Day 7 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We were up before the ‘cock’s crow’ this morning as we were bound for Clingmans Dome here in the Park and wanted to get there before the crowds.

It was Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S. and it has been extremely busy  in Gatlinburg and although most of the crowds have all gone home, it’s still holiday time for lots of people some schools have ‘broken up’ for the summer.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 and there isn’t one straight road in the whole Park. The road to the dome is no exception, it’s like riding a roller coaster twisting right and left the whole way. Just the thing for someone who suffers from motion sickness!!!

A ‘dome’ in Smoky Mountain vernacular is a “rounded mountain or ridge top.” Clingman’s Dome is 6.643 feet above sea level, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and the third highest summit east of the Mississippi River. A paved, but very steep trail, gaining 330 feet in elevation in a half-mile, leads to a concrete observation tower to the top of the dome. During good weather the view from the tower encompasses a seemingly endless sea of mountain ridges and valleys. The tower provides a panoramic view of 360 degrees and offers a look at the whole of the Great Smoky Mountains and beyond, including five states. It holds the distinction of being the highest point along the Appalachian Trail, a 2,174 miles footpath that runs from Georgia to Maine.

Sand on the Appalachian Trail

The area is made up of Fraser fir trees and this is one of the few areas in the world where they grow wild. Unfortunately, the firs are being attacked by a tiny non-native insect called the balsam woolly adelgid, believed to have been introduced from Europe in the 1950s.

Smoky Mountains from Clingmans Dome

The tower at Clingmans Dome

Smokey Mountains

We met a lovely young man called Thomas from Belgium at the dome. He’s walking part of the Appalachian Trial and then will be meeting his sister in Charleston and travelling on to Savannah. As that mirrors our itinerary there’s every chance we may meet him again!

Si and Sand at the tower on Clingmans Dome

Si and Sand at Clingmans Dome

Our next port of call was the Cherokee Heritage Museum in the town of Cherokee. We met some people on our Coca-Cola tour who told us this was a place not to miss and they were right.

At the Cherokee Museum

It tells the story of 13,000 years of Cherokee history. The Cherokee were the original inhabitants of the Great Smoky region. All of the southern Appalachians were once the Cherokee homeland. In the 1800s, the increasing westward movement of white settlers, coupled with fraudulent treaties with state and federal governments and the discovery of gold in Georgia, led to an escalation of conflicts. At his inauguration, President Andrew Jackson presented a plan for the removal of Native Americans to western territories (now Oklahoma) and in 1830 Congress pass the Indian Removal Act.

In May 1838, Federal troops and state militias began a brutal roundup of the Cherokee for a forced match, now known as “The Trail of Tears,” to unknown western territories.

The Museum was very thought provoking and when we had finished we decided our morale needed a little boosting so stopped off at the Cherokee Casino Resort. Well, we would wouldn’t we! It turned out to be very profitable and one of the Monopoly machines was very generous indeed!

As we are now a week into our holiday we felt it was time to right a wrong …….. Si hasn’t had any ribs yet and regular followers of the blog will know how Si likes his ribs! So, we went to Calhoun’s Restaurant here in Gatlinburg because according to them they have the “best ribs in the USA.” It turns out this could be true, Si said they were excellent.

Si’s ribs (not the best photo in the world ….. no 10 for this one!)

We started the meal with fried green tomatoes. We don’t see them on menus very often, in fact we’ve only had them once before. I’m sure you will all remember the film ‘Fried Green Tomatoes‘ and if you don’t then please get a copy immediately and enjoy. It’s a wonderful film.

I must say that I had the most wonderful beverage, well two actually, called Tito’s Mountain Mule. They were made up of handmade vodka, house made ginger ale, muddled lime and fresh mint. They were magnificent and when followed by Disaronno it’s a miracle this blog is being written tonight!!

Sand and that drink, Oh dear, by the look on my face I think this must be the second one!!

Tomorrow is our last day in the Great Smokies before moving on to Charleston so please join us again as this part of our holiday comes to an end.

Day 6 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

There’s nothing I like more than a day spent soaking up history and that’s just what we’ve doing today at Cades Cove in the National Park.

