Rynek Glowny Market Place, Krakow.
Krakow: city of treasures
Street sellers on cobblestone laneways alongside modern restaurants and hotels. Welcome to the city of old and new. By Tim Richards. 
5 of the best English coastal towns
For many, a holiday in a quaint idyllic English seaside village is top of the bucket list. Tick off five of the best Ol’ Blighty has for a glorious British Summer. St Ives – Cornwall The spectacular crescent-shaped Porthmeor Beach is the focal point for all visitors to St Ives, from families with their buckets and spades, to romantic couples and surfers. You only have to stroll along its rippled sands on a sunny day, with the ever-changing light bouncing off the Atlantic surf, to realise why this once busy pilchard-fishing village has become the hub of the country’s art scene.   The jewel of the art crown is the Tate St Ives that stands proudly on the hillside behind the beach. Peruse the works of celebrated local artists like Barbara Hepworth and Patrick Heron before enjoying an alfresco lunch on the stylish rooftop terrace with picture-postcard views. More of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures can be seen dotted around town and her larger works are on display at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden on Barnoon Hill.   In the heart of town, the fusion of traditional seaside elements and boutique chic makes for an interesting mix: there is a network of cobbled lanes crammed with art studios, surf shops, brasseries and several bakeries selling hearty Cornish pasties.   And although it can get busy in peak season, St Ives remains an essential Cornish tour stop. But, if the summer crowds become too much, walk a small section of the huge 1013-kilometre South West Coast Path for a taste of Cornwall’s stunning coastal scenery. The 11-kilometre stretch from St Ives to Zennor features a series of plunging descents into rocky coves and steep ascents to headlands offering panoramic views of the turquoise waters below. Where to stay Primrose Valley: Stylish, award-winning Edwardian eco-hotel with individually furnished rooms and great sea views, just a stone-throw from the beach. primroseonline.co.uk Treliska: Attractive, modern and relaxed guesthouse just steps from the town centre. treliska.com Best pub for a pint The Sloop Inn: One of Cornwall’s oldest and most famous pubs (circa 1312) has retained much of its atmosphere from times long past. It is a favourite hangout for artists, fishermen and travellers alike. sloop-inn.co.uk [caption id="attachment_42830" align="alignleft" width="1500"] View overlooking Porthminster Beach St Ives Cornwall England[/caption] Brighton – East Sussex Brighton first established itself as a seaside resort in the mid-18th century due to the developing trend in sea-bathing. It cemented its reputation further when the hedonistic Prince of Wales (the future George IV) began visiting the town in the 1780s with his mistress, helping to establish the ‘naughty weekend’ away.   Fast forward to present times and this is the scene. It’s a sunny summer morning and the seafront is abuzz with joggers, dog walkers and people practising Tai Chi, while others enjoy gourmet breakfasts and sip mochas at outdoor cafés. Further along towards the pier, seafood vendors serve mussels, shrimps and jellied eels from their beachside kiosks as beach attendants rent out deckchairs to holiday-makers.   In recent years, the place that evokes images of car rallies from London, beach raves, Mods and Rockers, and a lively gay scene has undergone a transformation – out are the dingy B&Bs and tatty seafront, replaced by cutting-edge bars, classy restaurants, slick hotels and a cool bohemian vibe.   The Grade II listed Brighton Pier is still the place to go for some classic seaside fun with its amusement halls and iconic fairground rides, like the ghost train, helter skelter and golden carousel. Just back from the beach are other quintessential experiences – get lost in the atmospheric maze of streets that make up the Brighton Lanes, once a fishing village and now a cornucopia of designer boutiques, restaurants and antique shops. Close by is the Royal Pavilion, home of King George IV and one of the most exotic, extravagant royal palaces in Europe. Where to stay The Grand: For those with deep pockets, this is the place to stay, where rooms overlooking the sea, old-fashioned glamour, afternoon tea and cocktails are the order of the day. grandbrighton.co.uk   Drakes: This elegant seafront townhouse with sleek rooms and a top-notch restaurant is an excellent choice for that ‘naughty weekend’ away. drakesofbrighton.com Best pub for a pint Evening Star: Tucked away near the station, this cosy gem of a pub (no football, no music and no food) has an extensive menu of award-winning real ales, Belgian beers and real ciders. [caption id="attachment_42832" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Brighton Beach, England[/caption] Whitby – North Yorkshire Much of Whitby’s wide-ranging appeal stems not only from its rich seafaring history and idyllic setting, but from the two sides of its character – one as a working fishing port and the other as a traditional seaside resort. The imposing ruins of the 13th-century abbey dominate the skyline above town where narrow cobbled lanes and red-bricked houses spill down the slopes of the headland to a natural harbour below.   Along the harbour, amusement arcades ring with the sounds of one-armed bandit machines, while the sea air is tinged with the sweet aroma of candy floss and toffee apples. Brightly-painted fishing boats line the quayside where salty characters load off their catch destined for the town’s fish market and numerous fish and chip shops. One of the best known is the Magpie Café on Pier Road, where people queue outside to buy crisp battered haddock or cod, with chips and mushy peas.   