An absolutely wonderful trip to Japan in the first two weeks of April 2023, Tokyo, Hakone,Takayama, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka being the main cities. a wonderful country where the people are so respectful and dignified, friendly and courteous and to be honest the country is miles ahead of the UK in most aspects. Having been to China Japan pips it to the post due to the friendliness of the people, their excitement in helping you and to welcome you to their country, unlike china where they are a little afraid of talking to you incase they might be arrested for some reason, albeit over 10 years ago when we visited China. I would recommend Japan, beautiful, elegant and so friendly to anyone.
"I love to travel the world and myself and Lane have been to some superb places in the past 15 years or so. I always get inspired by the journeys we have made, my favourite place is and always will be North America. America has always took priority over other countries visited like China, Thailand, Kenya, Egypt etc but now Trump has gone, done and dusted and Coronavirus is on the way out we will certainly be returning back to the states to do more Holiday tours. Hey Ho. I have missed our tour manager Tim Boaler . As soon as the Pandemic has disappeared we will return to the states and in particular Memphis and New Orleans.
Our Jaunt (in August 2015) around the world was Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, the Land of Atlanta, Nashville, Memphis, Tupelo, New Orleans, Chattanooga and Vicksburg. This is definitely one of the best tours we have done in the past 10 or so years. Getting to grips with the civil rights movement and the history of Dr Martin Luther King, Elvis Presley the King himself?, BB King and the list goes on and on.
The music was tremendous especially in Jerry Lee Lewis and BB Kings Blues clubs in Memphis. A visit to the Memphis Gibson Factory where ES 335s are made just topped it all for me. A steam boat ride down the New Orleans stretch of the Mississippi was a great experience to a great city. Met some great people on the way the tour group were truly the best. John Carter Cash (Johnny Cash's son with June Carter) and Robert Duval who looks great at 84 and Billy Bob Thornton both at the Grand Ole Oprey. Played some great venues whilst over there, the Tupelo Hardware Store and Rock City between Nashville and Chattanooga.
General Photos of our various trips, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Francisco, LA, Denver, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Salt Lake City, Grand Canyon, San Diego, New York, 2003, 2006 and 2009
Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, China (Beijing, Xian, Shanghai). Rome, Florence, Siena, Sorrento, Pompeii, San Moreno, Athens, Kenya, Madera, Munich, Saltsburg, Budapest, Prague.
Christmas 2016, Peldhu Cornwall
Around the Spanish side of the Med and down to Ceuta North Africa, a wonderful chill out week followed by a few days in Krakow Poland
The West Indies 2018
When I find time I will publish more photos of our several years of cruising as well. Since we started world touring in 2004 we have visited some fine places most of which sadly now are struck by terrorism of some sort of another, the last place I want to see and then I will be very content with the travel experiences we have had is Japan. 2018 however was the Caribbean and will be followed again by the west side of the Mediterranean later in the year.
Sun Bridgetown - BARBADOS
Mon Castries - ST. LUCIA
Tue Pointe a Pitre - GUADELOUPE
Wed St. Thomas - ANTIGUA
Thu San Juan - PUERTO RICO
Fri Fort de France - MARTINQUE
Sat St. George's - GRENADA
Sun Bridgetown - BARBADOS
Mon At Sea
Tue Road Town* - BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS TORTOLA
Wed Philipsburg - ST. MAARTEN
Thu Basseterre - ST. KITTS
Fri St. John's - ANTIGUA
Sat Kingstown -ST. VINCENT AND THE GRANADINES
Bridgetown - BARBADOS
Another Cruise around the MED In August did us the world of good. Palma, Corsica, Sicily, Italy (Sorrento. Rome) and the weather was superb.
Another wonderful Christmas in Cornwall in little Peverick near Padstow
Our Jaunt in 2019 took us to Jamaica, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. Superb Tour so sorry to come back to our traumatic landscape here in the UK.
Well its 2022, August and we ventured outside of the country for the first time since 2019. we made our way through France and Switzerland to Lake Como, Lagarno and Maggiore, Milan and St Moritz, a superb time had by one and all. After several conversations in France and Italy it was amazing how they both think how stupid the UK electorate were for voting for Brexit. I must admit Dover was an absolute Joke trying to get out and trying to get back in to this God forsaken land of right wing gullible imbeciles.
“Our around the world travels in a blur”
The following notes are just a few of the tours we did, the more memorable ones but all in all the countries we have visited are as follows:-
USA - 17 States all in all, either landed in or had holidays in. NewYork, Maine, Newfoundland, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennesse, Arizona, Nevada, California,Utah, Colarado,Wyoming,Nebrasska, South Dakota, Illonois.
• Japan China
• Laos, Myanmar.
• Ireland (Northern) and Scotland and Wales
• The canary Islands
• Italy, Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan, Sorento, Naples, Piza. Lake Como.
• The Vatican
• San Marino
Switzerland, St Moritz
Bridgetown - BARBADOS
Castries - ST. LUCIA
Pointe a Pitre - GUADELOUPE
Thomas - ANTIGUA
San Juan - PUERTO RICO
Fort de France - MARTINQUE
St. George's - GRENADA
Road Town* - BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS TORTOLA
Philipsburg - ST. MAARTEN
Basseterre - ST. KITTS
St. John's - ANTIGUA
Sat Kingstown -ST. VINCENT AND THE GRANADINES
If I had to write about all of them I am sure I would never finish so here is the brief account of the main ones.
The Western Explorer California – Arizona, Nevada
Let’s start in 2006, after a trip back to Florida at Easter we decided to do some more states of the USA so picked on the western explorer. This was the first of many trips around the world to come. It meant leaving the kids at home; Rachel was already married by this time and Ruth well she was as happy as a pig in muck doing what she wanted to do most of the time. We had already done New York, Boston and Florida so this was going to be fantastic and I was exactly spot on and one of the best trips ever.
In a nutshell this trip took in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Las Vegas and San Diego. We flew into Chicago O’Hare airport and were surprised by the size of the place it was the first America Hub we had ever landed in and was it manic to say the least. We quickly made friend with a older couple from Willenhall on the same trip as soon as we landed in LAX. Brian and Anne would keep us in stitches for the rest of the holiday and me and Anne just used to bounce of each other throughout the two weeks. This was the first trip we met Tim Boaler the tour manager who to this day was one of the best we ever had.
Wednesday 2nd August 2006 Los Angeles
We travelled to Manchester on Wednesday 2nd August 2006 so we were up at 04:30 for a flight taking off at 11:05 to Chicago Illinois, it was a fantastic flight because when we arrived at Manchester we were first in the queue to check in and as soon as the desk opened the lady behind the desk said I don’t think you can sit together as all the seats had been pre booked. I was so tired I didn’t want to argue and accepted her explanation of we will meet you at the departure gate and give a couple of tickets when the flight is sorted. We checked our bags and wondered off quite hacked off that we may not be sitting together. We settled down to have Breakfast and did a few hours shopping and sitting about and then the flight was called. The lady that served us at the check in desk came over to us and said, seeing you were so patient with us, so calm and collected we have upgraded you to business class, oh my God it was fantastic the best flight ever to this day. We had our own computers on board and the food was just superb and couldn’t believe it when our seats turned into beds. We couldn’t fault American airways. We landed at O’Hare airport and had 1.5 hrs to get to the other side of the airport to board our next flight to LA. We boarded a train to get to another terminal it was like a small city trying get around but we finally made the gate with seconds to spare and guess what we were not sitting together. What a difference this was like a greyhound bus, a lousy old 737 which should have been scrapped years before, all in all it was a crap flight.
We met Tim in LAX and boarded the coach to drive to our hotel the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City with about 6 other couples. The majority of people had missed there connection flights from O’Hare which was no surprise. On the way we drove through some more seedy sides of the main city outside of the airport and I was not impressed, LA is a big sprawling city and only the centre is what you could call interesting (bar Beverley Hills and Laurel Canyon). It reminded me of many of the episodes of “Starsky and Hutch” wide open streets with litter all over the place; a great deal of graffiti and a very strong look of poverty was obvious. I and Lane made our way to our room when we arrived at the Sportsman’s Lodge and slept for England till about 04:00hrs American time, it was a reasonable hotel; we went down for breakfast and were well into the swing of things and ready to start our first day tour of LA.
Thursday 3rd August 2006 Los Angeles
We started off at 08:30 hrs and the first port of call was the Hollywood Bowl Theatre, there was nobody playing or rehearsing so we had the place to ourselves, to think some of the greats had played there The Beatles, Sinatra and the list goes on and on. The seating was very strange with deckchair like seats clustered in little portioned areas, it was bizarre but the stage was fantastic. The 2nd drop off point was down town LA Grumman’s theatre where the stars
every year got together to give themselves a pat on the back for being so lovely, the Oscars. Their stars with their names littered the streets and spotted loads of them, you can’t miss them really, John Wayne’s, Maureen O’Hara, William Shatner, Michael J Fox and the list goes on and on. One special one, the only one on the wall and framed was Mohammed Ali (Cassius Clay the former undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion of the world). The reason being he said “Nobody walked on me in life; they sure aren’t going to do it when I am dead”.
Opposite this area was a site very interesting to me the iconic Capitol Records building, this was the first recording studio of note I had ever seen in real life, later on in life I was to experience Abbey Road, RCA Studio B and of cause Sun Records.
We went inside the Kodak Theatre where the actual Oscars ceremony now takes place, it was huge and you could easily imagine the ceremony taking place. From that point we boarded the bus again and had a tour of the city and proceeded down Sunset Boulevard and sunset strip to see the Troubadour where the early seventies bands played, Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Crosby Still and Nash and Elton John to name but a very few. The Hollywood sign was looking down on us from the hillside as we made our way past hotel California (although there are actually three of them). We drove past Marylyn Monroe’s apartment where she was found on the fateful night of her death back in the early sixties. Every building was familiar due to the fact they have appeared over the years in so many countless films and TV series until this day. We stopped off for lunch at the famous Farmers Market where you could buy anything from a donut to a Tractor Tyre, a bizarre place yet again but this is where I had my favourite all time lunch when in the states a Teriyaki Chicken and rice casket, shear bliss.
After Lunch we made our way back up to Studio City towards Universal studios theme park, It was much smaller than Florida but much more compact and several rides and attractions were compounded together to make one, Jaws and King Kong where together with the Mummy ride. It was built on a very steep incline so to get from one level to the next they installed massive escalators. It was truly a magnificent place and although we only had about three hours there we managed to do all the big rides and attractions. The most memorable was seeing the big tank where so many films on the sea were filmed included the Batman Movie of the 1960’s with Adam West and Burt Ward and also the airplane disaster from the War of the Worlds set. Superb.
We made our way back to the Sportsmen’s Lodge and collected a sandwich from a large superstore across the road, I spotted a Batman TV series complete from 1947 for $10 which I just had to have.
Friday 4th August 2006 Los Angeles
We left LA at 08:30 hrs and started a fairly long drive over to Anaheim where the legendary Disney Land theme park was. This was the first Disney Park ever built. It was still in the district of LA which indicates how big LA as a city is. On our way out of the main city we went down Rodeo Drive and Beverley Hills and a few of the stars houses pointed out to us. I would have loved to have had more of the film land marks pointed out such as Laurel and Hardy and early 1920’s and 30’s films in particular.
We spent a few hours in Disneyland and it was empty we had the place to ourselves. We went round the rides like a pair of manic tourists, Space Mountain, Bobsleds, Snow White show (what a mistake) Toad of Toad Hall, Thunder Mountain and the obligatory Disney Down Town shopping Mall. We hoped on the bus late in the afternoon and made our way to San Diego.
It took 3.5 hours to get to our hotel in heavy traffic along the west coast south drive of California and although stuck in the traffic the coast was stunning. We got to San Diego city around 19:00hrs and went straight out to a restaurant for Dinner. The Hotel wasn’t great in fact it was in the middle of a car park so it was the pits really but we were only there for a couple of nights. San Diego is a beautiful city one of my favourites I might add. It’s very close to the Mexican border so the old town was very Spaghetti Western style, it wasn’t fabricated it was just as it was in the 1800’s. I imagined Clint Eastwood joining us at one stage it was that atmospheric.
Saturday 5th August 2006 San Diego
On all of the trips we have done this day stands out for some strange reason. We drove through Old Town towards the seafront and walked along the harbour, we walked past the cutter ship the “Spirit of India” and an Old Russian Submarine. We briefly looked up in awe of the USS Medway now a museum to which we were to return to later in the day. We moved up to Balboa Park and wonderful park with actual Buffalo roaming the grounds, superb gardens with an old Mexican building in the middle surrounded by wonderful exotic plants and shrubs, truly beautiful. We travelled down the coast slightly to the Coronado Hotel where the film Some Like it hot was filmed (Tony Curtis, Marylyn Monroe and Jack Lemon the biggest stars of the 1950’s) and also where Edward the 8th and Mrs Wallace apparently met for the first time?
We continued to travel back to the Medway and spent the afternoon on board this museum on the sea, an aircraft Carrier which saw active duty during the Korean War. It was magnificent ship. It was a ship that really sticks in my memory as wartime memorabilia really fascinates me.
Sunday 6th August 2006 Scottsdale
We had an exhausting drive ahead of us today on our way to Scottsdale in the sweltering heat. We started at 08:00hrs and had a mid morning stop at Elquantro before having an all you can eat buffet at Yuma, the old Western town, The heat outside the bus was unbearable and was not short of 100 degree F in the direct sunlight. We stopped again at Gilabend in the middle of nowhere and finally arrived at Scottsdale and jumped straight in the pool for some well earned temperature dropping.
Monday 7th August 2006 Scottsdale Phoenix
This was a free day in Scottsdale so we thought a little retail therapy would be in order so we caught the local bus into town for $1.25 each return, 70p for a round 5 mile return trip…bargain. Lane bought a Bikini and a pair of sandals I bought a Jethro Tull Crest of a Knave album, a Willy Porter album and a book on HTML programming (sad so sad).
That evening we drove about 40 minutes to the other side of Phoenix to a Rawhide country and western evening where we saw a stunt shootout show and a fabulous country and Western evening band. They were called the Western Whip Band and they were very good indeed. I am not a lover of this type of music but they were extremely good at their style of music. We had the biggest Steak Dinner you could ask for.
It went dark really quickly and when we arrived back at the hotel it was time to hit the pillow. Phoenix was an amazing place but even late at night I don’t know how people live there it was extremely hotel and humid (but what can you expect living in the middle of the Arizona dessert.
