Category Archives: Tennessee

Fourth of July – why all the fuss?

Theresa Wilson is Bon Voyage’s resident Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Here she shares her perspective on the Fourth of July holiday……..

Happy Birthday, America!

I’ve now lived in England for 25 years and have fully embraced my adopted country.  But if there is one time I really do long to be home it’s the first part of July and all of the Fourth celebrations.

 On the whole, Americans are a patriotic bunch – we fly flags from our front porches; we thank our military for their service; we wear eagle and flag embossed clothing year-round, but give us a holiday where the entire point is patriotism and stand back.  Parades, fireworks, family gatherings, BBQs, picnics, baseball – God Bless America! 

It’s a tough one for those of us split between two countries.  On one hand, we’re celebrating the birth of a nation – on the other, we’re celebrating freedom from British rule.  I have a British husband, so you can imagine the jokes that fly around our family!  But I believe that both countries have huge amounts of respect and interest in each other.  Back in 1776, it was time to end the American Revolution and let the original colonies be independent. Although the war went on for another seven years, on July 2, 1776, the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence from Great Britain’s rule.  The Declaration of Independence was ratified on the fourth.  There is some historical debate on whether that is true, but no alternate theories here – the 4th of July is America’s Independence Day! 

As a child, it represented the first big weekend of summer.  Schools typically break up in the USA between the end of May and mid-June, so summer activities were in full flow, but everything stopped for the 4th of July.  Depending on when it fell, either the weekend before or after would be packed with family fun.  We were always involved with the local parade which included the whole community.  If you weren’t in the parade you lined the street waving flags, hoping to grab a treat that might be thrown from a marcher!  Then it was on to a good old family style BBQ.  Burgers, hotdogs and corn on the cob straight off the grill. I honestly dream about that corn – fresh from Midwest fields, dripping in butter. It’s as much a part of my Fourth of July as waving flags and sparklers!

Fourth of July as waving flags and sparklers

Evening Events

This brings me to evening events.  We’d all gather at the appointed family members’ home for an evening of backyard games, more food and ultimately fireworks.  Invariably, we’d fire a few rounds of our own that an uncle brought from a local stand while all the kids always ran around the garden with lighted sticks actively spewing sparks.  Of course, one of us would either be afraid and drop the ignited stick on the ground or get burned while the adults continued lighting roman candles and keeping fingers crossed that nothing flew over the neighbour’s fence!  It was the 1970s,  so don’t judge!  Then it was time for proper pyrotechnics!  Some years we’d watch local displays from the comfort of our own lounge chairs in the yard.  Other years, we braved traffic and crowds for an amazing vantage point along Lake Michigan.

Family Reunion

Reunion

In my adult years, our family would undertake a huge reunion every other Fourth of July and religiously those of us who no longer resided in Wisconsin would flock home.  Ultimately, the Fourth of July is as much about celebrating family and friends and summer as it is about celebrating America’s birthday.  Don’t get me wrong – there is always a red, white and blue cake, but it’s more than just being American – it’s about the people we love, what we appreciate about living in a democracy and what we are thankful for. That’s Thanksgiving too, but one holiday at a time!  The funny thing is – every American I know loves all things British.  The Queen, Buckingham Palace, the accents, the pomp and circumstance…the list goes on.  The more I think about it, the more I realise – the Fourth of July today has very little to do with celebrating our break from Britain and more to do with bringing a nation together to honour where we came from and think about where we’re going.  Like any country, we’ve got our issues, but hopefully we’ll reflect, regroup and re-emerge stronger than ever.

I know I will be with my family in spirit and chances are I will wear stars and stripes to the office on the 4th. You can take the girl out of America…..

Theresa Wilson Celebrating 4th July
Theresa Wilson

Three Nights in Memphis – immersing myself in all things Elvis

Growing up, music filled our home, particularly the Beatles and the King – Elvis Presley. With the imminent release of the King of Rock n Roll’s biopic, I got thinking back to the time I spent three nights in Memphis on Bon Voyage’s Heritage to Honky Tonk itinerary where I immersed myself in all things Elvis.

One of the many things I loved about this itinerary was the fact that with travel by rail, private car, and Mississippi steamer all you have to do is take in the view so when we arrived in Memphis from Nashville via our private sedan transfer, we arrived raring to get stuck and experience Memphis through the eyes of Elvis.

Arcade Restaurant

After a swift check-in to our hotel – the historic Peabody we set off to find some food. Where else should we go but the Arcade Restaurant which is not only the oldest diner in Memphis but a firm favourite of Elvis and only a short walk from the hotel. I wasn’t brave enough to try The King’s favourite a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich but instead, I had a Rainmaker Sandwich with an amazing Shake it like the King, spiked shakes. Well worth a visit not only because of the connection to Elvis but because it’s been featured in a whole host of Hollywood movies like The Rainmaker (and every other Grisham), Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line and one of my favourites – Elizabethtown.

