsite home.’ This time it was full of people and activity!
I parked, took my chair out of the trunk, and saw two older ladies sitting near a tree close to shade. I stopped by them and asked if I could join them. Their names were Faye and Wanda and they were adorable. Two friends for twenty plus years and they worked together too, driving school buses. When they asked what I did and I said, “teacher” they both laughed and said, “We attract teachers!”
They offered me a cup of ice and some watermelon that they were pulling out of a Ziploc gallon bag with their fingers. I took the cup of ice, but declined the watermelon. One of them had her grandchild, Will, with her. He was about 13 and was swimming in the river.
We sat, talked, and watched the group of school kids ‘crabbing’ for blue crabs with chicken pieces for bait. One of them remarked, “They’ll never find a crab in that shallow of water.” However in the end, they did catch one. We talked about boats & bridges, schools in Texas, & Georgia, crabs, and the river. I spent about an hour there laughing and enjoying the sunshine with those two sweet ladies.
I drove the short drive to Savannah and parked outside my Inn. I was tickled to get to stay in a ‘guest house’ about a block and a half from the original inn. My room was on the bottom floor, room 312, and it was like having a small flat to myself. I had my own key to the house and one to the back red door that led to my own private patio. (My very own parking space too!)
I entered a hall in which there was a small parlor filled with antiques (with price tags) and my room. It was very pretty. Upstairs was another parlor filled with a more modern sofa, two Queen Anne chairs, a TV, and books about Savannah. This room had two long windows facing the front street. It was neat watching the tour trolleys go past the windows and around the block. A thunderstorm came while I was upstairs and I saw a man dressed in G. Washington type clothing make a run from the Presidential Inn across the street to his car. It made me laugh seeing the difference in the clothing and the car.
I took a long shower (bliss) and dressed for dinner. I had a free drink coupon for the bar in the restaurant. I decided to take a short nap on the inviting bed. I didn’t wake up until 11:39 P.M. I was so mad at myself! I changed into my pj’s, pulled back the covers, and went to bed. I woke up about 5:30 A.M. and dressed and left the hotel to investigate the parts of the historic district that I hadn’t had time to explore.
I set off down the street towards Forsyth Park (I did eventually get there), but hadn’t gone very far when I passed this small restaurant called Clary’s that I had read about on Trip Advisor. It opened at 7:00 A.M. I thought it would be a great place to eat breakfast, so I wanted to stay in the general area until it opened.
At this time of morning, there were runners and people walking their dogs. I stopped to pet one or two and then wandered into the next square and sat on the bench. As I was sitting there, an older man approached and said, Spreek je Duits?”and I said, “Excuse me?” and he repeated it. I thought it meant, “Do you speak Dutch?”, but it was actually Dutch saying, “Do you speak German?” I said, “No.” and he laughed and said, “Neither do I.” which totally made me laugh.
That’s how I met Mr. Yllis (sounds like Ellis). He was 86 and walking a brown and white Spaniel dog. I reached out to pet him and could tell he was old and he was. (17 years old and had some cysts hanging on his side). Yep, that’s when the conversation about Sherman (see the beginning) started. He sat with me and we talked for a while after learning I was from Texas.
He moved on, but that wasn’t the last I was to see of Mr. Yllis. By this time, Clary’s had opened and I went in to see what I could order under $10 because that’s all the cash I had with me. I walked in and took a seat at the counter between two men. Sitting at the counter is always better to visit with people. One was chowing down on a ham slice and eggs and the other had pancakes.
I ordered coffee and a caramel nut sticky bun. The waitress went to the fridge by the front window and said, “You’re lucky. It’s the last one.” She then unwrapped it, put it on a plate, microwaved it, pulled it out, and squirted caramel over the top and heated it a little more. I took my first bite, sighed inwardly, and listened to the conversation between the waitress and the ham eater. He was obviously a local that she knew well. They talked about her son practicing for band and visiting grandparents for the summer. I found a way to jump in the conversation. (Love doing that)!
Before too long, I learned that he lived practically across the street and was an electrical engineer. He loved his job and said they pay him to play with circuits and spend time doing what he enjoys the most. (That made me smile.)
In a bit, I noticed Mr. Yllis come in (without dog) and sit at a table behind me. We acknowledged each other and the waitress said, “I would have put out a table for you if you didn’t want to take your dog home.” Obviously, he was a regular too. He responded with a smile and a hand wave-like it was fine.
After the electrical engineer left, I got up to leave. Mr. Yllis said, “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you want to sit with me.” I said, “I already had coffee, but I’ll have another cup with you.” The waitress came and filled up my cup and I sit down with him. I asked him his name again and he said, “Oh you’ll never forget it if I tell you that it’s ‘silly’ spelt backwards” Absolutely! That’s how I remembered it!
