Georgia - Savannah (Part 1)

Lost in time


[Disclaimer: This trip was taken before vacation was a curse word, when masks were for Halloween and droplets of someone else’s breath couldn’t kill you...ahh, the rare ole times]

No roadtrip around America’s Deep South would be complete without a stop in Savannah, Georgia.

We coasted into town late in the evening and sailed straight to our hotel on River Street. Little did we know the Riverfront was Savannah’s equivalent to Dublin's raucous Temple Bar. We bounced along cobbled stones while drunken revellers and tourists weaved around our family car. Our arrival also coincided with a boat show; steamers and yachts punted past with horns a-tooting, followed by an array of fireworks. Savannah likes to party! It was one hell of a ‘Howdy’.

Irish people like to party, Savannahians like to party, is there something in that? - Guess what, Savannah has the world’s largest St Patrick's day parade, why? Because by 1860 one in three households were Irish! Thanks to the Famine, and the fact Savannah is a port city that stayed open to the Irish immigrants when other cities said ‘No Irish Need Apply’. America is as American as her last immigrant, and long may she stay that way.

History slaps you in the face, repeatedly, the minute you set foot in town (when you are not having drunken people slapping their faces against your car window). Roisin was loving the revelry, she blatantly ignored my advice of ‘Don’t look them in the eye’, as I read snippets of Savannahian history from my phone.

The state of Georgia was named after the English King George II, Savannah was its first city and America’s first planned city -a series of grids, squares and open streets. It was to be a place for the working poor of England to thrive and increase trade. Back in the day, for a short time, the city of Savannah had an outright ban on rum, lawyers and slavery!

The arriving English made an alliance with the local Native Americans, to avoid the fighting that plagued many other American cities in their infancy. Although, an alliance where the people native to the land are 'given' a section to live in while the 'ally' takes the rest sounds more like coercion. Where’s the lawyer to settle it, oh no, we banned them!

During the Antebellum period (pre Civil War) the plantations of rice and cotton flourished in Savannah, owned by whites, run by slaves. During the Civil War when the city fell to the Union soldiers, the Union commander, General Sherman, couldn't bring himself to destroy the city (by then famous for its genteel citizenry and its grand oak trees festooned with Spanish moss) he offered it to Lincoln as a Christmas present! Kind of breaks the ‘Secret Santa’ $10 rule, but ok.

It warmed my heart to learn that in the 1950s a band of women came together to stop the wrecking ball of progression tearing down the historical structures in the city. These women saved the beautiful architecture of Savannah and Downtown became a National Historic Landmark.

Eventually we inched our way through all the shenanigans and pulled up in front of the hotel. The staff could not have been nicer. The bellboy (a middle aged man) actually hopped into our car with us to help us find a good parking spot! My raised eyebrow and inquiry of “Are we all going somewhere?”as he clambered on in, was met with a huge smile and a “Why my name’s Clarence, pleased to make your acquaintance Ma’am. I’m gonna find you the best spot in the city!”. His top tip for the cobblestones was "Don't wear your church shoes, I learned that the hard way" <belly laugh>. I responded “Why do you think I’m wearing flip flops, Clarence” I went in for the high-five but it didn’t land, he had bags in his hands, it was an awkward moment. I pretended to high-five Roisin instead, she had no shoes at all on, granted she was eating her toes at the time.

The Riverfront had an interesting history; once home to the thriving cotton industry, a cholera outbreak cleaned the area out for 100 years. Then bars started popping up and it became a focus for sailors and partiers. In more modern times there has been an effort to rejuvenate the docks. It's still a place for revellers (as we can testify) but the safe shops selling touristy tack and t-shirts are plentiful.

Cannon fodder

The next morning we ventured across the cobbled streets of the docks to a moored Spanish boat recreated to resemble a cargo ship from 500 years ago. It sails the seas, run by volunteers, to educate people of nautical bygone days. It was tremendous in appearance and appeal. We leapt aboard, clambering from stern to bow, ducking down below to see the cannons. I felt like I was on the set of a pirate movie! Back on land, maneuvering across the cobblestones reminded me of old Dublin. Keen to see more of the historic town we forged deep into the streets, thankfully the historic area is easily walkable.

As we were waiting to cross the road a respectably dressed black gentleman introduced himself. You could tell he had been disfigured from a fire. He told us he had been attacked at a gas station and set on fire in a racist attack. The case went to court but the white jury let the men off. He was trying to get a retrial. He asked for a donation. Having no money on us we expressed our genuine sympathy and regret, wished him well in seeking justice and moved on.

Moved by his earnest story, Dom ran to an ATM, got cash, ran after the man and gave him a donation. I know, perhaps it was a street hustle, but he was clearly a burn victim, and when we first said we had no cash (true) he stood back, wished us well, said God Bless and moved on.

Sometimes you just gotta give, don't over analyze, just give. Fair play to Dom, he acted, I just kept saying 'Oh, that poor man' my face contorted into a variety of emojis.

Trellis trolling

Karma restored, we wandered through the historic district, beautiful house after gorgeous gaff. Perhaps a notch down from Charleston's mansions but very impressive nonetheless (for my Charleston story - read here). There were more wrought iron trellises than Charleston. It actually felt a bit like walking around Merrion Square in Dublin. A lot of these antique houses are private residences, people were out brushing their verandahs, eyeballing you as you eyeballed them back, debating whether you can snap a pic or not.

Savannah has 22 grand squares with historic landmarks encircling them. The squares reminded me of the squares you come across in London’s posh Belgravia and Mayfair. Chippewa Square in Savannah, where we sat to rest our bones in the heat, was where the famous 'Life is like a box of chocolates' scene from Forrest Gump was filmed.

I was simply dying to get inside one of the houses but, with a toddler in tow, I knew any length of time viewing the house interiors was limited. I did a mental coin toss and decided on the Juliet Gordon Low house, the founder of the Girl Guides of America, owned today by that very organization. Blast! It was closed on a Sunday, like all good scouts they were probably off helping someone or flogging cookies. I linked arms with my own boy scout and walked till we came across a 2nd hand book store. We descended into the shop, arguably to get out of the humidity, and emerged later with a book for each of us.

Dripping in moss

Dom peeled off to bring an antsy Roisin to the playground in the Colonial Park Cemetery. A playground in a cemetery sounds weird, but it works. It has old gravestones amid the genuflecting trees but it feels like a people's park with dogs and frisbee players. Either way Roisin thought it was dead good.

They seemed to be having fun, it was time for me to depart...


  1. I so much love Savannah. Thanks for triggering delightful memories and the history lesson. Sending love and virtual hugs!!!

  2. Sending hugs right back at ya, Sue xx


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