Whitby has managed to retain much of its 18th-century character. And the fact that Captain James Cook, the town’s most famous adopted son, completed his apprenticeship here as a seaman (between 1747 and 1755) and sailed from this tiny harbour, is a strong drawcard. Visit the house in Grape Lane where Cook studied, which today is a museum in his honour, and take the pilgrimage stroll to the West Cliff, where a bronze statue of the great navigator stands, for panoramic views over town and the Esk River.   On the opposite headland, the famous 199 steps to the ruins of the abbey straggle the hillside and its sombre graveyard of ancient tombstones. This haunting setting was the inspiration for Dracula by Victorian novelist Bram Stoker who wrote the classic 1897 yarn in a B&B in the old part of town. Fans wanting more can visit the walk-through Dracula Experience on Marine Parade and the tourist office sells an excellent Dracula Trail leaflet to visit some of the featured sites. Where to stay Marine Hotel: Situated in a prime position on Whitby’s harbourside, the Marine Hotel features four luxurious rooms with sea views (two with private balconies) and specialises in hand-picked local seafood. the-marine-hotel.co.uk   White Horse and Griffin: Quality affordable accommodation and restaurant in a 322-year-old building. Ask about the Boat House, a romantic little hideaway over a gangplank in the middle of Whitby Harbour. whitehorseandgriffin.com Best pub for a pint Station Inn: Atmospheric watering hole offering an extensive range of cask-conditioned ales. stationinnwhitby.co.uk Margate – Kent The fortunes of this popular English seaside holiday town have ebbed and flowed since artist JMW Turner produced seascapes here in the 19th century. Tourism numbers dwindled in the second half of last century, but recently Margate has firmly stepped back on the tourist map, thanks to a programme of major cultural regeneration projects. In particular, the Turner Contemporary gallery, which highlights the town’s links with the famous artist and the plans to reopen the iconic Grade II listed Dreamland amusement park in 2013.   The long stretches of clean, sandy beaches and the 44-kilometre Viking Coastal Trail are still the main attractions and the Old Town and Harbour Arm have a distinctive arty feel, with quirky shops, galleries and great places to eat. Open-air live music, art exhibitions and festivals all bring Margate to life throughout the summer months.   Other activities providing year-round entertainment include amusement arcades, the Hornby Visitor Centre (featuring model railways and cars) and the mysterious Shell Grotto. Discovered in 1835, this subterranean world is a collection of winding passages leading to an oblong chamber, its walls decorated with strange symbols and mosaics made completely out of shells. Situated about 1.5 kilometres along the seafront heading east is the Tom Thumb Theatre, thought to be the world’s smallest working theatre. Where to stay The Reading Rooms: A luxury five-star gold boutique B&B in a recently restored Grade II listed Georgian townhouse. Situated just a five-minute walk from the sea and Old Town cultural quarter. thereadingroomsmargate.co.uk Best pub for a pint The Lifeboat Ale & Cider House: This CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) pub serves locally-sourced Kentish ales and ciders, a range of Kent cheeses, Mrs Moxham pickles and Ramsgate sausages. thelifeboat-margate.com [caption id="attachment_42831" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Margate Bay from a victorian shelter in Kent[/caption] Blackpool – Lancashire Blackpool is England’s archetypal fun-by-the-sea resort. Love it, loathe it or both, the ‘Las Vegas of the Lancashire Coast’ may be tacky and cheesy, but it continues to attract people year after year. Especially since the arrival of the railway in 1846, which ultimately turned the town into one of the country’s first seaside resorts for the working classes.   From the mid-19th century, whole Lancashire mill towns would descend on Blackpool for the ‘Wakes Weeks’ annual holiday, spending their hard-earned cash living the good life for a few days, strolling its three piers and watching the likes of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Bob Hope perform at the Grand Theatre.   Perhaps Blackpool’s best known attraction – and the reason for its continued popularity – is Pleasure Beach, which evolved from a gypsy encampment in the early years of the 20th century. Today, this wonderful theme park houses a marvellous collection of old-style wooden rollercoasters such as the world’s first Big Dipper (1923) along with modern high-tech rides like the Pepsi Max Big One.   If the pier is Brighton’s trademark, then Blackpool’s is its 157-metre tall tower, modelled on the Eiffel Tower and opened in 1894. In addition to offering tower top views, it also houses the Tower Circus and the magnificent Tower Ballroom. After the summer months, when other English seaside resorts begin to wind down, Blackpool extends its holiday season with another star attraction, the world famous Blackpool Illuminations where over eight kilometres of the promenade is illuminated with half a million coloured light bulbs (open from August to November 2013). Where to stay Number One: This aptly named luxury five-star boutique accommodation overlooking the new South Beach Promenade is Blackpool’s number one place to stay. numberonesouthbeach.com Big Blue Hotel: This modern four-star hotel ticks all the right boxes when it comes to price, comfort and style. As an added bonus for families with children, it’s situated at the southern entrance to Pleasure Beach. bigbluehotel.com Where to drink The Dutton Arms: Relaxed traditional pub with outdoor seating near Pleasure Beach and a range of cask ales perfect for a cold one on a summer’s day. www.duttonarms.co.uk
Nashville, Tennessee in America's Deep South.
