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I have been away. I am just (well, as of Saturday) back from two weeks in Georgia, USA. And I know, if I was a proper media-savvy author I would have been blogging and tweeting my way around the state, but a) I was on holiday! and b) I’m not normally paranoid but I’m also not sure of the wisdom of advertising on social media that you’re AWAY and your house is EMPTY for two weeks. Once broken-into, twice shy.

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This bear has no link with Charleston but he’s been in Charleston History Museum for ages and they keep him there for sentimental reasons.

Anyway. We flew to Atlanta where we hired a ridiculously massive people-carrier with tinted windows (mix-up at hire car place) and drove to Charleston, Savannah and other points in between. Atlanta was weird and sprawling and fun; we went to the World Of Coca Cola where they show you a film about the joy of Coke that was so expertly manipulative it actually had us both wiping away a tear. And then we went to the Center for Civil and Human Rights for something genuinely moving. Charleston and Savannah were just as gorgeous and draped in Spanish moss and steeped in history as you would expect from the films, though, boy were they busy with tourists. We tried to eat dinner in Charleston on a Sunday and Monday nights without reservations …. and were told, everywhere, that it would be at least an hour’s wait; on the Monday we managed to get into a very fancy restaurant, basically because it was housed in a sort of haunted mansion on the quieter side of town. In Savannah we went to Bonaventure Cemetery (as seen in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) – no ghosts (that we saw) but a billion mosquitoes.

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What else? We drove up into the Blue Ridge mountains and saw the crazy ‘Alpine’ town of Helen and hiked around Tallulah Gorge … we canoed around a swamp with cypresses and alligators, and we explored the remains of a Native American city that reminded me of Newgrange, and we had fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop cafe. My favourite place that we visited was actually Athens – a college town with a bit of a hipster vibe, home of REM, the B-52s and of course the Georgia Bulldogs. Go Dawgs!

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All the cliches were true: everyone was super-friendly and called us ‘y’all’ and served us a choice of ‘sweet or un-sweet’ ice tea, and we drove past loads of little churches with Bible quotes on letter boards outside, and miles of neon strips full of Sleep Motels and Chick-Fil-As. We went to restaurants where everything was deep-fried, and others where it was all ‘farm-to-fork’  and sustainable and seasonal – my absolute favourite was The National in Athens; it was a bit like Moro in London but half the price. We stayed in Holiday Inns, charming historic Inns, and in a weird bed and breakfast where the owner joined us for breakfast (I know some people love this about bed and breakfasts but we’ve decided we don’t). And all we brought back were: a souvenir mug from the Coffee Fox, a T-shirt from the best diner in Atlanta (Ria’s Bluebird), some Reese’s Peanut things (gross) and some dodgy photos. Enjoy!

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