A Fort With a Moat

We have been to about four forts during our travels in the South and Fort Pulaski located between Savannah and Tybee Island is probably the best one yet.  It is so well preserved and maintained, the National Park Service has done a great job keeping this fort looking sharp.   Plus this fort has a moat filled with water – how can you not love a fort with a real moat?  I liked that the moat is still filled from a canal that brings water from the river just as it was done from the earliest days.

Fort Pulaski was completed in 1847 to protect the port of Savannah.   When the Fort was built it was designed to withstand enemy gun fire.  In 1861 Confederate troops moved in to occupy the Fort at the beginning of the Civil War.  In 1862 Union soldiers used rifled cannon, a new weapon that was able to batter the brick and mason construction.  This was the first time these new weapons were used and and they made brick forts pretty much obsolete.  After the main powder magazine was exposed by the battering, the Commander surrendered to prevent further destruction and loss of life.  The Confederates only controlled the Fort about 14 months before surrendering.   This closed Savannah’s port to the Confederates and was a devastating blow to their economy.   In the picture below you can see a closer view of the damage including a cannon ball still stuck in the wall in the top left hand corner.   One of my favorite things about visiting here was being able to see the damage to the Fort.

Later in the war, the Fort was used as a prisoner of war camp for Confederate officers known as the “Immortal Six Hundred.”  They were housed on one side of the Fort with men crammed into bunks in a very small area for this many people.  Thirteen of the men died here.  I learned during a ranger talk that the Union commander was more kindly toward the prisoners than other Union officers could be, so the prisoners probably fared a little better.  Below is an interior view with gun placements.  I noticed that all the floors were swept very clean and free of any debris.  This was different than Fort Morgan, Alabama which I wrote about in a previous post.  Morgan was more atmospheric with loose dirt and debris all over.   It shows how different two places run by the National Park system can be maintained.

To get to Fort Pulaski you have to cross a few waterways including a bridge as the fort is located on an island.  After we crossed I noticed many downed and damaged trees, like they had been tossed around.  I learned at the visitor center that in one year two hurricanes and a tornado hit the area.  An article from a local paper noted:  “Fort Pulaski can’t seem to catch a break.”  In October 2016 Hurricane Matthew landed in the Savannah area and then on May 23, 2017 a tornado touched down on the island.  In September 2017 Hurricane Irma hit and although less destructive than Matthew, the island and fort experienced significant flooding.  The fort area was turned into a lake with wooden bridges that visitors used to cross the moat washing away.   After each disaster the fort had to be closed for repairs.   When we visited the fort itself looked good but the main Visitor Center was still not open.

Once you cross over the moat you enter through two sets of original doorways with the neatest old wooden doors.  The first doors have iron studs so they couldn’t be axed by intruders.   I have to say I am a fan of doors and doorways and they were one of my favorite things to see here.

You can walk around the whole bottom and top of the fort seeing the parade grounds, the various cannons and views of the waterways around the island.   Below, Mark caught a picture of me admiring the view from the top.

After visiting the fort we drove on to Tybee Island which is a favorite vacation spot for visitors to the Savannah area.  We visited one of the beaches which was peaceful and pretty.

Since I love lighthouses, I was happy to see the Tybee Island Light Station.   Two earlier lighthouses were destroyed after being built too close to the shore.  In 1736 the third was built a little further inland and so far has held firm.

In 1867 it was added on to and is now 154 feet tall with 178 stairs to the top.  When we visited the light was closed for repairs but you could go inside the lighthouse keeper’s home as well as a few other buildings on the property.  This is Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse.

As always, thanks for reading, we appreciate your support!  In the next blog we have moved on to Charleston, South Carolina and I plan to write about the first attraction we visited there.

Sights Around Savannah


Savannah’s River Walk is a popular place for visitors with a number of shops and restaurants located in the historic buildings.   Mark and I enjoyed seeing the tugboats and large ships on Savannah River.  In fact, Savannah is an important port city and the second busiest container exporter in the United States (after Los Angeles).   I was surprised to learn about Savannah’s port while taking a trolley tour.  I had never even heard about Savannah having a port before visiting here.  I enjoy all the learning that comes with traveling!    In the picture above, a large tanker was just coming by as we got to the river front.  I always get a thrill seeing the big ships.

Savannah has a a number of remarkable, historic churches.   I really enjoy checking out churches while touring cities.   My favorite here was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist built in 1873 which is stunning both inside and out.  It was hard to get a picture of the whole building because the spires are so tall!   I took the picture of the cathedral in Lafayette Square across the street.

The lovely Presbyterian Church has a tall thin steeple.  For those that are Forrest Gump fans, that steeple (and church building) were featured in the opening scene of the movie when the white feather floats past the steeple and down to the park bench where Forrest sits.  In the picture above I caught a horse and carriage passing by.  There were so many horse and carriages for hire in Savannah, more than I have seen in any other city or town.