Musical road trip across America’s Deep South
Laura Greaves gets her motor running and heads out on the highway for a musical road trip across America’s Deep South.   Texas Anthem: Deep in the Heart of Texas by Perry Como Mix tape: Brooks & Dunn, Waylon Jennings, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, the Dixie Chicks, Buddy Holly, ZZ Top, Johnny Mathis, Meat Loaf, Roy Orbison, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Beyonce. They say everything is bigger in Texas, and they’re right – starting with my enormous rented 4WD. I quickly learn that the trickiest part about motoring in the United States isn’t driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road; it’s keeping this high-speed monolith, quickly nicknamed The Beast, in its own lane. Plenty of people told me to skip Texas all together. ‘There’s a whole lotta nuthin’ out there,’ was the common refrain. But strange as it may seem, the ‘nothing’ is what I’ve come to see. I want windswept cowboy country, longhorn cattle, lone rangers – and happily, that’s exactly what I get. First stop is the pretty northwestern city of Lubbock, better known as the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly, who died in a 1959 plane crash aged just 22. Housed in a former railway depot on the aptly-named Crickets Avenue, the fantastic Buddy Holly Center is a small but comprehensive celebration of his enormously influential career. But the museum leaves me feeling surprisingly sombre. The glass cases filled with his high school report cards and basketball boots are a stark reminder that Holly’s was a life cut tragically short. No artefact drives this home more sharply than those famous black-rimmed spectacles; their lenses missing, the frames are still flecked with mud from the frozen Iowa field where Holly died 54 years ago. Driving south from Lubbock down US-84, the prairie soon gives way to the strip malls and motel chains that herald major cities across America. This is Dallas, a city with a chequered history, at least in popular culture terms. On November 22, 1963, President John F Kennedy was assassinated as his open motorcade drove through the streets of downtown Dallas. His killer (depending on which conspiracy theory you believe) was Lee Harvey Oswald, a native of neighbouring Fort Worth, who shot Kennedy from a window on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Now home to The Sixth Floor Museum, the building is the lone high-rise on a block long since razed to make way for parking lots. The museum itself is full of hyperbole about JFK’s many achievements; entirely bereft of any mention of the failures and scandals that engulfed the Kennedy family. It’s also a little macabre. The corner of the room from which Oswald fired the deadly shots is set up exactly as it was when discovered by police. On the road below, an ‘X’ marks the place where Kennedy was struck. Tourists dart into traffic to snap pictures on the spot. I can’t leave Dallas without paying tribute to another late legend, bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan. My father is a diehard SRV fan, and I grew up with his music. I also share Vaughan’s birthday – October 3 – and the 35 year old’s death in a helicopter crash in 1990 deeply affected me. Visiting his grave at the Laurel Land Memorial Park, on the outskirts of Dallas, seems like the least I can do. I ask everyone I meet whether Texas is truly a part of the South. Almost everyone gives me the same answer: ‘Texas is Texas.’ And you can’t argue with that. Sleeping Sheraton Dallas Hotel, 400 N. Olive St, Dallas. From $92 per night (traditional room, prepaid). sheratondallashotel.com Eating & drinking The Standard Pour, 2900 McKinney Ave, Dallas.tspdallas.com Renfield’s Corner Irish Pub, 2603 Routh St (at McKinney Ave), Dallas. renfieldscorner.com Tillman’s Roadhouse, 324 West 7th St, Bishop Arts District, Dallas. tillmansroadhouse.com Arkansas Anthem: Mary Queen of Arkansas by Bruce Springsteen Mix tape: Johnny Cash, Al Green, Glen Campbell, Conway Twitty, The Band, Levon Helm. Another ‘is it strictly the South?’ state (Arkansans answer with an emphatic ‘yes’), Arkansas has strong ties to country, bluegrass and rockabilly. It’s also the home state of both Johnny Cash and former US President (and saxophone enthusiast) Bill Clinton. In the northwest corner of the state is handsome Bentonville, the birthplace of the Walton family’s ubiquitous Walmart discount empire. Love it or hate it – and plenty of people claim it’s at least partly responsible for the homogenisation of America – Walmart is a big deal in Bentonville. As I trace the history of the retail giant at the Walmart Visitor Center, which occupies the original ‘Walmart 5&10’ variety store opened by Sam Walton in 1962, a local tells me that every single person involved in the company’s humble beginnings – from the checkout girls to the floor sweepers – is today a millionaire. Arkansas also has the Walton family to thank for its newest tourist attraction, Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It was founded – and personally bankrolled to the tune of $317 million – by Alice Walton, daughter of Sam and heiress to the Walmart empire. The museum houses an impressive collection of American works spanning the Colonial era to the present day. Norman Rockwell’s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ is just one of the pieces whose acquisition by Crystal Bridges reportedly put the collective noses of several important galleries across America well out of joint. Even with its new ‘must visit’ status among art lovers, Arkansas remains refreshingly free of airs and graces. I dine at Bentonville’s Flying Fish, where all the food is served in baskets, the walls are plastered with photos of locals’ fishing triumphs and the beer is ice cold; fortunately for me, Benton is one of just 10 Arkansas counties where it’s legal to buy alcohol. Sleeping 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville (opening March 2013) NE A St, Bentonville. From $183 per night (Deluxe King room). 