What a glorious day to photograph an extravagantly gallant and charming city! So much beauty, so much history and a huge number of squares to explore. And tour we did. I find that the ultimate self-guided opportunities exist when one has bicycles. No parking fees to worry about, areas larger than walkable can be covered and exercise aplenty is available at the level one so desires. Luckily, we acquired free bicycles when last home that fit snugly in to our truck bed (the dump is an amazing resource, truly — what one person throws out is another man’s treasure). Freedom was our middle name! So after quickly following one of the local tour trolleys on their route of preference, we scouted out the areas to explore, and discovered free parking at Forsyth Park. This park was built in 1858 and has become an iconic symbol of the city of Savannah, with it’s glorious porcelain-like fountain (which happened to be frozen almost solid in all its glory). Here began our first introduction to Savannah’s version of panhandlers.
One of the distinctive natural settings carried over from the 18th and 19th century is the city’s distinctive grid plan of 22 park squares dotted throughout the downtown quarter. “Most of Savannah’s squares are named in honor or in memory of a person, persons or historical event, and many contain monuments, markers, memorials, statues, plaques, and other tributes.”
Along the route we discovered the Colonial Park Cemetery, which was used to bury the dead from 1750 to 1853, becoming a city park in 1896. There are quite a few famous cemeteries here in Savannah, most notably the Bonaventure Cemetery from John Berendt’s book “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil”. Unfortunately, most were beyond the possible area for us to cycle to and visit today.
As we wove our way through the cobblestone streets, we stumbled across the Downtown River Street. This area is a shopping mecca for the tourists to shop and dine amidst restored 19th century cotton warehouses. Appropriately, we chose The Cotton Exchange to dine for lunch. Here we delved in to a scrumptious crab soup and a mixed grill tilapia pasta entree, both for us to split — so rich that sharing our delectable sumptuous treat satiated us until our return home for dinner. From our window berth, we had the chance to watch the ships, ferries, barges and tour boats roll in and out along River Street as we dined inside this former cotton warehouse from Savannah’s early days. It seemed rather quiet today on this most notably cold but blue-skied day. We were told that frigid days like today were rare indeed.
Oh how I love to explore the tourist meccas in the off-season. However, witnessing the many vendors weaving their palm fronds in to pieces of art (rose bouquets adorned with ribbons or berry garlands), struggling to raise a few dollars here and there, was touching and heartbreaking as many seemed either homeless or unemployed (clothes in tatters, appearance dishevelled and meekly dressed for such cold extremes). Without a bag or backpack to carry any souvenirs or acquisitions, we could only stop to complement the artists on their skilled handiwork and offer a kind word.
Lining the river is the architecturally beautiful Talmadge Memorial Bridge, a stunning cable-stayed bridge (similar to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, except made with cement pylons) over the Savannah River. The Port of Savannah is the largest single terminal container port on the U.S. eastern seaboard; this bridge flanks the banks of downtown Savannah, Georgia, and its neighbouring state of South Carolina.
One of the beauties of travel is the discovery of new and wonderful people. Today we met Bob and Bogart, crusaders of kindness and peace in a “Smithsonian-worthy” 1990 Chevy school bus, whom are travelling to campuses across the country to promote kindness.His message: “We are trying to offer inspiration to those wanting to better themselves by leading a lifetime of constantly spreading kindness to others.”
Please visit them at their website One Million Acts Of Kindness and support them in their venture, in whatever form that may take. Bob reminds me of John Lennon and his quest for peace: “Give Peace a Chance”. If only we all couldn’t be a lot more like Bob, spreading a message of peace and love, kindness and happiness, where “we are all one country, one world, one people” [sic Yoko Ono].
As the light faded, the temperatures dropped. It was time to find ourselves a hot drink to coddle! On a corner in Savannah’s historic district, not too far from the bench on which Forrest Gump awaited his bus, sits the Gryphon Tea Room. What a glorious treasure to find, a reprieve from the cold! This beautiful building was very reminiscent of the Harry Potter Gryffindor common room (from Hogwarts), both in name and in character.
Inside this tea room, which once happened to be an apothecary, the low fabric ceiling is surrounded by a stained glass drop-down platform with classic dark wood trim, and shelves displaying antique plates and glasses with the original stained glass windows and tiffany lamps adding class and ambiance. From what I’ve been told, it’s a lovely and friendly place for breakfast, tea, coffee, dessert, lunch and high tea.
Before the day escaped us fully, we cycled over to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The pipe organ was impressive in size, the twin spires towering and acoustically amazing, the stained glass windows breathtaking and the fresh balsam wreaths aromatically sensual!
Once again, we were happy to call the Camping World parking lot our home for yet another chilly evening where the temperatures dipped below zero. Brrrrrrrrr!