Tuesday, April 4, 2000

April 4 - 7, 2000: Savannah, Georgia

 Day 1: The Drive Down 

4:00 AM: Up Early and Out the Door

I stumbled out of bed at 4:00 this morning and staggered into the shower. I stood there for a couple of minutes in groggy confusion, clinging to my bar of Irish Spring as if to dear life, wondering:

  • What the heck am I doing up so early?
  • What's so great about Savannah anyway?
  • Why am I still dry?

After a minute I realized what was wrong and turned on the water; I immediately let out a blood-curdling scream—it takes a while for the hot water to make it from the water heater in the basement to the shower in my upstairs bathroom.

Okay, I made all that up: I was so excited about the impending trip that I woke up a little after 3:00 and couldn't get back to sleep. I got up, had some coffee, watched a little TV, and went upstairs to get ready around 4:00. By 4:45 Molly, Anna, and I were in my car and heading for the airport—Anna's sister Molly (Hi, Molly!) was visiting from Connecticut for a few days, and our first task for the day was to get her to the airport in time for her 6:27 AM U.S. Airways flight.

We made it to the airport in good time, but, sadly, I was off in search of coffee when Molly boarded, so I didn't get to say a proper goodbye. So...

Bye, Molly! It was really nice to meet you!

Anna and Molly right before Molly's departure

Molly boarding the plane

6:30 AM: Out of the Airport and Heading For Savannah!

We left the airport at about 6:30 and were on the road before 7:00, but we hit a huge and very frustrating traffic snarl at 7:07 (I know because I looked at the clock). There was apparently an overturned tractor-trailer or something of the sort; it delayed us by about forty minutes, finally ending when a nice policeman in an orange rain slicker with a flashlight to match guided the approximately one million cars that were backed up on I-75 into one lane, through a maze of orange cones, past the accident, and back into the nearly traffic-free expressway beyond.

As we traveled, we listened to the unabridged audio book of the second Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Annie was dozing off quite a bit, though, and I wasn't really paying attention that closely, so we're now a third of the way through it and have no idea what's going on.

We stopped for breakfast at a McDonalds in Dublin, Georgia; for just a second I got excited, thinking somehow we had crossed over into Ireland, but as soon as the woman behind the counter asked in a thick Southern drawl, “Kin I hep yew?” I realized we had not.

12:00 PM: In Savannah!

We made it to Savannah proper around noon, after several stops along the way, including a rather disappointing stop at a rest area—no little chocolate donuts! Since the check-in time at the Fairfield Inn wasn't until 3:00, we went to the Savannah Visitor's Center. After spending about a hundred years looking for a parking space (you probably think I'm exaggerating. I'm not.), we went in and went through the museum and watched the 18 minute history of Savannah movie (narrated by the statue of James Oglethrope).

Next we dined at the Whistle Stop Cafe where, conventional southern wisdom to the contrary, we decided against the fried green tomatoes.

Finally, at just a little after 3:00, exhausted, well-fed, and even a little bit educated (see previous comments about 18 minute movie narrated by statue), we checked into the Fairfield Inn on Lee Boulevard. After unpacking and checking the room for hidden cameras, we took a much needed nap.

One of the many interesting things in the Savannah Visitor's Center Museum

Room 250 of the Savannah Fairfield Inn

6:40 PM: River Street

After a couple of hours rest in the hotel, we ventured back out again, this time ending up on River Street, right by the beautiful Savannah River.

We walked along the river for exactly 49 minutes (there were 11 minues left on the parking meter when we got back to the car), seeing all sorts of cool things. Just as we walked by it, one of the river boats was taking off for a two hour dinner cruise. Had we gotten there a bit earlier we probably would have joined them; I know they had room, because I could tell that the table by Mr. and Mrs. Howell was available.

After leaving River Street, we went to the Wal Mart on Abercorn to get a bathing suit for me in preparation for our Thursday trip to Tybee Island, then had an elegant repast at Arbys, and finally returned to the hotel room a little after 9:00, where I found myself too exhausted to come up with a better ending for this narrative than this.