21cmuseumhotels.com/bentonville Eating & drinking Flying Fish, 109A Northwest 2nd St, Bentonville. flyingfishinthe.net Tennessee Anthem: Walking in Memphis by Marc Cohn Mix tape: Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Dinah Shore, Carl Perkins, Justin Timberlake, Isaac Hayes, Booker T Jones, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney. If Mississippi is the self-proclaimed birthplace of America’s music, then Tennessee is its nursery. Not only is it home to two of the most famous musical cities in the world, Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee has also proven especially fertile ground for female stars including Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton (whose theme park, Dollywood, is a leading tourist attraction here), and Tina Turner. Girl power! Tennessee’s largest city, Memphis bills itself as both the ‘Birthplace of the Blues’ and the ‘Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Grand claims they may be, but they’re not without merit; the city’s musical pedigree is palpable. Blues composer WC Handy wrote what is thought to be the first commercially successful blues song, Memphis Blues, in a bar on Beale Street in 1912, while Elvis Presley recorded his first song at Sun Studio in 1953. Beale Street remains the 24-hour party centre of Memphis. Like New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, it is intrinsically linked to the city’s musical heritage, though today it’s strictly tourist territory – which isn’t to say it’s not a hell of a lot of fun. I spend a raucous evening propping up the bar at the Blues City Café while local trio The Memphis Three sing the blues. Just off Beale Street, but well off the beaten track in tourist terms, is the Gibson guitar factory. As the daughter of a musician and dyed-in-the-wool Gibson obsessive, I feel compelled to take the 45-minute factory tour, which is led by a staggeringly knowledgeable employee who fits the ‘guitar geek’ stereotype to a tee. Back on the tourist trail, it’s a 20-minute drive from downtown Memphis to The King’s Graceland mansion. The house today is exactly as it was when Elvis died here in 1977. From the infamous Jungle Room, with its green shag-pile carpet and waterfall, to the Pool Room, where the walls and ceiling are covered with intricately folded fabric, Graceland is a symphony of 1970s bad taste. A lesser-known pilgrimage for Elvis fans, which happens to be directly opposite my hotel, is Lauderdale Courts, the rough-and-ready public housing development in downtown Memphis where he was living when he paid $3.98 to cut his first record at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio. Now completely renovated, Elvis devotees can pay $250 a night to stay in his 1950s-styled former abode. When Phillips moved his operation to larger premises in the 1960s, he simply locked up and left, leaving Sun Studio entirely untouched – and its future as one of Memphis’ best and most authentic musical attractions assured. There is an ‘X’ taped to the floor, marking the spot where Elvis stood when he recorded. And, The King’s microphone is still there, too; guides tell the story of one enthusiastic fan who, believing it might contain traces of Presley DNA, licked it. Sleeping Crowne Plaza Memphis Downtown, 300 North Second St, Memphis. From $135 per night (flexible rate, includes breakfast). www.ihg.com/crowneplaza Eating & drinking King’s Palace Café, 162 Beale St, Memphis. King's Palace Cafe Facebook Blues City Café, 138 Beale St, Memphis.bluescitycafe.com Rockabilly’s Diner at Graceland, 3765 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis. elvis.com/graceland/dining_and_shopping.aspx Mississippi Anthem: Midnight in Mississippi by Blue Mountain Mix tape: Muddy Waters, Elvis Presley, BB King, John Lee Hooker, Sam Cooke, Bo Didley, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, RL Burnside, Mose Allison, Big Time Sarah. Crossing the Mississippi state line, it’s as if the landscape knows it’s the cradle of the famed Delta Blues. There’s fertile green farmland, corn and cotton fields as far as the eye can see, all dotted with tumbledown shacks and white-steepled churches of every denomination. One of my favourite Mississippi myths involves blues legend Robert Johnson, who reportedly made a deal with the Devil at a local crossroads: he promised his soul in exchange for fame and fortune. Johnson encouraged the tale with songs including Me and the Devil and Cross Road Blues before dying mysteriously at just 27. No one can quite agree on the precise location of Johnson’s crossroads, though the most popular theory is that it’s the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 at Clarksdale. It’s easy to believe. Clarksdale is broken down, boarded up and grim – ironic, or perhaps appropriate, given it gave us some of the Blues’ biggest names, whose stock in trade was their pain and suffering. Blues fans flock to Clarksdale from around the world for the quirky Delta Blues Museum, a lovingly curated collection celebrating bluesmen and women from the obscure to the world famous. In fact, the genial chap manning the gift shop tells me he retired from Kansas to Clarksdale simply to be closer to the blues. Artefacts include BB King’s guitar, ‘Lucille’, and an electric guitar made from a piece of