Subject: Deep South

If you have 10 days, and want to experience New Orleans, I would suggest spending the 10 days there during the Jazz Festival. April 26-May 5. Or catch either end, and you then can rent a car to explore more of Louisiana and the neighboring states. Unless you are fond of drunken yahoos, avoid Mardi Gras.

On the other hand, I would recommend even more strongly a 10 day visit to Charleston, South Carolina. One of the few, if not only, cities spared by the Union soldiers because of its beauty. It represents the south in a way that New Orleans does not. New Orleans, like Miami and Houston are entities in and of themselves, and are marvelous cities, but if you want to understand quintessential southerness, Charleston would be top on my list. The Spoleto festival in Charleston, May 24 - June 9, is one of the premier cultural festivals in the world ( Near Charleston, there are excellent plantations, historical sights, and gorgeous countryside. A short drive gets you to Savannah, Georgia, another charming and historic city.

But to truly appreciate the South, I would recommend a 5-day visit in Charleston, then rent a car and drive to Asheville, North Carolina, which is in the Blue Ridge/Smoky Mountains. Asheville, a thriving mountain city, is also an arts and crafts center and it is located near USA's version of Versailles: the Biltmore Estate ( But what is not to be missed is a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a magnificent drive through the mountains, and one of America's best kept secrets ( The drive from Charleston to Asheville is 4 or 5 hours.