Saturday, 3 April 2010

Southern Gothic

Savannah, Georgia is as graceful and mysterious a city as you can imagine. Flannery O’Connor was from there, as was the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliet Lowe.
The city’s center, most of it a national landmark, is constructed on a grid system containing 22 squares. Everywhere, there are Spanish moss draped trees, beautiful wrought ironwork and proud Savannahians. The best part, for us, was being treated to an early dose of Spring.
Because we only had one afternoon, we took a guided bus tour. Our driver, who rang her bell to emphasize more interesting historical points, was a fountain of knowledge. She also had a dark sense of humor, a loathing of men, Washington and the outcome of the Civil War, and a clear desire to run over pedestrians. We made sure to leave a tip. Then she dropped us off on the other side of town, at her preferred restaurant, the Pirate’s House, an old inn dating from 1753 along the Savannah River. It is supposed to be haunted, and features on the city’s haunted tour. If anyone’s interested in the southern ghosts, New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston all have haunted tours.
We had nothing to fear but the number of calories entering our stomachs by way of the buffet- macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, corn bread, collard greens, creamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, etc. Then, we had dessert.
What is definitely fearsome is the historical society, which is apparently loved and hated in equal measures, for its commitment to ensuring that all squares and houses are kept in tip-top condition.
We were lucky to see the inside of one such house. A man, tending his garden, gave us directions and then invited us to see his home, which dated from the 1700s.
He and his wife, both Chicago natives, had moved to Savannah at the beginning of the 1980s, after spending three years at sea in a houseboat. Kindred spirits.

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