wood taken from Muddy Waters’ childhood home. Down the highway, leafy Indianola is as vibrant and well kept as Clarksdale is unkempt. BB King, feted as the world’s greatest living blues artist, is Indianola’s most beloved son, and he still returns every year to play a free concert for the loyal residents. The vast BB King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center is an inspiring and uplifting journey through his life. “I wonder,” muses singer John Mayer in a star-studded film about King, “will anyone in my generation be as devoted to anything as BB is to the Blues?” Singer Rufus Thomas succinctly sums up 87-year-old King’s enduring impact on the genre: “He’s not a star – stars burn out. He’s a moon, and they never do.” Sleeping Old Capitol Inn, 226 North State St, Jackson. From $96 per night (Standard room). oldcapitolinn.com Eating & drinking Mayflower Café, 123 West Capitol St, Jackson. mayflowercafems.com Underground 119, 119 South President St, Jackson. underground119.com Louisiana Anthem: Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks Mix tape: Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Buddy Guy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dr John, Harry Connick Jr, Britney Spears. For most people’s money, Louisiana is the ‘real’ Deep South. Famous for gators and swamps, bayous and Blues, the Pelican State’s crowning glory is undoubtedly ‘the Big Easy’: New Orleans. But the living has been anything but easy in NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) in recent years. The city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and recovery has been painfully slow. Many low-lying settlements outside the city have been abandoned all together, while many inner-city properties are still scarred with a telltale grey-green line just under their rooflines: Katrina’s high water mark. But in the picturesque French Quarter, Katrina is all but forgotten. Here, in the city’s beating heart, jazz, blues and rock ‘n’ roll spill from open doorways at all hours of the day and night. The famed Bourbon Street is always teeming with brightly-coloured Mardi Gras beads raining down from balconies and plenty of skin on display. At Bourbon’s eastern end, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar has been doing a roaring trade since 1722, making it the oldest bar in the US. For a taste of the real New Orleans, I head to the 7th Ward and Frenchmen Street, home to the city’s best live music venues. I visit Blue Nile, Café Negril and The Maison, where the Big Fun Brass Band has the joint jumping. Across the street, the Frenchmen Art Market is bustling with shoppers snapping up watercolour prints, hand-poured candles and unique jewellery, all made by local artists. The soundtrack is provided by busking collective Sweet Street Symphony’s interactive, pantomime-style performance art. After the decadence of New Orleans, quiet and ordered Baton Rouge is a refreshing change. Perched alongside the wide, brown Mississippi River, the road into Louisiana’s capital includes a 20-mile stretch of elevated interstate that winds through uniquely beautiful swampland. I duck into Poor Boy Lloyd’s for a famous Louisiana po’ boy sandwich. Enormous and dirt cheap, the po’ boy is a lunchtime staple in these parts. Baton Rouge is justifiably proud of its Cajun cuisine. “This area is where you’ll find real Cajun cooking,” says Fred, Poor Boy Lloyd’s jovial cashier. “In New Orleans all you’ll get is Yankee chefs with bottles of hot sauce.” I consider myself schooled. Sleeping Hotel Provincial, 1024 Chartres St, New Orleans (French Quarter). From $135 per night (Standard room). hotelprovincial.com Eating & drinking Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, 941 Bourbon St, New Orleans. lafittesblacksmithshop.com Blue Nile, 532 Frenchmen St, New Orleans. bluenilelive.com The Maison, 508 Frenchmen St, New Orleans. maisonfrenchmen.com Alabama Anthem: Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd Mix tape: Nat King Cole, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Wilson Pickett, The Commodores, The Temptations, Lionel Richie. In Alabama, I swing The Beast through appealing decrepit Mobile to catch a glimpse of a real rarity: a white, female blues star. Flame-haired Bonnie Raitt is performing at the historic Saenger Theatre, and sleepy Mobile has come alive for the evening. After the show, I wander across the road to funky junk shop Papillon, where I stock up on vintage Beatles 78s and try unsuccessfully to convince owner Shar Begnaud to part with her classic Vespa scooter. In Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, things take a turn for the literary. Montgomery was the birthplace of the beautiful, spirited and ultimately tragic Zelda Sayre – better known as Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott who dubbed her ‘the first American Flapper’. Zelda, Scott and their daughter, Scottie, lived at 919 Felder Avenue, in the well-heeled Montgomery suburb of Cloverdale, while Scott worked on what would be his final novel, Tender is the Night. The house has since been divided into flats, but a suite of rooms on the ground floor now serves as the fascinating Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. Montgomery is historically important for other reasons, too. In 1955, a young African-American woman, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man. The impact of Rosa’s actions, and Montgomery’s role in the wider Civil Rights movement, are explored at the contemplative Rosa Parks Museum and Civil Rights Memorial Center. Downtown, I visit the quirky, and slightly macabre, Hank Williams Museum. A Montgomery native, Williams gave us such classic country tunes as Hey, Good Lookin’ and Your Cheatin’ Heart. He was just 29 when he died in the back seat of his Cadillac while being driven to a gig in 1953. The baby blue car is the museum’s centrepiece, along with the clothes he was wearing when he died. Sleeping Hampton Inn & Suites Montgomery Downtown, 100 Commerce St, Montgomery. From $96 per night (Standard guest room). hamptoninn3.hilton.com Eating & drinking TP Crockmiers, 250 Dauphin St, Mobile. tpcrockmiers.com Buck’s Pizza, 350 Dauphin St, Mobile. buckspizza.com Leroy Lounge, 2752 Boultier Ave, Montgomery. leroylounge.com Sinclair’s 1051, East Fairview Ave, Montgomery. sinclairsrestaurants.com 1048 Jazz Club, 1104 East Fairview Ave, Montgomery. 