Scottish Daily Mail

Georgia on our minds

- By James Coney

WE WERE in the tasting room at the Coca-Cola factory in Atlanta when son No 1 declared loudly: ‘I really don’t like fizzy drinks.’ It was as if we’d walked into a Wild West saloon and the pianist had suddenly stopped playing. I smiled meekly at the lady handing out the distinctiv­e red-labelled glass bottles of soda and prepared to offer my finest apology.

Instead she guffawed: ‘Never y’all mind. You keep this bottle and come back when you do.’

And that’s the famous Southern hospitalit­y. It’s everywhere you go in the state of Georgia in America’s Deep South.

Locals stop to chat, ask about the children or just find out whether you’re having good time.

Yes, we were either enormously brave or downright stupid to drag our 18-month-old, Charlie, and four-year-old, Will, on a nine-hour flight. But we didn’t regret it for a second.

Our base in Atlanta was the Hyatt Regency. In the heart of downtown, its atrium, 22 floors high and flanked with five glass lifts, could keep little boys entertaine­d for hours.

And it’s just two blocks to the main attraction­s that surround Centennial Square — built for the Olympics here in 1996. There’s the city’s exceptiona­l aquarium ( which boasts a 6.3 million-gallon main tank filled with whale sharks and huge manta rays), the wonderfull­y creative Children’s Museum, the World Of Coca-Cola and a ferris wheel.

Oddly, after all this the boys didn’t want to go to the studios of CNN, the 24-hour news channel. ‘You’re no sons of mine!’ I shouted as I headed for a tour, leaving them and Mrs C to play in the Olympic fountains.

Barbecue is a speciality in the Deep South, and there is none better than Fox Brothers, five minutes from the city centre. There’s always a long, but swiftly moving queue for its tasty chicken wings, tender pulled pork and smoky slow-cooked brisket — and the portions were gigantic.

Half-an-hour outside the city is Stone Mountain — a 1,000ft-high piece of granite that suddenly rises out of a national park. On the side is carved one of America’s secret wonders: a 190ft-high picture of three Confederat­e generals, sculpted (initially, at least) by Gutzon Borglum — whose more famous work is the presidents of Mount Rushmore.

We took a cable car, past their enormous bearded faces, to the summit. It’s only atop this barren moonscape t hat y ou f ul l y appreciate how otherwise flat and densely wooded Georgia is.

The only break in a green horizon are the high rises of downtown Atlanta and the hazy outline of the Appalachia­n Mountains.

And so it proved as the next day we drove four hours along a flat, wooded highway to Tybee Island. The streets are lined with pastelcolo­ured wooden cottages — many with their residents lolling in rocking chairs on their porches. They’ll holler out: ‘How y’all doing today?’ as you wander past.

It may have looked cute, but our cottage (called Sandy Toes) had a wonderfull­y well- equipped kitchen, beach towels, buckets and spades, wi- f i , and airconditi­oning — a must- have when the temperatur­e easily hits the mid-30s.

The Atlantic side of the island is an unbroken stretch of wide, white sandy beach; the other is marshland. Turtles nest on these shores, and the shallow, salty waters breed some of the finest shellfish in the States.

The Crabshack restaurant serves up whatever is in season. We sat by the swamp and had tender, sweet crabs (snow and blue), shrimp, crawfish, oysters, mussels, served on vast platters with pots of melted butter, boiled potatoes and corn on the cob.

Then it was hard to drag ourselves away to visit the city of Savannah, just 12 miles west, but well worth the effort. A trolley-bus tour will guide you through streets lined with Southern Oaks with soft beards of Spanish moss dropping from their branches.

The City was founded in 1733, making it one of the country’s oldest, and boomed on the cotton industry. Paddle-steamers still sit dockside in the old city, but today are dwarfed by the immense tankers that power by to a modern industrial port down river.

After a lunch of sweet, crispy fried green tomatoes, we headed to Leopold’s — a superb ice cream parlour. Go for the nutty pistachio or Chocolate Chewie (a traditiona­l Savannah cookie) flavour. The parlour is owned by Stratton Leopold, whose other j ob is producing movies such as Captain America and Mission: Impossible, and parapherna­lia from his films line the walls.

As we left, the staff hollered: ‘Y’all come back now!’ With hospitalit­y like that, we certainly will.


VIRGIN Holidays (0844 557 3859,

virginholi­ offers seven nights in Atlanta & Savannah from £1,065 per adult and £645 per child. Price includes direct flights from Heathrow, car hire, three nights in Atlanta at the 4V Sheraton Atlanta, and four nights in Savannah at the 3V+ Double Tree by Hilton Savannah Historic District (both room only). Double rooms at the Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, start at £80 per night. Prices based on a family of four travelling in October half-term.

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Southern fun: James’s son Will in Atlanta
Fast cars and fast food: Savannah’s restaurant­s and a 1949 motor Southern fun: James’s son Will in Atlanta

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