Journey to the Center of Savannah

My big sister, Alicia, announced several months ago that after 13 years of unwedded bliss, she and her man, Gary, were finally going to tie the knot. She had a few stipulations about a wedding: she didn’t want anything extravagant, she only wanted a few folks in attendance, and she wanted to get married in the South, being that she’s a Texas gal. (I am a Texas gal, too, but I didn’t get to live there nearly as long as she did.) I helped her do some research, and the field of location contestants was narrowed to Jefferson, Texas, Savannah, Georgia, or New Orleans. After lots of emails and phone calls and Googling, she decided on Savannah. Four out of the five in our group had never been, and we were all looking forward to it.

Last Thursday, I was sitting in my driveway in the dark, at 4:30 a.m., waiting for the gang to pick me up. I was determined to save myself fifty bucks, so I managed to pack four days worth of crap (including a pair of gold cowboy boots) into a carry-on bag. Yes, it’s true. I never thought it could be done, but I did it! They rolled up right on time, and I loaded up my (one!) bag into the car, and off we went. (Only my sister would book a 6 a.m. flight, by the way.) We checked in without incident, and it was still dark. We flew to DFW and it was still dark. Only when we were boarding our second flight did the sun finally decide to make an appearance. I’m amazed that I noticed this, being that I was still half-asleep.

We arrived in Savannah just before lunch time. I have to admit, I wasn’t impressed at first, although the airport was the cutest I’d ever seen. The outskirts of the city near an airport are never the nicest parts of town, I suppose. We rode in the taxi for several miles, and then….we entered downtown historic Savannah. It nearly took my breath away; it was so beautiful! Quaint, historic, classic, lush, green, OLD…any positive adjective that you can think of applies to this city.

The historic district is three square miles of well, history. Every other block or so, there is a park-like square, and each one is different. All of them have something in the center, whether it’s a fountain, or a monument to some ancient Savannahian. And each square is filled to bursting with huge ancient trees dripping with Spanish moss. I won’t pretend to know what kind of trees they are, by the way. (I guarantee my sister does.)

We pulled up onto Gordon Street, next to Chatham Square. Being entirely too exposed to Eureka Springs in my life, I was expecting a rambling Victorian house. To my surprise, I was greeted by a row of townhouses, each with a black wrought-iron railing. It was like New York or Chicago, yet much older. We walked in, and the first thing I noticed was that it smelled EXACTLY like my grandparent’s house in Dallas. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it made it more familiar and homey. We were instructed on how to fill out our breakfast request cards, and told that tea is served every afternoon at four. And on Friday and Saturday nights, there is wine and cheese hour. You all know how much I love wine!

I was rooming with my future brother-in-law’s sister, whom I had never met before, but turned out to be very nice, although significantly older than me. We were to stay in the Oglethorpe room, which was located on the street level, behind a gate, and down a long hallway. The room held two queen-sized beds, which were probably as old as Georgia, and a very small television set. We got all checked in, and then went in search of food.

Gamely gripping our map, like every other person on the block, we headed off to find Bull Street, which is the main street in the historic district. We found a British pub and had some yummy sandwiches. Much to my delight, I was also able to sneakily plug in my camera charger, since I somehow arrived in this beautiful city with a dead camera battery.

We wandered around after lunch and did some exploring. We soon found out that scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed there, namely the famous scenes where Forrest is sitting on the bus stop bench. We found Chippewa Square and wandered all over looking behind the sleeping homeless people to find the bench. (A passenger on the flight next to me told me there was a plaque on it.) Gary wandered over to a man who was making palmetto roses. Five dollars later, he returned with two woven flowers and the information that the bench was not there, but the spot was right outside the square. So of course I took a picture next to the location. Thanks to my sis for risking her life by standing in the street to take the picture.

After a trip to the courthouse to apply for a marriage license, we wandered back to the room to hang out and revive a bit after our long day. We went over to the lobby to search through the provided menus of local restaurants to find a dinner place. I was in the mood for Italian, and was thrilled when I discovered not only a 10% coupon for an Italian restaurant, but it offered “free limo pick-up in the historic district.” Gary made the call, and we waited for the limo. As we were sitting there, I thought it was too good to be true, and said, “You know this is going to be a 1985 model, right?” I was wrong. It was an ’89. It was old, it was gray, and the license plate read “TheDon1.” Classic. Our driver was a delightful young man named Peter, and he filled us in on all the things we needed to do and see. And dinner was awesome, by the way. (Corleone’s, if you’re ever in Savannah.)

So our first night in Savannah was a success. We turned in early, expecting a busy wedding day ahead. But here’s the thing: I never sleep well in hotels, namely because I have to have a fan that makes an obscene amount of noise. And the people above us made a horrible racket, just by walking on the 200-year-old, squeaky-as-hell floors. I lay awake most of the night, but I was on vacation, so it was all good. Next stop, wedding bells!

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