1048jazzandblues.com Georgia Anthem: Georgia on my Mind by Ray Charles Mix tape: Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Little Richard, The Allman Brothers Band, REM, The B-52s, Travis Tritt. We can thank Georgia for Ray Charles, Martin Luther King Jr and Coca-Cola. The Peach State is also the setting for Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 novel, Gone with the Wind, which arguably did more to put Georgia on the cultural map than anything else. I detour through Macon to visit the Allman Brothers Band Museum; it seems only fitting since one of the band’s biggest hits was Ramblin’ Man, which celebrates the joys of the open road. Ironically, guitarist Duane Allman died in a motorcycle accident in Macon in 1971. In a grim twist, his bandmate Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle accident a year later, just three blocks away from the site of Allman’s death. Allman and Oakley are buried side by side in Macon’s Rose Hill Cemetery. In Savannah, at last, I discover the Deep South I’ve always dreamed of. With its immaculately-preserved antebellum architecture, white weatherboard houses and Spanish moss-draped trees, this is ‘Southern Gothic’ to the max. Having long reveled in its relative isolation, Savannah enjoyed (or perhaps ‘tolerated’ is a fairer assessment) a flurry of global interest in the 1990s thanks to John Berendt’s best-selling non-fiction novel, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The book tells the story of Jim Williams, a Savannah socialite and antiques dealer who shot and killed troubled young hustler Danny Hansford at his home, the stunning Mercer House, in 1981. A guided tour of the house is a must for anyone who enjoys stickybeaking at rich people’s houses (which, let’s face it, is all of us). Four sensational trials saw the late Williams convicted and eventually cleared of murder, so it feels oddly clinical when, as the tour moves into the study where Hansford died, our guide says only that ‘a serious incident’ occurred in the lavishly decorated room. Serious indeed. On my last morning I spend a deliciously creepy morning wandering through the 100-acre Bonaventure Cemetery, dotted with towering obelisks and elegantly wasted mausoleums. Permanent residents include Jim Williams, Academy Award-winning songwriter (and Savannah’s most famous son) Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken. It’s somehow appropriate that a frenetic journey of almost 2500 kilometres should come to an end at a place of eternal rest. I return The Beast to the rental car depot feeling stuffed full of music, art and inspiration – and yet still ravenously hungry for more. Like the parasitic Spanish moss strangling Savannah’s sturdy old oaks, modern America is – for better or worse – steadfastly encroaching on the southern culture that Margaret Mitchell, John Berendt et al wrote about. But if you’re willing to look for it, that mythic vision of the Deep South is still there, just below the surface. Sleeping Mansion on Forsyth Park 700 Drayton St, Savannah. From $208 per night (Guest room, prepaid). mansiononforsythpark.com Eating & drinking local11ten, 1110 Bull St, Savannah. local11ten.com  Rocks on the Roof at the Bohemian Hotel, 102 West Bay St, Savannah. bohemianhotelsavannah.com Gallery Espresso 234 Bull St, Savannah. galleryespresso.com   Getting there QANTAS flies daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Dallas/Fort Worth. Return flights start from $1798 ex Sydney. When to go The states of the Deep South enjoy scorching, humid summers (late May to early September). Late September through to early April tends to be the most temperate time for travel. The peak period for tornadoes in the southern states is from April to June. As an Atlantic state, Georgia’s hurricane season runs from 1 June to 30 November. Best thing about the Deep South America’s ‘have a nice day’ culture is at fever pitch in the genteel South, where nothing is too much trouble and everything comes with a smile. And that accent is pretty hard to beat. Worst thing about the Deep South It may be steeped in history and culture, but the Deep South is as choked with strip malls, fast food outlets and high-speed freeways as the rest of America. You’ll see so much more if you avoid the interstates and stick to highways and state roads. Bypass the chain-motel-and-burger-joint satellite metropolises that surround even the smaller cities; the ‘real’ south is found downtown and off the beaten track. You should know The South is one of America’s poorest regions, and even the most handsome and historic cities and towns have high crime rates. Take care when out and about: stick to busy thoroughfares, especially at night, and don’t flash your cash. Public transport can be hit-and-miss, especially in the smaller cities, and taxi ranks can be hard to find, so pre-book your return transport before heading out for the evening or take the number of a cab company with you.