Cases Cove is an 11 mile driving loop ………………. those 11 miles took us 4.5 hours to complete! At least it wasn’t as exhausting as yesterday’s hike!

Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. Today Cades Cove, the single most popular destination for visitors to the park, attracts more than two million visitors a year because of its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife.

Today’s history lesson coming up!!

For most of its history Cades Cove has been a place to visit. But for more than 100 years it also was a great place to live and before that, starting no one knows how long ago, Native Americans visited the cove. They hunted for food, deer, elk, bison and bears. Cherokees camped and hunted in the Cove for weeks, perhaps months, at a time but there is no evidence that they ever lived there.

The Cove was first settled in 1821 by about eight families and the graves of the early settlers can be seen today in the local graveyards.

John Oliver and his wife Lurena Frazier were the first permanent European settlers in Cades Cove in 1818 and were accompanied by Joshua Jobe, who had initially persuaded them to settle there. While Jobe returned to Carter County, the Olivers stayed, struggling through the winter and subsisting on dried pumpkin given to them by friendly Cherokees. Jobe returned in the Spring of 1819 with a herd of cattle in tow, and gave the Olivers two milk cows to ease their complaints.

John Oliver’s Cabin

Primitive Baptist Church settled by some of the earliest settlers in 1827

The Preacher!







Methodist Church – the original was built in 115 days for $115 in the 1820s. This one replaced it in 1902.








Gravestones of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and John Oliver and his wife, the first European Settlers of Cades Cove

In 1821, William “Fighting Billy” Tipton bought up large tracts of Cades Cove which he in turn sold to his sons and relatives, and settlement began to boom. In the 1820s, Peter Cable, a farmer of German descent, arrived in the cove and designed an elaborate system of dykes and sluices that helped drain the swampy lands in the western part of the cove. In 1827, Daniel Foute opened the Cades Cove Bloomery Forge to fashion metal tools. Robert Shields arrived in 1835 and would erect a tub mill on Forge Creek. His son, Frederick, built the cove’s first grist mill. Other early settlers would build houses on the surrounding mountains.

Grist Mill

Between 1820 and 1850, the population of Cades Cove grew to 671, with the size of cove farms averaging between 150 and 300 acres. The early cove residents, although relatively self-sufficient, were dependent upon nearby Tuckaleechee Cove for dry goods and other necessities.



Cantilever Barn

An old wagon

Cades Cove had telephone service as early as the 1890s, when Dan Lawson and several neighbors built a phone line to Maryville. By the 1850s, various roads connected Cades Cove with Tuckaleechee and Montvale Springs, some of which are still maintained as seasonal passes or hiking trails.

Reminded me of how I felt yesterday on the hike!

Sadly, we didn’t see any wildlife although at one point a Ranger told us that three bears were in the hills.





The Cove is a very beautiful place, a meadow surrounded by huge tree-covered mountains.

Cades Cove Meadow

There was an abundance of butterflies as we travelled round today

Thought the meadow was the perfect place to try out our new selfie stick! It’s a grand item and thanks goes to my good mate Toni and her hubby Colin for finding it in the first place! Cheers you two!

Si and Sand in Cades Cove meadow

Oh my goodness …. two soppy old geezers!!

Tonight for dinner we decided on Italian. We went to a restaurant recommended by the hotel. The food was okay but not exceptional. They say they serve the “Best Bloody Mary in Town” so of course I had to try one. Well, it nearly blew my head off! The staff were very friendly and the man who greeted us was once a circus performer, an acrobat and had toured the whole of the U.K. That was some years ago and he now writes songs and plays music at Octoberfests.

Sand and her Bloody Mary!

Si and his Beef Tip Linguini

For the older generation reading this blog, he also told us that he had met Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits on a few occasions and proudly showed us the photos. You just never know who you are going to meet!

We are now going to rest our weary blistered feet ready for our next Park outing tomorrow. See you there!

Day 5 – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

So, today we decided to take our first real hike of the holiday and go to Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Officially, the round trip we were told was 5.4 miles! Strange that, my Apple Watch told me the round trip was a total of 7.83 miles! We were not the only ones commenting on the fact that the trail seemed a lot longer than it should have done.

