For you skimmers out there, all you need to know is in the title. Cobblestone, cathedrals, 22 town squares, beautifully old buildings — Savannah feels totally European. And, AND, you can walk around with alcohol in your hands, sippin' on a nice brew while window shopping on Broughton street (a mix of that classic, late 1800s, early 1900s brick downtown look meets 1950s retro) or just chillin' on a park bench underneath a giant oak draped in Spanish moss. Yeah. If you didn't know life in Savannah was basically beer-friendly poetry (I didn't), you do now.
For everyone else, let's just say Shannon told me I needed to get my ass to Savannah and that I won't regret it. And that I listened, and that she was right. As she lived there for a while, I'll write for a bit, and then she'll weigh in at the bottom, correcting my touristy self. But for now? Let's dissect. Oh, and all pictures by moi, Jacqueline.
The most beautiful city in the US? Maybe.
General Sherman could've burned down Savannah in the Civil War, but he didn't. Thank God. What stands today is 300 years of history, a city growing out of the marsh, a port town planned and cultivated by colonial Europeans. I wouldn't really trust them when it comes to anything related to human rights, but when it comes to urban planning? First pick in gym class, easily.
Specifics? Well, Savannah has 22 town squares ranging from Crawford (the smallest) to Forsyth (the big impressive one with the iconic fountain). They all have paths down their centers, making for one stunning walk (through time, in a way). Savannah is incredibly pedestrian-friendly, and apart from the accessibility and green space, there are horse-drawn carriages and pedi-cabs putting yet another dent into the amount of cars on the streets. Oh, and it's a city of a modest 142,000 people, making it all that much easier to be on your feet.
Squares aside, the historic downtown district is home to St. John's Cathedral (and a number of other churches so beautiful that at first I thought they were St. John's), Colonial Park cemetery, a riverfront with "historic steps to use at your own caution," some kind of brick wall reminiscent of a fortress along said riverfront, and any number of old, beautiful, Edwardian-style (probably) buildings dominating most every view. Sigh. I need to move to Europe. Or Savannah.
Drinking in the streets? Yeah. You can do it.
It's allowed. At least, in the Historic District. I'm not one much for partying and I'm definitely old enough to be at the point where I refuse to get a hangover, but that's what makes this all the more amazing: I don't want to drink my beer in a too-loud bar. I want to drink it on the street outside the Gap (it's in a really pretty building, okay?), watching people in creepy leprechaun costumes waiting at a no-walk sign. I want to sip on my cider on a park bench underneath a canopy of Spanish Moss because dammit, it's fruity and tangy at the same time and there's an accordion player to my right. So, thank you, Savannah. Thank you for understanding my plight. The plight of the chill, ambiverted non-alcoholic.
If you go, these places are awesome
Why try to come up with a more clever title? Straight up, yo.
St. John's Cathedral
It's a cathedral. It's free (I mean, you should probably donate). As much as you may want to eschew organized religion (and I would understand), you'd be hard pressed to not feel something in a place like this.
Forsyth Square (err, Park...)
The pretties. All the pretties. Also, the fountain was dyed green for St. Paddy's (the weekend after I was there — they take this holiday super seriously). Score.
Wormsloe Historic Site
...I just...do I have to explain myself? Oh, but do know that it closes at 5. I pulled up at 5:02 and luckily someone was leaving, so the automatic gate opened and I could creep on in.
Shannon told me it was the "most beautiful cemetery in the world," and while I haven't been to every cemetery ever, I'm thinking she's probably not totally wrong. It's a whopping 160 acres of history, giant mausoleums, $100,000 Tiffany's urns, and miles upon miles of eerie feelings (the good kind of eerie). It closes at 5, too, but since it's so large they probably won't find you till at least 5:30.
Zunzi's and Goose Feathers
Zunzi's. Shit yeah! That Conquistador sandwich was so sloppy it got all over my fingers and onto my skirt, and that's how you know it's worth the $12. I need to go back and try their mashed potato mess, and when I do go back, I'll be donning my Zunzi's t-shirt. Yeah. That happened. When a guy finally said, "Shit yeah!" to me, it made me so happy. Don't ask why.
Oh, and Goose Feathers was amazing too, I was just too busy shoving a croissant in my face to take any photos. B-pots (breakfast potatoes) were also for the win.
And now, as she lived here for a few years, I'll let Shannon weigh in on the things I've missed:
Not going to lie — you messing around in Savannah was like knowing my best friend was sleeping with my ex-lover. Y'know, the one who got away? Yeah, that's Savannah.
A few things —
1) I've never heard anyone call Forsyth Park "Forsyth Square." But I'll let that one slide.
2) I don't think anyone can prepare you for just how messy Zunzi's is. I once saw my friend eat there for his first time, pick up his conquistador sandwich, and have all its sloppy innards fall right into his lap. Worth it though? Oh, shit yeah.
3) If you visit Colonial Park cemetery — which you totally should (the green photos in the first slideshow) — look out for some of the graves that were tampered with by adolescent boys from Sherman's Union Army. Some headstones say that so-and-so died at age 567 with 3,467 children or so-and-so married at age 98 and died at age two. Also, you can't miss Mary Jane Green's grave; she died April 21. That one's not even tampered with. I mean, c'mon.
3) For the love of all things holy, don't touch the Spanish moss or think it's funny to put it on your face like a beard. Ever heard of chiggers? They're little red mites who will quickly call your face, clothes, and suitcase their new home.
4) Whatever you do, don't eat at Lady & Sons (Paula Deen's restaurant) unless you like overpriced buffet food soaked in pig lard and racism.
5) If you're driving in a square, you have the right-away. Don't stop and eff it up for everyone else.
6) Sweet Melissa's is good for soaking up the night's debauchery. So is Parker's Gourmet Market, which serves gourmet gas station food. Sure, that may not sound like it makes sense in writing, but when you get a Styrofoam plate of sloppy cheese grits and hashbrowns with a side of artisan crafts and international chocolate, you'll understand.
7) No, that's not Forrest Gump's bench you're taking a picture with.
8) Don't get stuck behind a trolley.
9) And, of course, just be warned that whatever dedication and love you have for another place will be compromised the second you lay eyes on Savannah. I'm going on three years having left, and I still go through phases where I want to pack up everything and move back on a whim.
Lady Astor described Savannah perfectly by calling her "a beautiful woman with a dirty face." She'll definitely leave her mark on you, that's for sure.
P.S. - Please check out these WONDERFUL comments for some insider recommendations. Mrs. Wilkes', Baker's Pride, Back in The Day Bakery, and The Shell House are just a few notable others we should've mentioned. If you have any others, please add your own!