In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Monday, June 1, 2009

Tom & Melany's Excellent Adventure: Ch. Five

We've been back from our Southern Vacation now for more than five weeks, and I STILL haven't finished telling you all about it! I don't think Homer took this long to write the Odyssey!

On Wednesday morning, April 22 Melany and I drove north from Jacksonville to Savannah, Georgia, a distance of about 140 miles. Savannah (and the colony of Georgia) was established by the remarkable British General James Oglethorpe and 114 settlers, who landed at the side after a sea voyage from England on February 12, 1733. The city has an incredibly rich history, preserved better than in almost any other urban area, and is one of the most beautiful cities one can visit.

We spent Wednesday and Thursday in Savannah, staying at the 19th-century vintage Savannah Bed and Breakfast in the heart of the historic district. Here's a picture of the "Yellow Room" where we stayed. It was very pleasant and comfortable--a perfect place to rest after climbing three flights of stairs to get there!

The historic district is divided into 24 "squares" in a grid pattern laid out by James Oglethorpe himself. Today they form small parks bounded by tree-lined streets, most of which are graced with fountains, monuments, gardens, and oak trees laced with Spanish moss (click here for a marvelous review of all the squares, and even an aerial map showing where they're located). Stately homes, churches, and other buildings dating from colonial times through the 19th century crowd along these streets. This is where we spent most of our time, traveling on foot, though we also visited the Riverfront, a row of 19th century cotton warehouses now occupied by shops and restaurants, as well as the another district full of shops and galleries called City Market.

It would be impossible to capture in a few words all that we saw and experienced in Savannah, and displaying all the pictures we took would soon wear out viewers of this blog. But I'll try to hit some of the highlights and the most representative sights of our visit.

One of Savannah's most recognizable icons is the Forsyth Park Fountain, which was erected in 1858. The fountain is reputedly designed to recall one located at the Place de la Concorde in Parisl, France. To the left is a view of the fountain by itself, and below is a picture of a very attractive couple standing in front of the fountain.

Savannah's squares boast a number of beautiful fountains. Here's the one in Lafayette Square. Water in this fountain is dyed green for St. Patrick's Day.

Adjacent to Lafayette Square is "The Book" Gift Shop, which bills itself as the "official" headquarters for all things related to the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. We're not big fans of either, but this little shop is chock full of all other things Savannah too, and is probably your best bet for a meaningful souvenir.

Also on Lafayette Square is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. We happened to be there at a time when no services were being conducted and the public could tour the church. This might have been the high point of my Savannah visit. The exterior of the church is awesome; the interior is positively breathtaking. We sat in the pews for awhile and just looked around in wonder. The ceiling hangs in loveliness high above you, like the sky. The altar sparkles in the distance. Everywhere there is marble, polished wood, gilding. The Stations of the Cross are stunning works of art all by themselves. I have no more words for this place; you have to see it to believe it!

Chippewa Square was laid out in 1815 and named in honor of American soldiers killed in the Battle of Chippawa during the War of 1812. Guess where that battle took place? At the village of Chippawa, Ontario, Canada, just three or four miles across the Niagara River (as the crow flies) from where I grew up on Grand Island, New York! Bully for Georgians to remember a battle now almost forgotten in New York (and maybe even Canada). In the centre of Chippewa square is a bronze statue of Georgia founder General James Oglethorpe, at left (ironically, Oglethorpe's statue is NOT located in Oglethorpe Square, which is located just to the northeast). The "park bench" scene at the beginning of the movie Forrest Gump was filmed on the north side of Chippewa Square.

Back to Forsyth Park: in the middle of the park is a towering monument to the Confederacy, erected in 1874-1875. Inscribed on one side of the pedestal is the following sentiment: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." This comes from Ezekiel 37:9, and is a fitting tribute to the men of the South who gave their lives in that great struggle of 1861-1865.

Also in Forsyth Park is a monument to Georgians who served in that much-less-remembered struggle, the Spanish-American War. I don't think I've ever before seen a memorial to men who fought in that conflict, so thought this was worthy of a picture.

Everywhere in Savannah's historic district there are gardens, some publicly maintained as in the famous "squares," and some--like the one below, which I photographed through the bars of a locked gate--kept behind the magnificent old houses that border the squares.

Below is one entrance of the Telfair Academy, part of the oldest art museum in the South. Note the closeups of the magnificent statuary outside the entrance. I'm not sure whom they depict; we didn't have time to go into the museum to find out. But the work is breathtaking!

Since our time was limited and it's not located in or near the "historic district," we didn't get a chance to visit two other iconic Savannah places, Bonaventure Cemetery (click here for a collection of stunningly beautiful pictures of this place) and Wormsloe Plantation. Oh, well--grist for another visit!

Stay tuned--the Great Southern Vacation Saga is almost complete!

1 comment:

JoJo said...

What a cute couple in front of that fountain! I agree. And that cathedral is beautiful! I bet it was even more grand being there in person. Seeing the interior reminded me of the many cathedrals I visited in Europe 8 years ago. Amazing architecture and history!