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A tale of two great Southern sister cities
An English Rose in Georgia
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My husband and I recently enjoyed a weekend in downtown Charleston, which was great fun but reinforced how right our decision was to make our home near Savannah rather than in “The Palmetto City.”

My husband is from the Midwest, so we really had to explore the South before choosing where to live in the good ol’ USA. There are many reasons why we are so happy with our choice, although my husband often says it is because there is truth in the old joke: “In Atlanta, the first thing locals ask you is your business; in Charleston, they ask your mother’s maiden name; and in Savannah, they ask what you want to drink!”

I guess most preferences come down to personal taste. I fell in love with downtown Savannah when we first visited and have remained enamored with the city itself and with Richmond Hill as a great place to live.

To me, Savannah is by far the prettier sister of these two neighboring antebellum cities. Both cities initially were English colonies, although Charleston was settled first in 1670 and frequently was attacked by Spain and France, who challenged England’s claim to the region. This actually reflects what happened in Europe throughout history; most famously, England and France fought for land across the channel during the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453. The Spanish tried to invade England during the late 16th century, most famously in its failed Armada of 1588 when Britain’s terrible weather and rocky coastline helped destroy the Spanish ships.

When the Colonial period arrived, Europeans took their fighting over land to the “New World.” Georgia was founded by the English as a buffer territory to protect South Carolina from any advance by the Spanish from Florida.

My husband teases me that I prefer Savannah because I can’t forgive Charleston for being a focal point of the Revolution against the British. Of course, both Charleston and Savannah were always in strategic locations on the Eastern seaboard, which is why major forts were built close by to defend them.

I must admit that I do love the story of Georgia’s history and still am enchanted by the fact that the British Gen. James Oglethorpe from Godalming in Surrey arrived in 1733 in Savannah (like us, he had stopped briefly at the settlement in “Charles Towne” and then moved on). Oglethorpe — under royal instructions from King George II of England, after whom Georgia is named — famously made his vision for a planned city come true. The layout of Savannah really appeals to my love of order and neatness — a mixed blessing, according to my husband. Almost 150 years later, I am grateful that Savannah’s city fathers surrendered to Gen. William Sherman to save the city from destruction, ensuring the preservation of much of the city’s beauty and history.

I agree that there are a lot of similarities between Charleston and Savannah. Both cities are considered to be Southern belles, dripping with Southern splendor and gentility. Both are on or near the Atlantic Ocean, with Savannah on the river and Charleston on a peninsula where the harbor meets the sea. Both are small in population and area and of topical relevance, as both are contemporary cities with huge ports.

And yet, the vibes are so different. Famous American architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen said, “When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.” I love to walk the wonderfully spacious downtown area of Savannah with its stately classic architecture, live oaks with Spanish moss, marvelous squares, fountains and Forsyth Park. Charleston’s charms are more casual, and the streets are haphazard, reminding me of the Caribbean. Of course, there is appeal to Rainbow Row along East Bay Street, where the houses are painted all the colors of the rainbow, great fun and historical interest in taking the boat to Fort Sumter Island, and admiring the Battery.

However, to me Savannah and Coastal Georgia always will be the jewel in the glorious crown that is the Southeastern U.S.
God bless America!

Lesley grew up in London, England, and moved to Richmond Hill in 2009. She can be contacted at or

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