Georgia’s Gem

Become seduced by savannah’s history and beauty

BY BONNIE SIEGLER

My husband Bill talked about Savannah, Georgia, as if it was a utopia. Located along the Savannah River, the city is the oldest one in the state of Georgia. So, when we
headed to this port city, my head was full of visions of antebellum hospitality: Paula Deen fried chicken, haunted cemeteries and trendy shops. The surprise occurred when I became seduced by the city, as my husband had predicted.

There’s more to this southern town than genteel folks, down-home cooking, and weeping willow-lined streets. Each year, the city of 146,000 attracts millions of visitors with its lure of cobblestone streets and rich history. While it could be tempting to sit out on a large veranda sipping mint juleps (a fondness I have not acquired), there are too many alternatives to explore.

Within the historic district alone, there are 22 squares that showcase the area’s foliage, monuments and formal fountains. The Mercer-Williams House, located on Monterey Square, was the main location for the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Along the Bull Street corridor is Chippewa Square in the centre of the downtown historic district—which is where Forrest Gump sat on the park bench for his famous storytelling scenes. The actual bench now sits in the Savannah History Museum, but a replica has been put in its place.

Then came the exploration of the city’s darker side. Savannah has been named “America’s most haunted city” due to its paranormal activity and ghostly sightings. The Andrew Low House across from The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist regularly has reports of spirits in the home and staff seeing ghosts. The Colonial Park Cemetery dates back to when the English settled Savannah for the colony of Georgia. That’s where I was given some Savannah history: it is the first planned city in America, it was founded in 1733, and it houses the Savannah Theater, which is the oldest theatre in the United States. Then there is the Bonaventure Cemetery, a former plantation and one of the hallmarks of the city with its masses of flowers, ivy-covered crypts, and beautiful columns.

While the city showcases stately southern architecture and charm, dining choices are innumerable. We walked from our hotel to Circa 1875 near Johnson Square, having been forewarned to have reservations. I was served the best bowl of clam chowder I’ve ever had—and I’ve lived on both coasts! The Olde Pink House on Reynolds Square served classic southern fare. Two great dining choices for a short visit to Savannah.
Early evening signals the beginning of the city’s nightlife. Savannah nightlife is truly legendary, with live music of every genre—rock, jazz, reggae, salsa. River Street, where cotton warehouses have become boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs, is one of the city’s most vibrant nightlife options. City Market comes in a close second. We ended up at Jazz’d Tapas Bar, which resembled a speakeasy hideaway, for some good jazz and late night snacks.

Before heading back home, we took the 18-mile drive to Tybee Island, just a four-mile stretch of beautiful white sand and ocean. We had the beach to ourselves that breezy day—except for a massive flock of birds flying in formation. It was a picturesque place to sit and contemplate the southern charm and abundance Savannah brims with year-round. VM

 

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