Me, sitting by a fountain in front of the Savannah River

The S.S. Minnow, skippered by Jonas Grumby

Maybe this is the S.S. Minnow

 Day 2: The Historic District 

8:30 AM: Continental Breakfast

At about 8:30 we went down to the lobby to partake of the promised free Continental Breakfast that the Fairfield Inn provides between 6:00 and 9:00 AM. Now, I don't know exactly to which continent they refer, but that's the continent I want to live on--cream cheese danishes, English muffins with grape jelly, little-bitty boxes of Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, all the coffee you can drink, styrofoam plates and plastic utensils--that to me is breakfast heaven!

12:00 PM: Lunch at Telfair Square Cafe; the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences

After a short post-breakfast rest back in the hotel, we ventured out to the Historic District. Our first order of business was lunch, and since our second order of business was going to the Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, having lunch at Telfair Square Cafe seemed a logical choice. It was very good; I recommend it.

As I stood outside the Telfair Academy reading the sign detailing the history of the place, a small bird landed on the sign and looked at me, ruffling his feathers a couple of times and--perhaps I imagined this--chirping encouragingly. We had already decided that we were going to go in, but if we hadn't, this little bird's sales pitch would have convinced us. As the little bird--Anna thinks it might have been a brown thrasher, the state bird of Georgia (as a fourth grade teacher she has to know this kind of thing)--looked at me, he rotated his head and I saw that the poor little guy was missing his right eye! He seemed to be getting along just fine, though, so I'm trying not to worry about him.

This bird greeted us at the Telfair Academy

The current exhibit at the Telfair is called Robert Gwathmey, Master Painter. "Robert Gwathney's life and career are a testament to the concept that art can be a powerful force for social change," the exhibit booklet tells us. It's a very good exhibit; if you're in Savannah before May 28th, I recommend it. (I "borrowed" the image from the Telfair Web site--www.telfair.org.

The Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences

One of the works in the current Telfair exhibit

2:45 PM: Walking Around Town

After we left the Telfair, we walked around Savannah for a while, going in a few shops, getting ice cream, reading signs, visiting the squares. I was amazed at Anna's sense of direction; I get lost easily, but she seemed to always know where we were, even without the help of a map. ("We need to go down three blocks and then up two, and that's where your car is." How did she know that?)

Savannah is just filled with cool houses like these

4:00 PM: Colonial Park Cemetery

Our final stop before we left the Historic District was Colonial Park Cemetery, a cemetery and park with graves dating back as far as two centuries ago (and none more recent than 147 years ago--it was retired as an active cemetery in 1853). It's a neat place to walk around, but Savannah natives have a habit of bringing their dogs there and letting them run loose, playing with their masters and each other as only dogs can. It was kind of fun to watch the five or six that were there, but I was afraid that one of them would get the urge to dig, and before you know it there would be a Jack Russell terrier zipping by with Button Gwinnett's shin bone in his mouth.

The entrance to Colonial Park Cemetery

Me, leaning against a live oak inside Colonial Park Cemetery

We returned to the hotel room a little after 5:00, rested for a while, and ventured out for dinner. We couldn't get a table at the Pirate House tonight but we did get reservations for tomorrow night at 7:30; I think our dinner at IHOP tonight was plenty good though.

Tomorrow: Tybee Island!

 Day 3: Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski 

4:22 AM: Awakened by a Crazy Singing Bird

I woke up at 4:22 (I know because I looked at the clock) to go to the bathroom; outside our door, apparently right outside our door, there was a bird singing his little fine-feathered heart out. I couldn't get back to sleep because of the little bugger. I'm not sure what kind of bird it was; perhaps a brown thrasher, though not my one-eyed friend, I'm sure; he wouldn't do that to me. He sang randomly and tunelessly (though at one point I'm sure he broke into the theme to "The Andy Griffith Show"), which made it difficult to ignore, and impossible for me to get back to sleep. I dialed 411 and asked for Atticus Finch's number; I wanted to ask him if it was a sin to kill a brown thrasher. Unfortunately there was no such listing.

I put in some styrofoam ear plugs that I bought a couple of years ago when I stayed at a hotel right beside a major expressway and soon got back to sleep. I had troubling dreams, though, involving slingshots and BB guns.

A sunset over the Savannah River, taken a few hours before the crazy singing bird woke me up

8:45 AM: Breakfast, a Quick Trip to Books-A-Million, and then Off to Tybee

This morning, I'm very happy to report, the continental breakfast included Krispy Kreme donuts; I had two kruellers and two cups of coffee. We read as we ate. Anna finished her novel, and then discovered that the other book she brought was one she had heard as an audio book.

