Wednesday, 13 December 2006, Miami Everglades Campground, FL
We only stayed 2 nights in Georgia and have already been in Florida for almost a week, so it's really past time to catch up on what we actually did and saw in Georgia, and what we thought about it. We arrived in Savannah on Tuesday afternoon after stopping in the small town of Port Royal for coffee and some internet access on our way out of South Carolina. On our arrival we went directly to the Visitor Centre and were very disappointed by the service there. There seem to be two types of information centres - those where getting information is like pulling teeth and those where the people can't be helpful enough in sharing information about their town. This was one of the former types. But we collected what information we could and then, following the directions given by the woman at the counter, we took a rather tedious route out of town to Skidaway Island State Park to get a campsite. The campground was rather pleasant, but a little too shady for the weather. In summer it must be great, but with the rather cool conditions we were experiencing, we would have preferred to have something more open to the morning sun. But we paid for two nights and decided to at least spend the next day in the city.
We must admit that our first impression of the city was one of slight disappointment - it had such a build up in everything we had heard and read that we had quite high expectations. First we went back to the Visitors Centre to purchase a walking tour guide. It cost over $4 for a very badly photocopied booklet and a map you could scarcely read. We would have been happy to pay a $1, but we found this a bit excessive. However, it was a cheaper alternative to the trolley tours which were all around $20. The city also has a fare-free shuttle bus which does a ring route around the city and we had decided to use this to get between places. It seemed like a good plan, but didn't work very well for us because it never seemed to be going the direction that we wanted to go. So we ended up walking quite a bit, but I think we picked the best out of what the walking tour covered by the end of the day.
One of the main attractions in the city is the numerous shady, green and well-planned squares. Not only are they beautiful, but they provide a quiet spot to sit and relax, just as Forrest Gump did, in the movie, to eat his box of chocolates! So we walked a bit and sat a bit and walked a bit more. We saw some old buildings with interesting histories, but somehow weren't as wowed by them as we had been in Charleston. A lot of the history is tied up with the Civil War and, as we have mentioned before, it is not an area of history which is of great interest to either of us. The architecture is actually more interesting to us, and a lot of what we saw in Savannah didn't really appeal to us on that level either. The walking tour booklet often mentioned that a house "is considered to be an architectural treasure and one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL homes in America" or "displays some of the FINEST WROUGHT IRON IN SAVANNAH". We'd go looking for these "gems" and end up photographing a house that wasn't even mentioned in the guide!
When we returned to the campground on Wednesday we took a route that appeared (on the map) to be more direct than the one we had been sent on the day before. It was more direct but took us through parts of the inner suburbs of Savannah that the information centre probably didn't recommend to anyone! The area was obviously very poor and most of the shops and a lot of the houses were boarded up. There were a few, mostly black, people on the streets, but the area just gave of an air of poverty and depression. It also didn't feel like an area that you would want to spend any time in, and certainly not to break down in. We didn't feel threatened in any way, but it seemed like a place where people like us, who obviously have so much, should not be displaying it to people who have so little.
The next morning we went back into Savannah to look at Jones St, "one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL streets in the US". We had missed it on Wednesday because it was too far to walk and the shuttle was going in the opposite direction, so it would have meant riding almost the whole circle to get there from where we were. We decided to leave it and come back Thursday morning on our way out of the city. It was a nice street, but the highlight of that morning's return was the beautiful interior of what is now the "Gryphon Tea Room". It is on the ground floor of the Scottish Rite Temple - a very unusual building itself - and was part of the original Solomon's Drug store, which was the oldest operating drug store in the US. The food in the tea room all looked good and the cake we ate was excellent. Unfortunately the service in this establishment let us down a bit and spoiled an otherwise amazing place.
We did find some nice houses in Savannah, and you will find photos of them here, but overall we have to confess to not being anywhere near as impressed by this city as we were by Charleston. We left after spending only part of two days there and were happy to be heading south once again, as the weather was getting colder again. We drove right through southern Georgia, which mostly looked rather poor and dilapidated, that day and arrived in Florida. We don't want to write Georgia off completely because we didn't go anywhere away from the coast, but we were not really impressed by what we saw of it. It won't be remembered as one of our favourite places.