Sun Studios Tour

We decided to walk to the Sun Studios for the 5:30 pm tour along Beale Street so we could view the famous Elvis statue. For those of you who don’t know Sun Studio is the birthplace of Rock N’ Roll and discovered BB King to Elvis to Johnny Cash to Jerry Lee Lewis, there are music legends everywhere you look. I got goose pimples standing in the very same spot where Elvis first recorded, and it was like being a child again with all the memorabilia from all the artists my parents had in our front room. The tours leave on the hour and last 45 minutes and are so worth it. If you’ve got the voice, you can book a recording session, I didn’t disgrace the fabled Sun Studios with my singing voice!

We had a few hours of R&R at the hotel before heading out for some BBQ food and then experiencing the famous Peabody Rooftop Parties – the food and entertainment in Memphis will be blogs in themselves so no need to venture off our Elvis path.

Historic Peabody Hotel

We rose on day two with sore heads and missed breakfast as we were checking out we were surprised by a Peabody tradition – the ‘Peabody Duck March’ where the famous ducks come out of the lift and walk down the red carpet to the fountain for a nice swim! It was almost surreal seeing it but we were so glad we did – they do this daily at 11am and 5pm, don’t be like us and nearly miss it!

We headed over to the Beauty Shop Restaurant for brunch. This hip and trendy restaurant is styled on a 50’s beauty salon and what links this to Elvis you may ask – it was formerly Priscilla Presley’s go-to for her curl and dye. A few excellent Bad Boy Bloody Mary’s with some Eggs Benedict gave us the fuel for our next stop, the Holy Grain for all of us Elvis buffs – GRACELAND!

The Guest House at Graceland

Whilst we would have stayed at the Peabody for longer, we wanted to get the full Graceland experience, so it made sense to stay at The Guest House at Graceland, which is located just a few steps away from the Graceland mansion. This AAA Four Diamond Resort (in British, this is a four-star hotel!) was influenced by Elvis himself when archivists unearthed an architectural design done for Elvis while he was alive that included a recording studio and “a place where he wanted his friends to stay.” He called it the guest house. Opened in 2016, the $92m hotel has all of Elvis’ signature swagger with Priscilla herself overseeing all the design aspects (it’s said that Priscilla and Lisa Marie are regular visitors to the guesthouse, but we didn’t see them, unfortunately).

We didn’t stay in either of the two King Suites which are modelled on Elvis’ Las Vegas hotel room and the other the master bedroom at Graceland. We had a ground-floor room which really felt like we were staying in Graceland with the King himself. Check-in was a breeze as a Bon Voyage client, they really love us here and go out of their way to make us feel extra special.

What I really loved about staying here was all the subtle ways in which the Guesthouse pays homage to Elvis, it really isn’t big, bold and brash as you’d expect from somewhere like Las Vegas. For example, the staircase is breathtaking but it’s only until you visit Graceland that you see it was modelled on the entrance then the light fitting just looks like well a light fitting but when you do a closer inspection you see they are arranged around E’s and P’s, lobby chairs with pointed backs to resemble Elvis’ upturned collar, subtle but it works. Forgot to mention, that every evening there are complimentary peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Graceland

Graceland is the most famous rock n’ roll residence in the world? It certainly is for me, and I can’t think of another of its stature. I was expecting it to be huge but it is a lot smaller than say celebrities’ houses of the present day but that doesn’t take anything away from how beautiful it is and the feeling you get walking up the drive and through the front door. The tour is conducted through an audio guide (narrated by Lisa-Marie) on a tablet however since I have wanted to visit Graceland for like forever, I splurged on Ultimate VIP Tour tickets.  This got me a tour of Graceland with an expert guide (group of no more than 10 people), a self-guided tour of Elvis’ Custom Jets, entry into the Elvis Presley’s Memphis complex as well as a host of VIP add-ons like meal vouchers, VIP merchandise, photo opportunities etc, I thought it was good value at $196.

I was really overwhelmed walking through Graceland, no two rooms truly are the same and as it is largely untouched, I kept looking out for the King to walk down the stairs – you really do feel like a guest when you visit. One thing for sure is that Elvis truly had a unique style when it came to interior design.

The living room is magnificent, I loved the huge white sofa and the glass windows with bright peacocks painted on them. You’ll notice that there are TVs everywhere, Elvis loved his telly and he made sure that he could see a TV no matter where he was sitting in Graceland.

Throughout the tour you keep passing the staircase to the second floor, we’re not allowed up there because that was exactly how Elvis had it when he was alive, guests had the run of Graceland, but they were not permitted on the second floor.