Tuesday 8th August 2006 Flagstaff
A late start today we started at around 09:30 on our way to Flagstaff but first we went to one of the most beautiful places on the planet Sedona, on the way we stopped at Montezuma’s Castle a old village carved out of the sandstone rock face. Outside of the car park about 4 miles east was a place where we stopped to look at the Cactus trees. A fact we leant was if a branch was growing from its side it was already 50 years old at that point. We stopped for lunch in Sedona a lovely town and in the middle of luscious Red sandstone surroundings, we made our way to a helicopter base and started our journey, a 15 minute fly around the hills of Sedona, it was truly terrific and spectacular. We were with a couple from Manchester Chris and Don, Lane had the best seat next to the pilot and she took some breathtaking photographs and film of the event. I will never forget Sedona for its Jaw dropping effect on me.
From Sedona we made our way to Flagstaff for an overnight stay before a move onto the Grand Canyon. On the way we stopped off at a reservation where Navaho Indians were selling their traditionally made goods, Bags and Jewellery. Lane bought some jewellery which in later years she lost at home, all handmade and beautiful quality. We arrived at Flagstaff at 17:30hrs and was greeted by a glass of champagne. This was another night of shopping and buying sandwiches instead of having a meal. We had a very early start tomorrow to get to the Grand Canyon.
Wednesday 9th August 2006 Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon Las Vegas
We departed early at 04:45 for a short journey to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. We arrived at 06:15 to a spectacular view of the sun rise. The Canyon was Blue and Pink caused by the sun reflecting a the morning angel, In later years we went back in the afternoon to Crimson and oranges which was in total contrast.. It was eerily silent and truly Jaw dropping. I think it would be fair to say that this is the most spectacular natural site I have seen to date and boy have we seen some sites over the years. We witnessed Eagles flying and swooping down into the canyon for their breakfast of small animals It was an awesome site which I can’t really explain in writing you just have to visit.
We left at 07:05 hrs and made our way over to the small fixed wing airport on the rim of the canyon and boarded a small 18 seat prop plane for a flight over the canyon to Las Vegas (seats 5 and 3 flight 7309 boarding card #17 RAT AM Scenic Airways). We flew over the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and few other smaller lakes, we saw the Colorado River cutting its way through the Canyon and turquoise colour of the lakes as they nestled between small towns where people had holiday homes and moorings for their boats, the views were indescribable. The Canyon lost its Pink and Blue tinge as the sun came up further into early morning and started to turn a more Terracotta hue.
We arrived in Las Vegas at 10:30 just in time for Breakfast at Circus Circus. We were actually stopping at the Hilton right on the end of the strip, a new hotel with a Star Trek ride and theme park built inside the hotel. We spent the day walking the strip moving in and out of the Hotels to look at the shows and attractions each one had to tempt you into going gambling. Boy was it hot on the strip we measured it at 109 degrees F and spent most of the time inside. We visited, The MGA, Paris, New York New York, The Bellagio, The Venetian, Treasure Island and several shopping malls on the way.
That night after a kip in the afternoon and a dip in the pool we visited the Rio Hotel to watch a spectacular show called “Masquerade” which was done suspended on a rail track from the ceiling of the gambling hall in a Carnival style, superb. It was followed by a tour of the strip at night in the coach, stopping at the Bellagio for the fountain show on the hour and finally arriving at Freemont Street. Freemont street was basically a video screen placed over the street for around 200 metres plus showing animated shows and cartoon effects, it was just stunning and must cost a fortune to run and maintain. Since this visit they now have a zip wire offering rides to brave people to run the length of the street. We made our way back to the hotel, it was around Midnight and the temperature was still in the 80s.
Thursday 10th August 2006 Las Vegas
We left the Hotel for a tour of the strip during the day with several drop offs. We visited the Flamingo to see the Flamingos and swans the Gardens behind the hotel, onto Caesars Palace to see the Atlantis animatronics show and shopping experience, into MGM to see the lions and lion cubs changeover. We were dropped back off at the Flamingo and we made our way to our favourite one of all the Venetian to see the gondolier on the third floor of the building complete with its canals and St Marks Square, truly stunning. It presented so well that you do believe you are outside at night listening to the musicians and singers in the square, breath taking. We walked back to the Hilton in the sweltering heat for a bit of a rest before we went to see the Rat Pack show at the Four Seasons Hotel. It was a great show with impressionists playing the parts of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Marylyn Monroe and Sammy Davis Junior. It was simply great. I was kissed on the head / forehead by the actress playing Marylyn Monroe. What a treat..I think not.
Friday 11th August 2006 Las Vegas to Pea-soup Anderson
We departed Las Vegas at 08:30 hrs and went past MGM and New York New York for the last time (little did we know we would return in 2009) and out towards the west for a long drive to a small commercial town called Calico.
Calico was a town for tourists and had the trappings of a Wild West town together with the obligatory shootout on the hour. It was a well earned stop to get a drink and something to munch on. We carried on through the Nevada dessert to Edwards Air force base and the aircraft bone yard where airplanes are stored during the winter or eventually scrapped, this is both military and commercial aircraft. They are stored here due to the virtual non existence of humidity so there’s no rust or deterioration. After a long journey we arrived at the Pea soup Anderson the best hotel we have ever stayed in. We had a fabulous evening meal and our room was to die for all decked out in Green Tartan (I presume Anderson Tartan).
Saturday 12th August 2006 Selma to Yosemite to San Francisco
We left the Hotel at 08:30hrs and made our way to Yosemite stopping off on the way to pick up a picnic to have for lunch in Yosemite. The scenery both on the way and at Yosemite was just stunning. We sat down with Brian and Anne to have lunch by a massive waterfall; we had such a laugh with these pair. I couldn’t believe how high the waterfall was we were dining next too; it was to my reckoning at least 300 feet tall.
We got back on the coach and recommenced the journey to San Fran. The temperature was starting to drop quite dramatically and soon we were crossing the Oakland Bridge and the bay bridge. It was a very dark and drab evening and was nearly raining when we crossed into San Fran. We had a very short tour of the city and was really surprised to see the homeless (quite a few) starting to get their pitches for a long night n the streets. It was now around 60 degree so it felt like winter to us after the heat of Vegas. We stopped at Cable Street and our Hotel, The famous Myako Hotel. (Elton John and other Rock Stars had stayed there in the 70s and 80s) It was right next to a Japanese shopping Centre and we spent the evening walking around the shops till we called it a day and hit hotel room. We had a sunken bath wow was it good, a little small but really nice. The view was nothing to shout home about as Cable Street is a fair distance from the front of the City. Our first opinion of San Francisco was eerrrggghhh.
I must say it grew on me but Lane to this day didn’t like it at all.
Sunday 13th August 2006 San Francisco
The day was focussed on a tour of the city from China Town to the Wharf and of course the lovely wooden houses made from RED wood (Painted Ladies) into Candlestick park and we were dropped off at the wharf for a lunch of Clam Chowder in a diner right on the front of the harbour. We made our way back up to Union Square on the trolley Bus and stopped off at Macys for a well earned Coffee overlooking the square whilst watching the world go by. We continued back up to the hotel on foot right next to the Tender Loin area which we later was told do not walk there under any circumstances, ignorance is sheers bliss.. That evening we had a photo Opportunity on the other side of the bay before we made our way to Fishermans wharf for a meal at the Neptune on Pier 39 overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz; it was magical and we sat with or new friends Brian and Anne. We then went to the 46th floor of the Hilton Hotel for drinks and a view of the bay and bridges. We made our way back after a very tiring but fantastic day.
Monday 14th August 2006 San Francisco
Our last day, we started on a short tour in a mini bus to Muir woods to see the giant Redwoods and then onto Sausalito a superb rich man’s town where the house prices were astronomical. I believe Sausalito is where Fleetwood Mac mixed and mastered their Rumours album. We went back to Fishermans Wharf to catch the ferry over to Alcatraz. We had booked our tickets a few days before in one of the previous hotels so were raring to go. Alcatraz is a must to see but be quick I am sure it will have rotted away by 2030 and will be closed to the public. The smell of the place was disgusting due to the inhabitants of Gulls and there constant pooping around the place. Pier 39 was exactly the same accept it was from the Sea lions which have taken over the place since the earthquakes of the 1990s. It is smelly and horrendously noisy, but they are protected species. I loved Alcatraz none the less, we saw the cell which Al Capone was in and all of the history of the famous criminals incarcerated there from the 1920s to the 1960s when it was eventually closed down as a prison.
Tuesday 15th August 2006 San Francisco
We flew out from San –Francisco airport to Chicago for a joining flight to Manchester. What a great Holiday.
Friday 3rd August 2007 London to Beijing
This was and is to this day the only holiday I was not looking forward to, I was sat on my own in London Heathrow shopping area whilst Lane went shopping thinking I have two more weeks of this. I was feeling really low and if someone would have said the flights cancelled I would have been over the moon. I didn’t want to board the plane, the thought of being stuck on a plane (a Chinese one at that) for the next 13 hours filled me with horror). It turned out to be the best holiday we have ever had for many reasons. The group was fantastic, the place even better.
We were due to take off at 20:00hrs but were delayed by 50 mins. It was a very old Boeing 747 plane and this started to give me my depressive feelings the world of good. I was really looking forward to watching a film, to my horror there was a choice of one, It was yes you’ve guessed it Chinese with Taiwanese or Korean subtitles. Fantastic it just gets better and better. The food arrived and was a pickled Gherkin and Rice, I was right it could get better. I slept on the plane quite well for the next nine hours off and on. If I could have got off I would have but I think at 30k feet I was limited to sitting where I was. The hostesses were good although their English was as good as my Mandarin i.e. nonexistent I gave up asking them if there was anything else I could watch on the screen, I am sure their answer was no, stop moaning and get to sleep you old bald headed fart!
A strange woman taped me on the shoulder and said I am KIM I thought who the hell is Kim, she was our holiday rep for the next two weeks and boy was she good, I must admit I did think this was her first trip to China what the hell is she going the show us. Little did we know that you have a series of tour reps from China with us at all times, she was there to pay monies and ensure we were having a good time, She succeeded.
We arrived at Beijing at 13:50 hrs their time to a very hot day the plane was stopped and parked (I think the correct term is approned) about a mile and a half away from the terminal, when we got in it was truly stunningly beautiful, you could eat your dinner off the floor (you wouldn’t want to through) We got through customs with little delays, Kim did a fantastic job as we were on one visa. We got to know Kim well and things were looking good.
We arrived at the Friendship Hotel at 16:00hrs and had a quick walk around the grounds after dropping our bags off and a quick freshen up. It was a massive complex in the middle of Beijing and owned by the Chinese government, we were in room 4024 and it was really nice and big, clean and very palatial, much better than any rooms we had in the states (bar the Pea soup Anderson).
We went down to dinner and went down to meet everyone, we automatically made friends with Alan and Maureen from Birmingham and Carly and Donna from London. The meal was a full three course Chinese meal you would have at home, it was heaven on earth, little was I to know for the next 10 days or so we would have one sometimes two of these every day. Towards the end of the holiday became to hate the meals purely because there was so much, so we pined for a McDonalds or a TGI Fridays. After Dinner we went for another walk around and found the swimming pool. It was an Olympic size swimming pool, it had its own shopping centre complex, Tennis courts, this was really putting the states to some serious shame. The weather was lovely (a nice 25 degrees at 18:00hrs) and we talked till late before calling it a day and turning in.
Sunday 5th August 2007 Beijing -The Forbidden City
We had a fabulous full English breakfast the next morning and as we boarded the coach for a tour of the city we met our local guide, Katy. She turned out to be extremely knowledgeable. We arrived at the Forbidden City and Katy said when we come out the other side we will be entering Tiananmen square do not ask me any questions whilst we are there as I will not be able to answer you, but I will answer them on the coach later on. I thought that’s very strange.
The Forbidden City Tiananmen Square
We spent 2 / 2.5 hrs walking through the Forbidden City in an organised tour by Katy, again this is a jaw dropping place to experience but not recommended to do on your own as English is a minority language reserved for the educated and elite (or it was in 2007).
We came out of the South entrance / exit straight onto Tiananmen Square, what a site, it was a massive open paved area surrounded by Government building, we could not ask any questions as the uprising in 1980 is not known to the Chinese people as the strict reporting law as are still in place and by all measures Communism does not allow any sort of criticism of the Government at all, so the event never happened, we later found out from Katy all the facts as reported in the west and that many people just disappeared that day, we assume into hard labour camps or just disappeared onto the next world if you see what I mean. Katy told us that the entire time we were in the Square even when we split off in little groups or pairs there was someone keeping a very close eye on us all. Chairman Mao’s mausoleum was impressive but unfortunately shut for renovation when we were there. I would have liked to have gone in as his body still lies there. This was so popular to the local people. One thing we did notice was the fact that the Chinese people would stare at you but with a lovely smile, when we asked about this it was stated that many people from outside of the city were visiting (holiday time of the year) and many had never seen European and American people, they were fascinated by us. They took a shine to Lane and wanted to have their photographs taken with her. She was a pop star in waiting. They call Europeans long noses and we were followed everywhere, I lost Lane a couple of times as she had to stop to have her photo taken.
Whilst we were in the Square a bit of a commotion happened where a local lady was manhandled to the floor by a man who was obviously a plain clothes police Officer. She had been steeling an ice cream of all things. This where Katy indicated that the man who arrested her was actually following us to see if Katy was going to tell the group something she shouldn’t.
From here we were escorted to a restaurant where we had another three course full Chinese lunch, it was Fantastic. It was here, I and another chap (Alan Hendren) noticed something peculiar on the day time menu, it was Donkey Penis, I thought we should give that a miss.
We travelled on further into the city by bus to a local Tea Ceremony and tasting session, there were hundreds of different Teas to sample and tea-sets to buy, some jars of Tea had flowers in them and tasted like something you would scrape from an old sink, eerrrggghhh.
We finished the day by a visit to the Temple of Heaven and some wonderful opportunities for taking photographs. There was a sold Marble boat moored in the corner of the lake built for one of the emperors. We made our way back the hotel for a well earned rest and an early dinner (More Food) to reflect on the day before we were whisked off to the Beijing Opera to see 4 acts of separate operas. I loved it but Lane fell asleep as jet lag was started to take its effect. We couldn’t understand a word of it as obviously it was in Mandarin but to me it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen on a stage.
What a great day, busy but superb.
