Once again, the group was afforded a late rise for the morning. The day was mainly driving – leaving St. Augustine, we would continue north, up the east coast, and spend the night in a place none of us had heard about called Savannah. My roommate and I packed up, thanks to me remembering my alarm and heeding its beeps, and were waiting in the car-park some ten minutes early. I took some last photos of the tree that was in the car-park as I waited. I was joined by a couple of others, and we sauntered back to the bus when it looked like we could get on.
I climbed on about halfway. The German ‘kid’ (being the youngest on the trip) was seated next to Phil, the man who was part of our group for our theme park-ery in Orlando both days, and waved me over. Phil asked me to sit down on the seats on the other side of the pathway, but on the window. He had been putting the moves on one of the English girls (Phil being from England himself), and then asked me to say that I was saving the seat for her. I wasn’t all that happy with the arrangement to begin with, but when I saw that someone had sat in the seat beside Anthony (Anthony looking none too pleased about this himself), I figured this was the most effective way to ensure I was sitting next to someone I didn’t mind. It was the woman I had sat next to for the day after we left the Grand Canyon. A nice enough person, even though we wouldn’t have much to talk about. She was about as thick as a twig, so I knew we wouldn’t be struggling for room.
By the end of the tour, I realised that what I termed ‘bus politics’ had been perfected by cliques and groups, and that other than ten or so of us, everyone sort of had their set seats, or at least areas, where the groups would hang out. I guess one good thing to come out of me missing out of being included in a certain social group meant that I was able to float around and meet a different bunch every day (remember, by this point, I was socialising quite well with my fellow tourists).
We were on the road. The trip was long-ish; enough to listen to some music and read some Catcher in the Rye that I had brought from home – all this while Family Guy was playing in the background. We would make Savannah a little after lunch time, after a Walmart stop for our ‘proper’ lunch.
Our day’s activities included a trolley tour – a tram cart with an engine and off the tracks that drives around the whole city. But first we would be having a group photo in font of a picturesque fountain. I had opted out of of the last group photo in Durrango – much to my eventual disappointment. Again, while I hadn’t felt the ‘group’ thing that early in the trip, I did by New Orleans (where the original group lost some people, remember?), and wished I had brought the first photo. I resolved I would definitely buy the second one.
David had warned us about the photographer this time. She wouldn’t be as efficient as the last one. In fact, she was so, well, slow to get things done that he called her about an hour and a half before we got to Savannah proper. He said, when he called her, that we were only about 20 minutes away. We got to the fountain and wandered around for a few minutes before she even appeared. She set up – another ten minutes – then we were arranged by height. I believe I was somewhere around the second or third shortest guy (and I’m not exactly short myself) in the group, so I was among the last to take their place. But I was in the second row. That whole row had to assume this hybrid crouch/kneel stance that actually hurt. Everyone in the second row would threaten those people wasting time, or that would make us have to take any unnecessary photos, with violence by the fifth attempt to take the picture. It was all done and dusted eventually, and we headed back to the hotel … after a good 30 minutes (at least). We headed for the hotel to unpack, and then get ready for this trolley tour.
The hotel we were staying in was very impressive – a 4-star place, the television in there was easily worth ~$10,000 back here (I looked it up when I returned home because I liked it so much). I noted that I should avoid falling onto this TV as much as I could. I also noted I shouldn’t fall off the balcony that we had – we were some 14 stories up. The only drawback was that the whole hotel had this peculiar smell. It wasn’t so bad that it was offensive, but it was certainly noticeable.
Onto the tour! No one really knew what to expect of this little-known city. We were given a map by David, and to look at the city were to look at a perfectly laid out city. It’s located on the coast, as was a well known pirate stop-off (a point to remember). If you looked at the city from to coast you would see clear from one side of the city to the end – they only have streets that run up and down the city or across the city. No diagonals, or turns, or anything. There are 24 park gardens where the main streets intersect, though one has recently bee covered over – much to the protest of locals. It is perfectly measured out and designed. We drove past some of them on the tour, and I noted that the city wasn’t so large that one couldn’t go to each one if they tried at a steady pace.
In the tour, we found out that it was established in 1733. Then they told us that the park bench scenes from Forrest Gump had been filmed there, and we went to where it was shot. Interesting, I though, but I would be more entertained by the local history. President George Washington had stayed there for some days, and so too did Confederate President Jefferson Davis. General William T. Sherman concluded his ‘march to the sea’ with Savannah, offering the city as a Christmas present to President Abraham Lincoln – a big capture by the Americans. There was a lot more that I noted, but perhaps less interesting to most.
