I've just been smirking at the heading of my last blog – should have known that as soon as I left British soil the weather would change! I am glad though that you've all been basking in balmy temperatures while I've my fair share of wonderfully warm and sunny weather in the good ol' US of A!
Thanks for your lovely comments, and apologies for the late replies, but we've been to places where Wi-Fi is unheard of and Apple is just something they put in a pie! That said, we had a great holiday, visiting seven different States and covering thousands of miles.
We took so many photos and saw so much, that it would be impossible to fit it all in one blog, so I'm going to split it up over the next few weeks … I also wanted to make space to let you know about a brand-new Jewellery Icon which, for the month of July, is from Diamonique and is just beautiful :) Buckle up, and off we go!
For those of you who have read this blog over the last year, you'll know that Colin and I went to Nashville last June for the CMA's – a huge Country Music Festival – and had such a great time, we decided to return this year. However, we thought we'd try and get to see a little more of America this time, by visiting various folk who live out there, as well as meeting up with the friends we made last year in Nashville.
Our first port of call was to be North Carolina, where we were going to stay with Bev and Al – Colin's friends who follow his music. From Nashville airport it's about a four hour drive, and yes, we managed to hire a Mustang again this year, although Colin did the driving this time
We decided to break the journey up and spend our first night in Chattanooga. The hotel Colin had booked was actually in the refurbished Railway Station which opened in December 1909 but closed down some 61 years later. It was saved from demolition by a group of investors who bought it, along with 30 trains and coaches, for four million dollars.
As permission to renovate the building itself took a while, they transformed the railway coaches into beautiful bedrooms, which are still available to book nowadays. As you can see the main building has been very well preserved, and yes, the actual Chattanooga Choo Choo is there too!
I love the song, made famous by the Glenn Miller Band in 1941, and was hoping to see Track 29, but there are only 14 lines into the station … Being nosey, I asked the staff why this was, and they explained that, although over 40 lines came into Chattanooga, the trains had to wait at the switching station until a platform became free – ingenious!
This place is nothing to do with music but is literally a naturally formed labyrinth of avenues and alleyways between huge rocks that are set into Lookout Mountain.
There are some unique and quite bizarre rock formations, and also the very famous Lovers Leap. According to legend, an Indian who loved a woman from a rival tribe, was thrown from there when the affair was discovered! The view from the top enables you to see across seven States – incredible eh?
After a lunch of fried green tomatoes and salad, we headed out of Georgia to North Carolina along the State Highway for a couple of hours, before moving onto the country road that would take us to Murphy. On one side there were steep pine-filled forests, on the other, ferocious white water, and the beginnings of a hydro dam system. It was incredibly beautiful, and largely uninhabited – the only towns we saw consisted of a Chapel and a few wooden houses. The sun shone, and within a couple of hours we arrived at Bev and Al's.
Colin has been corresponding with them over the last year, as they are avid fans of The Sonny Walters Band, and they very kindly invited us to stay for a couple of days before the Festival. They'd moved to Murphy from Florida, and their home is basically in the middle of this stunning landscape. They couldn't have been more welcoming, greeting us with a glass of Apple Pie Moonshine (80% proof) which certainly hit the spot, followed by barbequed chicken on their verandah, while we watched the sunset.
Unfortunately the weather wasn't particularly good the following day – warm but a great deal of rain - and so, after a visit to the local towns of Murphy and Andrew, we stopped at the Cherokee National Park, which was very pretty and tranquil. Spending time with people who actually live in the country you are visiting is definitely the best way to see it and learn about it, and we were both very grateful to Bev and Al for their hospitality. We packed our bags the following morning, but before we left we took photographs of the view and our hosts (the first two pictures at the top of this post) – good times
The journey back to Nashville took us through sunshine and rain, and the temperature climbed into the high 80s. We stopped at one of the many 'Comfort Stops' and decided to get some lunch at a Waffle House, which along with McDonalds, Taco Bell and Wendy's are their busiest fast food outlets.
We actually had an all-day breakfast with grits, gravy, bacon and all the trimmings, which was probably very unhealthy, but very good! The girl on the checkout asked us where we were from and what language we spoke! I told her we were from England and spoke English, to which she replied in a Texas accent, “No, I speak English, y'all have a different way of talking” – I couldn't argue really!
Driving on the State Highways is a lot nicer than struggling through the congestion on many of our motorways. The roads are pretty clear, although there are a huge number of trucks using them, and the speed limit in many places is just 60 mph. We had been warned that the County Sheriffs are pretty hot on the tail of anyone breaking those limits, so Colin stuck to them religiously!
The only issue we had was making sure we didn't miss the exits, as their road signs appear just a quarter of a mile before the turning, which when you're travelling at speed you can easily pass! However, as navigator, I was on the ball, and more by luck than judgement we arrived safely in Nashville just as the sun was breaking through
Having returned our lovely Mustang, we met up with Brooke, Brad, Josh and Aleesha, our friends from Kokomo, Indiana, who had driven down early that morning. As the sun set, we settled by the pool, sipping Margaritas and catching up on all the news. Josh, like Colin, plays in a band, but they are all keen Country Music Fans, and have been coming to the CMAs for the last four years.
The festival was to begin the following day, so we decided not to make it too late a night, planning to meet up the next morning and collect our tickets before the live shows began at lunchtime…
I hope you're still awake after reading this, but I had to break away to tell you about the Diamonique Jewellery Icon that has been chosen for the month of July. Our buyers' most recent trips to Vicenza showed that precious metal woven into mesh designs are not just incredibly exclusive but usually very expensive!
What they have created for you with silver, rose and yellow gold is not just beautiful, but completely believable – see what you think…
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Don't forget to join me on Jewellery Day next Tuesday (1st July) – it's going to be great
And I'll look forward to hearing from you, with all your news. I promise I will reply, if you have the time to write, and I hope you have a good weekend.
With my love, Ali xx