Deep South Solo – a hosted Bon Voyage holiday for single travellers

Travelling solo is a growing trend but it doesn’t have to mean travelling alone.  For those with a sense of their own adventure, Bon Voyage’s resident American, Theresa Wilson hosted a special one-off 11-night trip to America’s Deep South.

“We took in the magical cities of Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans,” said Theresa. “Flights, transfers, excursions and entrances were included and of course, individual King-bedded rooms in great hotels with no single supplements.” 

Theresa was the hostess with the  mostest and was on hand to help the holiday run smoothly, she makes it clear that the trip was not run like a coach tour.  “The itinerary included plenty of time for personal discoveries as well as excursions and activities that could be enjoyed with the rest of the group.”

The holiday began in Nashville with a meet and greet at the airport, followed by a three-night stay in the city centre with plenty of planned explorations.  A Nashville Music Pass provides access to attractions such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum while a performance at the ‘home of country music’, the Grand Ole Opry, was also included.

The journey continued by road to Tupelo, Mississippi for a visit to the birthplace of Elvis Presley and then on to Memphis, home of his Graceland mansion.  The group overnighted at the Guesthouse at Graceland with VIP admission to the house.

After Memphis, it’s was all aboard the ‘City of New Orleans’ train down to New Orleans and accommodation in the heart of the French Quarter with a guided city tour and final evening dinner among the highlights.

Guest House Graceland Lobby © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved
Guest House Graceland Lobby © EPE. Graceland and its marks are trademarks of EPE. All Rights Reserved

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Charleston, South Carolina – ‘America’s Best Small City’*

Read Bill Bryson’s classic travelogue ‘The Lost Continent’ (Secker and Warburg) and you will find he can be both hilarious and rude about certain places in America.  He pours affectionate scorn on his home
town of Des Moines, Iowa and is none too complimentary about Carbondale, Illinois.  But when his road trip brings him to Charleston, he waxes lyrical: “I had thought that Savannah was the most becoming American city I had ever seen, but it thumped into second place soon after my arrival in Charleston.”  Bill loved the harbour, the promontory packed solid with beautiful old homes and the peaceful streets.  “I was enchanted,” he concludes.

And Mr Bryson is not alone in his admiration.  Centuries earlier the Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and military officer who fought in the American Revolutionary War, gave his verdict: “Charleston is perhaps the best built, handsomest, and most agreeable city that I have seen.”

Charleston carriage tour Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB,

With its beautiful gardens, vibrantly painted Georgian houses along Rainbow Row, and carriages clacking across cobblestone streets, Charleston has long been considered one of America’s most charming cities. But, underneath its sleepy veneer, the city is known for its eclectic food offerings, a thriving theatre and cultural scene, bustling King Street, and historic City Market. An evening stroll along The Battery is the perfect way to end the day.

A guided walking tour is an ideal introduction.  You’ll learn about the city’s colonial past and how the first decisive victory of the Revolutionary War was fought in Charleston’s harbour. During the golden age of cotton, Charleston became the wealthiest city in the country but the shadow cast by imported slave labour is also an important part of the story.  

Pier 101 at nearby Folly Beach

Spring and autumn are ideal times to visit and Bon Voyage can tailor a fly/drive holiday to include Charleston and the Carolinas or south to include Bill Bryson’s second favourite city, Savannah in Georgia.
There are also a range of escorted tours that take in Charleston and you’ll find ideas and inspiration at
our website. 

The latest addition to our offerings is ‘Flavours of South Carolina’, a fly and self-drive journey with comfortable daily mileages so you can savour the feel and the food of the Palmetto state.  You’ll stay in inns, b&bs and resort hotels along the way and there are three days to explore Charleston. 

See the full itinerary here

*Voted by readers of Conde Nast Traveller magazine

Nevada and Highway 50 – America’s Loneliest Road

Bon Voyage credo number one: A perfectly crafted fly/drive holiday should be one of contrasts. Busy cities balanced with gorgeous scenery; days when you’re on the move and time to relax and contemplate; waterfront views and the open road.  You get the idea.

Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas via Highway 50

When Senior Travel Consultant, Lara Hearn, was offered this road trip of contrasts she couldn’t wait to head for Nevada.  Nevada is the driest state in the US, with some spots receiving just 4 inches of rain a year.  Essentially, we’re talking about a desert state but this one includes wet and wild Las Vegas and parts of Lake Tahoe, which at 200 square miles is quite the oasis! 

Lara takes up the story:-

They say you have to see Las Vegas to believe it.  That you either love it or hate it.  My take is that everyone should go once and form their own opinion.  Many return again and again; they love the over-the-top, in-your-face on tap entertainment, the 24-hours a day, 365 days a year non-stop party-go-round; the all-star cast of world renowned artists, the biggest sports events, the highest stakes gambling; the drive through weddings; the high end resorts; the low life bars.  In short, the whole nine yards.  Others take one look and can’t wait to move on.  I love it and after the 20-minute transfer from the airport following the ten-hour flight from London and check-in to a fountain-view room at the Bellagio, was ready to hit the town.  I was pleased I’d had a nap on the flight because we were almost straight into the wonderful Cirque du Soleil, Beatles-inspired ‘Love’ show.  If the idea of beautifully choreographed movement and circus-based athleticism blended with the best of the fab four appeals then you will adore this production. It’s been running since 2006 and plays to packed audiences every show at a specially built theatre within the Mirage resort.

SpeedVegas boasts the longest and fastest race track around, gets you behind the wheel of an exotic super car including Ferrari’s, Porsche’s and Lamborghini’s and basically lets you have at it.  It’s quite the adrenaline-ride and it’s what we did on our second morning.  Speed junkies will love it and others could not think of anything worse.

The Grand Canyon, Nevada

Vegas can serve as your base to explore the wonders of Valley of Fire State Park with its areas of petrified wood and 3,000 years-old Indian petroglyphs.  Or you can make a helicopter day trip to the Grand Canyon which is a wonderful experience.  We managed both over the next day and a half and then finally headed out to Cathedral Gorge State Park where erosion has carved dramatic and unique patterns in the bentonite clay.  It’s a photographer’s and hikers dream but we were soon off to Ely and early dinner at the famous All Aboard Café.  It’s a popular spot with an all-American menu – great salads and the lobster roll was a treat.  It is really handy for the Nevada Northern Railway, the best-preserved example of a standard-gauge short-line left in North America and they were running a 90-minute Haunted Ghost Train on our evening in town. After an overnight in Ely we made an early start for Great Basin National Park and an hour-long tour of Lehman Caves.  Slowly sculpted over the ages by water, the caves can be traced back 600 million years when Nevada and Western Utah were covered by a warm, shallow inland sea.

Finally, at 10.30am we’re ready to hit Highway 50.  There’s a lot more to Highway 50 than Nevada.  In fact, it runs from Ocean City, Maryland on the east coast to Sacramento, California.  But the desert stretches are renowned for their solitude particularly as the interstate system long since became the fastest way to drive coast to coast.    

Apart from the hum of the engine the silence is deafening.  Not only isn’t there another vehicle in sight, we haven’t seen one for half an hour.  Out here we see Nevada mustangs, indigenous wild horses, roaming free.  We make what our American friends call comfort stops in Eureka and Austin and apart from that it’s just us and the highway.  Finally, at 7pm we arrive at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe and dinner at Cutthroats Saloon with hearty portions and beers served in mason jars which are like jam jars from days of yore.  After the solitude of Highway 50 it’s quite a contrast (that word again) to find our resort is complete with seven bars and restaurants, a casino, 24-hour gym, hot tub, spa – you name it.  There’s also a beach and with the lake being so vast you are to all intents and purposes at the seaside.

Just as Vegas can be your base for some of the attractions of southern Nevada so Lake Tahoe can serve the same purpose for the west of the state.  The lake straddles Nevada and California with the border point at the aptly named Stateline.

