Each visit to Savannah, Georgia, reaffirms that there is truly no place like it. That is because Savannah stands as an appealing blend of historic charm, Southern hospitality, and cultural vitality. Savannah easily draws visitors to its iconic architecture, lush squares, and animated waterfronts. Let’s not forget, here there are things we can and cannot readily explain. As a result, this could easily be America’s most intriguing city. You be the judge as we are unfolding Savannah.

As I drive into Savannah, I admire the Live oaks draped in Spanish moss that canopy the town from its harsh summer beatings like an umbrella on a beach day. The architecture is grand and creative, something abnormal to Georgia, a state known for its strip malls and booming construction. The tourists take to the sidewalks just like they do in any other city, but they all know where they are at. They know this place is different.

Earlier

River Street is where I start, lined with restaurants and galleries all housed in historic restored warehouses. The riverfront offers spectacular views of the river, and if I want to, I can even catch a riverboat cruise. On the darker side of these waters, this same river would bring in slaves who were offloaded from the ships and onto the wharves. They were then taken to the markets where they could be sold to the public. It is a nod to the reality that Savannah is a complicated city worth remembering.

So there I find myself, munching on a Cowboy Rueben (which is smoked beef brisket and slaw on Texas toast) at the Cotton Exchange Tavern on River Street. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. I then discover that this restaurant once was one of those exact aforementioned markets where slaves were judged and sold based on their healthy appearance. Though the restaurant was delicious, I am not sure how I feel about this modern repurposing of such a dark truth.

And then…

We decided to continue our hunt for quintessential southern charm so we left River Street and walked deeper into the residential area of the downtown. We were recommended to visit Jones Street, which features well-preserved townhouses, mansions, and architecture that also showcase the creative ironwork and lush gardens. This was all hand-in-hand with more tree-lined canopies of Live oak trees. As it was in the 19th century, it is still a sight to behold.

As we were out for our walk, a local gentleman out for a jog who happened to notice our lack of direction chimed in. He informed us that Jones Street was where the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses’” originated, because of the wealthy families of the past who resided on this street, one family battling another over lifestyle inflation and luxuries. He then gave us a mini-tour of Jones Street and introduced us to certain oversized townhouses that carried abundant histories of their own. Then he pointed behind a particular townhouse that had a carriage house to the rear, which basically appeared as a storage garage.

“That right there used to be slave quarters,” he said, matter-of-factly. “Now they’re luxury studios being rented out to whoever feels the need to live in such a place.”

 “You’re kidding,” I replied with a grimace of disgust.

 “They’re either renting out on Airbnb or renting out full leases for a year or more. Probably at least $1600 a month.”

Upon further inspection of a website that promotes carriage house rentals, the website clearly states this about the carriage house.

“These apartments may have been assigned to groomsmen, chauffeurs, and other household workers. A section of the carriage house may have been intended for equipment storage or even horse stables.”

Let’s translate that:

“These slave quarters may have been assigned to slaves who performed slave work. They also may have shared their slave quarters with horses.”

And so here I found myself in this city, so lovely, unique, and open-minded while confronting the cultural dynamics of certain people who see no harm in practically celebrating their dark roots, embracing it like gift-wrapped fecal matter.

Later on

After exploring at our own will during the day and snapping photographs of whatever it was that piqued our curiosity, we decided to try out a walking ghost tour. Besides, this is a city so famous for hauntings. We bought tickets and set out on foot with a group of ten. There was one ghost host who carried a glowing ornamental scepter. To me, this is entertainment, so why not, I thought. The night breeze blew through the leaves and treetops, crafting what sounded to be whispers of the troubled past seeking to communicate something.

One of the members of the group is handed an electromagnetic field sensor, which some say is able to detect unexplainable things around us. As we walk through the handsome Forsyth Park together, the host of the tour telling story after story to add value to the experience, the electromagnetic reader begins to go berserk. The device is lighting up like fireflies during evening twilight.

He snapped a photo. And another photo. The two photos show my wife and me just up ahead, walking in front of the person with the electromagnetic reader. The other person in the group who photographed is behind the person with the electromagnetic reader. The second photo shows my wife and me only a couple of seconds later, with a surprise in the photo. Two full-figured apparitions seemed to join us on our walk through the park. Looking back on the photo, it is rather convincing. At times, ignorance in life cloaks what we’re unaware of. Sometimes, I think we’d rather not try to explain the unexplainable. Or are we too prideful to admit there are some things our human brains can’t comprehend? Hey, we earned college degrees, therefore, we should be able to explain it all. Yes, that’s it!

Who really knows anyway?

Despite the obviously difficult southern cultural dynamics naturally associated with Savannah, it is a city teeming with future potential as it steps fiercely into the land of creative culinary and an advanced arts scene. It is a city that knows and understands its faults, and doesn’t want to forget about them either. It is a city as broken in the history books as it is polished and cohesive.

And I recommend you give Savannah her fair shot before you send her off.

What do I think?

Restaurant scene: 8.5/10

Arts/Culture: 8.7/10

Diversity and Inclusivity: 7.1/10

Safety: 6.8/10

Friendliness of locals: 7.4/10

History Buff factor: 9.0/10

Vacation Factor: 8.1/10

Overall: 7.9/10

http://www.southernbellevacationrentals.com is the aforementioned website renting out carriage (slave) houses. Please email them and encourage them to discontinue such practices.