Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My "Tour" of Savannah

In an attempt to not be beach bums, my family decided to tour historic Savannah via one of the trolley tours. These types of tours are a good way to see the entire area in a short amount of time, and if you choose the correct one, you can get on and off at different houses, museums, and other such attractions with the promise of a tour bus to fetch you back to your car. With three young children (free!), we all agreed on this plan.

Someone forgot to consult Finwe on whether he could handle a long trip on an open-air trolley car.

About fifteen minutes into the 90 minute tour, Finwe exploded into a fit of tears and screams. I will blame it on the imposing figure of Jame Oglethorpe. Phill understood, as I did, that Finwe was not going to calm on the bus. He needed space. The driver was kind enough to allow Finwe and me to disembark at some random spot on the tour, possibly near stop C out of K. I can only guess what the bus load of people thought as I left the other six members of my family .

Statue of James Oglethorpe in Savannah, GA

Although blue tour maps abounded on the bus, I discovered that I was not one of the recipients. A tourist with a 32 pound, frustrated, hot, pissy nearly two-year-old had no map to find one of the tour bus stops so that she could get back to the visitors' center. Oh, help.

One lovely part of the South is that you only need to travel about three feet to find a sympathetic person to loan you their map. I found a trolley stop only to realize that my child refused to climb onto another bus, an air-conditioned bus. I could already feel the sweat trickling down my sternum. I thanked the driver and continued to walk Finwe in one of the 22 or so squares in Savannah. No luck on calming the kid.

Finally, I lured him into near silence with the promise of retrieving his blanket from the van as long as he would let me carry him to the visitors' center. I called my mother to let her know the plan. Later I learned that his distressed my eldest child because the tour operator had clearly said that cell phones were not to be used. My mother knew this, which was why she huddled as close to the floor as she could while she was listening to my plan. In a 19 second conversation, my daughter told her grandmother four times to stop using the phone.

Our walk, long and sweaty and full of traffic dodging, served only to increase my discomfort of how I would calm and feed a fussy kid as well as reunite with my family at some interesting spot. (I had not yet given up hope to salvage the day. We had overcome the dangerously low oil in my mother's car as we shoved eight of us into a van meant for seven. I will persist, I repeated as sweat stuck my shirt to my torso.)

Perhaps it was the apple juice, or the Reese's peanut butter cups, or the AC, or the nice man behind the snack bar playing peek-a-boo with my son. Whatever the cause, he rebounded into exhibiting the cheery disposition that we consider normal. With the boy all smiles, I found a shuttle to where my mother, now free to use the cell phone, directed me.

After a late lunch, one of the horse-drawn carriage drivers allowed us a short ride for the kids at some bargain basement price. (Did my exasperation show?) I got to see the same square that I had circled with Finwe a few times. It's an interesting building, being the only mansion left around Telfair Square. Designed my William Jay, the original mansion had rounded corners in the rear. According to the driver of the carriage, Mr. Jay believed that ghosts resided in the corners of houses, which is why all the homes he designed had no corners. Common belief is that the mansion is haunted.
Telfair Mansion in Savannah, GA

It was those fifteen minutes in which I learned all I know about Savannah. Let me list those bits as told to me by Mr. Horse Drawn Carriage, who had experience snow for the first time in his 28 years just this past winter:

  • Slaves in Savannah hailed mostly from Haiti, not Africa, and had a version of voodoo.
  • Houses in Savannah still have doors painted in red and windows in blue based on the Haitian belief that spirits would not cross blood or water. These paints are called "haint" (as in haunted) paints and used to be blessed or whatever by a priest, of the voodoo variety, not the Catholic kind.
  • During the yellow fever epidemics between 1820 and 1854, those who had their homes painted with the haint paints were not affected by the mosquito-borne illness. Later, it was discovered that the paints contained lime that repelled the mosquitoes. In effect, the paints, blessed by a voodoo priest, helped.
  • Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, lived in Savannah. A statue of her father adorns one of the squares in this planned city.
Yep, that's pretty much all I learned in my tour of Savannah. Add a little sweat to it and you've got yourself a Sarabeth tour of Savannah.

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