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Itinerary help - Asheville to New Orleans....via Charleston?

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I originally posted about this months ago but can't find my OP. maybe it's just the iPad playing up...anyways.

I could do with your help on a route and some attractions in the Deep South. We're flying from London to stay in a cabin near Asheville, then have to be in New Orleans 11 days later (mid September). We'd also like a couple of days on the gulf coast. What route would you recommend to see small, sleepy southern life?

Lots of people recommend Charleston but is it too much of a detour, ie what would we see in between there and Gulf coast?

Others recommend Juliette or Athens in GA to fulfil my sleepy porches and town squares fantasy(!). Some say head up to Nashville & Memphis after Asheville. I'd say we prefer history and nature to country music and clubs.

Any nice lunch stops, little afternoon sightseeing or quirky roadside America also appreciated. X

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