Monday 6th August 2007 Beijing
Started early again today after a large breakfast we boarded the coach for a short-ish journey out to an Enamelling Factory to see some very skilled artists enamel metal vases and of course the chance to buy a typical piece which would normally fetch around £2.5k, I think not. From here we continued to travel to “Badaling” and a stop at the Great Wall. It took a good couple of hours to get there through some interesting scenery.
The wall was magnificent it was misty but very warm and walked a good half mile across the top of the wall between buttresses. To this day this is on my top 5 list of places to visit and although greatly restored it is a wonderful majestic place. We bought the Girls a pair of bags (Jimmy Chou yeah right) which were £20 each and a pair of pyjamas that lasted two nights before falling apart (what a laugh I went to bed with PJs on and woke up without sleeves, they were in a heap on the floor, material and cotton). The worst £3 I have ever spent. We made our way to the sacred way and walked through the famous 36 stone guardians of the Kings (Emperors), a mixture of human and animal effigies.
We had a long journey back to the hotel in Beijing for yet another 3 course dinner at the friendship hotel. Peking duck this time and I must say it was fantastic yet again. We walked across to building number two and then to next door TGI Fridays for a drink with Alan and Elvira and Alan and Maureen by this time we were getting a little fed up with the food and started to eye up TGIs for later in a couple of weeks time. Our treat was yet to come at the end of the holiday when we returned to Beijing.
Tuesday 7th August 2007 Beijing to Nanjing (North City to South City)
We stopped off at Beijing Zoo to see the Pandas, this was not a good site to see as they looked dirty and not well looked after to me. We were there for around 30 mins before we made our way to the summer palace for some lunch and then onto the Airport to fly down to Nanjing. Our flight was delayed by 4 hours and we were given a free basket of rice, how nice of them so we had a sub way which was superb after eating so much. We inspected our tickets and noticed we were seated by Christian names; Lane and I were in different parts of the plane, Bizarre.
Beijing Zoo Nanjing City from our Hotel room
We arrived at the Hotel the Gin Ling at 21:00hrs we were in room 1512 of a very tall hotel. Beijing and Nanjing are so much bigger than cities we were used to and the quality of hotels so far had been staggeringly good. Nanjing was the capital of China many years ago before Peking or Beijing after the revolution become more commercially acceptable to a fast moving Communist party. We turned in early that night after a very busy day full of travelling.
Wednesday 8th August 2007 Nanjing South City
It was going to be hot today and dove out to see Dr Sun Yats Mausoleum. It was 90 degrees outside and hardly anywhere to shade. We walked to the top of what felt like a thousand steps to the top of the mausoleum. In fact it was only 500 steps.
Dr Sun Yats Mausoleum
The shrine at the top gave an amazing site over the area and to see the city of Nanjing in the background was quite jaw dropping. We travelled further away from the city to visit a Jade shop and gemstone factory, it was another way of getting your money off you. From there we drove down to the Yangtze River to look at the view and a massive statue of Chairman Mau in the conference centre built into the bridge. We travelled back to the city to visit the Confucius Museum and a large shopping centre where you can buy as much cheap rubbish as you want. Back to the hotel for yet another 3 course meal and a short walk out into the city. A shopping Centre we visited made Merry Hill look like a corner shop it was huge and on six floors. We ended up in the bar for a good chat and a night of Joke telling.
Thursday 9th August 2007 Nanjing to Suzhou
(Pronounced Sue Chow)
We Started early and left the hotel at 07:15 and made our way to the Railway station to catch a train to Wuxi (Pronounced Wushee). The train was bang on time and we boarded the train, all of our seats were allocated and I must say the quality and cleanliness of the train put ours in the UK to shame. The Journey took around 1.5 hrs and whilst we were travelling we were entertained by Sellers trying to part with their wares, cheap children’s toys. Now this may sound mildly interesting but when it is explained in Chinese for 45 minutes it did become a little nauseating.
We departed the train and made our way to the old part of the city and visited an old couple in their late 80s I guess.
On the Train to Wuxi Wuxi The visited House owners
The house value was around £2.5k they were so proud of it and paid for it over the years from their meagre wages. It was two rooms, a corrugated roof made of metal, one storey and they had to share a communal bathroom about 200 metres from the house which stank to high heaven. The smell was absolutely disgusting and how I stopped myself from being sick is beyond me. We drove out further for yet another 3 course lunch, as we ate I was thinking about the old couple, between us the group must have left them a small fortune (£50) so the cynic inside me thought I bet they left that house and secretly live in a palatial building not far away.
We boarded a Canal boat for a very relaxing boat ride down the Grand Canal from WUXI to Suzhou, it took about two hours through some very industrial settings of China, we eventually got to the hotel and had yet another 3 course dinner. We visited the local shops and bought some hooky DVDs and CDs and also a music shop where I could have bought a Gibsun (a Chinese copy of a Gibson Les Paul oh it was dreadful). I was looking for a new flute but in the time in China never spotted one. We turned in after another night in the bar.
In the House with Carly On the Grand Canal boat The Grand Canal
Friday 10th August 2007 Suzhou
We started off by visiting the Humble Administrators Garden in the centre of the city, it was a beautiful Garden full of old buildings and superb plants and shrubbery with several large ponds full of Goldfish, The fish were the size of a normal British Pike fish. This is the place where I nearly lost Lane again due to the local people who wanted to have a photograph take with her, children and families alike all wanted in on the action, as I said earlier they refer to Europeans as long noses. We left the city and made our way to an embroidery factory where we saw some stunning pieces of work which again were extremely expensive to buy. The workers who were highly skilled spent months sometime years creating just one piece of fine embroidery that looked like photographs or painted pieces of art, they were stunning.
We made our way to the famous lingering Gardens very much the same as the previous only larger. We made our way back to the hotel and had dinner before walking to a night of local entertainment which was fabulous, Traditional Lute playing, acting and dancing by local actors, musicians and singers
Saturday 11th August 2007 Suzhou to Shanghai
Was sad to leave Suzhou, this was one of my favourite cities; it was kind, cultural and very very friendly. The local people were so accommodating and appreciative of us visiting there.
Before we left we were greeted by 25 rickshaws which we were going to race through the city in, on a 45 minute race winding our way through the back streets, along the canals and through the market place. It was a little scary at times as these guys didn’t stop at lights or follow any road regulations it was as if they were possessed to try and win. It was great fun. To me it was the wacky Races cartoon in real life. I don’t remember who won but it was one of the most memorable moments on any holiday.
The Rikshaw ride The beautiful Embroidarys The station waiting for the train
We visited another embroidery factory and then made our way to the station to catch our train to Shanghai. The weather was starting to turn and although very hot when we arrived it was bucketing down. The bus was about two hundred yards away from the station, by the time we have travelled half way on foot I was walking or trying to run in 6 inches of rain water. The drains could not cope with the deluge of water. We got onto the bus absolutely soaking wet. The air-con was on full blast so we were so cold we could sit down due to the fact it felt like we had being swimming fully clothed in a swimming pool. We had dinner at the Hotel The Swan Hotel which I must say was the worst hotel we have ever stayed in anywhere. The room was smelly. That night we went to visit the Jin Mau Tower at the time was the tallest building in Shanghai, but not for long. As we got to the viewing floor on the 88th floor they were already building the next tower which was going to be 20 floors taller than this one. The views from where we were could only be described as stunning; again Lane was asked to have her photograph taken by the local people. This visit was followed by a walk down the Bund built by the British one hundred years previously and was in complete contrast to the new high rise city being born in front of our eyes. As we looked from the Bund at the towers the sky had turned a very strange colour due to the storm and in the distance we could see lighting flashing across the sky. It was a very weird and almost unreal site to behold. We made our way back to the hotel after a long drive and tour around the city.
On top of the Jin Mau Tower
From the Bund
Sunday 12th August 2007 Shanghai
An early start as we moved out of the city to visit a Buddhist Temple where the Gold statues were incredible and priceless. It was jaw dropping to see the size of the gold statues and heaven knows how much the value of gold would be in today’s monetary value. We then visited the Xuru School where we had several demonstrations of their musical skills, we then moved onto the Cashmere factory and Lunch. Yet another visit to a garden before we were let loose in Shanghai to go shopping. When we got back to the Hotel our guide said do you want a massage if you do follow me. I followed and we went to a local practitioner who used blind people to examine and massage you, telling an interpreter where the pain or obstruction was. They were spot on and my back felt fantastic for a good couple of hours before it reverted back to the usual painful self.
That evening we had Dinner at a local restaurant and then headed to the Shanghai Circus for a truly magnificent night of entertainment, Jugglers, motor cyclists, marvellous acrobats, trapeze artists and high wire acts. The motor cyclist were a six man team who rode their bikes inside a metal caged ball / sphere of metal, it was scary to see them all running about at 30 to 40 MPH without hitting each other. It was awesome. This was the best night’s entertainment we had in China and on par with any of the Cirque du Soleil shows we have seen elsewhere in the world. They were flawless in every way.
Back to the hotel and then a long well earned kip…..again.
Monday 13th August 2007 Shanghai to Xian
We got up very early today and took a walk on our own before breakfast and headed down to the park opposite the Hotel. There were already a couple of hundred people in the park and it was about 06:30am / 07:00am. The people were doing their daily ritual of Tie-Chi. There was a mixture of people doing it before they went to work, young and old, in fact there were more people in their retirement than young people really exerting themselves. We had a very brief go…. 2 minutes or thereabouts.
A local man took a shine to Lane and wanted to try out his English. We went back to the hotel for breakfast and were told we were going to the famous Seagull Restaurant for Lunch, little did we know it was going to be at about 11:15. We did another tour of the city by day this time and then onto the restaurant. It was just over the river so we could see the TV tower and all of the towers from our table. From here we had the choice of travelling to the airport by maglev train or the coach, we chose the Maglev which cost about 60p. A group of us bought tickets and off we went on a 250MPH journey to the airport (431KMH and actually 267.8MPH). A forty minute journey by coach took 10 minutes by the Maglev, what an experience. When hit top speed I tried to get up offs my seat to no avail I was stuck there caused by the speed. This was the fastest we have travelled on land. We arrived at the airport to yet another pristine place, you could eat your dinner of the floor (well I wouldn’t try it personally). After another uneventful flight booked on by Christian name and split up within our group we arrived at Xian at 18:00hrs by Shanghai Airlines.
We were greeted in Xian at the city gates and we had a show put on for Travelsphere alone, Circus Acts and a re-enactment of a battle in the times of the first dynasty, the ceremony was full of traditional acts, artists and dancers, singers and military stage hands and they entertained us for about an hour. We checked into the Xian Garden Hotel which I must say was wonderful.
Tuesday 14th August 2007 Xian and the Terracotta Army
Today was going to be the most special day and we were not disappointed. We first of all went for a walk down by the Hotel where there was a Pagoda and gardens which were spectacular and then we drove out to the Terracotta Army. Before we got to the main complex and we visited a factory that was producing copies of the warriors for a very reasonable price of £2.5k each. We had lunch and then arrived at the farm complex where the army was housed in three massive aircraft carriers.
To see the warriors up close was breath taking, the detail and the fact that everyone was different in looks and the armoury they wore. We spent a couple of hours wandering around the museum and had a book signed by the man / farmer who found them back in 1974. After signing our book it was put into a carrier bag for keeping clean, when we got outside Lane was in hysterics as the carrier bag was a brand new Morison’s bag. Together with the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall this was an amazing site to visit and one I will remember for the rest of my days. Lane was really taken by this place and rates it as her all time favourite. The writings I do and the photographs I took will never do this place justice; it’s a must to visit. I would recommend it to anyone to put on their bucket list, it was and is Magnificent.
Our last meal together as a group quickly followed by a night at the Ting Dynasty Opera. A wonderfully colourful show, a perfect end to a perfect day.
Wednesday 15th August 2007 Xian to Beijing
A sad day today we had to say goodbye to our friend Alan and Maureen and Donna and Carly as they were booked on a Yangtze Cruise. After a brief walk we made our way to the airport for a flight to Beijing, we actually had some European food in the airport which was wonderful just for a change. We arrived in Beijing after a long day of travelling and flight delays and made our way back to the Friendship hotel. That night we found ourselves in TGI Fridays having a full American style meal, I had the ribs as usual and Lane had a burger and boy did it taste good. It was a fantastic change to the meals we had been eating the past two weeks.
Thursday 16th August 2007 Beijing.
Our last day in China, we went up to Charcoal Hill and then to silk Alley the best shop in the world for cheap copied rubbish but it was a good shopping experience where the goods were so cheap you didn’t mind if it was crap or not.
We headed back to the Hotel for our final meal and to relax in the bar with Steve and Anne, Keith, Jean, Carol and Paul and Jane.
The next day we flew back to London Heathrow
A country of beautiful people, and one vile place which doesn’t belong on this planet. Pattaya.
Again we made our way to Heathrow Airport for a 09:35 flight to Bangkok. It was a good flight on board a Thai Air 747 and the food was reasonably good.
Wednesday 30th July 2008
I got about 4 hours sleep on board which was fantastically comfortable for a change, I was over the moon however when we arrived at Bangkok Airport at 16:00hrs their time. We made our way to the Hotel Benja and room 2909 on the 29th floor which had stunning views of the city landscape. We had dinner and had a walk down into the market trader’s area which was on one of the main roads leading to the Palace then returned for an early night to start the adventure the next day.
Thursday 31st July 2008 Bangkok
Up and away after a reasonable breakfast and we met our tour guide Paul (I suspect he was the typical middle aged White /western gay man living in this area, I have nothing at all against any human being on this planet but I do draw the line at the fact that this person liked his partners to be young, very young indeed which appalled me and repulsed me but we didn’t find this out till much later).
We visited the Kings Palace and the first of many WATs (temples basically) the amount of gold in the statues in all of the WATS we visited was phenomenal. We went over to the famous Jade palace where the Jade Buddha stood in all its glory in the Kings Room and proceeded to have lunch at the Rose Gardens. We started to drive out of Bangkok and visited a traditional Thai show; Lane was petrified as there were Snakes all over the place and met one face to face. The show was centred on village life in Thailand.
After a couple of hours we drove back to Bangkok to freshen up and then out to a local Restaurant (The Pinam) to see a folklore show. The food was excellent and so far so good but I kept relating it to China and to be honest it wasn’t a patch on China so far.
