2015 - PART 3 - USA






New Orleans was my first choice of destination in the US.  I am happy that we finally made it here!  New Orleans was better in real life than I had imagined.
The quaint buildings with fancy wrought iron trimmings, horse & carriage, jazz music everywhere, foodie heaven! Interesting history including amazing graveyards, and fabulous party atmosphere! 
A holiday destination with so much variety and unique experiences.


New Orleans is a very walkable city.  There is something exciting and interesting around every corner.
We used all of our senses here.



This is a 'must do'!  The Dukes of Dixieland Jazz band played the best jazz I have heard in a long while.  I just had to buy their album.
The food was wonderful.   A taste of creole with the famous Jambalaya, Gumbo and fresh seafood.




Walking the streets we stopped and enjoyed this jazz band of young ones. They were real good. I also took a video which hopefully I can add here later.

I found us a neat apartment right in the French Quarter on Frenchmans Street.  Accommodation in New Orleans is expensive so I was lucky to find us this in a fabulous part of town, close to everything and reasonably priced.   
Frenchmans Street had a lot of restaurants with music playing in each. This band were particularly good. They played great flamenco music and the Restaurant was right across the road from our accommodation.





 Imagine having apartment accommodation in the heart of NOR.  Imagine sitting on comfy seats on the balcony listening to the jazz music in the street.  Imagine being able to walk out of your accommodation in the French Quarter and having pubs, restaurants, takeaway and a convenience store right there.  Well this is the place to stay!

Not only did we have the luxury of all of the above, but the price was very reasonable.  And downtown was just a casual stroll away. When we were tired, then we caught the street car along the river front into town.
Walking through the markets into downtown was another option. And the famous bourbon street was close by.
I wouldn't want to stay anywhere else. The staff were helpful.  They even gave us some washing powder for our clothes. Yes, they also have communal washing machines.
There is also a pool out the back and quiet sitting area in the garden.




How could we resist a horse & carriage tour with this funny dude Carlos.


New Orleans is full of amazing history.  The city is surrounded by grave yards that hold so many stories of days gone by.
This may seems like a tacky touristy thing to do but I totally recommend it!  We were followed by other groups
being shown the same graves, but it was well timed and professionally done and the stories Carlos related were captivating.

The grave below that looks like an Egyptian Pyramid is owned by Nicholas Cage.  Yes, he bought his own grave and will be buried here.
Also we saw the grave of the person that invented sugar manufacture and other historian graves. Carlos explained that the graves with wrought iron signify riches.

The photo below with the statue that has a damaged arm.  This was done by a film company.  Therefore from 1969 movie companies were banned from this graveyard.



New Orleans has food that is unique to this area, great Southern cuisine. 
My farourite was the Po Boy - hot dog.

Gumbo was nice but not the seafood gumbo thanks. Coming from Australia we prefer fresh seafood with plenty of lemons.
Jambalaya spicy Cajun rice was good.  But we got a bit tired of having everything battered and deep fried.
Little bit tasteless for us.


My New Orleans favourite!
Not because of the food. We ate better on the Natchez Steamboat Cruise.
Frank's was the best because the staff were welcoming, attentive and funny!   Plus they kept us and other guests entertained.
The atmosphere made the experience special for us. If I lived in NOR I would for sure be a regular here.



We used this to get from the French Quarter to downtown.
There are two street cars in NOR. They are fun just to ride around and to check out the places you want to see. 
A bit like the hop on hop off buses in other cities.

Funny signs - every place has them.



One of the unique things about New Orleans is that you can get a cocktail to go.   Yep, here you can walk in the street with a cocktail in your hand.  How cool is that!!
Restaurants, pubs, specialist cocktail shops will all pour you a cocktail in a plastic cup to go.



Who wants to wait for an hour to progress in this queue just for coffee?
Not us. We just kept walking.



Another holiday first for us.   Zooming through the south Louisiana swamps and bayous on our first air boat ride. How exhilarating!!! 
I booked this tour with Viator and the bus picked us up from near our accommodation for a short trip to the swamp.

We had a lot of fun in New Orleans!  It has an awesome lively culture, the people are super friendly, food interesting and lots of fun adventures.  
This is a place we would happily come back to.
Next stop - Ocoee Tennessee.




