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Trip Report A Short Visit to Savannah, GA

After our half day in St. Augustine (described in a separate posting), we drove to Savannah, where we stayed at the Park Avenue Manor B&B. The B&B is well located (at the corner of Forsyth Park), quite reasonably priced ($129/nt. + tax), serves a nice, full breakfast (everyone sits down together at 8:30 am; we got some good tips from our fellow guests), is well equipped (e.g., several power strips for charging phones etc. [so many accommodations are outlet-challenged], free wifi, good counter space in the bathroom), and had free parking on the street. The proprietors, Glenn and Maurice, were very helpful, and had brownies and sherry in the entry hall.

At 10:00 am the next morning (Feb. 16) we took the architectural walking tour with Jonathan Stalcup (jonathan@architecturalsavannah.com). The tour was excellent; I recommend it highly. Jonathan is a graduate of SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design – another thing I had never heard of before this trip; there are branches of it all over the city) and has planned his stops to cover different periods of architecture, pretty much in a chronological fashion. I wasn’t sure I would like the architectural focus of the tour, but we found it very interesting and learned a lot. He also covers history and other aspects of the city.

Next we visited the Mickve Israel Temple, the third-oldest Jewish congregation in America and took the guided tour there. The sanctuary is nice, but the museum upstairs was particularly impressive; it contains the oldest torah scroll currently being used in America, great historical pictures and commentary on early Jewish settlers, as well as letters written to the congregation from President George Washington and subsequent presidents.

Next we went to the First African Baptist Church, which we learned about from a couple staying at our B&B. We had been told that there were tours that day at 11 am and 2 pm, but when we showed up shortly before 2 pm, the woman who greeted us told us that the afternoon tour that day was at 1 pm. (Maurice from the B&B had called that morning and was told 2 pm, and some of the church’s pamphlets also listed that time.) However, there were so many other people who came thinking that the tour was at 2 pm that they very kindly gave us one. The church was built by slaves during the evenings and nights after they spent all day working on their “day jobs” at their plantations. It has had only had 17 pastors in its over-200-year history. Hearing about them and seeing them immortalized in stained glass was quite moving.

The synagogue and the church were at opposite ends of the town. I easily walked from one to the other. My husband’s knees were bothering him, so he took the free DOT bus, which is a very nice thing that Savannah provides. The DOT buses come every 20 minutes or less and serve 11 stops around the Historic District. They run from 11 am to 9 pm and take 40 minutes to do entire circuit.

The historic district is fairly small and easily transversed on foot if you are in reasonably good shape.

After the church, we grabbed a quick lunch, and then I walked to the Owens-Thomas House and Museum for the last tour at 4:30 pm. (Hubby ran out of gas and took the DOT back to the B&B.) The house was very interesting, and the tour guide was excellent.

I then walked to the riverfront area, saw the statue of the Waving Girl, walked along the river, and then took the DOT back to our B&B.

Dinner that evening was at 700 Drayton Restaurant, in the Keyton Mansion, very close to our B&B. The food was delicious, and the setting quite unique, with a wild animal theme – e.g., pictures of leopards, a huge antlered animal head over a fireplace, animal-skin-print rugs and furniture coverings. My husband tried the tasting menu, which had four courses (including a delicious fillet mignon) and wine with each course, for $65.

The next morning we left Savannah to drive to Charleston. On the way (actually it’s in the opposite direction) we stopped at the Bonaventure Cemetery, which is 3-1/2 miles from Savannah city center; it was featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The cemetery is huge, and it helps to have a map. They were supposed to be available at the Administration Building, but we weren’t able to get into the building. Someone else gave us their map, so evidently they were able to get in. There is a computer outside the Admin Center for locating graves, but the print option didn’t work. You can probably get the information online. We visited the three most popular graves – Johnny Mercer, Conrad Aiken, and Little Gracie (Watson) – there are signs directing you to each of these – and saw many others along the way.

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