The cosy lobby of the Whythe Hotel, New York City.
Hidden gems in America’s biggest cities
Going to great American cities and want to stay off the obvious tourist trails? David Whitley picks out the hidden hotspots in 10 key US hubs. New York City Why go: NYC is anything you want it to be. The Statue of Liberty, Broadway shows, Empire State Building, Central Park and the Manhattan skyline pull you in, but the multicultural feel, small museums and hip enclaves keep you coming back. Secret stay: The Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg is an astonishing example of industrial conversion. The exposed brickwork of the former sugar cooperage remains, but the high ceilings, huge windows and skyline views make it special. Manhattan View rooms cost from $333 a night. wythehotel.com Secret bar: The Pine Box Rock Shop inhabits a former casket factory in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and still has the old warehouse look. The bar staff are equally at home with cocktails and craft beer, and the atmosphere is highly sociable. pineboxrockshop.com Secret restaurant: Fedora in the West Village is tiny, but it’s worth squeezing in for. The menu has French influences, while service is both charming and knowledgeable. It feels neighbourhood like, but works on a classy, upmarket level too. fedoranyc.com Be a local: The Manhattan Kayak Company is primarily aimed at locals, but it accepts visitors on tours too. The night-time paddles are particularly inspiring – you feel the city’s hum and get a totally new perspective on the cityscape. manhattankayak.com Washington DC Why go: The White House, Capitol Building, Smithsonian Museums, memorials and monuments. And that’s without leaving the confines of the National Mall. Secret stay: With character by the bucket load in a 19th-century senator’s house, the American Guest House is a classy take on old Washington. Period furniture, free wifi and made-to-order breakfasts elevate it above the herd. Rooms from$111 a night. americanguesthouse.com Secret bar: Columbia Heights is the once-dicey area coming good, and Room 11 typifies the exciting things going on there. It’s an unpretentious, friendly wine bar that does excellent small plate food, amid a magical neighbourhood vibe. room11dc.com Secret restaurant: DC has a massive expat Ethiopian population, and of the scores of Ethiopian restaurants around U Street NW, Dukem is consistently a winner. There’s live music twice a week, and meals are eaten as in the homeland – small tapas-style dishes, scooped up with spongy flatbread. dukemrestaurant.com Be a local: For all the world-class museums on the National Mall, ask a local which is the best in town and many will say The Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle. The private modern art museum is all thriller, no filler – and sees a fraction of the Smithsonian crowds. phillipscollection.org Boston Why go: History – this is where the American revolution began and Boston is happy to dwell on it – and homeliness. The city prides itself on walkability and a certain un-American quaintness, but mixes in stellar attractions such as the JFK Presidential Library. Secret stay: The Charlesmark in buzzy Back Bay does a nice line in thoughtful extras, such as free bottled water and gratis guidebooks to explore the city. The staff are incredibly friendly and the rooms – from $135 a night – are a bargain by Boston’s very steep standards. charlesmarkhotel.com Secret bar: Forget the Irish pubs, Boston’s at its best with small neighbourhood bars. Anchovies in the South End is a classic example – it’s always full, everyone talks to everyone else and the bar staff seem to love their job. anchoviesboston.com Secret restaurant: The seafood at Lineage in Brookline is impeccably fresh – with the lobster tacos approaching divinity. Dishes are inventive, prices are reasonable and service is warm – it’s a far better bet than the touristy waterfront fish restaurants. lineagerestaurant.com Be a local: Take a ferry out to one of the Harbor Islands. The green Spectacle Island has plenty of walking trails, while Georges Island is the easiest to get to. It’s a mellow spot in which to catch jazz performances, kids shows and baseball games. bostonharborislands.org Los Angeles Why go: Hollywood, Disneyland, Rodeo Drive, Santa Monica… Lala Land is full of names that require no explanation. But Downtown’s cultural renaissance, the surf culture and scores of underrated museums take you beyond the usual. Secret stay: The Petit Ermitage in West Hollywood bills itself as a Bohemian alternative to the big name hotels. The rooftop’s the star, though, doubling as a butterfly and hummingbird sanctuary and offering 360 degree views of the Hollywood Hills from the pool. Suites from $234 a night. petitermitage.com Secret bar: With