Savannah in Squares and Shadows

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Savannah

Most destinations give me a chance to fall in love with them on my own terms.

Savannah did not do that. Savannah insisted, demanded, and eventually took me by the hand and intoxicated me by force.

Did I protest?

I wouldn’t dream of it.

Savannah

Savannah, the famed small riverside city in Georgia, is charming, as many small cities are. Savannah is beautiful, and immaculately tended, and full of interesting places to explore.

Savannah is most famous for its squares — twenty-one in all, spaced neatly, each of them filled with oak trees gently swaying in the breeze. These squares are dedicated to important figures in Savannah’s history, plaques and signs filled with an extraordinary amount of historical detail.

Savannah

Savannah is relatively isolated, a factor that has built up a close-knit community whose ancestors have lived here for generations. Until fairly recently, Savannah wasn’t well connected in terms of transportation. Even nowadays, many people find it easier to fly to Charleston and make the two-hour trek down.

But in the end, it wasn’t the cute, pretty elements that won me over. What differentiates Savannah is the dark, macabre current running through the city. Violence, murder, slavery, ghosts. Some people consider Savannah to be the most haunted city in America, and the stories you hear will keep you awake at night.

Truth: I once let out a scream because I thought a traffic light was a ghost.

Savannah

I had allotted three nights in Savannah because I had the feeling I would love it. This was perfect for the road trip, but I easily could have stayed for weeks, the elements of the city swirling around me: bourbon, Spanish moss, long-dead ghosts, and layers of feuds and vendettas simmering underneath southern smiles.

I let myself be drawn in — but I wouldn’t trust anything Savannah said.

Savannah

So what did I do in Savannah?

I could tell you about how I ate at Mrs. Wilkes’ boarding house like everyone else, and how her fried chicken was the best I had in the South.

I could tell you about sitting on Forrest Gump’s no-longer-there bench.

Savannah

I could tell you about how I went on the Dead of Night ghost tour, one of the best tours I’ve ever been on with a guide who will entertain you deliciously.

I could tell you how the fountains were turning green for St. Patrick’s Day.

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But Savannah isn’t about the places you see, the things you do, the Paula Deen restaurants where you dine, the Paris-themed boutiques that you want to buy out. This city is all about the atmosphere, the beauty and charm and darkness woven together into a beguiling tapestry.

Believe me: Savannah is unlike any city I’ve ever seen, and it quickly nestled its way into my list of favorite cities both in the U.S. and the world.

My single biggest recommendation: read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, in which Savannah is the strongest character in the book — perhaps the best destination-as-character I’ve ever read — and you’ll have a better idea of what lurks beneath the surface of this haunted city.

That won’t get you all the way to Savannah…but it will get you to buy a planet ticket at the soonest opportunity possible.

Savannah

In other news, I want to buy a house in Savannah. This one would do.

Country Inn Savannah

Where I Stayed: Country Inn and Suites, Savannah Historic District

Out of six Country Inns I visited from Louisiana to South Carolina, the Country Inn Savannah Historic District was the best. It had the best location possible — like the other Country Inns I experienced, it was right off the highway, but it was also on the edge of the Historic District, just a 20-minute walk from the downtown area and a mere four-minute walk from Pulaski Square.

While most of the Country Inns are three-stars with far better service than you’d expect in a three-star, the Country Inn in Savannah felt far more like a four-star overall, from its ornamental lobby to the large, decorative rooms. And when you asked the employees how they were, every single one of them responded with a smile and, “I’m wonderful.”

Whether or not they’re directed to say that to their guests, I certainly felt wonderful throughout my stay and would absolutely stay there on my next visit to this dark city.

Rates start at $149; parking is an additional $12 per day.

The #SouthUSA campaign is brought to you by Country Inns and Suites by Carlson and Holiday Autos. All opinions, as always, are my own.Savannah, Georgia

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51 thoughts on “Savannah in Squares and Shadows”

  1. I love Savannah for exactly the reasons you described. Yes it’s a beautiful setting and the food is amazing but it’s the dark and sultry essence of Savannah past that envelopes you and makes you want to stay awhile…almost against your will. It’s everything I imagined the Old South to be and I felt as though I’d stepped into the pages of an old novel.

    I also did a late night haunted Savannah tour and we were driven in an old hearse through the dark streets and spooky cemeteries. I highly recommend it.

  2. I feel the same way about Savannah. It’s not a place where you tick off things on a must-do list – it’s a place where you wander and explore and immerse yourself in its atmosphere.

  3. I was in Savannah last fall to cheer on one of my friends who ran the marathon there, but I didn’t get a chance to explore much of the city itself – I can tell from your photos that I missed some good stuff! Would love to go back someday.

  4. Oh Savannah, so many good memories from this town! The most vivid memory is the spooky trees, with that foliage, resembles a very thick spider web.
    Sure the city could be romantic, besides all, I hope I could visit once again. For me one of the best cities that I visit in my trip to the east coast of North America!

  5. Savannah does look so full of character and charm. I agree, some places are not about places to see or things to do. The fact that it’s known to be haunted intrigues me even more about it. Yeah, buying a house there would be a great idea!

