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Franklin Square

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The only square on Montgomery Street to survive into the present day is Franklin Square. Like the lost squares of Liberty and Elbert, Franklin Square had been a victim of urbanization, but was fortunately restored in the 1980s.

Franklin SQ Monument

The most western of Savannah’s squares, Franklin is also one of its oddest. The tourist hub of City Market is nearby, meaning grease-hungry gawkers hunting for Paula Deen are a constant presence, as are panhandlers. Franklin is definitively not among Savannah’s most enchanting squares, but it does boast a touching memorial to the Haitian Volunteer Army. The Haitians played an invaluable role in the US Revolution, particularly during the Siege of Savannah. Soon after our freedom was won, they returned home and staged a revolution of their own, resulting in Haiti becoming the first independent republic in Latin America, and the first black-led nation in the world.

At the western end of the square is the First African Baptist Church, which we took an excellent tour of. Back in the days of slavery, the church’s priest would regularly be brought into Franklin Square and whipped. His crime? “Educating” other slaves with his sermons. I’m sure Benjamin Franklin, an abolitionist and all around humanitarian, would have loved that.

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Little Benjamin Franklin
Franklin Square
Benjamin Franklin
Haitian Pain
Savannah Swords
Bush Of Pain
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January 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm Comments (5)

Ellis Square

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Laid out in 1733, Ellis Square has the distinction of being one of Oglethorpe’s original four squares, along with Johnson, Telfair and Wright. It also has the distinction of being the most singularly ugly of all Savannah’s squares.

Ellis Square

In 1954, before the historic preservation movement really got going, Ellis Square was sold to business interests that demolished it and built a parking lot. It’s actually an ironic twist, that Ellis Square might be sold off and lose its dignity. Before the Civil War, this was the site of Savannah’s slave market. Karma can be tough.

The parking company’s 50-year lease ended in 2004 and Savannah wasted no time in redeveloping the square. But from an aesthetic viewpoint, there’s little doubt they did a poor job with the development. Perhaps they wanted something more modern and daring, but Ellis has none of its siblings’ charm. With plain cement in a circular shape and a total lack of vegetation, most tourists don’t even realize they’re in one of Savannah’s most historic spots.

The chintzy tourism zone of City Market sprouts off to the west of Ellis Square, where a statue of Johnny Mercer leans happily against his fire hydrant, And Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons is nearby. But unless you’re desperate for a bench to stretch out on, after consuming too much greasy food, there’s not much reason to spend time in Ellis.

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Listen more to Johnny Mercer

Savannah New
Mercer Statue
Closed Stores Savannah
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January 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm Comments (6)

Old Town Trolley Tours

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Hey, you know what Savannah has plenty of? Tours. Carriage tours, walking tours, hearse tours, haunted tours, pub tours, haunted pub tours, Civil War tours, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tours.

Best Trolley Tour in Savannah

Hold on, I’m just getting started! Black history tours, Girl Scout tours, dolphin tours, gates and gardens tours, Paula Deen tours. And trolley tours. Lord, are there trolley tours. There are more trolleys than cars in Savannah. There are more trolleys than blades of grass! Yesterday, I got hit by a trolley on the street and another trolley rushed me to the hospital, which was itself inside a trolley. The Hospital Trolley Tour. It’s awesome, check it out.

So we’ve done a few trolley tours. How could we not? I won’t mention the less impressive ones: the dumpy ones with plastic covering the windows, you know who you are. If you’re planning on taking a tour in Savannah, hunt down the Old Town Trolley. They’re orange and green, and impossible to miss. The tour is a little more expensive than some of the others, but worth the extra money.

The trolleys have sparkling clean glass windows, none of this plastic nonsense, and the driver we had managed to be both interesting and legitimately funny. Often, these tour guides rely upon the same old corny jokes… but Savannah seems to have its share of colorful and amusing folks, and at least some of them work for Old Town Trolley.

The tour is long and comprehensive; perfect for people who don’t have all that much time in the city, and want to see as much as possible in one shot. You can hop and and off as often as you want during the day, so it’s an easy way to navigate Savannah’s deceptively large historic district.

