Hitting the tourist trail in America’s Deep South

Southern Railway offer fresh talks with RMT

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America’s Deep South state of Georgia has changed dramatically since those Gone With The Wind days of the bitterly-divisive Civil War.

But that wonderful and oh-so-charming Southern accent is still there. You positively will someone to say: ‘Well, I do declare!’ Or: ‘Y’all come back now!’

And although the major city of Atlanta is today a forward-looking, state-of-the-art ‘capital of the South,’ wartime legacies still exist.

Down in the old cotton port of Savannah, some folk still call the Civil War ‘the War Of Northern Aggression.’

It’s not as if they want a return to the days of slavery. But, as in the epic book and film Gone With The Wind, the slash-and-burn policy of the Union troops in Georgia are still etched deep in the Southern soul.

Memories are particularly prominent at present, with the 150th anniversary of the war’s outbreak looming large on the horizon in April.

Against that war-torn background, who can ever forget film star Clark Gable’s sign-off line as Rhett Butler to the spurned Scarlet O’Hara (played by Vivien Leigh): ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’

The events in the book and film illustrate the fall of the Confederacy, as the Unionist General, William Tecumseh Sherman, went on his decisive March To The Sea to deliver Savannah to President Abraham Lincoln (pictured left).

Everything was razed to the ground – but he spared several towns, including beautiful Madison and Savannah.

Today, part of the route that Sherman followed makes a fascinating 100-mile tourist trail between the classic city of Athens and Macon, with tours round some of the truly magnificent Southern mansions.

They still stand proud on the Antebellum Trail, the name given to the pre-Civil war era.

A couple of days in Atlanta, a two-hour drive to the Antebellum Trail, two or three days visiting the seven impressive towns, plus a couple of nights in Savannah makes for a perfect week-long, fly-drive holiday.

Characterful tour guide Savannah Dan will showcase some of the historic city’s 1,000 preserved homes and gardens.

The riverside city, with its trees draped in Spanish Moss, is aptly placed in America’s Top Ten Travel Destinations.

Just avoid the hot summer months.

In Macon, the column-fronted Italianate mansion Hay House is a must-see.

For music lovers, the Georgian Music Hall Of Fame showcases Georgia’s finest, including Ray Charles and Otis Reading.

In Athens, the TRR Cobb House puts on a historical re-enactment, the corseted lady wearing a full, flowing gown, the gentleman being suitably pompous and self-satisfied.

For film lovers, there’s the chance to visit the authentic Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Juliette, centre stage for the film Fried Green Tomatoes.

They really are delicious too.

Flights to Atlanta are with Delta Airlines from London or Manchester, return from £456 – go to delta.com

For Antebellum Trail information – antebellumtrail.org

Georgia Tourism information – exploregeorgia.org

Savannah attractions – savannahvisit.com

Atlanta tourism info – atlanta.net

Recommended places to stay:

Avia Hotel, Savannah - aviahotels.com

Foundry Park Inn, Athens – foundryparkinn.com

Fairfield Inn and Suites, Milledgeville – marriott.com

Blue Willow Inn and Restaurant – bluewillowinn.com

Artmore Hotel, Atlanta – artmorehotel.com

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