Beautiful Savannah, GE

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Monday, May 8, 2006

I drove from Jacksonville to Savannah to Asheville, a total of 450 miles; not counting getting lost in and out of Savannah. It was hot and humid all the way.

It was sunny but there seemed to be low clouds all around and it felt very oppressive. Highway 95 went up just a bit inland of the Atlantic. I could see that there are many rather soggy and meandering little (and big) rivers and sounds in the area. It all looks like delta land all the way up the Coast. There are also many lighthouses, National Monuments and Wildlife Refuge areas all up and down the coast. I am guessing these winding rivers all flow out of heights of land somewhat to the west of here.

A brochure and map put out by the government says "You have chosen to visit a state that is modern and progressive, but still very proud of our world renowned southern hospitality." The travel map lays out "Traveling along Georgia's Interstates? You must see these ..." and then it notes ...Along this Interstate, see this, ... Along that interstate see that ... and gives just enough information to tweak your interest to go. "Take a leisurely stroll down the winding, scenic river-walk and see breathtaking views of the pristine ...." Or the perfect blend of outdoor entertainment and recreation; the world's largest mass of exposed granite and treasures ..." a monument to the imagination, creative engineering and craftsmanship of the Victorian Era... "

Getting into Savannah was very confusing. Two main road systems (I-95 heading north and I-16 heading west) meet there. I tried to stop off at a Cracker Barrel restaurant for lunch but there was more than a 20 minute wait and I thought I'd be able to find something in Savannah. Then I could not get out of the restaurant parking lot. No one would let me turn left. So I proceeded to go right and wound up on the Highway 1 bypass. I was about 15 miles out of Savannah. When I eventually got into town itself (a cross street of Montgomery and Anderson, I think it was) again I turned the wrong way and wound up at an air field.

By the time I actually got INTO historic Savannah, I had spent an hour and a half getting there from where I left the highway. It was clearly not my day as I got lost even trying to find the visitor's centre. Eventually I got some maps and set off trying to drive around a bit of the town. The day I was there, there were at least 3 festivals going on (seafood, Girl Guides or Brownies and something else) and I could not move around very well. Did the best I could.

A tourist brochure tells me that Savannah is "waiting to charm you with her tree filled squares and perfectly preserved old buildings, captivate you with her past and her haunting natural beauty, caress you with her warmth and Southern hospitality. .. Savannah was born way back in 1733, shaped from a wilderness by James Edward Oglethorpe and a little band of English settlers. In her infancy, Oglethorpe favored Savannah with what has become her world renowned claim to fame - her squares, the park like havens that make her such a wonderful place for strolling and relaxing. Graced by huge live oaks festooned with Spanish moss and azaleas bursting with colorful blossoms, the squares are unique centerpieces surrounded by stately old homes, graceful churches and eclectic shops and galleries.

Savannah grew to be a bustling port famed for exporting cotton and a city of culture whose architecture blended a variety of styles still in evidence - Federal, English Regency, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne. During the Civil War she was the prize at the end of the Union army's devastating "March to the Sea" in December 1864 - but she was spared by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who made her a "Christmas gift" to President Abraham Lincoln. Threatened again - in the latter half of the 20th century by urban renewal - she was saved once more - this time by a small group of historic preservationists whose efforts have been amplified and refined during the ensuing years."

Everywhere I turned there were either Revolutionary or Civil War references. In fact, right outside the tourist centre was a plaque which read "Over this ground, hallowed by the valor and sacrifices of the soldiers of America and of France was fought, on October 9, 1779, one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution when Savannah, which the British had possessed for several months, was attacked by the combined American and French forces. A short distance west of this marker stood the famous Spring Hill Redoubt and along here ran the line of entrenchments built by the British around Savannah. After a three weeks siege, the Allies stormed the enemy works in this area early on October 9. Arrayed in the opposing armies that day were soldiers of many lands: American Colonials, Grenadiers of Old France, Irishmen in the service of King Louis XVI, Polish Lancers, French Creoles, and Negro volunteers from Haiti, fighting for American independence against English Redcoats, Scotch Highlanders, Hessians, Royalist provincials from New York, Tory militia, armed slaves and Cherokee Indians. After an heroic effort to dislodge the British, the Allies retired with heavy losses. Thus the siege was lifted and the French fleet sailed from Georgia ending an episode of far reaching significance in the American Revolution". Certainly puts the short history in Western Canada in perspective.

I then made my way down towards the River and Factors Walk. Old, old buildings, cobbled roadway with a bumpy tram track down the middle. Hot, hot day, humid with curiously misty grey clouds. The generous squares with huge oaks streaming with Spanish moss were beautifully relaxing. Even the cemeteries seemed welcoming and calm. The one I spent some time looking about was called Colonial Park. It was the burying ground of the city between about 1750 until it was closed against burials in 1853. In it were buried the first president of Georgia, a postmaster general, soldiers and generals, historians, artists, even a soldier of the Mexican War. Prominent among the monuments was one erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in memory of Patriots of War 1775 - 1783. Honouring war dead is not a new thing in this country.

I also passed by the Greek Revival building known as the Owens-Thomas House which once housed a young General Lafayette when he visited Savannah in 1825. He was a hero in the US as he'd arranged for supplies from France during the Revolution: though he lost support for a time in France after the Napoleonic era he became a leader of the forces that overthrew the Bourbon thrown in 1830. I did not have time to see nearly what I wanted to and I would absolutely love to spend some more time in Savannah and in Georgia itself. However, next time I am going to do it with some kind of a tour 'round Savannah and a more organized driving tour 'round the state. I'd certainly like to do parts of this state again at a slower pace.
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