Monday, April 16, 2012

Scouting Out Savannah, Part 2, What to See

James Oglethorpe, founder of Savannah.
• Walk in George Washington's footsteps (the bed and house he slept in is long gone). Or General W. T. Sherman's.
• Sit on city founder General James Oglethorpe's bench - or Forrest Gump's.
The Mercer House
• Visit significant locales in "The Book," Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.
• See where the ghosts linger (pretty much the whole city).
Madison Square and statue of Revolutionary War hero Sgt. William Jasper.
• Survey the squares - the original four grew to 24; 22 remain.
• Visit significant wartime sites from the American Revolution on. 
• Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts with a tour of Juliette Gordon Low's birthplace and the outbuilding where the first troop had its first meeting.

Savannah is one historical landmark, anecdote or cause celebre after another, but what you will remember is the architecture, flora and ambiance of one of America's prettiest cities.

Tip: My advice for anyone and especially Levelers: Get thee a map and a window seat on a trolley tour. There are several from which to choose. I was hosted by Old Savannah Tours and found their guides to be extremely well informed, accurate and entertaining.

Passing the Telfair Family Mansion.
As you're driven about the city, circle on the map those spots you want to see more closely. Plot your walking tour from there if you're up to it or sign on for another tour with hop on, hop off privileges.

Tour Tip Two: Start your hop on-off tour early in the morning. Trolleys on the last circuit of the day fill up fast. Ask your driver when his last circuit runs and try to catch it early. That way he or she will deliver you to your hotel or inn.

Tour Tip Three:  If you're up for a walking tour (Savannah's mostly flat, remember), Sellers & Higgins (Phillip and Tony) do a Lechery, Treachery, Debauchery tour that gets rave reviews. Hard-Hearted Hannah, the vamp of Savannah of song fame was real, by the way.

Pirate House, originally the Herb House, circa 1734, is considered the oldest surviving home in Georgia.
Visitors invariably wander River Street but it's too touristy for my tastes. Bay Street, which goes along the bluff above, is nicer. The Pirate House is another touristy stop but it's a fun one with some genuine history to it. Robert Louis Stevenson was supposed to have been inspired to write Treasure Island while staying here. Next door, the restaurant of the same name is also touristy but fun.
Pirate House, the restaurant.

Here are some things you might not think of that I found worthwhile.

Juliette Gordon Low house from the garden.
Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace. Yes, it's on all of the lists but she was a remarkable woman, an accomplished artist and much ahead of her time. Worth it to learn more about her life and this from one who flunked Brownies and Girl Scouts.
Tip: There are stairs but also an elevator.

Flannery O'Connor home.
The Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home. What's not to love about a girl who declared herself an adult before she was old enough for school and taught a pet chicken to walk backwards? One of America's finest short story writers was also one heck of a character. The house itself isn't much - her father was not good at making money - but the stories and anecdotes told by guide Toby Aldrich are worth the time and the steps you have to climb - 12 steps up to the entrance, 17 steps to the second level.

Savannah Bee Company. No, it's not a museum or historical site but you will get an education on the remarkable honeybee. Owner and founder Ted Dennard is just as anxious to share his love for the amazing creatures as he is to sell you a product. From encaustics, paintings made with beeswax, to tastings of different kinds of honey, it's definitely out of the ordinary.

Diana Rogers
Music in the Parlour with Diana. The latest in Savannah's long history of fascinating chanteuses, Diana Rogers brings a classical background to her piano and song stylings as well as wild costumery and fun. Each Sunday she welcomes "guests" - it's $30 - into her Victorian home for tea, champagne, scones and two hours - 1-3 p.m. or 4-6 p.m. - of memorable songs.

The Savannah Tour Guidebook ( $8.95) is a good, short resource for tours and tidbits of the city.


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