He chatted about places I needed to see while in Savannah. The bar that faced the river with half priced drinks and the Telfair Museum, where he volunteered. (I would have liked to have seen the museum). I listened, not telling him that I was leaving after lunch. He obviously loved his city and knew its history.
He talked about the houses that were being renovated and ask me if I had seen the large house with the scaffolding around it. I had. He said that was costing a fortune to redo, but he’d love to see it when it was finished. He mentioned his ‘female companion’ and said she was an architect.
We talked about the story of the man who killed his male lover and the Mercer House, which I hadn’t seen yet. A movie had been made about it called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We visited a bit more and I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure having breakfast with him.
I went to pay and the waitress rang up my ticket. I took my money out to pay and she stopped me and said, “Breakfast is on me today.” and tossed my ticket in the trash. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so touched as to have someone do that for me. She smiled. I thanked her and asked for a picture. She posed by the sign that said, ‘Clary’s.’ My spirit was so lifted by the conversation with Mr. Yllis and the kind gesture of that waitress.
I knew that I wanted to take advantage of that jacuzzi tub before I left my room at the inn, so I got a move on in my sightseeing. I walked across the street and sat on a bench and looked at the map in the book that I borrowed from the hotel. I wasn’t sitting there long, when a younger man walked by and said, “Wow, you really get around.” He had been sitting at the table next to us. He told me he sometimes worked in Savannah and tried to see one new thing every time he visited. He asked if I could tell him about the Mercer House that we had been talking about in the restaurant. He had actually seen the movie, unlike me. We looked it up on the map and figured out where the street was based on where we were. Actually, it was pretty close, so he thanked me and set off toward that direction.
I found Chippewa Square where Forest Gump sat on his bench telling his story. A very friendly homeless man took my picture of me seating there. The bench has been moved to the Savannah museum. (‘Thanks to us tourists’, so says the homeless man.)
Yes, I contributed to his lunch in the form of a couple of dollars. He made a family that was visiting a little uncomfortable, but he seemed pretty harmless.
A smile and eye contact goes a long way in making a person feel friendly. Even if I’m passing someone on the street and I feel a twinge of uncomfortableness, I smile and make eye contact. Usually, they smile back. It’s a connection. People need to feel connected. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel afraid traveling by myself. I’m not being naive…I know some situations need to be avoided, but by the most part….it’s simply treating each other with kindness and walking with confidence.
I toured until 10:00 and then headed back because I had to check out by 11:00. I planned on eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room and I knew they only served until 2:00 and there would be a line. After checking out and re-parking my car, I headed toward the restaurant. I had been looking forward to eating Southern food. It was about a twelve-minute walk and I enjoyed all the elegant homes along the way. I joined the line and visited with a few people.
I walked to the front of the line to get a drink of water (provided by the restaurant) when I noticed a sign on the door that said, “Checks or cash only.” What? I had cash, but it meant a walk back to the car, so I hiked back (went too far and had to circle back) and then walked back to the restaurant. By this time, it was about 12:30. I joined the line again and met more people whom I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with.
We waited in line for about an hour and then people were getting worried if we’d get in the restaurant before 2:00 when it closed and wondered if there was a cut off for the line. There were still plenty of people waiting to eat. I decided to go to the restroom and ask about the line.
A man stood at the register inside. I asked if I could use the restroom. Without batting an eye, he said, “It’ll cost you one dollar.” My reaction was like …WHAT! He laughed and said, “Just kidding!” and pointed the way. On the way out, I stopped to ask if there was a cut off in line for service. He said, “Are you in front of the lady in red or behind her?” I had no idea because I didn’t notice a lady in red. He must have seen my puzzled look because he said, “Just teasing! We’re going to feed everyone.” That made me feel so much better. I laughed and went and told the others that there wasn’t a cut off and we were all going to get to eat! Just like me, they were relieved. We had been standing out there a long time. Yes, by this time we knew where everyone around us was from and their names.
At Mrs. Wilkes, they sit at a table of ten and serve family style and it smelled delicious! We got in there about 1:45. The table was loaded with bowls of food. We passed left to right and right to left and finally just said, “If you want something you didn’t get, just ask for it.” We left stuffed. Now, I was grateful that I had to walk twelve minutes to the car. I passed Leopold’s and couldn’t even get excited about ice cream because I was so full!
So, it was about 3:30 when I left Savannah behind. It was beautiful and I utterly enjoyed visiting and exploring. Maybe I will visit again in a couple of years. James, the flower maker, might be right.