Speaking of Forrest Gump, one day I wandered around Savannah on my own and decided to stop for lunch at Debi’s Restaurant where a scene from the movie was filmed.  In the film, Jenny was working as a waitress here when she saw Forrest on television running across the U.S.   I had the tasty fish and grits with mushroom sauce which is advertised on the sign out front.

Speaking of something good to eat, when in Savannah you must have a praline (or two).  At least I believe so.  I became a big fan of this sugary treat in New Orleans where praline shops are a common fixture.  I have found in my travels in the south that not all pralines are created equal with some better than others.  The pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen were loaded with big chunks of pecans and worth all the sugar and calories.

I really enjoyed seeing the historical row houses in Savannah, usually built in close proximity to the squares.   I wish now I had taken an architectural tour as it would have been interesting to learn about these impressive homes.   Most of them are brick and have stairways with iron railings on the side of the home.  Under the stairways is another entrance, although I don’t know where these doorways lead.   These charming homes were built in the mid 1800’s.  You have to watch your footing on the uneven brick sidewalks!

Downtown Savannah has some important historical homes that can be toured.  One of Savannah’s more well known citizens was Juliette Gordon Low who founded the Girl Scouts in 1902.  Juliet was born in this home in 1860 and spent her young life here (below).  When the home was scheduled to be destroyed, it was bought by the Girl Scouts in 1953 and continues to be run by the organization today.  March is Girl Scout cookie sales month and I thought it was cute to see a group of scouts selling their cookies in front of Juliette’s home.  I decided not to tour the inside of the house, but quickly visited the gift shop where many young girls were checking out the Girl Scout merchandise for sale.

Thanks for coming along with me as I checked out Savannah.  In my next post I plan to go back a little in time and talk about exploring the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

Walking Around Savannah

Savannah is a city full of history and in order to really see it, I think you need to go by foot.  I actually started my tour of Savannah by taking a 90-minute trolley tour, in order to get a look at what the city had to offer.  That was a great introduction, but I got a real feel for the city by walking around and seeing it up close.

Savannah, founded in 1733 is known as the first planned city as it was laid out in a series of grids with squares and parks.   There were originally 24 squares and 22 are still around today.  These squares make the city very unique and different than any other city we have visited.  Each of the squares have a name, such as Monterey Square above built in 1847.  The squares are named in remembrance of an important individual or event.   This square has been used in several films including the movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” a film I have never seen.

We started out visiting Forsyth Park, the largest of Savannah’s parks with a beautiful fountain and huge oaks with hanging moss.  This is a park where people love to hang out – playing music, painting nature scenes, napping in hammocks, walking their dogs and even tightrope walking.  When we came upon this large park I was delighted as the azaleas were in bloom and there was a riot of color where ever I looked.  We continued to see blooming azaleas not just in Forsyth Park but all over the downtown.  I don’t think I have seen that many azalea bushes in bloom in any other town or city, it was wonderful.

It was fun to walk around and try to see as many of the 22 squares as possible.  I probably did not make it to all of them, but I saw most of them.  Some had a monument, statue or fountain in the center but some were quite plain, with no ornamentation other than a few park benches.  Most had the large oak trees that Savannah is known for.  One square was used in the filming of Forrest Gump when Forrest was sitting and waiting for the bus before visiting Jenny toward the end of the movie.

Above is a picture of Wright Square, one of the original four squares laid out in 1733.   It was hard for me to imagine that this shady brick square has been around for 285 years.  It was the square situated next to the court house and named for one of the royal governors.  I thought it was one of the most attractive of the squares.

Another square I enjoyed seeing was Reynolds Square pictured above.  It was completed in 1734 and was the sixth square laid out.  It has a statue of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist religion who came to Savannah in 1735 on a mission trip, staying for several years.  The statue marks the spot where his house was supposedly located.

Thanks for coming along on my exploration of Savannah.  In this post I am talking about our current travel location as we were exploring here today.  This is the first post that uses our new photo editing system (just a little start).

In my next post, I plan to talk more about exploring this city.

Return to Jekyll Island, Georgia

Four years ago in March I finished a group tour with Road Scholar that was located on Amelia Island in Northeastern Florida.  I wanted to stay a few more days before flying home and was curious to see Jekyll Island on the Georgia Coast.  I spent one night there with the whole next day to enjoy before driving to Jacksonville, Florida in the evening for an early flight the next morning.  Biking is a favorite activity with a path that rings the island for about 15 miles through beautiful scenery.   There are miles of open ocean views as well as marshes, forests and a charming historical district.  I rented a bicycle riding from morning to late afternoon, having the time of my life not even stopping for lunch.  I was fortunate to have sunny, warm and clear weather, perfect for biking.   Unfortunately, my Road Scholar trip had been cold and rainy for most of the week, so this day of sunshine was much appreciated.  Perhaps my friend Anette remembers that cold trip?    Above is a picture Mark dug out of the archives of me biking back in 2014.

