Going down south for Christmas 2.0

As we said goodbye to Charleston (you can read everything about it here), we hit the road, to go to Savannah. I didn’t know much about the oldest city in the U.S. state of Georgia, but there was a very important detail, I knew of and cared about: the “park bench” scene, that opens the movie “Forrest Gump” (best movie ever!!!) was filmed on the north side of Chippewa Square and I had to go there! But before we did that the next day, we checked in at our hotel, which wasn’t that far from the center of the city and really cheap! The first thing, we thought, as soon, as we got there, was: There is like nobody here! I guess, this has been the reason, why the staff there has been so super nice, because they were happy about every single person, that came to their hotel. I have to admit, that I felt a little bit like Jack Nicholson in the movie “The Shining”, because there really was NOBODY!!! It’s creepy and cool at the same time, knowing, that we might have been the only ones at this hotel. But as we figured the very next morning, we weren’t. There have been maybe 5 others with us.

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Today was the day: I am gonna be at the same place, Tom Hanks was sitting 20 years ago! I was super excited! On our way into the city of Savannah, looking for a free parking spot, which is always a pain in the ass and almost impossible in the U.S., we actually ended up in a parking garage. As soon, as we started walking towards downtown, the rain was coming down in torrents. And we didn’t have an umbrella. Great! We were standing underneath a roof for a while, to see, if it would stop pouring at some point. It didn’t. So I took my purse, trying to protect myself from getting all soaked. At some point it stopped pouring and it was just drizzling, but reason enough buying an umbrella at the very next CVS, we could find! Lesson learned. After we had some lunch, it was time searching traces! For some reason, we got lost several times on our way to Chippewa Square, but we found it. I was confused. “Where is it?”, is what I was thinking out loud. I kept running in circles around the square, looking for the right spot. There was no bench anymore. They were using a fiberglass prop, which they put on a display at the Savannah Visitor Center afterwards. I was dying to go there and see it, but unfortunately, we didn’t have time for it. By the time, I looked up a picture on Google comparing the surrounding houses in the picture with the houses of my actual view, I started squeaking a little inside! “Here it is!!! I finally found the right spot! God, I am such an idiot!”, is what I was shouting with laughter to my friend, who was seeking shelter underneath a church, because it was raining. Again! I ran into the streets, not caring about any cars or buses, that could have run over me, taking pictures of this magical place and just being happy. “I don’t understand, how you can be this excited.”, my friend said to me, probably bored and thinking, that I am an idiot indeed, for taking so long, but being very patient! Being at the actual spot, where they filmed this famous scene, was more I could have dreamed of and never would have expected to see one day, so I am more than thankful for this moment!

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After this exciting experience, my friend wanted to go see Savannah’s City Hall. On our way there, we went through a lot of Savannah’s famous squares. There are 24 (some sources of information say 22, some say 24) and most of them are named in hornor or memory of a person, or historical event and most of them contain monuments, statues, water fountains and etc. It was really nice walking through all these little squares, that actually looked like tiny little parks and I never had the feeling, of them all looking the same. Each one of them had its own character and charm. The city hall of Savannah was decorated all Christmassy, with a Christmas tree and Christmas flowers, which I loved! We sat down for a while, resting and enjoying the Christmas spirit inside the city hall, before we continued our tour through the streets of Savannah. We went down some alleyway, that lead us to the port by the Savannah river, where we saw a huge container ship ( I know, these ships are huge, but I’ve never seen one this close before) leaving the port. The River Street right by the Port of Savannah, reminded me a little bit of the Warehouse District in Hamburg and this is where I spotted “River Street Sweets” (klick here, to get to their homepage), Savannah’s world famous pralines! Right next to the entrance, we were able to see, how they were making all kinds of candy, such as salt water taffy, toffee apples and chocolates. I loved how their shop, where you can buy all of these goodies and the cashiers were dressed as elves, was blending with the actual factory. I wanted to buy all of it, because everything just looked and smelled so delicious, that it was hard making a decision. In the end, I bought two pieces of chocolate, which were amzingly creamy and everything else but gross, because usually, I don’t like American chocolate (sorry guys, but your chocolate just sucks!). The taste of it, always reminds me of chocolate coating, which doesn’t taste good at all! But this time, it was different! Thanks to “River Street Sweets”!