The lake is big and beautiful and we took a wonderful sunset dinner cruise which was actually, for me, one of the highlights of the whole trip.  You board a paddle-wheel steamer at nearby Zephyr Cove and there is a great atmosphere with live music playing and champagne flowing.  There is a full three course dinner with table service but the real magic comes from the pinks and purples of the sky as the sun goes down over the lake.

There was time on our last morning for a trip out to Virginia City, a faithfully preserved Western town of the gold rush years of the mid-19th century.  A narrated walking tour leads you along the streets that were once literally paved with silver ore.  You can visit the abandoned mines and even the school that was built to accommodate the influx of speculators and their families. 

Then it was on the 20-odd miles up to Reno for the short flight back to Las Vegas for the onward Virgin Atlantic service to London.  It’s a great fly/drive holiday and much of it has been adapted into our ‘Nevada and the Loneliest Road’ itinerary which you can find on the website at

Six Women, Six States, Six Days

Led by our resident American, Theresa Wilson and Sales Manager, Joanna Still, the Bon Voyage Six set off on a 1,000-mile familiarisation trip. 

Individual members of the Bon Voyage sales team travel throughout the year to the US and Canada on visits organised by state and province tourist offices.  But the ‘Big Daddy’ is our own annual blitz to take in as much territory as we can usefully cover.  We flew from London Heathrow to Nashville on the new British Airways non-stop service and were lucky enough to sample the delights of Club Class. This is THE way to start and/or finish a Transatlantic holiday and if you pick the right time to book (we’ll guide you on this) it doesn’t have to break the bank.  We needed a little flat-bed comfort because this was going to be anything but a holiday. Our aims? To site-inspect 29 hotels, check out new attractions, understand local geography and transportation and of course sample the food and entertainment!  (We have a policy that we never recommend a customer to a hotel we wouldn’t stay at ourselves, and to say we have become picky over the years would be an understatement.) 

Nashville on a balmy Saturday evening was buzzing.  The senses are assaulted by the neon signs, honky-tonk bars and music clubs of Broadway, the heart and soul of the action between First and Fifth Avenues.  One innovation we saw is the pedal bar which is a moving pub crawl with about a dozen riders enjoying a boozy tour of the neighbourhood.  We took in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a Nashville legend for over 50 years and where Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and a host of others made their names.  By that time our beds were calling us.  

Nashville is known as Music City and really does have a country music style for everyone. Sunday highlights were Studio B, (who can resist sitting at the same piano Elvis once sang at), The Country Music Hall of Fame and of course the world-renowned Grand Ole Opry.  We ate at the legendary Sun Diner, where the walls are lined with photos of stars who went there after a night of recording. We scoffed our ‘Jonny B Good’ egg flatbreads and ‘Love me’ Tenders while wallowing in the nostalgia of a bygone era.

Then we hit the road to visit nearby Franklin.  This cutesy town is lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and now has quite the reputation for an ‘Off Nashville’ music scene. Just to challenge ourselves some more on the mileage front we drove part of the Scenic Natchez Byway and were treated to lovely countryside views.  We were too early for the Fall colours but it is a spectacular show once an Autumn frost descends upon the route. Then it was on to Tupelo and a visit to Elvis Presley’s birthplace. A very modest two room building, housing some original items, most notably a picture of Elvis and his parents hanging over the fireplace. The birthplace and interpretive centre are definitely worth the stop for any Elvis fan; a true ‘hair on the back of the neck’ experience for some of us.

Day 3 saw an early start to Memphis and check-in at the majestic Peabody Hotel where yes, there really are ducks in the lobby. Whether its music or history that draws you to this city it doesn’t disappoint.   We couldn’t visit Memphis without another ‘Elvis Event’, a tour of his Graceland home. This was my second visit to the mansion, but I was just as teary-eyed this time as last. We were extremely impressed with the new entertainment and exhibition complex opened in 2018 by Priscilla Presley. The mammoth new ‘Elvis Presley’s Memphis’ houses a showcase of cars he owned and used, a soundstage, two restaurants and retail stores, artefacts from Lisa Marie’s childhood and of course those dazzling suits.