Friday 1st August 2008 Bangkok
A very early start today we started our journey North, we boarded the coach at 07:00hrs. We stopped at a village just outside Bangkok 30 miles or so and had a look around a local village, a typical house and Lane bumped into another snake, this was not going to be her holiday by the looks of it. The village was in a coconut plantation and in the single shop you could buy anything (to me this was purely for tourist and wasn’t real Thailand), Souvenirs, Birds, fish, squirrels or a gibbon or two could all be purchased for pennies.
We went further north to another village where James Bond was filmed on the river boats (I think it was Live and Let Die but don’t quote me), The Floating Market which was on the river and swamp lands. We boarded one of these power boats for a race around the town up and down the canals. As we passed people’s houses on the river you could see people washing and bathing in the river, not nice. We had lunch, a fruit buffet on a big river boat or rice barge. When we got back into Bangkok we had the final couple of miles on the Sky train and then back to the hotel. We had a great day that day.
Saturday 2nd August 2008 Bangkok to Kanchanburi
Another early start at 07:00hrs on the coach to leave for a long journey north to visit the Death Railway in Kanchanburi (the bridge over the river Kwai, pronounced Kwey). We visited the cemetery where the men who built the railway were buried, British, Canadian and Australian soldiers who died terrible deaths at the hands of the Japanese military responsible for building the railway. This all took place in the 2nd world war during the latter days of 1943 to the beginning of 1945. The graves were full of Australian, Dutch, British and Canadian soldiers who were starved and beaten to death or died of diseases such as dysentery. After this very upsetting seen we went into the museum where the full story was there to be witnessed, it was horrific yet set in such a peaceful present day setting, it was difficult to compute that just a few years before this place was indeed a hell hole for our commonwealth people.
On board the death railway train
We picked up the train and travelled on a section of the actual railway route through the jungle, we had a brief snack on board and a cup of coffee while we took in the stunning scenery along the railway route. We then had lunch on a rice barges to the side of the actual bridge over the river Kwai or at least one of them. On our way back to Bangkok we watched Bridge over the River Kwai on the coaches DVD player to kill time. That evening we went shopping in the Bangkok markets, more rubbish and hooky DVDs etc.
Fancy a fried Locust
This was another good day and I am so glad we did the railway although very sad to experience where so many people lost their lives in wicked circumstances, tortured and killed at the hands of the Japanese Emperors cruel army. In many ways they were worse than the Nazis during this insane war. It made me feel very humble and an experience I will never forget.
Sunday 3rd August 2008 Bangkok to Phitsanulok
We left Bangkok for a long drive to Ayutthaya and Phitsanulok to visit the most amazing temple we had seen ever. It was old and derelict but obviously beautiful; we had a little put put or rickshaw to take us to the monument from the coach to get a feel for the size of the site followed by a walk around the ruins. This was another magnificent site and reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book for some reason, I was just waiting for the Orang-utans to
come swinging from the top of one of the spires. We drove to a large lake a few miles away and had lunch in a restaurant perched on the banks. We arrived late afternoon after a lengthy drive through very slim roads and skirting the jungle. It was very impressive but after a while got a little boring so head down and kip time on the coach. We arrived in Phitsanulok and it was quite a big city, probably as big as Wolverhampton but a little warmer. We had diner and then took a rickshaw ride around the city and ended up back at the bar of the hotel for a night cap entertained by the lousiest band I have ever heard ( seconded only by one direction).
Monday 4th August 2008 Phitsanulok
We spent the day touring endless temples which looked the same to me but still very interesting, The monks were making money hand over fist blessing people and tying a piece of string around your wrist to indicated you had been through the process, myself and Lane had a go what was there to lose. Well nothing astounding has happened as a result which confirms my agnostic views in life. It was a good relaxing day.
Tuesday 5th August 2008 Phitsanulok to Laos
We had a lie in today and didn’t leave the hotel till 08:00hrs and made our way up to the hill tribes (ATKA and YAO) It was sad to think that people were making a living from showing their village to tourists. I am sure it was very rewarded in a monetary sense for them. Each hut had its own generator and satellite dish Televisions and DVD players so not very traditional really. We had lunch at the very top of the country near the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar (Burma as it was called) all join together. We hopped onto a boat on the Mekong and across the border into Laos and had our passports stamped. We made our way back to the Hotel and jumped in the pool for a relaxing afternoon.
Wednesday 6th August 2008 Phitsanulok Elephant Sanctuary to Chang Mai
A drive out to an Elephant show which I found to be very exciting yet a little disturbing that these wonderful majestic animals were being exploited and that I was part of it being a tourist and lapping it up. We both got on top of an Elephant and had a short 30 minute ride through the jungle. I must say it was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on but very exhilarating. We watched the Elephants do tricks with footballs and one gave me a big slapping kiss on my cheek, one of them even painted a picture of three tulips, it was wonderful. I do however worry that the elephants are being exploited. We left and had lunch in a restaurant called Cabbages and Condoms, a charitable company trying to promote work and safe sex in the whole Asian area. We went down the river on a raft which was very scary as we were sat on bamboo poles tied together with string. We visited an Orchid farm and then arrived at our Hotel in Chang Mai. We attended a very strange dining event that evening where noodles were being cooked and then thrown 10 to 15 meters from one chef to the next to add new ingredients before it hit your table to be served, Bizarre. After returning to the hotel we sat and had a drink and listened to another crap band.
Elephant Sanctuary Chang Mai
Thursday 7th August 2008 Chang Mai
We had several visits to various factories and shops this morning, the first port of call was a gemstone factory followed by an Umbrella factory, yes an Umbrella factory which you can imagine was riveting to say the least. This was closely followed by a wood carving factory making furniture which I found to be fascinating, watching the skilled carpenters was a joy to behold for me and some of the products we saw ran into the thousands of pounds if you wanted to buy them…..no thank you. We had some lunch again and went to the top of a mountain to see another temple. This one was very special and magnificent in its appearance. The statues were made of solid gold and was jaw dropping to see. We were blessed by the local Monk which costs money (what a racket) a few Baht the equivalent of about £2.00 or so, that’s religion for you. I am sure this guy had a Mercedes parked round the back somewhere. We returned to the hotel and had some dinner to return to the bar again as there was nothing else to do. A guy from Wales in the group got up to sing Day Dream Believer, every bloody night this happened, He thought he was the love child of Davey Jones and Tom Jones it was awful. Little did he know that the rest of the group thought he was a bit of a knob of the first order?
We had to get up early the next morning as we had a flight back down to Bangkok; this is when the fun started.
Friday 8th August 2008 Chang Mai to Bangkok and Pattaya
We left the hotel at 08:30hrs for our flight down to Bangkok and then onto a coach down to a place called Pattaya, This is where the holiday took a turn for the worse. We arrived late afternoon looking forward to four days in the sun for an idyllic relaxing time around the pool in paradise. Ooops were we in for a shock.
We had dinner in a very average Hotel restaurant and then we took part in the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games from Beijing on the Television, It was strange to know we were there exactly 12 months earlier watching the building of some of the stadiums. So for two hours we sat in reception, we cheered and sang for the UK team with a mass of people from all over the world in a very noisy open area. The bird cage stadium we watched being built was looking fabulous. I can remember vividly the previous year’s visit to China and seeing builders welding on top of the building with very little safety equipment to stop them falling off, but here it was in all of its finished glory. We turned in at around 11:00pm
Saturday 9th August 2008 Pattaya
This was a lazy day around the pool, after a few days of early wake ups and miles of travelling I was really looking forward to spending time doing nothing. I had a massage on the beach which for £10 was absolutely fantastic and worth every penny. It was so good when she had finished I could hardly walk I was so relaxed.
This is where it started to get interesting we had a trip down to the city centre which was on the sea front, we were talked into having a dress and a suit made by the local tailors (it was cheap and they showed us the finest fabrics that the suit was going to be made of) so we went down for a fitting (one of three one of which was in the hotel room). Whatever you do, do not be talked into having a suit made whilst on holiday when we returned home the suit was made out of the cheapest material you could wish for, it creased and stuck to me when I was driving in the nice warm weather, what a waste of money. It’s a big con.
That evening we went to the lady boy show which was entertaining and funny but a little unsettling to see these gorgeous looking women that are actually men. You can tell by the size of their feet and hands they are totally out of proportion to the rest of their bodies, ah well each to their own I suppose.
The city at night was vile, it was full of old (middle aged) English, German, Australian and American men walking the streets with either Lady Boys or young Children. This turned my stomach so much we lodged a complaint with Travelsphere when we returned to the UK. The place was full of prostitutes, strippers and seedy wheeler dealers. This was a true hell hole and I started to hate the place.
During the day you saw nothing of this, it was like Blackpool designed for the tourists as it was used by the American Soldiers during the Vietnam war for rest and relaxation (Prostitution really) so the shopping was plentiful cheap and reasonably tasteful, but it was full of bars and the smell of drains was abundant.
Sunday 10th August 2008 Pattaya
Another day and we took a taxi down to the town centre to Mikes Hall for some shopping, back to the hotel for lunch and a bit of relaxation around the pool and then another disastrous fitting of the suit. That night we braved it again into the city and were confronted with even worse sights than the night before. Lane called it the town full of prostitutes, Lady Boys, Old Men and perverts. Eventually we went back to the bar.
Monday 11th August 2008 Pattaya
Another Lazy day around the pool, we had lunch in a beach bar and walked down to another cabbages and Condoms for a drink and a look around. That night Travelsphere had a goodnight and farewell party, half of the party left the hotel to go elsewhere not good really.
Tuesday 12th August Homeward bound
At last a trip back to the airport and home. Although we saw some marvellous places this was the worst international holiday we have ever been on.
Monday 6th April London to Nairobi 2009
We drove to London Heathrow again for our flight to Nairobi, an eight hour flight on Kenyan Airlines. A pleasant flight couldn’t complain. We arrived at 16:00hrs at after a two hour delay. We made our way to the Hotel the Safari Club. We went straight out on a short trip to a Giraffe Sanctuary in Nairobi, a tour of the city which was an eye opener (it’s a shame that in 2017 I wouldn’t recommend a visit to Kenya due to the terrorist attacks throughout 2015 and 2016). We moved onto Karen Blixens House, made famous by the most boring film ever Out of Africa. Robert Redford starred in the film.
We both had tee bone Steaks before turning in for the night and to meet our guide and safari leader first thing in the morning.
Tuesday 7th April Nairobi to Samburu 2009
The next morning after breakfast there were about 30 people waiting to be allocated there tour guide and their coach or safari truck to start the safari. Each couple or person was read out and off they went on their way. We were last on our lonesome nobody else touring with us. We met our guide James and it turned out we had a Toyota land cruiser to ourselves. James said you can pay up to $1000 extra to get a tour on your own.
Since 2012 Kenya has experienced a great deal of Islamic Terrorist attacks which many people have lost their lives being innocent bystanders as a results of explosions and gun attacks caused by mindless, idiotic, mentally challenged followers of animals in the name of religious fundamentalism. It is truly deplorable what has been done in this country like many others in the name of these evil excuses for humans.
We met up with James and started to travel North through the city and up towards Samburu, it was going to be a long journey. Mid morning we stopped for a coke in a shed they called a service station and then again for lunch at the TAM trout farm. Lane had the trout and I had steak and the meals were served on a wooden board. We were sat in a tree house high in a tree overlooking animals on the ground. The roof was a tarpaulin and the chairs and table made from discarded wood. It was superb.
We carried on our journey onto Samburu National park and our first view of animals in the wild, we had already started a commercial game drive and within minutes of hitting the park we saw Djick Djicks, Giraffes, Onyx, Grant Antelopes, Thompson Antelopes, Zebras, Bison and Wildebeest. When we arrived at the Samburu lodge we were greeted by a twelve foot Crocodile being fed by the hotel on the banks of a dried up river at the back of our lodge. We had a fabulous diner and went to bed absolutely knackered from a very tiring day. What a day, a great day and more to come tomorrow.
Wednesday 8th April Samburu 2009
06:30 early morning start to get away of the first game drive on the safari. We saw the same animals again from yesterday’s drive in but today something very special. We saw an Elephant with her young baby she was so protective of the baby and little one gave us a little blast on his trunk just to let us know not to come too near. We went back for breakfast at around 08:45hrs so a good couple of hours out on the range. We relaxed by the pools playing with some little Monkeys until we started the second safari of the day at 16:00hrs.
This time in addition to the Elephants we saw two Cheetahs with their cubs, a leopard in the trees protecting her cubs and some small baboons. We had dinner at about 19:00hrs and went straight to bed after watching the space station fly overhead in a completely clear and undisturbed sky, no light pollution anywhere, it was magical. After a fantastic coffee we called it a day for an early start again the next day on our way to Tree tops.
Thursday 9th April Samburu to Treetops 2009
We departed the hotel at around 08:00hrs, it was a beautiful morning and to greet us at the gates was a massive Ostrich. We arrived at Out-span for lunch on the patio and this is where we left James for 24 hrs.
We joined the Safari truck and drove over to Treetops.
Treetops was where Queen Elizabeth 2nd was visiting when told her Father had died George 6th in the early 1950s. She has visited since has she adored the place. The original Treetops burnt down in the 1970s and was rebuilt soon afterwards as a copy in all its glory.
The visit of Princess Elizabeth cemented the fame of The Treetops. The visit of Princess Elizabeth was immortalised in Jim Corbett's (who was a resident "hunter" at Treetops) final book Tree Tops, which was published by the Oxford University Press in October 1955, 6 months after Corbett's death (19 April 1955). Archival footage of the royal visit has also survived. Following the media hype over the accession of Elizabeth II, the Treetops attracted a large number of rich and famous people every year. Some famous personalities who visited the Treetops before or after the accession of Elizabeth II are Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford and Lord Mountbatten, and a much-publicized return visit by Elizabeth II in 1983. Due to the quick change in profile of the rustic tree lodge, National Geographic ran an article A New Look at Kenya's "Treetops" in October 1956.
Paul McCartney and Beatles roadie Mal Evans stayed at the hotel while on Safari in 1966. Returning from the safari trip, McCartney claims he came up with the concept of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band on the flight from Nairobi to London.
We walked from the truck about 0.5 mile in a group with an armed guard as we were in the middle of the jungle reservation with wild animals walking around minding their own business. We were shown our room which was small, only enough room for a couple of single beds and very basic. We had a fantastic group dinner. The dinner was set on long tables and the quality of the food was outstanding. There were twelve of us at each table six on each side of a bench arrangement. The food was served on a trolley which travelled the length of the table backwards and forwards. We made our way up to the roof where you could sit with a drink or a coffee to watch throughout the night and watch the animals.
