Discovering the old-world charm of Savannah - Curt Yeomans

As the music group, Black-Eyed Peas, once said, "Let's get it started in here."

So, I start my series of columns on places to go in Georgia with Georgia's first city -- Savannah. First off, Paula Deen is not the end-all, be-all of Savannah. I just want to put that out there now as we get into this thing.

It's the place where you can learn colonial history, Revolutionary War history, and Civil War history. It's the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low. It's home to the park bench that "Forrest Gump" sat on. It's got not one, but TWO 19th Century forts. It was where "Midnight in the Garden of Evil" was filmed.

And, yeah, it is where Deen has a popular restaurant.

So where should I begin? Well, if you prefer a mobile tour, there is "Savannah's Best Sightseeing Tours" (www.trolleytours.com/savannah). During this get-on-and-off-as-you-wish trolley tour, you can see multiple Savannah sites, including the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace; Chippewa Square (with a statue of Georgia founder James Oglethorpe); Forsyth Park; River Street; the City Market, and the Ships of the Sea Museum.

Tickets are $25 per adult, if purchased in person. It's much more affordable for young children, however. Children under 4 are free, and tickets cost $10 for youths between the ages of 4 and 12. Now, if you choose the trolley tour, you should pre-purchase your tickets online. There is an online discount for adult tickets, which gets them to $22.50.

Now, as I said, there are two old forts in, or very near, Savannah. The first is Old Fort Jackson, which is located at 1 Fort Jackson Road. It's open from 9 a.m., to 5 p.m., and is the (much) smaller of the two area forts. It's a quick visit, that probably takes 25 minutes, tops, but if you time your visit just right, you can catch one of the cannon demonstrations.

The fort is run by the Coastal Heritage Society. Admission is cheap, about $5 per person (unless you're a very young child; then, it's free). You can call the fort's visitor shop at (912) 232-3945, for more information on the cannon-firing demonstrations.

The other local fort is Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island, just 15 miles east of Savannah on U.S. Hwy. 80. It is much bigger than Old Fort Jackson. It's run by the National Park Service, and admission is just $3 per person over the age of 16. Anyone, 15 and under, can get in free.

The visitor's center is open from 9 a.m., to 6 p.m., during the summer, and the fort features hourly cannon and rifle demonstrations on Saturdays. But, the neat thing about Fort Pulaski is its exterior walls, facing the surrounding marshes. They're pot-holed from all the cannons that were fired at them during the Civil War.

Now, I mentioned Paula Deen earlier, so I can't end this column without talking about the food accommodations. While I'm sure Paula Deen's restaurant is a fine place to eat, I'd recommend you each lunch there, only if you are a diehard fan, because the place is notorious for its long lines of people waiting to get a table.

The thing is, you don't even need to eat there if you're just looking for a quick bite to eat and don't want a long wait. There are plenty of good places in town. One place, I found I liked when I went down there a couple of years ago, was Kevin Barry's Irish Pub, which is located at 117 West River Street. It's a nice little two-story place I found while walking along the river front.

You're food won't cost much either, most dishes are under $15. But, really Savannah is full of Irish Pubs, so don't take my recommendation as the only one you should try, by any means. So, that's Savannah in a quick nutshell. Next week, I'll talk about nearby Tybee Island, and it's lighthouse and beach.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.