We had experienced the Rocky Mountains and a magnificent cultural adventure in New Orleans.
Now it was time to do the Great Smoky Mountains.
Why is it that most flights in the US don't fly direct?  It's only around 3 hours from New Orleans to Chattanooga
however we had to fly via Atlanta.  Huh?
I had planned to drive up via Lynchburg and check out the Jack Daniels Distillery. Did you know that Lynchburg is a dry state? Lol.

Anyway, there was no accommodation in Lynchburg because they had some sort of cooking competition in town.
Oh well.......... Ok..... Plan B - fly.
I would have loved to have spent a few days in Chattanooga experiencing more great music and the Chattanooga Choo Choo rail.  We just didn't have enough time.
So we arrived in Chattanooga, picked up our Avis rental and headed to our first destination Ocoee not far out of town.
I discovered Ocoee doing my usual googling between towns.  Ocoee it seemed was the white water rafting capital of the us.  Bet you didn't know that!   This seemed to be a good place to stay on the way up to Asheville in the Smokey Mountains.
I had also wanted to experience cabin vacation life that USA does so good. A cabin in the woods complete with log fire and a good red wine.  Ahhhh.... Heaven!


Welcome valley village certainly fit the bill!   Located right on the Ocoee River and in the woods, our cabin was absolutely divine!  It could easily accommodate six or seven people.

Owners Kevin and Jenny were fantastic hosts.  They even had written our names on the welcome blackboard hanging on our cabin.   Love the personal touch!

The woods were full of squirrels.   We could hear the birds. And the river.  Jesse jumped in!  Cold!!

I made him do it 3 times to capture a few great pictures.

On the river there was a cabana with seating to enjoy the river views.  Also they had places where you could make a fire.




 Fall is a blast of glorious colour wherever you look. It was here in Ocoee we got our first
glimpse of the magnificent fall mountain foliage.



 Our day here was just fabulous!  We went to a place called Chilhowee recreation lookout.

This has camping facilities so would be a great place for hikers and bikers to get away from the hustle and bustle.

It is very popular for mountain bikers. I can see why.  The following photos tell all.



"We've got Cherry Piii, Apple Piii, Strawberry Piii, Pecan Piiii........"
I can still hear that high pitched voice churning in my brain!
Hubby was taken back with the sweets menu at this Cafe in Ocoee.  It seemed like they had every sweet pie under the sun!   Hubby was in heaven!!
All I wanted was a beer.
The waitress advised me that they don't sell beer.  They all wore quaint olden day dress, bit like Little House on the Prairie lol... 
 We soon realised that we were sitting in an authentic Amish Cafe!!  What fun!! 
I am not a sweets fan but I can understand hubby's delight at all the sweet deserts on offer.  Seems like they had just about every sweet pie you can think of.
But the Beverly Hillbillies high pitched voice is what we both think about when hubby and I relive our memories here lol.  It took all of my energy at the time not to totally crack up laughing.  I can still hear that voice ringing in my ears.
Long story short, if you are hanging for a homemade sweet pie, you just have to pay a visit to the Whitewater Grill in Ocoee!!!

In summary, Ocoee was a breath of fresh air.  Our cabin accommodation was fabulous!  

The fall scenery and colours were the best if have ever seen!  And the locals were very friendly. 
It was also a good introduction to The Blue Ridge Parkway through the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you ever get a chance, Ocoee is well worth a visit!

Next stop Asheville - Great Smoky Mountains. 


Sammy the squirrel!!!  Isn't he just toooo cute!!  More about Sammy later.
We hit the road early as we had heard that this part of the trip had windy roads. Well yes it did.   But we enjoyed the most glorious fall colours and the traffic wasn't as bad as we imagined.  

It was a nice journey Ocoee to Asheville. 



I am glad that we stopped off at Cherokee Indian Village.  I had promised to buy our older son Dylan an authentic Indian Poncho.  Dylan is lucky that hubby squeezed it into his travel bag.

Would have liked to have stayed here for a night.  Cherokee looked real nice. Reminded me a bit like our Nimbin hippy town back home.



I had grand plans for Asheville.  Unfortunately we didn't get to do any of them.
However there is always Plan B.  And sometimes Plan B is better!!!
This is one of those times.   More about that soon.



This place still emails me notifications on the latest deals.  Every time I receive one.   I sooooo want to go back!!

