Friday, March 9, 2018

USA Part 3B: The Deep South

When I first started to plan what to do post-wedding with my newly minted in-laws, my first inclination was to go to Cuba since I knew exactly how far away it'd be (not much, 90 miles).  But that quickly got put into the too hard basket (delightful Aussie phrase) so I decided to look somewhere easier, closer and domestic.  Somewhere I'd never been before!

See: South, Deep
I came across two cities well loved by tourists, within easy driving distance of Florida and an even easier driving distance of each other: Savannah, Georgia & Charleston, South Carolina. 

Similar yet unique, these cities are chock full of southern charm, history and didn't require one word of Espanol.

Savannah, GA

In preparation for my visit I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It's set in Savannah in the 1980's and is a delightful romp around what makes Savannah, Savannah (except for the whole murder thing).  So of course Priority #1 for my trip was to scope out the house where the events of the book take place.

Mercer-Williams House

I'm going to admit right off the bat that I preferred Savannah to Charleston - but - I did spend more time there, so I don't think it's a fair comparison.  Accommodation in Savannah was so much cheaper than Charleston, so in addition to more time we had the added benefits of staying right near the action and walking everywhere.  Which is perfect, because walking around this pretty, leafy city is the ultimate thing to do there, especially with 22 historic and picturesque squares lining the city.

Arguably the most famous square is renowned not because it is particularly big or beautiful, but because Forrest Gump's bench was there!

Chippewa Square

Key word: was.  Or more accurately, never really was.

The bench (and platform it sat on) was merely a movie prop and was never really there.  The bench itself is now in a museum (which I did not see) but I did stand in about the spot where the bench was for a picture.

Though Mr. Hanks stole all the thunder, there are squares that are bigger and more picturesque, namely:

Forsyth Park

This being the deep south there are a lot of statues celebrating Confederate soldiers from the Civil War.  That's a hot button issue these days so prepare yourself for the commemoration of some not-so-great human beings everywhere you look.

On the topic of the Civil War, we learned that Savannah was spared from total destruction unlike unluckier other cities.  There seems to be some differing opinion on why this fair city was spared, but I - and the Savannah tourist board - are certainly glad the beauty and charm of the city wasn't destroyed.

City Market

This is a major touristy area and we didn't really spend any time there so I don't know exactly what - or who - was sold at this market.  I can about imagine.

After a day and a half in the city we got back into the car to explore the surrounds of Savannah, which are worth the trip if you've got the time and wheels to get there.

Tybee Island

A tourist destination in its own right, Tybee Island is a mere half hour drive from Savannah and is the place to be in summer for a beach holiday.

This being mid-November the water was devoid of swimmers, but there were plenty of people hanging around and fishing off the boardwalk.

Also on Tybee we stopped at a farm where you can buy some food to feed the alligators:

I was disappointed to learn that the food came in dry pellets, more like house pet food than what you'd think gators eat.  I think they felt the same way, as only one was interested in what I was offering.  A feeding frenzy this was not!

Another stop one must make on the way is the most famous cemetery in the state.  Half way between Savannah and Tybee is:

Bonaventure Cemetery

It's strange that an active cemetery is a tourist destination, isn't it?  Two things make this cemetery interesting:

1. It was one of the settings in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

2. It's haunted

Well, one of the graves is, at least.

Little Gracie was only 6 when she sadly died in 1889 but has carried on her legacy by haunting the place for nearly 130 years.  I can't say I normally believe in such things, but I can confirm that the haunting rumors are not without their merits.  That little chick gives off a weird vibe.

Another famous girl from this cemetery, the "bird girl" statue that was on the cover of the book/movie poster is no longer there.

Like Forrest's bench it, too, has been moved into a museum for safe keeping.  Which I did not get to see.  Boo.

After two and a half days in Savannah it was time to move along.  I think Savannah could be comfortably done in a weekend, preferably a long weekend, as it would've been nice to have an extra day in the city.  But there's no time to spare on a whirlwind tour of the deep south!  Onto:

Charleston, SC

As far as I can tell there's one thing that every single visitor to Charleston does.

Look at the arse of a horse!  As it pulls you in a carriage, that is.

It was super interesting to see how the carriages fit into the streets of the modern world.  There's a limit to how many carriages can be in operation, and of course animal welfare is closely watched.

This is our trusty steed, Larry.  He was formerly an Amish work horse in Indiana or some such place, and this is his cushy retirement job.  Previously he worked from sun up to sundown 6 days per week but now works a few 4-hour shifts per week.  Larry is living the equine dream!  Except for that fact that his temperature is taken rectally after every trip.  Maybe Larry's kinky like that, and really is living his best life.

Where in Charleston your carriage tour will take you is entirely up to chance.  When departing a central location, each carriage stops at the "toll booth" that uses a contraption normally used for spitting out Bingo balls, which dictates exactly where they can go.

So traffic congestion is avoided.  I thought this system was exceedingly nifty!  Along the route the carriage driver has to pull over every time a car approaches, since they can get a fine for not getting out of the way of regular traffic.

The most interesting thing of all are these little rubber flag thingies:

Carriage drivers drop one on the ground whenever their horse drops a load (liquid or solid) on the street, and the "equine sanitation patrol" comes and cleans it up!  That is someones job!  Searching for then cleaning up horse excrement on the streets.

What a place!

In addition to the history of the city, we heard a lot from the tour guide about the architecture of the buildings, like how these studs are built through most big structures to help them survive earthquakes, which I had no idea Charleston was prone to:

My favorite thing (besides the poop flags, because you can't top that) is the superstition of painting a porch ceiling "haint" blue.

Somehow this color, which is distinctly different from the color of the sky, tricks evil spirits into thinking the blue roof is the sky, so they don't come into your house.  The results are really pretty, and I whole heartedly support this practice.

Hmm, this gives me some home decorating ideas...

Both Savannah and Charleston were lovely cities, and are great for short visits.  I recommend you hit them both in on fell swoop, which can comfortably be done in a week.

Everything we saw and did in these two cities was enjoyable, but I must admit nothing could hold a candle to what we ate!  I hadn't realized until just this minute that I'm in the habit of doing separate food post (for example Bali and Germany) on top of the who/what/when/where/why post.  I will definitely continue the tradition for this USA trip, as I've got 5 states, 1 province and 1 District of Columbia of deliciousness to cover!

No comments:

Post a Comment