Savannah, GA has never been on my bucket list. I hold nothing against this charming southern city, but I never felt the urge to conquer it like the English during the Revolutionary War. But I had a three-day weekend and I wanted to escape Tampa Bay. I would be traveling by myself and I didn’t want to go broke enjoying myself. Savannah was within driving distance and I’ve never been there before.
After a quick sleepy night in Jacksonville, I landed on the outskirts of Historic Savannah within two hours.
To tour or not to tour? I enjoy tours because I learn more information than I’d ever find for myself (like factory and museum tours) but I’ve never taken a city tour. Would people point to me and laugh because I’d look like THAT tourist? To my surprise you can’t even cross Bull Street without running into a tour led by Trolleys, Segways, or walking period actors.
For 90 minutes, I was driven through Historic Savannah as part of Oglethorpe Tours’ blue fleet of trolleys. In her child-like voice, tour guide Debbie talked practically the entire time pointing out the history behind various homes, restaurant backgrounds, interesting architecture, and movie locations. (Hint—you’ll see more sights if you sit on the right side) We visited every corner of the Historic District. Cool looking restaurants? Vine-drapped stairs? I made mental notes of places I wanted to revisit later.
Instead of dropping us off where the tour started, Debbie released us into the tourist-bustling City Market: a hub of gift shops, so-so dineries, and small art galleries that doubles as the central hub for many tours. Nearby River Street is a similar tourist hub. As I sat at a bench in nearby Ellis Square I suddenly felt very alone. No more tour guides instructing me. My phone contained a jumbled bunch of recommendations from friends—but I only had two days to make sense of it all. As nearby children played in the fountains of the Square, suddenly a Salvation Army orchestra began entertaining park goers by playing different anthems. Suddenly I felt renewed with energy. I could do whatever I wanted! Me power! I took my map and I walked.
For the next few hours I lost myself in the Historic District using the public “Squares” as my anchor. These “Squares” are mini parks every few blocks with great shade for relaxing and often featuring a historic statue at the center. Historic Savannah is a very walk-and photograph friendly area. I don’t know how far the rules of privacy extend here, but I often ran into a group of photographers taking pictures of a house’s railing… or a window sill… or flowers on a lawn. Just so I wouldn’t feel left out I’d also cluelessly photograph those things as well. The beautiful and shady Jones Street (also supposedly the most haunted street in the city) seemed like a brick homeowner’s dream with the façade of every house becoming an inviting model.
In the daytime, the Colonial Cemetery is unlocked and free to passers-by. As I read a historic marker, a loud group of adults made a riot as they cut through the cemetery laughing with a beer in each hand. Luckily other visitors were more respectful as they spread out with their wide-angle lens. This cemetery isn’t as eerie as the elevated ones in New Orleans in that there’s more greenery here and the set up looks more random. Plus the eerie feeling was lost when I learned during the wars soldiers would set up base camp IN THE CEMETERY thus moving around a lot of the headstones as well as vandalizing them for fun.
For mass time my Catholic senses brought me to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Externally, it’s a grand building that doesn’t quite fit the rest of the historic district with its smooth, pearl walls. The inside was very typical of ornately decorated Catholic churches although several flat, painted borders made me wish those art were more three-dimensional instead. (I think the Basilica in nearby Jacksonville is better decorated) The mass itself calmed my stormy soul.
Eventually I entered the large Forsyth Park with its Parisian-styled fountain. This Savannah trademark has probably played a backdrop to more selfies and bridal photos than any other Savannah native. A young violinist serenaded me amidst the grunted yells from a dozen volleyball nets nearby. This large park has enough open fields, shaded benches, gardens and a small playground to provide something for everyone while also promoting breeding grounds for some strange people watching.
Despite the occasional wolf call and clutching my purse as I elbowed for space within the Saturday night crowds of River Street, I never felt the need to whip out my pepper spray and amend someone’s behavior. As a solo, lady tourist I enjoyed my Savannah weekend and felt like I had neatly scratched the whole surface while still feeling safe and with lipstick intact.