There was a buzzer in each room you could set so when animals were spotted it would wake you up in order to make yourself ready to join everyone on the roof. I got up and watched Wildebeest, Hyenas, and of course the Elephants use the water hole at the ground floor of the building. Tree tops was a fantastic experience and an unforgettable part of the holiday and life itself.
Friday 10th April Treetops to Nakuru 2009
We left Tree tops at 06:45am for breakfast at Out-span and what a breakfast it was, superb full English. We met up with James and continued our journey to Nakuru. On the way James took us down to Lake Nakuru to see thousands of Flamingos, baboons and a rare site of the White Rhino and more Giraffes just drifting across the plains, a wonderful humbling sight. We went up to a hill for a stunning view of the lake and to get friendly with the Baboons. We got to Nakuru lodge and went on an afternoon game drive and then an overnighter at the lodge.
Saturday 11th April Nakuru to Keekorok 2009.
We left Nakuru Lodge and drove all morning to arrive at the Masai Mara Keekorok Lodge. This is where we saw a group of Hippos in the water hole and the sight of a Hippo attacking an Alligator in the waterhole was awesome.
On the way in we saw a Lion and Lioness up a tree escaping and trying to hide from a herd of Wildebeest.. They were no match from the thirty or so Wildebeest who would have killed both of the lions if caught.
We also witnessed a pair of lions and lioness eating a fresh kill from that morning. Along from the lines there were a couple of Cheetahs with their family of cubs, superb sight.
Sunday 12th April Keekorok 2009
We started our game drive at 06:30. On the way onto the reserve we stopped to watch the balloon tours go up. The reservation was covered in a very deep haze of fog which lifted very quickly but it was a beautiful site to see the Elephants walking along side each other against this stunning backdrop. We saw the same lions from yesterday finishing off breakfast; they were mating between mouthfuls of breakfast (nice work if you can get it). Whilst the male was chasing the female we observed four beautiful cubs around 12-18months old. On our way back to the lodge we got stuck in the mud. James got on the radio but nobody answered the call for help. After a while I got out to push the truck whilst James tried to move the truck. Lane stayed in the truck for obvious reasons. It then dawned on me that only a few minutes before we saw the two lions having breakfast, probably only a few hundred yards away. I jumped back in the truck as quick as soon as I could and said to James here you have a go at pushing. James said to me the lions would not attack not with the aftershave I was wearing as they don’t like the smell of anything like that. I was more a risk of being bitten by the snakes that reside in the undergrowth that made me feel so much better.
Eventually after about forty minutes help arrived in the form of another truck with tourists on board and he towed us out of the hole. We got back to Treetops at about 09:30 for breakfast.
Before Lunch and after a dip in the pool we went down to see the Hippos again in the waterhole. At 16:00hrs we went back onto the reservation for our last game drive. We saw Black Rhinos, a Male Lion, Topei, Hyenas, Elands, Jackals, Leopards and some lovely Kestrels flying over their prey. We were so chuffed as we had seen the big five which every safari in Africa long for but rarely do. On our way back to the Lodge Lane nearly stepped on a Green Mamba Snake. She was so cool and collected I was so proud of her as I know the morbid fear she has of snakes.
Monday 13th April Keekorok to Nairobi 2009
We had a very long journey back to Nairobi through the great plains and then an extremely long wait for our flight back to London. A lasting memory of feeling unsafe in Kenya was when we stopped in a small township on the way to Nakuru. We were left in the truck in a market square; there was a meeting of the local tribe people, mostly men, we later found out it was a Muslim preacher trying to get people converted to Islam in return for money. Within 10 minutes there were around 200 people around him listening to his ramblings and his corrupt way of following a supposedly good religion. We were the only white faces in a couple of hundred miles so I felt particularly nervous as I had Lane with me. A couple of these locals game right next to the truck and started to chew CAT which was a tree bark that gave the same effects as Cocaine or Heroin. This in my opinion could have turned quite nasty as the crowd got nosier and nosier. Eventually James returned and we continued our journey.
A fantastic holiday one of the best, but as I stated earlier it’s not a safe place to be nowadays as Islam fundamentalists have started to spread its vile doctrine rapidly.
USA National Parks 2009
Wednesday 22nd July 2009 – London to Chicago 2009
We flew from Manchester Terminal 3 Business Class (Long Story) but it’s because we were so nice at the check in desk when we were told we may not be sitting together as all the seats were pre-booked. It was only at the departure gate that a kind lady we met at the check in desk came over to us and said here are your tickets in Business class. A free upgrade, this was absolutely fantastic.
This was the menu:-
• Starter, Cheese, Nuts and Oil
• Salmon and Prawn Salad
• Beef Steak, Runner Beans and potatoes with a peppered gravy
• Ice Cream you could die for.
Chocolates on tap for five / six hours of the flight, your own computer / entertainment unit and an adjustable bed it was fantastic and all credit to American Airlines.
We arrived at Chicago O’Hara Airport and we already knew the issues here. Through immigration and then off to find the correct terminal which could take an hour or more, it was horrendous again busy and like an old British Rail canteen. We boarded a local Delta flight and we arrived at Denver at 07:00hrs for a meal and a well earned kip, but not after a short run down town to the Hard Rock Café. Denver is the mile high city for obvious reasons (one mile above sea level). I must say it is one of my favourite cities because of how clean and friendly it was the home of the Wild West and Kit Carson . Anyway we got ready to turn in for a tour of the city the following day.
Chicago O’Hara Airport Denver Colorado
Thursday 23rd July 2009 –Denver Colorado 2009
We boarded the bus for a fantastic tour of the city and some of the outskirts of the area. We drove first of all to Lowrey airbase and then onto the state buildings which were very impressive and reminded me so much of Boston’s State Building in Massachusetts. We stopped at the Denver Broncos Football stadium before heading out to the Red Rock Amphitheatre which was situated high in the hills surrounding the city. Countless Rock stars have played the theatre over the years including the Beatles, Jethro Tull, Emerson Lake and Palmer and many many more.
Red Rock Ampitheatre
We finished the tour out at Buffalo Bills grave site in the hills overlooking Denver and looking out on the Black hills of the adjacent state of South Dakota. Buffalo Bill or William Cody to use his real name was a charismatic Character who although finished his life as an entertainer was responsible for killing over 4000 Buffalo during the Indian wars in an attempt for the American Government under President Hayes to try and starve the Indians to move into reservations. This was the near wipe out of the Lakota tribes who resided in South and North Dakota and Wyoming.
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman. He was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory (now the U.S. state of Iowa), but he lived for several years in his father's hometown in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, before the family returned to the Midwest and settled in the Kansas Territory.
Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven, after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honour in 1872.
One of the most colourful figures of the American Old West, Buffalo Bill's legend began to spread when he was only twenty-three. Shortly thereafter he started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883, taking his large company on tours in the United States and, beginning in 1887, in Great Britain and continental Europe.
Buffalo Bill Cody Kit Carson
I could not get my Dad out of my mind on this trip, not that I would have wanted to anyway. He was in awe of the Wild West and his love of this period in history started to have an effect on me as well. He would have loved this place, seeing the memorabilia of the time and of course just being the place where his heroes were roaming just 130 years previously. The things we were to see on this holiday would have sent him over the moon, I am so sad to this day that he wasn’t here to see it for himself. He loved Cowboys and would have been in his element listening to the stories of Kit Carson, Wild Bill Hickok, Butch Cassidy, Buffalo Bill and many more of his childhood adventure heroes. It’s a love I have recently started to have as I now love to watch Western films particularly the new ones which have a much more accurate account of the American history as opposed to Hollywood’s interpretation of the gung ho west of the time.
I was reflecting on all of this whilst sitting at Red Rock Amphitheatre overlooking the city of Denver nestled between the hills. This City has a fond place in my heart because of its history and its clean and friendly attitude.
Friday 24th July 2009 –Denver to Crazy Horse South Dakota (Black Hills) 2009
Today we met up with our tour guide Jacqui Nelson for the first time who in our opinion has been the best tour guide we have ever had and only seconded by Tim Boaler on our latest trip in 2015 to the South states of the USA, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.
As a group we departed in two coaches. The elitist group and the cattle class group, guess which one we had. We hoped on the cattle class coach and really there was little difference on the coaches, I think they had coffee that you could make yourself but other than that there was little difference. We would not have had this any differently as the people, who were from all over the world were absolutely fantastic, there were Americans, South Africans, New Zealanders, Polish, Indians and a few Brits, every single one of them were a joy to be with. We departed at 07:30hrs and had our last photo opportunity of Denver city before heading to Molly Browns house . Survivor of the Titanic disaster 1912.
Molly Brown (The Unsinkable) William Cody’s Grave Site.
We headed south before heading North East to Wyoming and stopped for Coffee at Torrington following the old Pony Express route up to South Dakota touch on Nebraska. We went through the famous town of Laramie and ate at Abby’s for a sub sandwich. We made our way to the Crazy Horse Monument which is a sculpture blasted out of a mountain not yet completed but started in the 1940s by Korczak Ziolkowski. His family carry on the tradition and its around another 50 years before it will be completed.
Crazy Horse Monument
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in Custer County, South Dakota, United States. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski. It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization.
The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Centre. The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles (27 km) from Mount Rushmore. The sculpture's final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet (195 m) wide and 563 feet (172 m) high. The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet (27 m) high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet (18 m) high.
The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion. If completed, it may become the world's largest sculpture as well as the first non-religious statue to hold this record since 1967 (when it was held by the Soviet monument The Motherland Calls).
I attempted to bring a piece back with us but they were far too big and I broke a slab trying to break one small enough to put in my pocket. From here we carried onto Keystone were we spent the night. It was the next town on from Mt Rushmore which we were going to see the next day.
That evening we used the pool in the hotel and had a fantastic meal of Bison Soup and ribs in a saloon bar called Ruby’s. This was an old Brothel from the early 1800s onwards. Keystone was an old western town well preserved, we shopped along the wooden pavement and used the pool again before retiring for the night.
Saturday 25th July2009 –Mount Rushmore 2009
We made our way on a very short journey to Mt Rushmore and although very impressive and somewhat jaw dropping it was much smaller than I envisaged. The four presidents stood out and almost talked to you as you watched in awe of the sight.
Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota, United States. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture's design and oversaw the project's execution from 1927-1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot (18 m) sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865). The memorial park covers 1,278.45 acres (2.00 sq mi; 5.17 km2) and is 5,725 feet (1,745 m) above sea level.
South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region. Robinson's initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups. They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure. Robinson wanted it to feature American West heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody, but Borglum decided the sculpture should have broader appeal and chose the four presidents. There was a couple of museums on the site which showed films of the creation of the sculpture and all the tools of the day were on view. This was a fascinating place.
From here we headed back to Wyoming and to a place called Tatanka and a Bison / Buffalo museum owned and created by the actor Kevin Kostner
On June 6, 2004, Costner opened Tatanka: The Story of the Bison one mile south of Deadwood, South Dakota, on U.S. Route 85, for what he hoped would be an educational and emotional place for people to learn about America's westward expansion. Promoters stated in a news release that the $5-million attraction had a new, 3,800-square-foot interactive centre featuring exhibit, retail, and food and beverage areas, as well as offices and a small orientation theatre. The visitor centre features graphics, photographs, and text describing how bison came to North America and how Native American tribes used the animals for food, clothing, shelter, and other needs. Other displays show how the American westward expansion threatened the buffalo populations and how the bison herds have since recovered under managed care. The centrepiece is a bronze sculpture depicting a buffalo jump commonly used by Plains Indians to kill and process large numbers of animals on which they depended for survival. Hill City artist Peggy Detmers created 14 bronze bison in the act of running from their pursuers and three bronze Lakota riders on horseback. Three of the massive bison are posed in midair, cascading over the face of a cliff. Costner commissioned the work in 1994 from Detmers. The five-fourths-scale bronzes, each weighing between 2,500 and 8,000 pounds, were cast at Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander, Wyoming. Another aspect is an 1845 Lakota encampment. The encampment will feature living Lakota interpreters of history, dressed in period attire and settled among their tepees
We ended up in the cheesy old town of Deadwood (where Wild Bill Hicock was shot dead )
Wild Bill Hickok Deadwood The bar where wild Bill was shot dead
James Butler Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876), better known as "Wild Bill" Hickok, was a folk hero of the American Old West known for his work across the frontier as a drover, wagon master, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, and actor. He earned a great deal of notoriety in his own time, much of it bolstered by the many outlandish and often fabricated tales that he told about his life. Some contemporaneous reports of his exploits are known to be fictitious, but they remain the basis of much of his fame and reputation, along with his own stories.
Hickok was born and raised on a farm in northern Illinois at a time when lawlessness and vigilante activity were rampant because of the influence of the "Banditti of the Prairie". Hickok was drawn to this ruffian lifestyle and headed west at age 18 as a fugitive from justice, working as a stagecoach driver and later as a lawman in the frontier territories of Kansas and Nebraska. He fought and spied for the Union Army during the American Civil War and gained publicity after the war as a scout, marksman, actor, and professional gambler. Over the course of his life, he was involved in several notable shootouts.
In 1876, Hickok was shot from behind and killed while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory (present-day South Dakota) by Jack McCall, an unsuccessful gambler. The hand of cards which he supposedly held at the time of his death has become known as the dead man's hand: the ace of spades, the ace of clubs, the eight of spades, and the eight of clubs.
Hickok remains a popular figure in frontier history. Many historic sites and monuments commemorate his life, and he has been depicted numerous times in literature, film, and television. He is chiefly portrayed as a protagonist, though historical accounts of his actions are often controversial.
We walked around town where there were re-enactments of the shootout on the street, in the bars the girls were scantily clad in old prostitutes clothing or girls of the town as they were called. We made our way to the hotel in a small town a couple of miles away called Lead. We had Dinner and gate crashed a local wedding taking place. All the men had black suits and black Stetson hats and the bridesmaids were wearing black dresses all a bit bizarre for us.
The wedding at Lead The view from our bedroom The main street in Deadwood
Sunday 26th July Lead / Deadwood to Cody Wyoming 2009
We left Lead and headed to Sheridan, we stopped at a Starbucks for Coffee and then a Waymart’s of all places for Lunch. We continued parallel to the battle of the little big horn, this is where General Custer was killed during the Indian Wars and then onto the famous town of Cody, named after William Cody or Buffalo Bill, this was not his birth place as he was actually born in Iowa. In 1895, Cody was instrumental in the founding of the town of Cody, the seat of Park County, in north-western Wyoming.
