_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

I’m in a coffee shop in Savannah, Ga. called the Sentient Bean, adjacent to Forsyth Park: 10 acres of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, coning magnolia trees and the strangest succulent plant I have ever seen, like a cross between a giant aloe vera and Audrey II.

Public parks parks like this one, large and small, dot the entire historic district like freckles as they have for almost 300 years. It’s an ancient city, the oldest in the United States, already more than 125 years in when Union forces knocked out the walls of nearby Fort Pulaski in 1862.

And it’s a small city, with about 135,000 in Savannah proper and another 200,000 or so in the metro area.

In the downtown neighborhoods off Broughton Street, it is faster to get around by foot or bicycle than to circumnavigate these little gems by car. The sidewalks, jutted and uneven though they sometimes may be, demand to be walked.

We took in a length of Broughton Street last night, an unbroken stretch of commerce and action with a solid mix of chain restaurants — like a really nice Starbucks with a soda fountain and a dueling Gap and Banana Republic — and businesses of local origin, like this here Sentient Bean, which is a great name. White light bathed the Savannah College of Art and Design at the end of our tour.[pullquote]It’s beautiful, a city as a work of art, like a scrubbed-down and proper New Orleans.[/pullquote]

Hundreds walked the streets last night, in these neighborhoods underneath the Talmadge Bridge, though it was just another Friday. More crowded the bars and clubs. Broughton was just as vibrant this morning when we took in Forsyth Park.

It’s beautiful, a city as a work of art, like a scrubbed-down and proper New Orleans. But with more little parks.

All we’ve eaten so far is ice cream, so I cannot yet report on the state of the culinary arts here in south Georgia. But I’m keenly aware that this is the city where Paula Deen made her name, and I’m ready to eat as much butter as the situation demands.

And then we’re out, like ghosts. As always, Monday in the Triad calls.

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