 

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After discovering one of Savannah’s hot spots by coincidence (We are just so good at this!), we kept walking through the squares and streets, enjoying the lights and houses in Savannah’s historic distirict. Savannah also has a high number of churches. The oldest standing church is the First Baptiste Church, which was built in 1833 and is located on Chippewa Square (I guess, that was the one, where my friend was seeking shelter, when it was raining). Another historic one, we passed by and actually wanted to enter, but it just has closed its gates, is the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. I loved the almighty look of the church in the dawn. For only having a few hours of exploring Savannah, we’ve seen a lot and only because, we did everything by foot again. It is a quiet and lovely city, which is definitely worth visiting, especially for Forrest Gump fans!!! It was a bummer, that it was raining almost the entire time, but it didn’t do any harm to our visit! It has been another city, we never would have payed attention to and maybe never would have visited, if I wouldn’t have found out, that parts of my all time favourite movie was filmed here. Even better in the end it was to get to know this southern pearl and oldest city of Georgia, as we already had to say goodbye, to set out for our next destination: Florida!

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Going Down South for Christmas

When I’m thinking of Christmas, I’m usually thinking of snow. A lot of snow! Unfortunately I didn’t have a white Christmas in years! Okay, there has been a little bit of snow here and there back in 2012, but that didn’t really count, because it melted shortly after it touched the ground. At some point, I gave up hoping and especially this year it’s just depressing, because it’s like 10ยฐC outside (what the!?!)! But compared to my last years Christmas, it’s really cold in Germany, because I’ve spent it all the way down south in Florida!

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“We should go somewhere for Christmas, if we’re already off!”, is what my best friend and I thought, so we were figuring out, what we could do and especially where we could go. After thinking about all kinds of possibilities, this huge and amazing country had to offer and realizing, that we weren’t able affording any of these (living the good old life as an “Au Poor”!), we came up with the great idea, to just go on a road trip all the way down south. I’m not sure about whose idea it was, but I could imagine, that it wasn’t mine, because I’m the one with the snow and stuff. So we knew, what we wanted to do, but still weren’t sure about our destination. I told my host mom about our amazing plan and she said, that we should go to Charleston, South Carolina. “It’s beautiful and the food is amazing!”, is what she told me and to be honest, I wasn’t convinced. Charleston. This has been a destination, I never thought of going before. It has always been about New York City, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago and so on. Big cities, everyone knows and I really wanted to go to. I didn’t know anything about Charleston, so I haven’t been interested in this city at all (really cocky, I know!). So the next thing, I did was, looking at some pictures of Charleston and doing some research on Wikipedia. What I saw was really nice. “Well, why not.”, was what I thought. For some reason, and that is another thing, I don’t really remember, I found out about Savannah, Georgia. This has been the place, where they shot the famous bus scene in “Forrest Gump”, my favorite movie of all time. From one moment to the other, I got all excited and we had to go there! My best friend also wanted to go to Florida, which wasn’t far from Savannah. Our road trip down south was a done deal!

Unfortunately my memory got lost over the past year, so I’m not sure about what day we actually hit the road, but I think, it has been either December 20th or 21st. Well, it doesn’t matter what day it was, because the things, that matter where about to happen. So here we were in our little Honda Civic (thanks to my host mom, that she trusted me that much, that she gave me the car and we didn’t have to rent one!), all excited and ready for another adventure! I had a ridiculously huge suitcase, filled with a bunch of clothes, I didn’t need (such a stereotype of woman…), while my friend was packed with a lot of Christmas presents, he was so excited about, that he kept saying: “Oh my Gosh, I wanna open them!”. I kept telling him, to just open them, if he can’t wait and his answer always has been the same; “Nah, I’m gonna wait until Christmas!”. This was about to be a recurring conversation for the next 4 or 5 days. Eventually, he opened one, before I even started the car.

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During our drive, you would have been able watching a German woman struggling with temperature difficulties. Well, you can’t call it being difficult, if it’s getting warmer outside, because warmth is suppose to be a pleasure and anything else but a struggle, but to me it felt like a menopause! As soon, as we’ve reached warmer temperatures, I got crazy and turned up the AC. Shortly after that, it was too cold, so I turned it off again and became hot. I was fighting my own body: AC on, AC off. Window up, window down. I’ve never experienced something like this before. Maybe I was just extremly excited. Besides suffering from crazy weird temperatures, my best friend was playing the English teacher and taught me and also himself a lot of English words, phrases and grammar. What a sophisticated trip. After about 8,5 hours, we finally reached Charleston! We’ve booked a room at the Hampton Inn on Meeting Street, that reminded me of an old Russian barracks or at least a prison (no harm meant, folks!), so I was a little worried about having unwanted guests called Mr Cockroach or Mr Grasshopper. As soon, as we entered the hotel, which was decorated all Christmassy and we finally came to our room, all of my concerns turned out wrong and we had an amazing room with an even more amazing bed! Jackpot! I should stop having this absurd imagination. After we refreshed ourselves, we were about to paint the town red! Not far away from our hotel was a park with a lot of palm trees, that have been decorated with Christmas lights and were looking just beautiful at night! The southern type of Christmas tree. Hungry as bears, we spotted a cute little French restaurant called “39 Rue de Jean” (if you would like to get a table, click here), where we were sitting outside, enjoying some great wine and even greater food. After our delightful dinner, we headed back to our lovely prison hotel, to get some rest for a fully packed sightseeing tour the next day!