Today the Old Trail Town museum is at the centre of the community and commemorates the traditions of Western life. Cody first passed through the region in the 1870s. He was so impressed by the development possibilities from irrigation, rich soil, grand scenery, hunting, and proximity to Yellowstone Park that he returned in the mid-1890s to start a town. Streets in the town were named after his associates: Beck, Alger, Rumsey, Bleistein and Salisbury. The town was incorporated in 1901.
The hotel in Cody was very strange it was advertised as Log Cabins, it was actually a collection of big garden sheds we slept in. I loved it, Lane hated every minute in it, good job it was for one night only. In the afternoon we got onto a small truck as a small group and made our way for some water rafting down the Shenandoah River. It was fantastic. We finished very wet and very cold but what fun.
Monday 27th July Cody to Yellowstone 2009
We visited the Buffalo Bill museum for a couple of hours first thing after breakfast. The museum was superb full of some of the western armoury of the day included most of Buffalo Bills guns and wagons from his later years as an entertainer. We then made our way to Yellowstone Park quite a long drive before lunch.
The Buffalo Bill Museum and his original house where he lived with his family
We witnessed some magnificent thermal features as we entered Yellowstone Park which by all accounts is a live volcano that hasn’t erupted yet. The waterfall in the park was a marvellous site and we stopped to have our photo took and to shop at the local Navaho Indian stores. We are really looking forward to seeing “Old Faithfull” (the Geyser) tomorrow and its Ruth’s Birthday. We drove to the Xanterra Resort / Grant Village which was very basic and like a Youth Hostel Really but it was comfortable place to stay for the night.
Tuesday 28th July Yellowstone 2009 Ruth’s 20th Birthday to Jackson.
It was Ruth’s Birthday today and I was desperate to get a call back to the UK to wish her many happy returns. We were in the centre of Yellowstone where the Old Faithfull Geyser was and we saw her erupt twice while we were there. I was desperate to call her and wasted $10 dollars on a card that didn’t work but I eventually got a call back to the UK my mobile didn’t work, I was so happy when I got through. The smell of Yellowstone was unique. It was sulphur based and tended to sit at the back of your throat and stayed there. In the park you are actually stood on a Volcano which one day soon (one day or hundred years) but it will erupt taking most of the park and Wyoming along with it.
We travelled out towards the Titon Mountains which were beautiful and covered in Snow
We left the Park and travelled towards the Teton Mountain range, these were part of the Rockies that run from Canada. We moved across the park borders and stopped off for lunch.
The Tetons Mountain Range
We arrived at Jackson at 17:00hrs after a long Journey through Yellowstone. That evening we had dinner booked in a Wild West setting in the forest, we travelled by horse and cart / coaches. Cowboys and Indians were riding up and down between the coaches and pretending to shoot and fire arrows at the coach. It was so well acted by these people. We had Steak, fries and beans and as much as you could eat coleslaw and soft drinks whilst being entertained by a fabulous country and western band.
Wednesday 29th July - Jackson.
A free day to wander the lovely town of Jackson, It was nice and clean and very conservative for mid America. Before we made our way down on the local bus we had 30 mins in the hot tub. The town was full of small shops and a book shop took my eye straight away and although spent a good 30 mins in there I came out with nothing as usual. The town square entrance was an arch made of deer Antlers. A nice relaxing free day.
Thursday 30th July – Jackson to Utah Salt Lake City
We drove towards Utah and Salt Lake City. On the way we stopped at Bear Lake and watched the hummingbirds feed, such beautiful creatures. We made our way across the Great Salt Lake towards the city and commenced a full tour of the city in all its glory. The city is wonderful and although very religious the building are new, fresh and clean. It’s also extremely hot as it is in the middle of the dessert and is again one of my favourite cities in the world. The tour included the Temple Square, the Convention Centre, Joseph Smiths Tabernacle, Beehive House and of course the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Salt Lake City Utah
On the evening we went down town for something to eat but they did not serve any alcohol has you would expect. We dropped in on the convention centre to see the choir rehearsing. I am not a religious man, far from it but the sound was terrific. We also visited Brigham Young’s House the man who founded the Mormon Faith in the USA. I was so impressed by Salt Lake City; the tour was fabulous and ended up at the Olympic Stadium from the famous Winter Olympics. For some reason I felt extremely safe and at home in this city.
Salt Lake City, often shortened to Salt Lake or SLC, is the capital and the most populous municipality of the U.S. state of Utah. With an estimated population of 190,884 in 2014, the city is the core of the Salt Lake City metropolitan area, which has a population of 1,153,340 (2014 estimate). Salt Lake City is further situated within a larger metropolis known as the Salt Lake City-Ogden-Provo Combined Statistical Area. This region is a corridor of contiguous urban and suburban development stretched along an approximately 120-mile (190 km) segment of the Wasatch Front, comprising a population of 2,423,912 as of 2014. It is one of only two major urban areas in the Great Basin (the other is Reno, Nevada).
The city was founded in 1847 by Brigham Young, and other followers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who were seeking to escape religious persecution. They encountered an arid, inhospitable valley that they then extensively irrigated and cultivated, thereby establishing the foundation to sustain its large population of today. Due to its proximity to the Great Salt Lake, the city was originally named "Great Salt Lake City"; however, the word "great" was dropped from the official name in 1868 by the 17th Utah Territorial Legislature. The city is headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
Immigration of international LDS members, mining booms, and the construction of the first transcontinental railroad initially brought economic growth, and the city was nicknamed the Crossroads of the West. It was traversed by the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway, in 1913, and presently two major cross-country freeways, I-15 and I-80, intersect in the city. Salt Lake City has since developed a strong outdoor recreation tourist industry based primarily on skiing, and hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. It is the industrial banking centre of the United States.
Friday 31st July – Utah- Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon
We left Salt Lake City and moved south of the city and Utah to Bryce Canyon. Now Bryce Canyon was a special place as the Canyon had a unique rock formation where water and wind in the distant past had carved the rocks into strange shapes on a vast scale. Lane ventured high up the mountain range, I could has the thin air was affecting my breathing at such a high altitude. We lunched in the canyon and then we walked across the top and viewed three points. We travelled on to a nearby Best Western that night.
Bryce Canyon National Park /ˈbraɪs/ is a National Park located in south-western Utah in the United States. The major feature of the park is Bryce Canyon, which despite its name, is not a canyon, but a collection of giant natural amphitheatres along the eastern side of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. Bryce is distinctive due to geological structures called hoodoos, formed by frost weathering and stream erosion of the river and lake bed sedimentary rocks. The red, orange, and white colours of the rocks provide spectacular views for park visitors. Bryce sits at a much higher elevation than nearby Zion National Park. The rim at Bryce varies from 8,000 to 9,000 feet (2,400 to 2,700 m).
The Bryce Canyon area was settled by Mormon pioneers in the 1850s and was named after Ebenezer Bryce, who homesteaded in the area in 1874. The area around Bryce Canyon became a National Monument in 1923 and was designated as a National Park in 1928. The park covers 35,835 acres (55.992 sq mi; 14,502 ha; 145.02 km2) and receives substantially fewer visitors than Zion National Park (nearly 4.3 million in 2016) or Grand Canyon National Park (nearly 6 million in 2016), largely due to Bryce's more remote location. In 2016, Bryce Canyon received 2,365,110 recreational visitors, representing an increase of 35% from the prior year.
Saturday 1st August –Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon (2nd Visit)
After being on the coach for a few hours this morning we arrived to eat a packed lunch we picked up from Wal-Mart at Zion Canyon, yet another spectacular canyon. From here we continued our journey (a long journey) to the Grand Canyon South Rim. We stopped off at a Dam over one of the large Lakes and then onwards to the Canyon. This was our second visit to the Canyon but now we had a chance to stay overnight in one of the lodges (No air-con only a fan to keep cool and boy was it hot). We arrived at 16:00hrs and boarded a small shuttle bus to make our way up to Hergest Point and Parnell point. The views were stunning and the colours were magical, Blues and Crimsons, Oranges quite different from our last visit which was really early in the morning.
Zion Canyon, Lake Mead, Grand Canyon
Sunday 2nd August- Grand Canyon – Antelope Canyon
We visited Antelope Canyon today which was in contrast to the Grand Canyon and a very dangerous place due to flash flooding. When the flash floods arrive the canyon can fill up within minutes trapping people inside. Antelope Canyon was stunning and Jaw-dropping.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon in the American Southwest. It is on Navajo land east of Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate, scenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as "Upper Antelope Canyon" or "The Crack"; and "Antelope Canyon" or "The Corkscrew".
The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means 'the place where water runs through rocks'. Lower Antelope Canyon is Hazdistazí (called "Hasdestwazi" by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department), or 'spiral rock arches'. Both are in the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.
Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic "flowing" shapes in the rock.
Flooding in the canyon still occurs. A flood occurred on October 30, 2006, that lasted 36 hours, and caused the Tribal Park Authorities to close Lower Antelope Canyon for five months.
Monday 3rd August - Grand Canyon – Las Vegas
We had a superb Helicopter rise over the canyon this morning, last time we did it by plane. As we left the Canyon by coach we made our way up to Route 66 for a coffee and a shopping spree before recommencing the long journey to Las Vegas .
We arrived at Vegas – the Imperial Hotel at 16:00hrs and said our final farewells to Jacqui our tour guide and congratulated her on a fantastic tour. We went straight out and walked the strip and visited a few hotels, we visited the Venetian, The Mirage, Treasure Island and we booked tickets to see Cirque de Soleil for the following evening. We had dinner at the Venetian and watched the free show at Treasure Island, it was pretty spectacular with two full size Pirate Galleons battling each other firing canons and of course one of them sinks. It was good but a little tacky with the girls scantily clad (I was not complaining though).
Las Vegas (/lɑːs ˈveɪɡəs/, Spanish for "The Meadows"), officially the City of Las Vegas and often known simply as Vegas, is the 28th-most populated city in the United States, the most populated city in the state of Nevada, and the county seat of Clark County. The city anchors the Las Vegas Valley metropolitan area and is the largest city within the greater Mojave Desert. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city, known primarily for its gambling, shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife. The Las Vegas Valley as a whole serves as the leading financial, commercial, and cultural centre for Nevada.
The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its mega casino–hotels and associated activities. It is a top three destination in the United States for business conventions and a global leader in the hospitality industry, claiming more AAA Five Diamond hotels than any other city in the world. Today, Las Vegas annually ranks as one of the world's most visited tourist destinations. The city's tolerance for numerous forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, and has made Las Vegas a popular setting for literature, films, television programs, and music videos.
Las Vegas was settled in 1905 and officially incorporated in 1911. At the close of the 20th century, it was the most populated American city founded within that century (a similar distinction earned by Chicago in the 1800s). Population growth has accelerated since the 1960s, and between 1990 and 2000 the population nearly doubled, increasing by 85.2%. Rapid growth has continued into the 21st century, and according to a 2013 estimate, the population is 603,488  with a regional population of 2,027,828.
"Las Vegas" is often used to describe areas beyond official city limits—especially the areas on and near the Las Vegas Strip, which is actually located within the unincorporated communities of Paradise, Winchester, and Enterprise.
We had an early night but went into one of the many shows in the Imperial and had a drink. It was bizarre, a woman came and sat in the table in front of us and unwrapped a bag which contained a picture of Elvis Presley. She put the picture which was about 2ft by 3ft in size, in the chair beside her and then chatted with him and laughed as if they were having a conversation and were best friends.
Tuesday 4th August - Las Vegas
Our last day in the USA until 2015, we had a well earned lie in, a late breakfast buffet and then hit the town. We visited the MM shop superstore, MGM, NewYork New York, The Bellagio and we ate again at the Venetian. After a few hours it was back to the hotel to get ready for the Mystere Show at Treasure Island. 19:00hrs to 20:40 and it was a Brilliant show.
The following day we flew from Las Vegas to Chicago O’Hare and then onto Manchester. After a plane delay of around an hour we made it back home.
This was another superb holiday and one of the best. We landed back home on Wednesday 5th August.
USA- Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee 2015
I am going to jump into 2015 to our trip to the USA Southern States, America has always been close to both of our souls and have enjoyed every trip we have made there. Our five trips to Florida to the western explorer and the National Parks, not forgetting our New York and Boston Trips have been wonderful. At the time of writing this was our latest trip to Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. We took in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Memphis, Tupelo, New Orleans, and Nashville. A fantastic trip, we met up with our friend and tour guide, Tim Boaler. The Holiday focussed on the Deep South and the area where modern music, particularly the Blues and Country and Western was born. I was really interested in the Musical History of the area particularly the Blues, with B B King being one of the big names in Blues who lived his life and unfortunately died in the same year of our visit.
We visited Recording studios, RCA B and Sun Records in Nashville and Memphis and spent the day at Graceland’s, Elvis Presley’s house, it was truly inspiring and a little sad. This visit during the month of August was one of the hottest we have ever done; New Orleans was constantly in the 90 degrees and walking the streets even late at night was difficult sometimes.
Our Visit to the Gibson Guitar Factory at Memphis Tennessee
Friday 14th August 2015 – Manchester to Atlanta
We left Telford for our drive up to Manchester to catch our early flight to Atlanta Georgia. No transfer, yippee. We flew with Virgin and paid £80 for more leg room what a con, what a complete waste of money. The flight was uneventful but long, quite relaxing. We arrived in Atlanta at 16:00hrs and met up with Tim Boaler for the 2nd time and our transfer to our hotel in the city centre. That night we spent walking around the city centre and boy was it hot, we stopped off at the Hard Rock Café and had a small meal of chicken wings. For a Friday night the streets were virtually empty, little did we know that Atlanta’s commercial and shopping areas were all adjoined at the first floor in order for people to walk around in air conditioned conditions. We also noticed how friendly the people were, predominately Afro American so bubbly and friendly. I wouldn’t say Atlanta is one of my favourite cities but it is a great place to visit. It is very religious to say the least with a mixture of Protestant, Catholic and Presbyterian faiths all over the state
Atlanta is the capital of and the most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia, with an estimated 2016 population of 472,522. Atlanta is the cultural and economic centre of the Atlanta metropolitan area, home to 5,710,795 people and the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Atlanta is the county seat of Fulton County, and a small portion of the city extends eastward into DeKalb County.
