The squares of Savannah GA

10 Mar

P1160706Savannah City Hall

Crossing the State line from Florida into Georgia our first few nights we spent near St Mary’s at Crooked River State Park.

We called into the old town of Saint Mary’s and spent an interesting hour in the National Park Museum where Mr Border a volunteer gave us a personal guided tour and lecture. His knowledge of Cumberland Island ( a ferry boat from Saint Mary’s will take you there) its history and the people who lived there was extensive.  On discovering we were English he was delighted to be able to link in all the historical facts about the British/American skirmishes here about.

Crooked River State Park has a pleasant campground plenty of places to walk and get in a little cycle practice, our only issue was with the bugs, no seeums, except you could – as they were black and bit quite viciously. Unusually it was Robert who suffered more than I did, plenty of repellent followed by lots of soothing gel, we soon learned not to go out uncovered and at particular times of day.

Spring is just around the corner here, we have been noticing the white blossoms on the trees, leaves breaking bud and everything covered in yellow pollen from the pine trees!

The wildlife highlight of our visit was when we spotted some wild pigs. A notice in the park office had alerted us to their being pigs around, we had thought we had seen evidence of their presence on one of our walks, scrapings in the soft earth which you could easily believe had been made by a snout. Then around dusk I looked out of our front window and initially thought it was a small deer but quickly realised it was a pig and grabbed the camera, sadly no picture as it was too dark. Minutes later four smaller pigs (we think it could have been Momma and babies) appeared from the bushes a little to our left. They did not hang around for long obviously tidy campers had not left any titbits.

On Tuesday we drove 100 miles further along the Georgia coast to Skidaway Island State Park. The place names on this coast conjure up wonderful images, and looking at the map you would never realise how commercial and populated they are. Thankfully the State Park system ensures that small pockets remain without being spoiled.

Our main reason for coming to Skidaway was to visit nearby Savannah, a fifteen mile drive from the campground. We were able to park in the large parking area adjacent to the visitor centre and museum (first hour free then $1 per hour – good value we thought). There are many tours available to the visitor but as usual we opted for the shoe leather tour so with plan in hand, helpfully marked with the best areas to walk by the (English) lady in the visitor centre we set off.

Savannah is unusual in that the normal grid plan that most American towns and cities are laid out to is intersected by squares, beautiful green oasis amongst the old historical buildings.

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Each square had its own feel and identity. The history of Savannah stretches from the earliest settlers through the battles with the Spanish French and British to the Civil war and modern times. The buildings reflect many of these era and have been carefully restored and maintained. We were impressed by the fact that there was such a huge area of historic properties.

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The squares also contain many historical markers, quite a few relating to the battles of the Civil war and the soldiers from each side who fought and died nearby. One marker relayed the fact that the writer of the Christmas song Jingle Bells was formerly a director of music at one of the churches and husband to the daughter of a local mayor. Reynolds Square is  dedicated to John Wesley the founder of Methodism, a statue of him stands at its centre. Wesley lived and preached locally during his time in America. Reading the information as we walked was like wandering through a museum but you very soon began to realise it would take more than one day to fully appreciate the history of this place.

Our map had been marked with a couple of places to eat and one was the Gryphon Cafe near Madison Square, we thought a coffee was in order as it was around 11am!

The interior was an interesting mix, with modern pictures and old wood panelled  walls, complete with gryphons supporting coloured glass wall lights. The glass ceiling was perhaps the most spectacular however.

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    and the coffee was good too!

   

After coffee we continued to make our way through the streets where history was literally on every corner, along with so many attractive buildings. There were small stores, museums for historic property, antique and gift shops but they sat quietly, not spoiling the surroundings.

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In Forsyth Park at the southern end of the old town, pink blossom hung from trees and shrubs, the beds surrounding the ornate water feature contained azalea just starting to open buds, in a week or so a transformation will take place as these flowers bloom painting the park and various squares with their flamboyant colours.

 

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Eventually we arrived at the Savannah River, old cotton warehouse buildings now the homes to restaurants and stores for the tourist trade, where the city gets a lot of its income. The river however still brings its share of business not just from the tour boats. Large vessels travel up stream to load and unload, further south near Brunswick  we had passed a huge area full of cars awaiting transportation via the waterways. Close by the river are the gold domed city hall and the customs house.

We made our way back to Ellis Square, a modern revival of an old area, totally different in character from the live oak shaded ancient squares this one is concrete and water features. Young people were enjoying a game of chicken with the water fountains and I wondered what visitors of the future would make of this legacy. Right next to Ellis Square is the City Market, again an area with stores for the tourist in town.

Of all the cities and old towns we have visited Savannah has to be a favourite. It had a lovely feel to it, so much of interest and we only touched a small part of it. We might have returned for another day if heavy rain had not arrived over night, next morning was grey and showery, we stayed indoors until after lunch. As the sky brightened we walked to the park interpretive centre hoping to be able to walk on after and stretch our legs. The Ranger seemed pleased to see us and introduced us to their star,

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A replica of a pre historic sloth, the real bones were found nearby in what is now the intrecoastal waterway along with those of his relatives and close companions. He stands around 15 feet tall.

The centre had a group of live exhibits alongside the dinosaur bones. Several snakes and some hissing cockroach were introduced to us. The ranger decided to give a large king snake a bit of tlc picking him out of the tank. While he was telling us how the snake – called Elvis – loved to coil into knots and was very fond of people, Elvis decided to take a trip of his own, poking his head and a good portion of his body inside the rangers shirt with a degree of determination to explore further. The ranger swiftly removed him!

The nature trail begins behind the interpretive centre and joins a further trail leading to the side of the river, here we joined a third trail to take us back to the old ferry road and complete a circuit back to the campground. We had walked the old ferry road trail on our first afternoon at Skidaway State Park, when the sun was shining a little more. Earthworks from the Civil War make up part of this route and off a side loop the remains an old Moonshine still are scattered just off the path.

The ‘woodland’ is a mixture of pine, palmetto, palm and live oak, all heavily draped in Spanish moss

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You have to be careful as the Spanish Moss quickly covers everything!

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2 Responses to “The squares of Savannah GA”

  1. Gloria March 21, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Like the hair Robert
    Can you bring some back for Colin

    • elainethehill March 23, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

      Apparently if you put it in your shoes (Spanish moss) it cures high blood pressure too!

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