I had picked another great place to stay! Our cabin called mom's manor was decorated in rich wood and loads of red!  It had all the modern comforts including a fabulous verandah and a spa!! Where we enjoyed some wine every evening overlooking the beautiful park surroundings and lake complete with fountain.

Btw, red is my favourite colour.
Sammy! The resident squirrel paid us a visit every day.  He is just adorable!
I so recommend this place!! One day we will be back!

 Did we miss out on all the fun stuff to do in Asheville?

I would like to think that maybe it is an opportunity to come back!  So….

Instead of visiting the famous Biltmore Castle, instead of wandering around Asheville and soaking up the funky atmosphere.  Instead of going on a pub crawl on that quirky Beermobile or …. Ballooning!!!!

We went white water rafting for our first time!!   What an amazing adventure!!   It was even more special because I had planned for us to do it in Ocoee but that didn't happen because the downstream water conditions weren't right.

Instead.... in Ocoee we saw the magnificent fall colours and hit the white water rafting here in Asheville.

Doesn't get any better!!!



Son Jesse opted to take his own transport.  He fell off..... But remembered how to get back on by himself.

Mum was proud you did a great job mate!!  Xx

We stopped along the way for Jesse to jump in! He's game.

Tribute to Sandy our instructor.  She was fantastic!  Thanks for taking good care of us. It was an experience that we won't forget in a hurry.



Looking for a good steak? What about flavoursome smoked chicken wings?   Look no further than the Copper River Grill.

Our waiter was very attentive making sure we felt at home.  He even played The Land Downunder for us.  Tacky lol but very cute.

He explained that the chicken wings were the best in the southern states and we agree!!  Yummy!!  We gave our waiter an extra tip for his great service.

The Copper River Grill has won the last 3 years in a row for being the best all round restaurant. 
No wonder why!

Don't miss it when visiting Asheville.

And a couple of pictures of what I missed out on.
Next time.




We were totally enchanted with savannah!!  It was our second favourite place of the whole trip.  Jasper Canada being the first.
Of course we have another second best.  Cannot decide.  More about that in a later blog.
The thing about Savannah was the warm welcome by everyone!  They call it great southern charm don't they?

The magnificent buildings!  The haunting hanging moss! The wonderful harbourside walk.

And then.... There's the Olde Harbour Inn.

Savannah reminded me of New Orleans but with more charm.  Stately buildings everywhere amongst small old 18th century pioneer cottages and old 2 story houses with decorative wrought iron gave Savannah a sort of unique funky pizzaz.


Sadly we only had 2 days here and it rained.  So the trolley hop on hop off tour with perfect!

Add to this mix the mysterious hanging moss that is such a typical sight in Savannah.   And it is obvious why I fell in love with this gorgeous charming place.



"Happy fall y'all!"
 I loved this greeting here along with the Halloween pumpkins we were seeing everywhere.
I would most certainly stay here again!  The Olde Harbour inn is located right on the river walk and near a trolley stop.  Staff were most friendly and breakky was included which is not something you see much in Canada and the USA onbooking.com.  
They also had free parking out the back. Another bonus.
But!..... The best thing was that afternoon wine and appertizers were included for all guests!   Wine from Australia. 
And in the evening, they brought up ice-creams for everyone.  If you happened to be out, they would put them in your freezer.   
It's these personal touches that keep customer loyalty and raving reviews these days results in a successful business.


Hubby drove the car up to the street above and we could just walk along the overhead walkway from our hotel room to the car which made it easier than carting our bags down the stairs.


Hopping off the bus in town, we found the markets most enjoyable. The streets of savannah are alive with quaint gift shops and friendly smiles from the locals.


Staying right on the river walk was also a great idea.  We had lots of gift shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs to choose from.
Here is where I took my night photos.  It was a bit scary because I was the only one in the street at the time.



Unfortunately we don't have a good tip for a restaurant in savannah.  The best tip I can give you is Tubby's Seafood on the Riverfront Walk.  And that is only because of the view.
The seafood was battered and fried like we had tasted in New Orleans.  Coming from Australia we like to have our seafood fresh and natural.

Beers were good though and the view was nice.