  6. I always read your posts and put them on the “someday” list when they’re halfway around the world, but your Savannah trip couldn’t have been timed better! I was trying to decide between a trip to Savannah and Charleston and you decided for me! I was there just last week and loved it for all the reasons you’ve said, plus the cemeteries! I loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, did you watch the movie too?

      1. We listened to the audio book of “Midnight” on our road trip to Savannah & it was just the thing to raise our anticipation level. Even if you’ve read the book (which I had), you will love having it read to you. Jeff Woodman is the narrator. Check it out!

  7. I visited Savannah for about 13 years in a row for St. Patrick’s Day and wish I’d seen more during all the time I spent there. It is a beautiful city. Next time I go I will plan to see more than the inside of a bar.

  8. This sounds wonderful, particularly love that it is all dark and eerie. Quite a contrast to Seaside, though I now want to visit them both equally!

  9. I’ve wanted to go to Savannah forever and this just makes me want to go ever more! Thanks for the book recommendation too- will have to check that out for sure!

  10. I’m in Savannah right now – and I got to say – I’m not feeling it. I thought Savannah was more than a little over-sold with the pretty heritage buildings side of thing – Charleston is 100 times better in that regard. What I do think is undersold though – is Tybee Island – I wish we’d stayed there – cute old-style beach town and a nice beach. The whole ghost thing is really just marketing – the history is interesting – but so is Willmington’s, Charleston’s, St Augustine’s etc etc

    1. One of my readers told me that in her family, they say that you’re either a Savannah person or a Charleston person. Rare is the person who loves both equally. πŸ™‚

  11. Now I realllllllllly wish that I’d been able to visit Savannah while I was in the USA last year!!! I *may* be in the South again next year (hope to visit a friend in Charlotte) and a quick search tells me that there are direct flights or ones with easy connections between the two cities…hmmm….now my brain is ticking. It looks like my kind of place and, when I was doing my research on it, I too read about Mrs. Wilkes’, too. If the chicken is better than what’s served up at Jestine’s Kitchen, then I’m there.

    1. Tom, you MUST go to Savannah. You wouldn’t stop eating!!! Try to book a train there in advance. You can get cheap fares ahead of time, and the train line runs into North Carolina (though not quite Charlotte if I recall correctly). Just move into Mrs. Wilkes’ already!

  12. Everyone with whom I have spoken to about Savannah all said they thought Savannah was the most beautiful city in the US. I have yet to go, but it looks extremely & eerily intriguing, especially as most people also told me it felt haunted. You just confirmed it!

  13. I love, love, LOVE Savannah. If not for the ridiculous heat/humidity in the summer months, I would probably seriously consider moving there.

  14. One of my favorite cities! You should have opted for the Haunted Pub Crawl tour though for some extra spirits in your ghost walk. It was the most entertaining tour we ever went on.

  15. It is a city that I have always wanted to go to, it seems so macabre and romantic – a great mix. I will definitely read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil’ before I do. I felt the same way about ‘Snow Falling on Cedars” and the small Pacific Northwest Islands, captures the personality of that quiet part of the world perfectly. Thanks for the great post and beautiful photos.

  16. I like the look of a dark and mysterious town in which anything mysterious and spooky could happen. Gulp! These photos are beautiful and serene and the gjost tour is on my list whenever I get there. Savannah it is then!

  17. Beautiful pictures. I visited Savannah a few years ago and fell in love with the architecture there. I just stumbled upon your blog today and admire your travel ambitions! I will definitely continue to follow you!

  18. Ever since I saw a photo essay from Amanda of Dangerous Business, I’ve been dying to visit Savannah. I’ve only really been south to New Orleans, but I’ll need to take a road trip and stop there. The cemeteries and those gorgeous spanish moss trees fascinate me!

  19. I find it so cute that you screamed because you thought a street lamp was a ghost. You have my sympathies – I once mistook a street light for Slender Man.

    I would probably visit Savannah just for the ghost stuff alone! πŸ˜€

  20. Savannah does seem to possess something magical. Heard a lot about it and I completely agree with your post, its really beautiful.

  21. I agree with you that Savannah is definitely a unique city. I never stayed over night but have taken many day trips there while living in Hinesville, GA for a few months. You are absolutely correct in saying that nothing quite compares.

    Between the gorgeous sites, the riverside bars, and the overwhelming friendly community, lies such a unique history that can really capture the imagination. I could spend days on end there and never get bored of Savannah.

    For those who have never been, it is HIGHLY recommended if you ever find yourself on the east coast. I have never met anybody who has regretted making the trip there.

    1. Visiting is nice, but dont move there. I hate to say that about
      my hometown but it is true. The crime has gotten out of hand!

  22. Wow Savannah sounds like THE place to go! I love your blog post very much; it is interesting and real, with all those pictures you used to illustrate your surroundings. In my late twenties, I would definitely do a trip like yours and discover the outside world. I think that exploring the world and learning from different cultures are among the things one should experience in their life. Are there some advices you can give me for when I’ll do my big trip round the world? What are the benefits and downsides of doing a solo travelling?

    1. Millie, you’ll have a fantastic time! The ultimate benefit of traveling solo is that you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and become more self-sufficient and confident.

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