In 1837, Atlanta was founded at the intersection of two railroad lines, and the city rose from the ashes of the American Civil War to become a national centre of commerce. In the decades following the Civil Rights Movement, the city earned a reputation as "too busy to hate" for the relatively progressive views of its citizens and leaders compared to other cities in the Deep South. Atlanta attained international prominence, and it became the primary transportation hub of the South-eastern United States, via highway, railroad, and air, with Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport being the world's busiest airport since 1998.
Atlanta rated a "beta(+)" world city that exerts a medium impact upon commerce, finance, research, technology, education, media, art, and entertainment. It ranks 40th among world cities and 8th in the nation with a gross domestic product of $270 billion. Atlanta's economy is considered diverse, with dominant sectors that include logistics, professional and business services, media operations, and information technology. Atlanta has topographic features that include rolling hills and dense tree coverage. Revitalization of Atlanta's neighbourhoods, initially spurred by the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, has intensified in the 21st century, altering the city's demographics, politics, and culture.
Saturday 15th August – Atlanta
We started on our fascinating tour of the city the birthplace and headquarters of the Dr Martin Luther King Jnr freedom movement in the 1960s. We made our way to the Martin Luther King National Historic site a fabulous museum full of memorabilia and presentation material of Dr King. Over the road is the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr King was a preacher and where he did his last sermon before moving to Memphis on the fateful day he was assassinated. Behind the Church to the left hand side is the burial site of Dr King and his wife Coretta Scott King .
Martin Luther King Jr. (born Michael King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.
King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president. With the SCLC, King led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the 1963 nonviolent protests in Birmingham, Alabama. King also helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
On October 14, 1964, King received the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped to organize the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the following year he and SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In the final years of his life, King expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War, alienating many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam".
In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. King's death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Ray, who fled the country, was arrested two months later at London Heathrow Airport. Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison for King's murder, and died in 1998 from hepatitis while serving his sentence.
King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971, and as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honour, and a county in Washington State was also renamed for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
We travelled back to the city and visited Margret Mitchell’s house where she wrote “Gone with the Wind”. The book was turned into the arguably the greatest film ever made. Atlanta boasts the world headquarters of Coca Cola and CNN News Channel. We had lunch at CNN shopping Mall which was huge. We finished the day off by walking across the River Bridge North end of the city before returning to the hotel for dinner.
The Margaret Mitchell House is a historic house museum located in Atlanta, Georgia. The structure was the home of author Margaret Mitchell. It is located in Midtown, at 990 Peachtree Street. Constructed by Cornelius J. Sheehan as a single-family residence in a then-fashionable section of residential Peachtree Street, the building's original address was 806 Peachtree Street. The house was known as the Crescent Apartments when Mitchell and her husband lived in Apt. 1 on the ground floor from 1925 to 1932. While living there, Mitchell wrote the bulk of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, gone with the Wind.
The house now contains a visitor centre, and a portion of the museum is wholly devoted to the making of the 1939 film based on the book.
The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also designated as an historic building by the City of Atlanta.
Sunday 16th August – Atlanta to Chattanooga
We travelled to Rock City which is a park with some awesome rock formations and scenic views. I sat and played guitar with the Highbeams band before they performed. At one point at the end of the park you could overlook seven states. We went down the mountain on a railway system (Incline Railway) and then onto Chattanooga as the famous song goes “Pardon me son is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo” well the station which was the hub of the city is now a Hotel and there are no trains whatsoever running through the city at all.
Chattanooga is a city in the U.S. state of Tennessee, with a population of 176,588 in 2015. The fourth-largest Tennessee city, it is the seat of Hamilton County. Located in south-eastern Tennessee in East Tennessee, on the Tennessee River, served by multiple railroads and Interstate highways, Chattanooga is a transit hub. Chattanooga lies 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Atlanta, Georgia, 120 miles (190 km) southwest of Knoxville, Tennessee, 135 miles (217 km) southeast of Nashville, Tennessee, 120 miles (190 km) northeast of Huntsville, Alabama, and 148 miles (238 km) northeast of Birmingham, Alabama.
The city, with downtown elevation of approximately 680 feet (210 m), lies at the transition between the ridge-and-valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. Surrounded by mountains and ridges, the official nickname for Chattanooga is the Scenic City, reinforced by the city's reputation for outdoor activities. Unofficial nicknames include River City, Chatt, Nooga, Chattown, and Gig City, referencing Chattanooga's claims that it has the fastest internet service in the Western Hemisphere.
Chattanooga is internationally known for the 1941 song "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Glenn Miller and his orchestra.
Chattanooga is home to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) and Chattanooga State Community College.
The city has its own typeface, Chatype, which was launched in August 2012. According to the Nooga.com website, this marks the first time that an American city has its own custom-made typeface and also the first time a crowd-funded custom-made typeface has been used for any municipality in the world.
Rock City and the Chattananooga Hotel
Monday 17th August – Chattanooga to Nashville
Today we travelled North to the Jack Daniels distillery for a tour of the factory, it was a very rainy morning but it didn’t stop the tour. We saw how the Hickory wood was used or turned into charcoal to purify the alcohol and give it that unique flavour. The factory was built on a spring so the natural water is free to the factory to create this product known all over the world. From the factory we moved further North to Nashville Tennessee another great city full of history and culture of the latter years and the 1800s Wild West period. Nashville is the birthplace of Country and Western Music, we visited a park with a memorial dedicated to country artists living and dead with their names captured forever in stone plaques.
There was also a memorial to the lives lost during the American Civil war of the 1860s which was an extremely impressive sight. We also visited a bizarre life size copy of the Parthenon the original being in Greece Athens.
Nashville is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Tennessee and the seat of Davidson County. It is located on the Cumberland River in the north central part of the state. The city is a centre for the music, healthcare, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and home to numerous colleges and universities. It is known as a centre of the country music industry, earning it the nickname "Music City, U.S.A."
Since 1963, Nashville has had a consolidated city-county government, which includes six smaller municipalities in a two-tier system. The city is governed by a mayor, a vice-mayor, and a 40-member Metropolitan Council; 35 of the members are elected from single-member districts, while the other five are elected at-large. Reflecting the city's position in state government, Nashville is home to the Tennessee Supreme Court's courthouse for Middle Tennessee. According to 2016 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the total consolidated city-county population stood at 684,410. The "balance" population, which excludes semi-independent municipalities within Nashville, was 660,388. The 2015 population of the entire 13-county Nashville metropolitan area was 1,830,345, making it the largest metropolitan statistical area in the state. The 2015 population of the Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Columbia combined statistical area, a larger trade area, was 1,951,644.
Sunday 18th August- Nashville Moms Birthday today.
Our first visit today was to RCA Studio B where Elvis Presley recorded many of his early records, U2 also recorded the Rock and Roll Album with B B King. For me it was a fantastic experience. All of the old original recording equipment is still there and although used rarely as an operating recording studio it is mostly a museum.
The original coloured lights are in there that Elvis asked for in order to change the mood for his singing. It was weird but you could almost feel Elvis and the artists of the time, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lewis and B B King watching us on their hallowed turf. From here went over the country Hall of Fame convention Centre and watched a performance by John Carter Cash son of Jonny Cash and his wife June Carter. Although Country music is not my cup of tea the performance was superb and I could have listened to it for hours. There was an amazing collection of guitars, acoustic and electric including basses from all artists who have recorded or performed in Nashville including Paul McCartney. It was heaven, Fenders Gibson and many other top makes of guitars in glass cases.
Paul McCartney recorded Venus and Mars in Nashville and the single Juniors Farm in 1975/1976 also Mike Nesmith of the Monkees recorded his First National Band in Nashville. Instruments that belonged to Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, Elvis Presley and loads more were on display even the car from Smokey and the Bandit was perched in the reception hall.
We spent the night at the Grand Ole Opry and watched, Robert De Niro and Billy Bob Thornton Live on stage.
The grand Ole Oprey has been on the air as a Radio show since 1930 and continues to wow Country and western fans around America to this day. The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country-music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee, which was founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio "barn dance" on WSM. Currently owned and operated by Opry Entertainment (a division of Ryman Hospitality Properties, Inc.), it is the longest-running radio broadcast in US history, albeit not the longest-running one on a radio network. Dedicated to honouring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-toppers performing country, bluegrass, folk, gospel, and comedic performances and skits. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and Internet listeners.
The Opry's current primary slogan is "The Show that Made Country Music Famous". Other slogans include "Home of American Music" and "Country’s Most Famous Stage".
In the 1930s the show began hiring professionals and expanded to four hours; and WSM, broadcasting by then with 50,000 watts, made the program a Saturday night musical tradition in nearly 30 states. In 1939, it debuted nationally on NBC Radio. The Opry moved to a permanent home, the Ryman Auditorium, in 1943. As it developed in importance, so did the city of Nashville, which became America's "country music capital". The Grand Ole Opry holds such significance in Nashville that its name is included on the city/county line signs on all major roadways. The signs read "Music City|Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County|Home of the Grand Ole Opry".
Membership in the Opry remains one of country music's crowning achievements. Such country music legends as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, Roy Acuff, the Carter family, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl became regulars on the Opry's stage. In recent decades, the Opry has hosted such contemporary country stars as Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Josh Turner, Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Dierks Bentley, Kacey Musgraves, Blake Shelton and the Dixie Chicks. Since 1974, the show has been broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House east of downtown Nashville, with an annual three-month winter foray back to the Ryman since 1999. Performances have been sporadically televised in addition to the radio programs.
It was a great night and a short journey back to the hotel for a well earned kip.
Monday 19th August - Nashville to Memphis
After a brief tour of Nashville we made our way up to Memphis, we arrived mid afternoon and my face lit up like a candle. I spotted the Gibson Factory naturally I had to jump off and me and Lane went for a tour around the ES335 Factory, oh it was heaven.
Gibson Memphis and bar on Beale Street
I made a purchase whilst there a couple of plectrums, that’s all I could afford as the Guitars were anything from $2k to $3k a little out of my price bracket. We walked up to the hotel past the famous Beale Street where B B King had his bar. That night we had a meal in the Jerry Lee Lewis’s club and watched a fantastic band. A guy was playing left handed but with a right handed strung Telecaster, unbelievable really.
Tuesday 20th August - Memphis
We started the day with a tour of the City and followed the Mississippi River we stopped off at Sun Records where Elvis recorded his first record. We actually stood on the same spot where he sang. A piece of tape on the floor marks the spot to this day. Jerry Lee Lewis, Howlin Wolf, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich to name but a few all started their careers here at Sun Records Studio. Sam Phillips the famous record producer started here and again it is a full blown museum.
From here we carried on the journey to Graceland’s the home of Elvis Presley to one of the most iconic places of popular culture on this earth. Lane grew up listening to Elvis so this visit was special for her. I was not disappointed either; I really got into the Elvis history and culture. During the visit I started to respect and admire his enormous talent and generosity and the person he appeared to be. He must have had a dark side but what we saw and heard gave a very positive reflection of his life, especially how charitable he was to friends and family and indeed to people in need.
We went round the house and outbuildings except for upstairs as this is out of bounds to visitors as this is where he died at the age of forty one from a massive heart attack in 1977. For being such a big star the house was quite modest by today’s standards. The house had been left just as it was the day he died. The dining and living rooms were extremely well presented, his man cave in the basement and pool room is where he entertained the dozens of “hangers on” he managed to have following him. His Dad had an office at the bottom end of the property by his stables; this was then extended to a squash court and is now hall of memorabilia where his hundreds of gold disks are on display.
The site has all of the Presley family grave plots which is quite a sight as it is so well looked after and in pristine condition. Fans on a daily basis leave little mementos and letter / notes for Elvis and in a way its quite sad to see how people are still obsessed with Elvis the super star of the 1950’s, 60’s and 1970’s and arguably all time.
Veron (Elvis’s Father) Elvis and Minnie (Elvis’s Mother)
Elvis Aaron Presley[a] (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King".
Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and relocated to Memphis, Tennessee with his family when he was 13 years old. His music career began there in 1954, when he recorded a song with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Accompanied by guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black, Presley was an early populariser of rockabilly, an up-tempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues. RCA Victor acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who managed the singer for more than two decades. Presley's first RCA single, "Heartbreak Hotel", was released in January 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. He was regarded as the leading figure of rock and roll after a series of successful network television appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across colour lines that coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, made him enormously popular—and controversial.
In November 1956, Presley made his film debut in Love Me Tender. In 1958, he was drafted into military service. He resumed his recording career two years later, producing some of his most commercially successful work before devoting much of the 1960s to making Hollywood films and their accompanying soundtrack albums, most of which were critically derided. In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed televised comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley featured in the first globally broadcast concert via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. On August 16, 1977, he suffered a heart attack in the bathroom of his Graceland estate, and died as a result. His death came in the wake of many years of prescription drug abuse which led to his poor health and death.
Presley is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century. Commercially successful in many genres, including pop, blues and gospel, he is one of the best-selling solo artists in the history of recorded music, with estimated record sales of around 600 million units worldwide. He won three Grammys, also receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.
We boarded Lisa Marie one of his private Boeing 707 airliners he used to travel during his concerts as he would never like to stay in hotels much and his other Lear jet which he used when he was performing at Las Vegas Hilton.
I don’t think money was any object to Elvis the Lear Jet had his own personal bathroom with Gold sink and taps and a full size double bedded bedroom. It had his trademark sign TCB all over the place which meant Taking Care of Business in a flash. His clothes were still on board and all the furniture covered in polythene to ensure it does not get damaged in any way. During his life he only left the USA once whilst he was in the army. He had an impressive collection of Cars and Motorcycles on display, Rolls Royce, Mercedes etc and a Tractor, he loved his tractor apparently.
We made our way back to Memphis after a fantastic day. We visited across the road the famous Peabody hotel where the duck parade was taking place (every night at 17:00 on the dot).
Many of the big stars of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s stayed here including, Abbot and Costelloe, Laurel and Hardy, Al Capone and Groucho Marx,The Kenedy’s in the 1960’s and many many more. In later years Jerry Lee Lewis the Clintons, Johnny Cash, Joe Demagio and Carl Perkins all stayed there.
The current Peabody Hotel building, on Union Avenue, is an Italian Renaissance structure designed by noted Chicago architect Walter W. Ahlschlager. Construction began less than a month after the old hotel closed. The new hotel was built on the previous site of the Fransioli Hotel, a structure which looked nearly identical to the original Peabody Hotel. The new hotel opened on September 1, 1925. Before the mid-1960s, alcoholic beverages were sold in Tennessee only as sealed bottles in licensed liquor stores. A patron could bring a bottle acquired elsewhere into the hotel bar, The Creel, where the bartender would tag it and mix drinks from it at the patron's request.