On our way out towards Tybee, then, we stopped at the only sizeable bookstore nearby, Books-A-Million, my least favorite of the large chain bookstores (and which Ed Hardy justifiedly calls Books-A-Dozen due to their poor selection). Anna managed to find a couple of books to keep herself occupied, though, and then we set out for Tybee!

We parked at Tybee at exactly 11:22 (I know because I looked at my watch) and fed 4 hours worth of quarters into the parking meter. (Which could be the basis of a good math problem for Anna's students: If it costs 25 cents to park for 30 minutes at the beach, how much will Chris spend to park for 4 hours? Show your work.)

Anna and I walked up the beach to the pier, walked down the pier and read the official posted Fish Cleaning Rules ("Do not throw fish guts or parts into ocean. Use trash cans." I swear, it says that.), and walked back down the beach. We spent the next two hours reading, collecting sea shells, watching sea gulls, and brushing sand off of our blanket. We left after it got unbearably windy; there were 45 minutes left on the meter.

Approaching the beach at Tybee

The pier on the beach at Tybee Island

A boy and his father feed the sea gulls

2:45 PM: Fort Pulaski

Our next stop was Fort Pulaski, a military fort that played a minor part in the Civil War; I think General Custer shot Benedict Arnold there or something. It's an interesting building to walk through, with its ammunition magazines and spartan army barracks and huge cannons. In the gift shop we bought a copy of the Declaration of Independence for Anna's classroom, but it turns out it was heavily edited: they cut out the whole "We the people, in order to form a more perfect Union" part, most of the "Four-score and seven years ago" section, and there's not word one about the rockets red glare or the bombs bursting in air. How are the kids today supposed to learn anything?

Two cannons in Fort Pulaski

7:30 PM: Dinner at the Pirate House

We ended the evening by absolutely stuffing ourselves at the Pirate House. The atmosphere was neat, the food was good, and the dessert was great; having eaten so much makes it difficult to sit here and finish this travelogue.

But I guess I just did!

Tomorrow's high point: buying cookies at the Byrd Cookie Company. After that, with much regret, we return home.

The pirate of the Pirate House

 Day 4: The Byrd Cookie Company, Forsyth Park, and Home 

7:30 AM: Up for Breakfast

We got up around 7:30 and went down to the lobby for breakfast. Because I was still a little full from the meal at the Pirate House, I only ate one donut, but I still managed to have three cups of coffee.

We went back to the room after breakfast and took a nap, then spent some time reading, cross stitching (Anna, not me), watching TV (Little House on the Prarie), and packing. We checked out of the room at 11:30 and went to lunch at KFC.

12:30 PM: The Byrd Cookie Company

Next we went to the Byrd Cookie Company (which was, coincidentally, only a couple of blocks down from the KFC on Waters Avenue) to get some of the oatmeal cookies that Audrey has told me more than once are the best to be found.

We spent a good 45 minutes walking around the Byrd Cookie Company, sampling various items and reading labels and trying to decide what to buy. The chocolate chip cookes were pretty good, the Confederate Cannon Balls were disgusting ("A zesty blend of onion, garlic and aged cheddar cheese"--yuck!), but the Scotch Oatmeal Cookies were unquestionably the best. They were out of boxes of them, so I bought seven bags.

These Scotch Oatmeal cookies are every bit as good as Audrey said

2:30 PM: Forsyth Park

Before leaving Savannah, I wanted to go to Forstyh Park, which we had driven by several times but hadn't stopped at; I also had not seen it on my first visit to Savannah in May of 1999.

We walked through the park for nearly an hour, looking at the statues and fountains, watching kids playing, stopping for a minute to play with a SCAD student's pet ferret, taking pictures of the houses along Whitaker and Drayton.

Anna in front of one of the fountains in Forsyth Park

This ferret was terribly cute, and very friendly

A couple of the beautiful houses along Whitaker

3:22 PM: Heading Home

We left Forsyth Park and began the 290 mile drive home at exactly 3:22 (I know because...well, you know by now). We got back to my house around 8:15; I don't know exactly what time because I was too tired to look at my watch.

I think I speak for both of us when I say we were a little sad that our vacation was over, but glad to be back home.

The End

(I originally published this travelogue on my Web site on the dates shown above, and transferred it to our family blog on October 14, 2017.)

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