Above the history, the actual physical appearance of the city was stunning. I’ve been to Venice, and that’s my favourite place on Earth. But, obviously, because it is foreign and novel. Of any ‘regular’ city, Savannah is my absolute favourite. The city was so old, but well kept, that at some point in the 20th century, the government passed a bill that prevented any buildings being knocked down, and, further, prevented any modifications to any existing building that would make it look ‘out of place’ – that is, any renovations must ensure that the building keep its original appearance. Then the entire city was designated a historical trust area. Thus, the whole city looks like time stopped before the US Civil War. It is amazing! When I ended up walking down the streets, over some of the original cobble-stone roads (not all of them are like this, but a lot of the backstreets were), you could really be tricked into think you went back in time.
The trolley tour took us to the largest and oldest church that the city had. It was quite impressive inside. We all went in and had a gander. I noted that this was the first time I had been in any religious building since I went to St. Peter’s Basillica. I had really taken a step backwards.
Getting back to the hotel, I wished that the tour hadn’t ended. Not to worry though – we had a couple of hours to spend at our leisure before we needed to be ready for tea. I did a little unpacking, plugged in all my electronics, then hit the town again – heading straight for the colonial cemetery. I had a walk around, taking in more history and photos of some important headstones for American history. There were some locals walking around as well, and squirrels. I watched a dog try and, well, I guess hunt down one of them. It snuck up, and moved inches at a time. But it wasn’t good enough – the squirrel darted up a tree when the dog was still some 8 metres away.
On the way back to the hotel, to shower (it was quite a hot day walking around) and get ready for our arranged dinner, I traced the route I had taken, and realised I had gone to some six or so of the parks, and had covered quite a bit of ground in good time. I thought that a stroll later that night, and then early the next day, and I would be able to cover the whole city. I drew on my map my desired walks for the two opportunities, and then got back to the hotel. I readied, headed down stairs to meet up with the bunch, and we all headed off the the restaurant.
Where we were eating was called the Pirates House. It was themed like a pirates cabin, and there is someone dressed up and a dead ringer for Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow walking around the place. The food there was amazingly good – beyond coming with vegetables (which tasted fresh), it had this great tasting sauce. It was pink salmon, and it was delicious and moist. I judge a city’s worth by two thinks: the quality of their duck meals and the quality of their seafood meal. Savannah would rank high. It was an additional $37, but worth it if only because the food was great. And there was mashed potatoes on the side as well – with the skins on! It is so hard to find a restaurant that does this – and I love it. The company made the night – we were let loose on tables of eight, and I found myself, at the time, talking with Tania from my Orlando theme park group. I sat down beside her, and then the woman who I was talking with on the boat from New Orleans (Sara) joined us, and someone she had been spending some time with (Laura), then two women – Shelle and Jayne – who had spoken to me in the que to get into our show in Vegas about that first fateful night on the tour, Then a woman, another Laura (from Italy), joined us – one of the new comers from New Orleans who people liked. This was a great table, especially for the conversations that came about. Being the only male on the table, generally the topics took a more female turn. It was a funny, funny night. A ribbing/joke of some of the other tour members was started there and then too – starting a rumour about me and Tania.
After the meal, David was going to lead anyone who wanted to down to the port-side bars and clubs. I really wanted to go (there were some dueling pianos at this one bar that had bee talked up a storm), but was more keen to walk around the city. I informed our tour guide that I was going to walk around the city – lest I disappear, he would know what I was doing. I headed off and wandered about. There were only a few worrying moments – when there’d be some rough looking person also walking the streets at around midnight (such is how long I was out walking), but no harm was done to me. I walked to the other end of the city, to the fountain that we had taken our group photo at, and then back to the hotel. I found an Obama lawn sign out the front of one place. I laughed, because at the time Georgia was as safe a Republican state as any. Little did I know I would be tipping it as a possible Democratic win.
At night the city probably wasn’t as picturesque (though the fountain was). In the day you can more appreciate the design of the buildings and the appearance in full. But Every now and then I would find a place that made me stop and wonder in amazement. I really was taken by the city, and lamented the fact that I had to get back to the hotel. I made my way back at a brisk pace, getting back post-12am. I knew that the next day we were allowed to sleep in, and we were driving to our next destination for most of the day, so I would have two chances to catch up on sleep if I needed to. My roommate wasn’t in, so I was able to unwind with another shower (how dgood it was not having to worry about water restrictions!) and watching some poker. I had been sending and receiving text messages from my mother and a certain girl from home through the night, so there were some pangs of missing home. But I didn’t pay them much attention for too long. I did a little bit of ironing for the next day, then switched off the TV and went to sleep. My roommate did wake me up when he came home, but I could see he was trying to be as quiet as possible, so I didn’t let on lest I prevent him from trying to be more quiet in the future.