a live Cuban band, killer rum cocktails and secret entrance through an unmarked door just to the east of the main Hollywood attractions, La Descargala harks back to exclusive prohibition-era bars. It’s a place to dress up for, though – and reservations are strongly advised. ladescargala.com Secret restaurant: The underrated Studio City area is jammed with good Japanese joints, but Asanebo is arguably the star. It’s cosy and relaxed, but does both classic and experimental fusion dishes imperiously. asanebo-restaurant.com Be a local: The 5.5 kilometre loop track in the Rundle Canyon Park offers super-sexy views of the city from the Santa Monica mountains. It’s also a great spot for watching celebs and yapping ratdogs take their Botoxed-up owners for a walk. Chicago Why go: The most impressive architecture in the world, neighbourhoods with instantly distinctive characters and cultural big hitters that range from world-class public art in Millennium Park to globally-revered blues and comedy clubs. Secret stay: Hotel Lincoln in leafy, broadly-residential Lincoln Park is a great out-of-centre find. It has contemporary teched-up rooms, but bonuses such as rooftop yoga sessions and staff-led running tours set it apart from the herd. Doubles from $157 a night. jdvhotels.com Secret bar: The Bin Wine Café in Wicker Park straddles that border between bar and restaurant, but if it’s a drink you’re after, park up on a bar stool and start working your way through the thoughtfully-designed wine tasting. It’s educational, honestly… Secret restaurant: The recently-opened Nellcote ditches the deep-pan Chicago pizza tradition for woodfired gourmet affairs designed to be eaten with a knife and fork. Not in a pizza mood? The modern European mains offer great bang for buck too. nellcoterestaurant.com Be a local: Whether you care about sport or not, getting tickets to see the White Sox (baseball) and Blackhawks (hockey) will get you in amongst salt-of-the-earth Chicagoans. It’s about the vibe and the talk, not the game. Dallas Why go: Charitably? It’s the gateway to Texas with a superb sporting and cultural scene. Uncharitably? Because Qantas flies direct from Australia and it’s where JFK was assassinated. Secret stay: The superbly-refurbished Belmont revels in late 1940s retro kitsch and its cocktail bar has the quintessential view of the city skyline. In the summer months, it has ‘dive-in’ movie screenings – classic films shown by the pool. Doubles from $120 a night. belmontdallas.com Secret restaurant: Oak in the Design District has currently got the locals talking, with a gloal menu. This includes Germany, Morocco, Spain and the Middle East – the chef doesn’t like being tied to one spot. However, it’s the desserts – especially the chocolate panna cotta – that are spoken of in reverent tones. oakdallas.com Be a local: Contrary to appearances, not everyone in Dallas worships the car. The 5.6 kilometre Katy Trail is the place where walkers and cyclists go to escape the fumes and freeways. The old railway track between the West End and Knox-Henderson areas has been turned into a skate park. Miami Why go: Art deco, parties and people watching on South Beach, plus easy access to the Florida Keys and Everglades. White linen suits are optional. Secret stay: The Riviera in the heart of South Beach, matching the classic 1940s Miami deco look outside with bold, high-quality furnishings inside. It feels peacefully low key, right down to the poolside cabanas. Studios from $245 a night in high season. southbeachgroup.com Secret bar: Hidden under an overpass, The Stage combines dimly-lit atmospherics with a packed schedule including live bands and small-scale theatrical performances. The patio bar outside is a great retreat for when things get too steamy inside. thestagemiami.com Secret restaurant: La Ventana in South Beach might not look like much, but the Colombian food served up inside on the little wooden tables is superb. The marinaded shredded beef patacones are dangerously moreish, and the family-run vibe is a breath of fresh air in the area. laventanarestaurant.com Be a local: Visitors flock to South Beach, but locals hit Key Biscayne for less frenetic weekend action. Sickeningly healthy types can be found kite surfing, cycling and stand-up paddle boarding. Lessons are available in the latter through Stand Up Paddle Key Biscayne. www.sosupkeybiscayne.com
Busker in La Boca, Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires – A Guide to the Paris of South America
Argentina’s largest metropolis goes by many names: city of books; the South American Paris; the capital of tango. To find out which guise suits you best, come join the porteños in a cultural dance through its busy interlocking avenidas. By Elizabeth Thurston

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