When I imagined Savannah, I pictured beautiful old homes, charming southern belles, and lots of Paula Deen-style fried food. What I found wasn’t too far off.
We arrived in Savannah just before lunch, ditched the car at our hotel (the AVIA, which I highly recommend), and grabbed a delicious (and not fried) bite to eat at Moon River Brewing Company. After lunch, it was only a quick walk to where we were meeting our walking tour – Savannah is very compact and easy to navigate. It’s also a really lovely place to walk around, as there are beautifully landscaped squares almost every other block.
Naturally, I’m a walking tour advocate. I work for a tour company that does mostly walking tours, and I think that walking is truly one of the best ways to see a city. Savannah is definitely one of those cities in which you want to do a walking tour. There are a number of trolley tours available, but unless you have a physical limitation preventing you from walking for a couple hours, I highly recommend you avoid the trolleys and hit up a walking tour.
We found Michelle of Savannah Belle Walking Tours waiting for us by a statue of John Wesley in Reynolds Square, and almost immediately, we could tell this was going to be a great tour. Michelle loves Savannah, and has spent a large part of her life in and around the city. She didn’t hesitate to add personal stories and anecdotes into the tour narrative, which is the exact reason why I love doing tours with locals. Our experience was enhanced by hearing tales of when she inadvertently insulted Jimmy Carter’s wife’s jello mould at a church event – you just don’t hear this kind of thing on a trolley!
As we meandered through Savannah, we were amazed to learn just how historical the city is. Not having taken American History in high school, my knowledge of the Civil War and American Revolution is pretty basic, and I had no idea how Savannah factored into much of it. For history buffs, this is a great place to visit.
You can’t help but admire the modest beauty and charm of Savannah. As I mentioned, the squares are enchanting, with Spanish moss, manicured lawns, wild growths of flowers, bold statues, and pleasing fountains. As we were there a few days before St. Patrick’s Day (which is a massive deal in Savannah – second largest parade in the US), the fountains were spouting green water.
The architecture is like nothing we have in Canada, and is exactly what you’d expect to see in Georgia. The homes are beautiful. Some are more imposing than others, but they all exude a sense of pride. You can tell that Savannahians love their city and their buildings, and they take great care in preservation and restoration, as well as sharing their pride with visitors. Many of the most historic homes are open to visitors, and we dined at The Olde Pink House, one of Savannah’s oldest and most famous homes.
By coincidence, we were in town the day after the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America, which happened right there in Savannah. Needless to say the first meeting house of the Girl Scouts and the childhood home of its founder, Juliette Gordon Low, were popular attractions that week, with thousands of Girl Scouts in town for the celebrations. Completely unplanned, we ended up buying a box of Girl Scout cookies from a girl selling them outside Juliette Gordon Low House, which I loved.
Perhaps my favourite, albeit random, thing about Savannah was the ironwork that was everywhere. From fences to gates, waterspouts to footscrapers, iron was all over the city, and much of it is very valuable. It’s a little quirk that Michelle introduced us to as we walked, and once I was on the lookout, I couldn’t stop finding beautiful instances of ornamental ironworks.
Savannah is exactly what you expect it to be, but with a few fun surprises along the way. If you venture down into the Southern US, be sure not to miss Savannah. A walking tour of Savannah is a really good idea – you’ll get a lot out of it, and for $15, you can’t beat a couple hours with Michelle of Savannah Belle. She set us up with fantastic post-tour recommendations, and really gave us a good feel for life in Savannah.