Savannah was part of the last New World Colony (under King George the Second) and this history is evident today. In fact, 22 of the 24 original town squares still grace this southern bell, providing a gathering place every two or three blocks for the townsfolk and visitors.
It was Easter weekend when my daughter and I pulled into Savannah and up to the Planters Inn. This 200-year-old boutique hotel on historic Reynolds Square would be our home for the next two days, and a launching pad for as many tours as we could take in dress heels.
Yes, I said heels, and I don’t recommend it for everyone. But we wanted to immerse ourselves in the style and grace of a bygone era. Besides, it took a whole day of shopping to find shoes for our pastel dresses and we weren’t about to leave them in the closet.
Savannah has more than 40 companies offering tours of its historic district – the largest of its kind in the country. Motorized trolleys wind their way along a perfect 2½ square mile grid of tree-lined streets and neatly manicured parks. Spanish moss hangs like lace from ancient oaks and 250 year old homes stand proudly as testaments to our nation’s resilience.
We took this all in as a nice little blister was starting to bubble on my big toe. We had already been on a walking expedition and two trolley tours of downtown, and seen both the Davenport and Juliette Gordon Low homes.
For anyone with a Girl Scout in the family, the Low home holds special prominence. It was the birthplace of the founder of Girl Scouting, Juliette Gordon Low. In fact, it was this tour that first brought my daughter to Georgia, as part of a trip with her scout troop from Oakland.
The Low house is said to be haunted, and that’s another story. Savannah is widely known as the most haunted city in America, with a Colonial Cemetery in the center of town and a historic hotel that once served as a hospital for both Yankee and Confederate troops.
Haunted tours go out daily – and nightly – several on foot and at least one using a hearse. Visitors hear tales of unearthed bodies, restless spirits and jilted lovers seeking revenge. And those are the friendly ghosts. We found ourselves picking up the pace, looking over our shoulders and avoiding anything that cast a shadow – including trees that had faces in their hollows.
Meanwhile, the Dogwoods were blooming and my own dogs were barking. We were getting plenty of compliments on our Easter outfits – but at what cost? We opted to get off our feet for a riverboat cruise.
The Savannah River may look lazy, but it never rests. Replica riverboats take throngs of tourists past paper mills and power plants and a small city of factories that line the banks. The Port of Savannah is a major U.S. Seaport, and the river is one of the reasons Savannah attracted early settlers – people of means with education and wealth.
They came to America in search of independence – and they built churches that still stand today as monuments to the religious freedom they sought to protect. The Reverend John Wesley established his Methodist Church in Savannah. More than two centuries later, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior gave his famous I have a dream speech here. And when the bells of a dozen denominations rang out on Easter morning – it was as if we’d walked through a time machine.
Families in their Sunday best held hands as they strolled through town. Church steps were adorned with white hyacinths and trumpeting lilies. Yes ma’am and y’all spilled sweetly off the tongues of young servicemen as they held doors open for the people behind them. And my daughter and I soaked up the scene – sporting our Easter finery and feeling every bit the way women must have felt in the early days of Savannah’s history. Yes, we had blisters – but at least we didn’t have to wear corsets.
If you go:
Savannah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.visitsavannah.com