Only a few more days until Christmas, as we started our day in Charleston with summery temperatures and a blue sky. It didn’t feel Christmassy at all, which was confusing me a lot in the beginning. It felt like vacation, which it was, but if someone would have told me, that Christmas was about to fall through, I just would have shrugged my shoulders and said: “Alright.”. Our first stop has been the tourist information, to get a summary of things to do in good old Charleston. After my best friend got all kinds of maps and organized, I was being the one, who was just taking pictures again. “Don’t you wanna get a map as well?”, is what he asked me. I told him, that I wouldn’t need a map, if he already has one, since we’re together. Besides that, I hate carrying maps with me, when it’s a little windy and they’re getting all crumbled up and are annoying the shit out of me, until I throw them away and get lost afterwards. So I can get lost right from the beginning. But thanks to smartphones and google maps, there is no getting lost anymore. He looked at me smiling and said: “Well, maybe I am gonna continue our vacation without you.”. “I have the car.”, is what I told him and he just mumbled a “Damn!” and we both laughed. On our way downtown, we spotted a lot of backyards, residental gardens, which Charleston is also known for and which are beautiful! One prettier than the other. My favorite one was the Calhoun Mansion garden with its water fountain surrounded by a lot of plants and trees. And as I found out afterwards, part of the movie “The Notebook” has been shot inside the Calhoun Mansion.

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Charleston is known for it’s historic buildings, which are pouring on an unbelievably colonial charme, that made me wanna buy a lot of houses again (It’s really annoying being “poor” sometimes). What I liked about the houses the most, were these huge balconies, which were stretching from one side to the other. Some of these mansions even had two! Me and my friend, we kept gaping about this amazing arcitecture and have been a little bit jealous of these lucky bastards, that could call these houses their home! The luckiest of all, are the ones, that live right at the Battery of Downtown Charleston, the southernmost tip of the Charleston peninsula, where the Cooper River and Ashley River meet. A view, that makes you forget about all of your sorrows. We conquered the city of Charleston by foot, because it is the best way of exploring an unknown city. You are about to discover places, you never would have discovered, if you’d have taken the bus or the metro (besides there isn’t even a metro). It indeed is exhausting and at the end of the day, you have the biggest desire to just drop dead, but it’s worth the pain! Another thing, I enjoyed, was that little market, that we found by a happy coincidence and hasn’t been far from the water. The market took place in different little houses, that reminded me of old warehouses, which they probably were and they used to stock all kinds of things back in the days, when Charleston still has been one of the most important harbor towns in the United States of America, or to keep their horses and carriages there. I just love strolling along those kinds of markets. You can find the strangest and rarest things, artists and people from around are making themselves, to sell it. I could spend the entire day, looking at all these pieces of art, exploring things, I won’t ever see somewhere else again, because they are all so unique. Besides well-preserved arcitecture, Charleston has to offer a lot of distinguished restaurants and if we did something very well, it has been dining. My host mom told me, that we had to have crab sandwishes, crab cakes (looooooove these!) and every other kind of seafood. I love seafood, so I couldn’t wait, to try all of it and I really had a hard time making a decision, because it all sounded so good! It was also hard making a decision of where we wanted to eat. Good, that we had some coupons for a restaurant on King Street, the place to be, to shop until you drop and one of the main streets besides Meeting Street, so we got a table right outside the restaurant, where we could enjoy the weather, the food and watching people passing by. I love watching people, imagining, where they are coming from and how their lives might be. I know, it sounds creepy, but to me it’s fascinating.

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Charleston definitely casted a spell on me! I fell in love with this gorgeous place, I rejected with a shrug of my shoulders in the beginning. I am for sure not a fan of beaches, but I love waterfronts and harbors and I just adored Charleston’s waterfront, its beautiful park with that funny pineapple water fountain and these swings, we were sitting in and swinging at night, enjoying the sea breeze. I have to admit, that I didn’t feel the Christmas spirit at all, which seemed confusing to me in the beginning, but didn’t matter to me at some point anymore. This place has been special in it’s own way, so it has been a very new and special kind of Christmas spirit to me! From this moment, I’ve learned to pay more attention to all the unknown places, besides the mainstream! It’s not all about these big places, we see on a map right away and everyone knows about, because sometimes, we don’t even know, what kind of small and irrelevant places are out there, which become relevant only because of us. I’m more than thankful, that my host mom suggested me to go there. We would have missed out on a lot of beautiful places and memories! So I said goodbye to lovely Charleston after two days, because it was about time to leave and go to…

Savannah, Georgia! Forrest Gump, here I come!