The hotel was sold to the Alsonett Hotel Group in 1953. Deeply in debt by the early 1960s, it went bankrupt in 1965 and was sold in a foreclosure auction to Sheraton Hotels. It became the Sheraton-Peabody Hotel.
As downtown Memphis decayed in the early 1970s, the hotel suffered financially, and the Sheraton-Peabody closed in December 1973. An Alabama investment group purchased the hotel in 1974 and reopened it briefly under its original name, but they declared bankruptcy on April 1, 1975 and it closed again. Isadore Edwin Hanover purchased the hotel from the county on July 31, 1975 for $400,000 and sold it to his son-in-law, Jack A. Belz, for the same amount. Belz spent the next several years and $25 million renovating the landmark structure. The grand reopening in 1981 is widely considered a major catalyst for the Memphis downtown area's ongoing revitalization. The Peabody Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Peabody is probably best known for a custom dating back to the 1930s. The General Manager of the time, Frank Schutt, had just returned from a weekend hunting trip in Arkansas. He and his friends found it amusing to leave three of their live English Call Duck decoys in the hotel fountain. The guests loved the idea, and since then, five Mallard ducks (one drake and four hens) have played in the fountain every day.
In 1940, a Bellman by the name of Edward Pembroke volunteered to care for the ducks. Pembroke was given the position of "Duckmaster" and served in that position until 1991. As a former circus animal trainer, he taught the ducks to march into the hotel lobby, which started the famous Peabody Duck March. Every day at 11:00 a.m., the Peabody Ducks are escorted from their penthouse home, on the Plantation Roof, to the lobby via elevator. The ducks, accompanied by the King Cotton March by John Philip Sousa, then proceed across a red carpet to the hotel fountain, made of a solid block of Italian travertine marble. The ducks are then ceremoniously led back to their penthouse at 5:00 p.m.
Over the years, The Peabody Ducks have gained celebrity status with television appearances (along with their Duckmaster) on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Sesame Street, sitcom Coach and The Oprah Winfrey Show. They have also appeared in People magazine.
The position of "Duckmaster" at the Peabody Memphis is the only such position in the world. Celebrities have also assumed the role of Honorary Duckmaster from time to time, including Zane Lamprey, Paula Deen, Joan Collins, Molly Ringwald, Kevin Bacon, Peter Frampton, Emeril Lagasse, Patrick Swayze, Queen Noor of Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Fry, Rudolph van Veen, Gayle King, Roy Williams, Bill Pierce, Shannon The Dude, Matt Jones, Drew Franklin and Ryan Lemond.
The custom of keeping ducks in the lobby fountain may date back even further than the 1930s. A pre-1915 postcard highlights the ducks playing in the fountain, and one source claims the custom goes back to the hotel's opening in 1869.
However, the Peabody itself claims the duck tradition to have started in 1933, as on December 3, 2008 they unveiled a new "Duck Palace" located on the rooftop, for the 75th anniversary of the duck tradition. The 24 by 12 foot enclosure features granite flooring, ceiling fans, a scale replica of the hotel, a fountain decorated with a pair of bronze ducks, and a large viewing window for guests to see them in their new home. The Duck Palace cost approximately $200,000 to construct.
Wednesday 21st August – Memphis – Tupelo
We travelled north for a couple of hours towards Tupelo the birthplace of Elvis Presley and went into the famous Hardware store where Elvis’s mother bought him a guitar. They sell the same guitar today as they did then. Tim and I had a bit of a Jam session in the middle of the shop and played for a few minutes. The guitars were not that good but it was enjoyable to say we played in the same place that Elvis did. It was a lovely little town and we were served in a shop by a woman in her early 80s who said she went to school with Elvis. Perhaps she did, it didn’t seem the town that would tell lies about anything, very religious. It was a strange town and we noticed there were no young people about at all. A couple of miles north of town were the very same house that Elvis was born in and grew up until his early teens. There is a Church situated on the site dedicated to the local people by Elvis’s estate after he died.
Tupelo and Elvis’s Birth place and the House where he lived
Tupelo /ˈtuːpəloʊ/ is the county seat and the largest city of Lee County, Mississippi. The seventh-largest city in the state, it is situated in Northeast Mississippi, between Memphis, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. It is accessed by Interstate 22. As of the 2010 census, the population was 34,546, with the surrounding counties of Lee, Pontotoc and Itawamba supporting a population of 139,671
Tupelo was the first city to gain an electrical power grid under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's program of the Tennessee Valley Authority construction of facilities during the Great Depression. The city is also the birthplace of singer Elvis Presley.
Indigenous peoples lived in the area for thousands of years. The historic Chickasaw and Choctaw, both Muskogean-speaking peoples of the Southeast, occupied this area long before European encounter.
French and British colonists traded with these indigenous peoples and tried to make alliances with them. The French established towns in Mississippi mostly on the Gulf Coast. At times, the European powers came into armed conflict. On May 26, 1736 the Battle of Ackia was fought near the site of the present Tupelo; British and Chickasaw soldiers repelled a French and Choctaw attack on the then-Chickasaw village of Ackia. The French, under Louisiana governor Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, had sought to link Louisiana with Acadia and the other northern colonies of New France.
In the early 19th century, after years of trading and encroachment by European-American settlers from the United States, conflicts increased as the US settlers tried to gain land from these nations. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act and authorized the relocation of all the Southeast Native Americans west of the Mississippi River, which was completed by the end of the 1830s.
In the early years of settlement, European-Americans named this town Gum Pond, supposedly due to its numerous tupelo trees, known locally as blackgum. The city still hosts the annual Gumtree Arts Festival.
Civil War and post-war development
During the Civil War, Union and Confederate forces fought in the area in 1864 in the Battle of Tupelo. Designated the Tupelo National Battlefield, the battlefield is administered by the National Park Service (NPS). In addition, the Brices Cross Roads National Battlefield, about ten miles north, commemorates another American Civil War battle.
After the war, a cross-state railroad for northern Mississippi was constructed through the town, which encouraged industry and growth. With expansion, the town changed its name to Tupelo, in honour of the battle. It was incorporated in 1870.
20th century to present
By the early twentieth century, the town had become a site of cotton textile mills, which provided new jobs for residents of the rural area. Under the state's segregation practices, the mills employed only white adults and children. Reformers documented the child workers and attempted to protect them through American labour laws.
The last known bank robbery by Machine Gun Kelly, a Prohibition-era gangster, took place on November 30, 1932 at the Citizen’s State Bank in Tupelo; his gang netted $38,000. After the robbery, the bank’s chief teller said of Kelly, “He was the kind of guy that, if you looked at him, you would never think he was a bank robber.”
During the Great Depression, Tupelo was electrified by the new Tennessee Valley Authority, which had constructed dams and power plants throughout the region to generate hydroelectric power for the large, rural area. The distribution infrastructure was built with federal assistance as well, employing many local workers. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt visited this "First TVA City".
In 2007, the nearby village of Blue Springs was selected as the site for Toyota's eleventh automobile manufacturing plant in the United States.
In 2013 Gale Stauffer of the Tupelo Police Department died in a shootout following a bank robbery, possibly the first officer killed in the line of duty in the Department's history.
Thursday 22nd August – Memphis to New Orleans
We drove to the National Civil Rights Museum Memphis to see the Hotel Lorraine where Dr Martin Luther King was shot on April 4th 1968 aged 39. He was staying in room 307 but shot outside room 306, it was all planned but by whom? Some say the US Government, who knows the true story. The National Civil Rights Museum is a complex of museums and historic buildings in Memphis, Tennessee; its exhibits trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from the 17th century to the present. The museum is built around the former Lorraine Motel, where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Two other buildings and their adjacent property also connected with the King assassination, have been acquired as part of the museum complex. The museum re-opened in 2014 after renovations that increased the number of multi-media and interactive exhibits, including numerous short movies to enhance features. The museum is owned and operated by the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation, based in Memphis. The Lorraine Motel is owned by the Tennessee State Museum and leased long term to the Foundation to operate as part of the museum complex.
On October 21, 2016, the museum was honoured by becoming a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.
We drove for a couple of Hours to visit the BB King Museum and to see his final resting place as he died this year in March.
BB King was the greatest Blues Guitar player that has ever walked this planet and a kind and humble soul whose music will live on for ever. Riley B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015), known professionally as B.B. King, was an American blues singer, electric guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. King introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is considered one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname "The King of the Blues", and one of the "Three Kings of the Blues Guitar" along with Albert King and Freddie King. King was known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at more than 200 concerts per year on average into his 70s. In 1956 alone, he reportedly appeared at 342 shows.
King was born on a cotton plantation in Berclair, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was attracted to music and the guitar in church, and began his performance career in juke joints and local radio. He later lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, and toured the world extensively. King died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015, from congestive heart failure and diabetic complications.
We headed further South to a town called Natchez on the Mississipi and an old museum dedicated to the American Civil war in the deep south region. We moved onto an old 1800’s mansion and followed the Missisipi down towards New Orleans over bridges and roads across the swamp lands and finally into the city passed the football stadium which was used during the recovery of the homeless people during hurricane Katrina. A shameful episode in American history where the republican Government ignored the needs of the southern people in this wonderful city. President Bush was the residing president who acted pathetically to protect his own citizens because of their colour and status in the world. Spike Lee produced a film called “When the Levve’s broke ” is a fine account of the disaster. In real terms the disaster could happen again.
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts is a 2006 documentary film directed by Spike Lee about the devastation of New Orleans, Louisiana due to the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina. It was filmed in late August and early September 2005, and premiered at the New Orleans Arena on August 16, 2006 and was first aired on HBO the following week. The television premiere aired in two parts on August 21 and 22, 2006 on HBO. It has been described by Sheila Nevins, chief of HBO's documentary unit, as "one of the most important films HBO has ever made." The title is a reference to the blues tune, "When the Levee Breaks", by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.
The documentary was screened at the 63rd Venice International Film Festival on August 31 and September 1, 2006. It won the Orizzonti Documentary Prize and one of two FIPRESCI awards. In addition, it was shown at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival on September 15 and September 16, 2006. It won three awards at the 59th Primetime Emmy Awards and received a Peabody Award.
The documentary is based on news video footage and still photos of Katrina and its aftermath, interspersed with interviews. Interviewees include politicians, journalists, historians, engineers, and many residents of various parts of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, who give first hand accounts of their experiences with the levee failures and the aftermath. The first installment opens with a photo and film montage of historic and recent New Orleans scenes, with a soundtrack of Louis Armstrong performing Louis Alter's "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans". At the end of the last episode is a similar montage with Fats Domino's "Walking to New Orleans" on the soundtrack.
The film's original score is by Terence Blanchard, a New Orleans-born trumpeter who appears in the film, with his mother and aunt, as they return to their flooded home. Not being the first time that Terence Blanchard had worked as a composer for a film by Spike Lee, Blanchard had worked to create compositions of a more universal genre of Jazz as opposed to New Orleans style Jazz in order to reach masses of audiences to raise awareness of the results of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In general, the music he had composed was written under the context of respecting those who were directly affected by the catastrophe and with intentions of providing contexts to allow audiences to sympathize with those affected.
In the style of Michael Apted's Up series (a documentary series that interviews Apted's subjects every seven years), Lee has planned to interview his featured subjects in Levees at least once more. In August 2010, HBO aired Lee's documentary series, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, which chronicles how New Orleans and the Gulf Coast area have fared in the five years following Hurricane Katrina.
Friday 23rd August –New Orleans
We visited a cemetery this morning of all places where memorials at a cost $2.5 Million dollars were on display. One was built like a castle and held the entire family of a rich local entrepreneur over the years. It was etched Marble with Gold leaf decorations.
The great lake was fantastic and this is where the water was lifted and dumped on the city when Hurricane Katrina hit. You could still see the tide mark on many houses where the water reached. It was a sorry state as some parts of the city are still under construction after ten years plus.
Later in the day we boarded a trip down the Mississippi on a steam ship the Natchez.
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana.
The population of the city was 343,829 as of the 2010 U.S. Census.
The New Orleans metropolitan area (New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area) had a population of 1,167,764 in 2010 and was the 46th largest in the United States. The New Orleans–Metairie–Bogalusa Combined Statistical Area, a larger trading area, had a 2010 population of 1,452,502.
It is well known for its distinct French and Spanish Creole architecture, as well as its cross-cultural and multilingual heritage.
New Orleans is also famous for its cuisine, music (particularly as the birthplace of jazz), and its annual celebrations and festivals, most notably Mardi Gras, dating to French colonial times.
The city is often referred to as the "most unique" in the United States.
New Orleans is located in south-eastern Louisiana, and developed on both sides of the Mississippi River. The heart of the city and French Quarter is on the north side of the river as it curves through this area. The city and Orleans Parish (French: paroisse d'Orléans) are coterminous. The city and parish are bounded by the parishes of St. Tammany to the north, St. Bernard to the east, Plaquemines to the south, and Jefferson to the south and west. Lake Pontchartrain, part of which is included in the city limits, lies to the north and Lake Borgne lies to the east.
Before Hurricane Katrina, Orleans Parish was the most populous parish in Louisiana. As of 2015, it ranks third in population, trailing neighbouring Jefferson Parish, and East Baton Rouge Parish.
Saturday 24th August –New Orleans
Today drove over to the Bayou and the swamp lands to ride one of the Bayous and see the wild creatures including Alligators, we actually held a small Crocodile in our hands which was weird, its jaws had been taped together for our safety. It was another very hot day and very relaxing floating down the Bayou for a couple of hours. On the bank we went past the grave site of the famous Witch Queen of New Orleans.
We then moved on the see the Destrehan Plantation another stately home south of the City, it was constructed in 1787 to 1790 for Robert De Logny.
Destrehan Plantation is an antebellum mansion, in the French Colonial style, modified with Greek Revival architectural elements. It is located in southeast Louisiana, near the town of the same name, Destrehan.
During the 19th century, the plantation was a major producer of indigo and then sugarcane. The home is most commonly associated with its second owner, Jean-Noël Destréhan, who served briefly as the first United States Senator from Louisiana in 1812. He was influential in the transition of the Orleans Territory to statehood.
The house is a unique example of a plantation home outliving the oil refinery that had been built around it. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural quality and association with important people and events in Louisiana history.
On this the final night we found ourselves in the famous Mulates restaurant which was extremely weird, they spoke their own language and mutilation of French. A band was playing which was different to say the least.
The following day we flew via Atlanta back to Manchester another superb holiday.