When we arrived at the trail head the world and its mother were there too and everyone was clambering for a parking space. We drove further on down the road and managed to find one but it was quite a hike back to the start.

Parking at the trail head!

The day started overcast and as we made our way up to the falls we were very grateful that the sun had not appeared as I don’t think we would have made it to the top if it had. The downside was that as the sun was not shining at the Falls there was no rainbow. If it hadn’t been for the humidity that felt like 100% the hike would have been much easier. By the time we reached the Falls we felt as though we’d done a 10 hour hike in the Rain Forest! We were glowing profusely!

Sand suffering from the humidity!

The climb to the falls was up hill all the way. We climbed approximately 1500 feet. The highest point is 4285 feet above sea level and according to the map we had the hike was classed as ‘strenuous’ although officially they say its ‘moderate’ with a difficulty of 8.77. All I know is that it was hard going with fallen rocks, tree roots, mud and water along the way.  I now know why Si didn’t mention the classification to me before we left!!

Si on the trail up to Rainbow Falls

On the way up the trail someone told us about an owl sitting in one of the trees and sure enough there he was. At one point he swooped down into a stream and grabbed a bite to eat.

Owl on the trail









Once we arrived at our destination there was a little disappointment with the Falls themselves. Perhaps we’ve been spoilt by the beautiful ones we’ve seen in other National Parks. Everyone told us on the way up how wonderful they were. They were certainly pretty but not as magnificent as we had expected.

Rainbow Falls


On the trail

On the trail to Rainbow Falls







Small fall on the trail








A few photos showing the hard life of a photographer on the trail trying to get that one perfect shot!













Some fauna on the trail ….







It was a relief to get back to the hotel for a clean up and then dinner. Tonight we ate at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. A restaurant based on the film Forrest Gump. The food was great and we managed to answer most of the questions when tested by the waitress on our Forrest Gump knowledge.

Si and his favourite shrimp!

Crumbs, that corn is nearly as big as me!

Because we ordered two particular drinks with our meals, we are now the proud owners of two ‘special’ Bubba Gump glasses. Exciting or what!? Just got to get them home in one piece!









I think we will sleep well tonight! See you all tomorrow.

Day 4 – Atlanta to Gatlinburg

Today was our first long drive of the holiday, four hours from Atlanta to Gatlinburg but after stopping for breakfast, petrol and site seeing it turned out to be six hours but we can now officially say we are back on the ……………….. holiday road!

Press to play and sing along!

Of course, this is not Si but I thought he looked like him!

I forgot to mention in yesterday’s blog about the scare we had when we were driving from Coca-Cola World to Margaret Mitchell’s house. We turned on to a road and suddenly there was a sign that said we were driving the wrong way! Well, you can image, we ground to a halt immediately in complete panic just waiting for a vehicle to come along and smash into us and then suddenly another car went past us going in exactly the same direction. It seems the sign had been turned round and was facing the wrong way. Not funny!

At one point this morning we were driving in seven lanes of traffic so it was a relief when we saw a sign on the side of the road that indicated a Cracker Barrel establishment was just a mile away. We didn’t need to be told twice, we were off that highway and in there for breakfast. It was 9.30 and the place was heaving with people eating breakfast. It’s a country store and restaurant and you can buy a rocking chair if you wish or a jar of jam.

Cracker Barrel is one of those establishments that no matter where in America you stop to eat in one, you know exactly what it’s going to look like inside and the food will be great and good value. I had one of the healthy breakfasts while Si had one of the most unhealthiest! Are we surprised?

Sand and her healthy breakfast








Si at Cracker Barrel with his unhealthy breakfast!








His breakfast included grits! My goodness what is it about grits? Answers on a postcard please! 



We stopped at various points in the Great Smoky Mountains on the way to Gatlinburg to take photos but we will be going back over the next few days so there will be more to come.

Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains

Sand in the Great Smoky Mountains






The Reservation is at the southern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The State line runs across the National Park and this sign is at Newfound Gap















We are staying at the historic Gatlinburg Inn. It was built in 1937 and has accommodated U.S. Presidents and Hollywood stars since it was first opened. We are going to try and find out who has actually stayed in our room over the years.