I stopped to walk Driftwood Beach where dead trees still stood in the sand near the surf or lay where they fell in twisted shapes.   This was one of the most interesting and scenic beaches I had ever visited.   I rode to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where I learned about the turtles that come to nest here on Jekyll Island and visited the turtle hospital where they receive care after they are picked up injured or ill.   I went off the bike trail and rode down dirt paths next to huge oaks filled with Spanish moss and palmettos.  I stopped by Horton House, a shell of a home that was built in 1736 by Major Horton for his plantation residence.  Horton commanded a regiment of British troops stationed here.  Below, another from the archive featuring me in one of the home’s windows.

On this island there are no strip malls, shopping centers, chain restaurants or stores, just a great deal of natural beauty.  I decided Jekyll Island was a place to return to – a special place where I wanted to spend more time.   Here is a little piece of paradise.  The feeling of paradise was shared by others and in 1886 the island was purchased by a group of wealthy families as a private retreat.  The Jekyll Island Club was built and members included millionaires J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt and Marshall Field.  Prominent families such as the Rockefellers, Goulds and Goodyears built vacation homes here they called “cottages.”  On my first trip to the Island I took a tour of the historic district where we learned about the families that stayed here, the cottages and were able to see inside several of them.

When we were planning this trip I wanted to spend a week at Jekyll Island after finishing our time in Florida.  A few months before we wanted to come, I called the only campground on the Island to get a reservation.  I found out that they only had an available site for three nights around the time we wanted to be there.  I was disappointed at not being able to stay longer, but decided to make the best of it.  Jekyll Island is popular with “snowbirds,” as well as a nice place to vacation for the beaches so I knew beforehand it might be difficult to get a reservation.

On February 24 we left St. Augustine, Florida and arrived to Jekyll Island, our first time staying on an island on this trip.   The campground (above) is beautifully tree covered and in a nice location, but our campsite was short, narrow and difficult to back into.  We were very close to another camper and felt squeezed in.  Still, I was happy to finally be back.  While Mark attended to some things around the trailer, I walked over to the “bird sanctuary” at the back of the campground.  I had visited this spot as well on my first trip.    In our travels, this is the first RV park that features an area devoted to feeding the birds.  Enclosed by a wooden fence, there are about eight feeders of different sizes and as I watched, a number of birds were happily feeding including Grackles, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Chickadees to name a few.  There is even a large poster nearby that lists common backyard birds in the Southeastern United States to help with bird identification.  A mailbox for those that want to put a card or letter to the birds is a favorite with the children.  It is a delightful little spot.

Unfortunately, our trip to Jekyll was not meant to be.  We left St. Augustine sick with an upper respiratory flu or virus, our first real illness of the trip.  Neither one of us usually gets sick like this so it was a stroke of bad luck.  It looked like my plans of riding a bike along the sunny paths of Jekyll would not be realized.  Our first full day after checking in the day before, found us bedridden trying to get well.  On the second day I was determined to do a little sightseeing and drove to Driftwood Beach, not far from our campground.

It was a very grey, cloudy day with rain showers on the forecast for later in the afternoon. I thought if I started out shortly before noon, I would have some time before the rain came.  After walking down the beach awhile, enjoying all the driftwood sculptures, the sky became even darker and it started raining.  It was perplexing as I had only been out about 15 or 20 minutes.

I had not brought a jacket and as I walked back my shirt was soon wet, not very smart for someone trying to get better from an upper respiratory illness.  I headed back to the truck to wait it out and see if the rain clouds might pass, but after about 20 minutes with no sign of a letup, I drove on.  My last stop of the day was the Horton House for a very short visit before more rain started falling.   I took a picture of the front to post since the picture of me on my first visit shows me only sitting in one of the windows.

I had hoped to visit the Turtle Center again and have some pictures and information to share on the blog.  I didn’t feel well enough though to spend the time there and the rain had dampened my spirits.  Below is an evening sunset we took the first day we arrived at Jekyll.  The view is the lovely Sidney Lanier Bridge in the distance that crosses over to the town of Brunswick.

The next day we prepared to move on to Savannah, Georgia and Mark was still sick but resigned to the move.  I had not succeeded in making him a fan of Jekyll Island.  He really didn’t like the campground and was not that impressed with the Island after I took him on a few driving tours.  Of all the places we have traveled, Jekyll was the place we differed the most about.   I argued for the great natural beauty, the quiet, the feeling of getting away from it all, the uniqueness of a place that has not become over built with hotels, stores and houses.   He argued that it was not much different than the rest of the coast we had seen and not being able to find a cold drink and NyQuil on the Island was hardly a virtue.   My argument that prominent and millionaire families found much to like here also did not hold any weight.   Was his flu addled brain not thinking clearly?   So dear readers, I hope those that have not visited Jekyll Island but are considering a visit in the future will take my word for it.   Jekyll is worth it – it’s a pretty cool place!

Thanks for spending time with us!  Next blog we are off to Savannah.