 We had left Asheville in North Carolina with amazing forest lined roads and stunning fall colours.
Coming into and heading out of savannah the landscape changed to low lying scrub and the roads became freeways.
It was unusual for us to see big USA RV Campervans.  We do have smaller ones here in Australia but people tend to just hire cars and buy cheap tents.  And we have the Wicked Campers VW Kombies which are cheap.

Next stop Orlando for a big international Virtual Tourist meet up.


When you wish upon a star.  Don't you just love that song! 
And yes, in Orlando, all my dreams came true!  More about that later.

It just so happened that when we visited Epcot Disney, they had a food and wine festival.  
Well I was in heaven!!
Pour me another glass of Italian rose thanks.
If our son was not with us I probably would not have visited Disney.  I am so glad I did though. I was blown away!

Being a lover of rollercoasters, I was in my element here.  Young Jesse got us front seats on the Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster, a first for me. Scary, but lots of fun!





But the ultimate was the fireworks to "Wish Upon a Star".
I cried like a baby haha. 
We got prime viewing out on the top deck of a hotel in Orlando arranged by our friend Ann.

Do please check out the little video below.




Speaking of Ann.  Ann and Charlie, our good friends met on Virtual Tourist, live in the Tampa area of Florida and have a condo in keys West Orlando Disney.  When they heard that we were coming over, Ann arranged a little meetup.

 Which turned into a big international VT Meet.
 We had people from the UK, Denmark and Mexico as well as others from the US and Canada.

Kimberly from VT headquarters was also there and brought us some VT goodies as usual.  

Sadly, it would be the last time we were to see Kimberly as in Feb 2017 the owners of VT, Trip Adviser decided that they wanted to delete the competition.  A sad day for all of us VT'ers.

So here are a few memories of our meet in the condo in Keys West. 
The good thing about staying here is that you get a Disney band to wear around your wrist and it gets you on the buses provided and on the ferry.  It is well set up.


Love this photo of hubby! Depp.  Eat your heart out!! Lol
Hubby looks so sexy.
Now run away you VA's.   I want him all to myself!! 



Disney Springs is outside of Disney World but in amongst the Disney accommodation.  It is the place to go for entertainment, shops, restaurants etc.

We went over on the ferry provided and had a wander around and nice meal.   Sorry no restaurant tips.... Camera day off.



All of my life I have wanted to visit Cape Canaveral.  Seeing a rocket launch would be just the icing on the cake.

So.... I asked Ann if she could tee up a day for those of us that wanted to go to see NASA. Charlie kindly offered to drive us.

Little did I know that a few weeks before we set out on our big trip, I discovered that there was going to be a rocket launch at the time of our visit.   Woohoo!!! Wow!!  I couldn't contain my excitement!  I wanted to do cartwheels!!  Lol.
So it was arranged.  We booked tickets for the rocket launch.

But.... So sadly the rocket launch did not happen on the day. 😢  Apparently they had a problem with some valve.

But nevertheless, we still had a great day.


But next day at Disney I reckon I saw the rocket go off.   See
pic below.  What do you think?

Psss.... Please don't ruin my theory. 😏



Ann and Charlie kindly offered to host us for a few more days at their home in Bradenton on the eastern side of  Florida south of Tampa.
What a fitting way to end our USA holiday.  
We were made to feel very welcome and it is always relaxing being around Ann and Charlie.  No aires and graces.  Our good friends are wonderful hosts.
On the way we stopped off at a place where you can see Manatees.  We have them here in Perth up north but they are called Dugong and found up mid north Western Australia at a place called Shark Bay.
We stopped at TECO Bend Power Station which is where you will find the Manatees.  We didn't see any but it was nice having a look at the small gift shop and learning all about them.
Interesting fact:  Manatees are like elephants.  They both have tough skin, bristle-like hair covering their entire body, teeth that are being replaced and toe nails on each forelimb.



Ann and Charlie know how much we love our gardens so they took us to Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

These gardens were created by locals called Marie and William who was successful in the oil industry.

Although private, the gardens have been opened up to the public so that all can enjoy the wonderful range of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and colourful small floral borders shades by glorious green foliage and majestic trees.

We were in heaven.



Sarasota Beach is Ann and Charlie's local.
They took us there for breakfast which was awesome.
Sitting right on the beach at the café with good company and an awesome view was the perfect way to end our time in Florida.




Thank you Ann and Charlie for being good friends and for everything that you did to make our holiday the best ever!
We love you.
😘  💗


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