Tonight we went to the Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Our very dear friends Dot and John first introduced us to this great eatery a few years ago and as soon as we saw one here in Gatlinburg we just knew that was where we would be having dinner. The food as always, was wonderful.

Si at the Texas Roadhouse

Sand having dinner at the Texas Roadhouse










Skinny Lime Margherita

I had a Skinny Lime Margherita to drink which was made up of Tequila Gold, triple sec, lime juice and a hint of orange, it was delicious but not the kind of drink to have on an empty stomach!! Good job Si was there to guide me back to the hotel!!!

Tomorrow, less food photos and more from the Great Smokey Mountains!

Day 3 – Atlanta

Well, we are now into Day 3 and I’m getting into my blogging stride! It takes a while for the old grey matter to start functioning again. A year’s a long time in the life of the elderly!!

So, today we headed out for our VIP Tour of Coca-Cola World. It was truly magnificent. Our tour guide Steve, originally from Miami, was very knowledgeable and it made the whole tour a truly memorable event.

Coca-Cola World

Confederate Colonel John Pemberton who was wounded in the American Civil War, became addicted to morphine and began a quest to find a substitute for the dangerous opiate. The prototype Coca-Cola recipe was formulated at Pemberton’s Eagle Drug and Chemical House, a drugstore in Columbus, Georgia, originally as a coca wine. He may have been inspired by the formidable success of Vin Mariani, a French coca wine.

John Pemberton inventor of Coca-Cola

In 1885, Pemberton registered his French Wine Coca nerve tonic.  In 1886, when Atlanta and Fulton County passed prohibition legislation, Pemberton responded by developing Coca-Cola, essentially a nonalcoholic version of French Wine Coca. The first sales were at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, on May 8, 1886.  It was initially sold as a patent medicine for five cents a glass at soda fountains, which were popular in the United States at the time due to the belief that carbonated water was good for the health.  Pemberton claimed Coca-Cola cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence.

The exact formula of Coca-Cola’s natural flavorings (but not its other ingredients, which are listed on the side of the bottle or can) is a trade secret. The original copy of the formula was held in Sun Trust Bank’s main vault in Atlanta for 86 years. On December 8, 2011, the original secret formula was moved from the vault at SunTrust Banks to a new vault containing the formula and the vault is on display for visitors to see at the World of Coca-Cola museum.

The Coca-Cola vault that holds the secret recipe! Note the Coca-Cola bottle on the fault handle!










As Coca-Cola has been a sponsor of the Olympics since 1928 they have an exhibition at the museum and one of the highlights for us today was when Steve arranged for a torch from the London 2012 Olympics to be brought out so that Si and I could hold it and have our photographs taken. It was very exciting.

The 2012 London Olympic torch! (We forgot to remove the audio headsets!)






Us with the Coca-Cola bear!












The first Coca-Cola six-pack (on the left) was sold in 1923!


Sand at Coca-Cola World soda fountain (again, forgot to remove the headset!)







How about this then! Si with hair!

Sand with the statue of John Pemberton










We then went to visit the Margaret Mitchell house (author of Gone With The Wind). Being a big movie buff this was very exciting for me. In fact, Margaret and her husband only rented an apartment within the building. The building has burnt down twice and been renovated but the apartment where she wrote the book managed to survive. It was quite small and even when she made a lot of money through the book and movie she never actually owned her own house.

The Margaret Mitchell apartment is the three windows on the left

She wrote GWTW in 1926 when she was laid-up at home with a broken ankle and having read the local library and becoming bored, it was suggested that she may like to write a book. She wrote the book never intending for it to be published. At one point when a publisher came knocking about her book she denied ever writing one. She considered it not worthy of publication and thought her own writing was awful. She was eventually persuaded to let a publisher look at her manuscript and the rest as they say, is history.

Once it was published in 1936 it became an overnight success and she became an instant celebrity and earned her the Pulitzer Prize.  The film version, also lauded far and wide, came out just three years later. More than 30 million copies of her Civil War masterpiece have been sold worldwide, and it has been translated into 27 languages.