A new experience for me was the Arcade restaurant, one of Elvis’s favourite diners. Get there when it opens at 7am and you can sit in Elvis’s booth. The restaurant is just a short walk from the Civil Rights Museum where the Loraine Motel stands. We walked around the site prior to breakfast; the sun was rising as we reflected on the events of 4th April 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated at this very spot.

‘The Six’ all agreed that our favourite activity in Memphis was the Rockabilly Rides tour. Founded by two Beale Street entertainers who really know their Memphis music history, we were taken on a journey into Rock ‘n’ Roll history while exploring the city streets in style.  Our ride was a 1955 Chevy Bel Air while other options include a 1959 Ford Skyliner and a 1956 Chrysler Imperial.  We never felt cooler!

By day four we were on to our 5th state of the visit.  There was Tennessee, of course and Mississippi with Alabama clipped along the way, then the tip of Arkansas before we settled into our journey north and into Missouri on Interstate 55.  St Louis was our destination and as we drove towards the city there was a collective gasp at the first sighting of the Gateway Arch. Opened in 1967 as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States, at 630 feet it’s the tallest man-made monument in the western hemisphere.  You travel by a tram within the arch and if you’re not impressed by this engineering and architectural wonder you will be by the views from the observation platform as you gaze 30-miles across the Mississippi River to the East and the heart of St Louis to the West.

The Gateway Arch, St Louis
The Gateway Arch, St Louis

St Louis is also home to Forest Park, with its 1,400 acres of walking, running and cycling trails.  Steeped in history the beautiful park was opened in 1876 and hosted the Olympic Games of 1904.  As a footnote at those Games 651 athletes competed; 645 men and 6 women.  Six women!  It had to be a sign – a sign that we needed a cocktail at the end of another busy day.

So many of our clients want to experience the kicks and kitsch of Route 66 that it was essential to take in just a part of the Mother Road before our final city stay, Chicago.  On the morning of day 6 we took in Springfield and Pontiac. Pontiac is captivating with vibrant murals and reminders of Route 66 of old, whilst Springfield is a history buffs delight, home to an authentic collection of Abraham Lincoln sites that let you ‘step back in time to walk in the legendary president’s footsteps.’

Chicago North Avenue Beach Ariel
Chicago North Avenue Beach Ariel

Chicago is a favourite in the BV office, and a city that you can visit time and time again. Famed for lakes, beaches, culinary delights and theatre shows to rival those of Broadway, Chicago has been voted Americans favourite vacation city.  The upsurge in interest in Route 66 has enabled us to showcase Chicago as the great visitor experience it truly is. 

Whilst in Chicago we were spoilt with a stay at the swanky Viceroy Chicago Hotel in the ritzy Gold Coast neighbourhood. Voted #1 hotel in Chicago by Conde Nast readers in 2018, it is an elegant mix of vintage and contemporary, and the panoramic lake and skyscraper views from the rooftop pool added a touch of magic to our stay.

Talking of city skylines, Chicago is an architectural mecca and home to iconic buildings such as the John Hancock Centre, Willis Tower and Tribune Tower. We were brave enough to take the ‘tilt challenge’ at the 360 John Hancock, suspended on a glass platform over 1,000 feet above the Magnificent Mile.  It is certainly a novel way to see Chicago and received the thumbs up from us all once we’d done it!

After all that sightseeing Navy Pier, 50-acres of parks, gardens, shops, restaurants and family attractions, beckoned us for a last Margherita and deep-dish pizza.  Chicago and its residents ooze a self-assured confidence and you don’t need to be in this city for long to understand why its residents are so proud of where they live.

So, there you have it, our BV road trip in a nutshell. Quite frankly the highlights are too many to mention and we loved every second of our adventure.