Savannah is amazing with the town squares and the hanging moss and the French Colonial houses. It’s brutally romantic.
Our stop in Savannah was meant to be a rest stop between our stops in Orlando and Washington, D.C. Within minutes of arriving however, it quickly became one of our favourite stops and one of the places on our list, that we will be sure to return to.
Living the Savannah Life
The very first thing that opened our eyes to the joys of Savannah was the little row-house that was to be our home for the week. It wasn’t huge, but what it lacked in size it more than made up for in history and charm. The little section that we were staying in was part of a series of six two-story townhouses. Upon investigation, we discovered that the whole series of houses had been built in 1854. It was small and a little draft-y but very comfortable. There was one main room as you entered, a dining room and a tiny little kitchen on the main floor. The Dining room had the interesting quirk of having a closet right next to the table, which turned out to be a washroom. The kids had lots of fun announcing they had to use the washroom during our meals and popping “into the closet”. It was certainly an interesting place to have a washroom though there actually weren’t too many other places to fit another bathroom in the place. Up the narrow stairs, there was another larger bathroom and two rooms. The room the kids were in had two beds and a fireplace. Both rooms had very comfy beds. There was also a nice backyard but we didn’t spend too much time back there as it was a little chilly the days we were there. The only downside to our little historical hideaway was that we were also telling the kids to be careful so as to not break anything. But the kids were really good and we didn’t have any issues. What was really nice was that our rental was right near everything. Savannah is not a huge city and it was very walkable, which was another reason why we loved Savannah so much.
Walking Old Savannah
From our house, we could walk the old cobblestone sidewalks past the elderly, grand homes from one side of the city to the other. Most of the homes in Savannah were from the 1880s and had been kept up beautifully. We spent a lot of time slowly strolling under the moss covered trees looking at the venerable, old houses lining the tranquil squares that made up each of the little neighborhoods within Savannah. Savannah was surprisingly calm with very little traffic anywhere. We didn’t know if that was just because it was December, far outside the tourist season but we never had to worry about crowds or speeding cars. It was a very nice break from the busyness of Orlando. As we walked, we would stumble upon another square with play equipment or a gazebo and the kids would run around for a while. Forsyth Park was also a nice stop. It is a much larger park with a famous and popular fountain. We knew that it was very popular and famous as
Books, Food and Free Candy
Without realizing it, we were visiting the city that was the home of the song “Jingle Bells”! Jingle Bells had been written in Savannah and to celebrate, each year they have the annual Jingle Bell Hop. This celebration happens in the City Market area and, after school one morning, we traipsed down to the city market to take part. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to take in most of the activities. However, the kids got to meet Santa (probably the last time we will get to do that!) and make a couple of little ornaments. I don’t how we will get them home! At the City Market and along the nearby waterfront, we also discovered that there are lots of stores that have free samples! Savannah specializes in lots of different kinds of treats and we spent a happy couple of hours sampling cookies, nuts, fudge, and other treats. Two of our favorite places were the Savannah Bee Company and Byrd’s Famous Cookies. At the Savannah Bee Company, you could find many honey related items. As my friend likes to say, “Bees can do lots of amazing things humans can’t” and that was very much in evidence here at the Savannah Bee Company. Not only could you sample at least 10 different types of pure honey, but you could also sample honeycomb and honey coffee (which was very good). They also had a little play area for the kids, which was awesome as it allowed Mom and Dad to sample lots of nummy things. Byrd’s famous Cookies was a favorite for the kids. You could go in and sample a wide diversity of
Each Sunday, they have a Gospel Brunch. Sitting at your table, you get to hear some amazing singers singing beautiful gospel songs right in front of you. Two singers, male and female, took turns singing gospel songs to the room. It was a new experience for the kids but we all enjoyed the wonderful singing. The food was very filling as well. We ordered the pancakes for the kids to share and it was a good thing we did as the shared portions looked like meals just by themselves!
The other restaurant we went to, while in Savannah, was by far our favorite! Mrs. Wilke’s Dining Room is quite well known and rightly so. You often have to line up outside to get in but it is well worth the wait. Upon entering, you are seated together with other groups in one large happy family. There is no menu. All the food is laid out for you upon sitting down and you can dig right in. And there is lots to choose from. I think Deanne counted at least 22 dishes of food. There were plates of delicious fried chicken, two types of mash potatoes, collard greens, broccoli, at least 3 or 4 dishes of various beans, coleslaw, and so much other food I can’t remember what all was on that table. We were very full as we wobbled and rolled our way home. Fortunately, there was a delightful bookstore on our way which we stopped in at. It was so marvellous that we ended up returning there later on in the week. As with many independent bookstores that keep you wanting to return over and over, this little bookstore had lots of quaint little rooms filled with a diverse collection of titles and comfy chairs to relax in. The kids loved the little room with an old typewriter you could actually use to type messages on. They also loved petting the very patient cats that roamed the bookstore. We discovered as we talked to the owners that the bookstore actually had a maritime connection. One of the owners was descended from Acadians who had been forced out of Nova Scotia and had a son who was going to one of the Universities in Halifax. We had a very nice chat with her about our shared love of the Maritimes. On our way out of the bookstore, the whole family agreed that the world needed more bookstores like this one.
History, History and More History
Savannah has lots of history oozing out of it. Visiting the two cannons gifted by Washington used to win the Battle of Yorkton, reminded us once again of all the history surrounding us. This is not something we get in our hometown. On two of our days in Savannah we explored three museums that came as a package. The first stop was to the new Art Gallery which had a great gallery of Impressionist paintings. There was also a fun kids area which the kids spent quite a bit of time in. Siena loved the art room, where kids could go to create any type of art they wanted. Any tool you wanted, they had and Siena spent quite a few happy moments experimenting with all sorts of colours and paper. The kids were relieved that the Art Gallery was not very big. From there we headed over to one of the historic houses that used to house the Art collection. This museum combined art pieces with a description and exhibit on the former history of the house showing rooms made up to look like how people would have lived in the 1800s. Another example of this was the final museum we toured which showed how the Owens-Thomas families and their enslaved workers lived. We all got a good glimpse as to the lifestyle of families in the 1800s. There were lots of other houses in Savannah you could tour but, as the kids quickly get tired of looking at old homes, we kept our tours to a minimum and instead headed out to Charleston to explore the history in that area.
Charleston shares a lot of similarities to Savannah but is much bigger in all areas. The city is larger, busier and a more popular destination. The houses are also much bigger and Deanne and I marveled at the mansions along the oceanfront. We heard a tour guide mention that one of the houses, which was for sale, was selling for over six million! They were certainly beautiful houses with carriages houses bigger than our own house. One of the things that we were often reminded of was that many of these beautiful old houses, both in Charleston and Savannah, were built on the backs of the enslaved people. This beauty came at a cost and, to their credit, no one we talked to shied away from this history. On that note, one of our stops in Charleston was to a former slave market. This site had a great exhibit on the slave trade and lots of information that engaged the kids in the history of the area. One of the things that we discovered was that no one used the word “slave” anymore. Instead, the correct term was “enslaved persons”. The exhibits explained,
“By changing from the use of a name – slaves – to an adjective – enslaved– we grant these individuals
As we had never thought of this time in history that way, it was a powerful lesson for all of us.
It was a wonderful week in Savannah full of relaxation, exploration, history and good food. Everywhere we went, people greeted us kindly, whether it was a simple Good Morning/Afternoon on the street or longer conversations with people we met at church or the bookstore. We were entranced with the living history surrounding us wherever we went and the charms of discovering something new around every street corner. We are already talking about returning very soon and look forward to discovering more about this sleepy city along the river.