Margaret wrote most of GWTW at the desk in the window






Scarlett’s portrait from the movie hung in Rhett Butler’s bedroom














The original door to Tara, Scarlett’s home as seen in the movie




Scarlett’s home, Tara, from Gone With The Wind











Sadly Margaret died on the 17th August 1949 at the age of 49 after being knocked down by a speeding car. She only ever wrote the one novel.

Margaret Mitchell











Dinner this evening came in the form of fish and chips!! Oh dear, boring! But there really weren’t many restaurants from us to chose from and so we ended up in Fado Irish pub. I have to say the meal was delicious. I, of course, had the smaller lunch portion whilst my ‘dear one’ had the dinner portion which consisted of two pieces of fish plus chips and coleslaw!! The bread pudding dessert with ice cream was pure delight. We shared that!

Si’s dinner tonight

A question for the ladies reading the blog ………………. what is it about men and them never listening to what their good ladies tell them!!?? I went out of my way to purchase sun-tan lotion with insect repellant because I knew that coming here with the high temperatures and humid conditions would equal mosquitoes. I’m very prone to mosquito bites so covered myself from head to toe yesterday, Si didn’t and of course what happened ……….. we were no sooner in the woods and bing, bang, bosh, he’s bitten half a dozen times! Today, he’s covered in lotion!

I’ve been meaning to post this photo of the courtyard at our hotel here in Atlanta. A lovely place to sit for a drink at any time of day!

The courtyard at our hotel

Before we came to Atlanta we were told there wasn’t really much to see here but our experience has been that in fact there’s lots to see but we will have to save everything else for another day as we are off to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park tomorrow.

See you there!


Day 2 – Atlanta

We were greeted this morning by a slightly overcast sky and there had been a shower. Not what we wanted to see! However, in no time at all the skies had cleared and were blue with brilliant sunshine and it soon heated up. At the moment it’s a barmy 93º.

After breakfast we headed out to the Atlanta History Centre to explore Georgia’s past. It was fascinating. They have many exhibitions, historic houses and 22 acres of gardens and trails to explore. The one exhibition that stood out was about the American Civil War. It was very moving and the artefacts on show were just mind blowing. There’s a total of 1,400 original Union and Confederate items on show and is one of the largest Civil War exhibitions in the country.

Roughly 2% of the population, an estimated 620,000 men, lost their lives in the line of duty.  Taken as a percentage of today’s population, the toll would have risen as high as six million.

One of the houses we visited was called the Swan House. In 1924 Edward Inman who was heir to a large cotton brokerage fortune that was amassed in the post-Civil War “New South” era together with his wife Emily, hired an architectural firm to design a house and gardens for them. They moved in in 1928 but just three years later, Edward, at the age of 49 died from a heart attack. This left Emily and their two children with the large house and 28 acres. Emily lived in the house until she died at the age of 84 in 1965. It was at this time that the Atlanta Historical Society purchased the property and opened it to the public. Most of the items in the house belonged to the Inman family.

The house and the furnishings underwent a four-year $5.4 million (£3.72 million) restoration in 2004. There are living history characters in the house who play the parts of the houses’ former owners and servants and they keep in character the whole time.

The magnificent staircase at Swan House








Now, you Hunger Games fans sit up and pay attention for the ‘hot news’ of the day  …………………. Swan House was used in the filming of Catching Fire and Mockingjay as President Snow’s mansion!!!!

President Snow’s House in The Hunger Games








Sand on the porch of the Wood Family Cabin at the Atlanta Historic Centre.








We went for lunch at the Swan House Restaurant. It’s been a restaurant for 50 years and apart from two things added in the past few years, the menu is still exactly the same! It was full of mainly ladies who ‘lunch’. The most popular item on the menu is called ‘Swan’s Favourite’ and is a chicken salad served in delicate hand-made timbales with their famous creamy frozen fruit salad and Swan Coach House cheese straws. It may sound strange but it was fabulous.

The Snow House Restaurant

Simon at the Snow House Restaurant with the Snow House favourite!

