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Book here and receive a discount: Old Trolley Tours

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January 12, 2011 at 8:54 pm Comment (1)

Crazy Taxi Drivers and Other Savannah Characters

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In most cities, you hail down a taxi and drive in silence to your destination. At best, the driver comments on the weather, or is talking on his cell phone in a language you don’t understand. You’ll pay your fare and think how uneventful and efficient that taxi ride was, if you think of it at all.

A link to all things "New York Taxi"

That’s not often the case in Savannah. The profession of “taxi driver” is famously a draw for eccentrics and, in a city full of eccentrics, you really get the crème de la crème. Every time we hailed a cab in Savannah, it was a memorable experience. There was the unappreciated poet who insisted we read his work before we left the car. The guy who had met Paula Deen’s husband and talked bitterly about how jealous he was. Or the freakishly huge, bearded dude telling us about the trouble he got into at his favorite Gentlemen’s Club.

Of course, taxi drivers aren’t Savannah’s only larger-than-life characters. We hardly went a day without encountering another strange and charismatic person. From just the past week, I can recall the bug-eyed tour guide more interested in discussing conspiracy theories than giving a tour, the soft-spoken rasta dude who suddenly revealed the six-foot dreadlocks rolled up inside his hat, the guy who’s become a local celebrity for his perfect Forrest Gump impression (and it really was perfect), and the grumpy bartender who we saw threw three different dudes out of her bar.

Maybe Jürgen and I fit right in here. We were talking to someone about what we do… how we travel around the world for 91 days at a time, and don’t really have a home… and she said something like, “You guys are crazy!” It took me off guard. I mean, this was an Asian woman with a deep Southern drawl and dyed green hair, wearing fishnet stockings, and chewing tobacco… and we’re the crazy ones?! Heh. But maybe there’s some truth to that… and it could be why we felt so at home in Savannah.

Pirate’s House in Savannah
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January 3, 2011 at 10:25 am Comments (2)

Paula Deen’s The Lady and Sons

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While we were living in Spain, eating incredible, organic dishes fresh off the fields, the Paula Deen Phenomenon was sweeping America. And by the time we moved to Savannah, she had become a bona fide celebrity… especially in this city. No matter where you turn, there she is, her smiling visage peering out of every storefront window, dominating the cover of every magazine, sneaking into every conversation. “You look skinny,” she seems to be saying. “Come here and let Mrs. Deen rectify that.”

Paula Deen Lady Son Savannah

Everyone we’ve met here has had two pieces of advice for us. 1) At all costs, avoid eating at Paula Deen’s restaurant, Our Lady and Sons. 2) And since eating there is unavoidable, stock up on cholesterol medication.

I didn’t understand how eating at a restaurant could be “unavoidable”, but that was before I talked to my friends and family. “You’re moving to Savannah? Now, where have I heard of that city before? Oh, that’s right: Paula Deen!”

My mom: “Of course I’ll come to visit, sweetie. As long as you promise that we eat at The Lady and Sons”.

My aunt: “So tell me all about Paula’s restaurant, I’m on pins and needles! Excuse me, what? You haven’t have eaten there yet? What’s wrong with you, Michael?! Are you into drugs?”

And so, we went to The Lady and Sons. It was everything everyone said it would be, both good and bad. I’ve never eaten greasier food. Even my beer was greasy. Even my napkin. It freaked me out, but The Lady and Sons seemed to be a sort of deep-fried Mecca for most of our fellow diners. People were moaning with pleasure as they bit into their deep-fried whatever. We were transfixed by a woman at the neighboring table who, with every bite of her biscuit, was sent into a spasm of gratified rapture. So delicious! She was literally shaking with delight… or now that I’m reflecting on it, that might have been a heart attack.

If you’re not a Paula Deen fan, I’d say you can comfortably skip The Lady and Sons, and not feel the slightest bit guilty; Savannah has plenty of other restaurants that are more worth your money. And if you are a fan of the flamboyant Ms. Deen… well, I shouldn’t waste any more breath. You’re going regardless of what I say, and you’re going to love it. (But seriously, consider adding some cardiovascular exercise to your daily routine.)

The Lady & Sons – Website
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November 20, 2010 at 1:55 pm Comments (11)
Franklin Square The only square on Montgomery Street to survive into the present day is Franklin Square. Like the lost squares of Liberty and Elbert, Franklin Square had been a victim of urbanization, but was fortunately restored in the 1980s.
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