This evening we went to see the Atlanta Braves baseball team play the Milwaukee Brewers. The 1996 Olympics were held here in Atlanta and the Olympic stadium is currently the Braves’ home. This will be their last season as they are moving to a new stadium. On the entrance road to the stadium they still have the Olympic rings. As you can imagine, it’s a huge stadium and was mostly empty tonight. It’s a shame, the Braves are not doing very well this season. There wasn’t any atmosphere at all. Not like a football match back home where regular abuse is thrown at the team if they are not ‘up to scratch.’ Baseball is a very family-orientated game and there were lots of babies and young children there tonight. I was amazed at the amount of food and drink consumed during the game.

Simon at the Atlanta Braves’ Baseball Game

Unfortunately, very dark clouds rolled in and ‘rain and thunder stopped play.’ Most of the fans got up and left at that point and sadly, the Braves, were losing!





It sure has been hot and humid today, not that we are complaining of course. Tomorrow we are off for a VIP tour of the Coca Cola factory and if we get time, to visit the home and museum of Margaret Mitchell the author of …………………. Gone With The Wind!

Day 1 – Heathrow to Atlanta!

So, Day 1 of our 2016 adventure begins!

We awoke to grey overcast skies in the UK but my weather app was telling me that when we arrived in Atlanta it should be 82º …………… I think we can cope with that!

The car arrived on time to take us to Heathrow and turned out to be the same guy who drove us last year! We arrived at Heathrow T5 in plenty of time which was lucky really as earlier in the day the M3 had been completely closed!

Unlike Virgin Airlines where you can drop your bags off at anytime, with British Airways (yes, flying with BA this time) it’s timed so we couldn’t off-load the bags until 1.00 p.m. and decided a spot of lunch was in order while we waited!

We ate in Carluccio’s and very nice it was too. We both had Venison Tortelloni, yes that’s what is was, not tortellini, (handmade fresh tortelloni filled with wine braised venison), it was delicious. Simon had a soft drink, Limonata, (he’s driving later) and I had a Gin Giardino (gin, elderflower, Prosecco and fresh apple juice served with a slice of cucumber) and very lovely it was too! Here’s the first of the food photos!!! Well, it wouldn’t be the blog without a few food photos!

I must confess to having two cream teas yesterday! One in the airport lounge and another on the plane. Well, it seemed rude not to!

Had to make the usual Duty Free run for perfume (a girl can never have too much perfume!) and on to the lounge to sit and relax until our flight was called.

I think we must have done well over our 10,000 steps (that’s good as we missed our spinning class!) as the aircraft was about 10 miles across the airport (well, not really but it sure felt that way the amount of time it took us to reach it).

It was a good flight and although we were told it would be 9 hrs 10 minutes it actually turned out to be only 8 hours so that was a bonus.

Those of you who have travelled to the US will know that there’s usually a long queue to get through Border Control and you have your finger prints and a mug shot taken. Well, here in Atlanta they have ‘booths’ were you do all those things yourself and then you end up with a ‘receipt’ confirming who you are and on the ‘receipt’ is a very grainy grey face shot (not a pretty sight!)

Once the bags were collected (only two I might add and well under our allowance!) we got on a bus to take us to the car rental facility. ‘Hold on to your hats’ comes to mind here! We had a very pleasant lady bus driver who obviously liked her speed! We were taking 15 mph bends at 50 mph! It would have been funny if it wasn’t quite so scary. We were holding on for dear life. There was a young lady with us on the bus and she said she was going to report the driver as she was positively dangerous.

We decided on an upgrade when we get to Avis, they did us a very good deal on a Ford Escape, that’s an SUV to those in the know! For our regular blog readers, you will remember that was the vehicle we had about three versions of on our ‘big trip’ back in 2013. Photo will follow at some point.

So, here we are at our hotel. We arrived at 10.30 p.m. local time so that was 3.30 a.m. to us and we were worn out. Still, we’ve had a sleep of sorts and it’s now 5.09 a.m. and hence I think it 10.09 a.m. so decided to catch up on the blogging.

Tonight we have tickets to a baseball game so looking forward to that. As for the rest of the day we haven’t decided yet but I think a nice big breakfast is ‘the order of the day.’