You see his parents and then his Grandmother Minnie’s bedroom with its purple colouring and poodle wallpaper which was designed by Minnie herself.

The next stop was the dining room, where you can see Elvis’ favourite seat, chosen so he had the best view of the TV. Lisa-Marie says they still eat at the table when she stays at Graceland. The table is laid with the crockery from Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding.

The tour then took us into the kitchen, which Lisa-Marie says was the busiest room in the house, it was amazing to see all the vintage appliances.

We went downstairs down a mirrored stairway into his recreation room, with the TCB lightning bolt on the wall and the monkey ashtray.  He had three TVs here because someone told him the President of the USA had three TVs! Lots of animal horns adorn his bar (and all over Graceland), I really wanted to have a game of pool on his table. What is great about this area is how everything is close together yet so differently designed.

Now onto my favourite room of Graceland – the jungle room, which we got to up a staircase that has been green carpet on the floor, walls and ceiling. Bizarre indeed. His jungle room was apparently Elvis’s favourite room in the house, with all the wood, carved animals, and ashtrays. He loved to entertain in this room, and it is said because the autistics are so good, he recorded here, hence the carpet on the ceilings.

We walked through the carport and around the back of Graceland into his father Vernon’s office. This was the hub of Elvis enterprises, and it is pretty cool to see. The next stop was the trophy room which had all kinds of interesting stuff like his birth certificate, the family bible, pay slips, and unique finds like school reports, and his box of crayons from school. The room has their wedding outfits, Lisa-Marie’s crib, and several items taken from upstairs in Graceland. I did tear up a scarf that Elvis gave to Lisa which he wrote a few heartfelt words on, it really showed how much he loved his ‘Yisa’.  Elvis loved to shoot, and we get to see his gun collection.

We left the trophy room and passed the pool which is tiny into Elvis’s sports complex which is really a huge racquetball court, bar and pinball machines. I saw a water fountain that still worked, so took a sneaky drink, who else can say they had a drink from Elvis’s water fountain.

The end of the tour is the Mediation Garden but more on this tomorrow.

I think we spent around an hour and a half on the tour and maybe more if we had stayed for longer in the Mediation Garden. We walked out to the gates, where we wrote on the wall with seemingly everyone else who has been to Graceland.

Elvis Presley’s Memphis Complex

Our next stop was across Elvis Presley Boulevard to the Elvis Presley’s Memphis, which opened in 2017 costing a whopping $45m I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. A visit to the Elvis: The Entertainer Museum inside is worth the admission alone, there are hundreds upon hundreds of artefacts from the Graceland archives detailing Elvis’s life from his early days, first recordings into his live performances and films. The Presley Motors automobile museum has over 20 cars and motorcycles that Elvis had owned including a Pink Cadillac, a 1975 Dino Ferrari and a cinema showing his films.

We were famished at this point so took a stop at the Glady’s Diner, named after his mother, we could have dined at Vernon’s smokehouse but since we were having BBQ food that evening, we decided to eat here.

We took in the many exhibits that change throughout the year, I really enjoyed the King of Karate and Elvis in the army exhibits.

The last stop on our tour was a self-guided tour of Elvis’ Custom Jets, there is the Lisa Marie and a small Lockheed Jet Star, it was amazing to see them both especially given that Elvis spent $800,000 renovating the Lisa Marie and adding a living room, conference room and private bedrooms.

I think including a bite to eat we spent nearly three hours in the complex so all in all maybe five hours at Graceland, I was knackered at the end, to say the least!

I had intended to visit Beale Street again but instead chose to have a nap and some food at The Guest House and then was pleasantly surprised to find live music on at the Graceland Soundstage, so I whiled away the evening with some good food, good music and a few good cocktails before having an early night.

Meditation Garden

The reason for the early night was because each morning between 7:30-8:30 am the gates to Elvis’ Meditation Garden are opened early and I wanted to pay my respects to Elvis and his family before the hustle and bustle of the day starts.

The garden is in a beautiful peaceful setting, with flowers and a central fountain. Elvis is buried here with his mother, father, grandmother and stillborn twin brother.

There were only around 15 of us there and we were all in deep, reflective moods, paying our respects to the King, a person who had touched so many for so long.

It was back to The Guesthouse for breakfast ready to start my third and final day in Memphis.

Tigerman Karate Dojo and Museum

I really wanted to visit Beale Street on my final night, especially B.B. King’s Blues Club so decided my final day was going to be at a more leisurely pace and where possible I was going to walk around Memphis to see the sights.

A short 25-minute stroll gets you to Tigerman Karate Dojo and Museum to see where Elvis first practised karate. The building has been restored to the original appearance of the early 1970’s so it really is like walking in just like Elvis. The museum celebrates all things karate and Elvis with one-of-a-kind pieces of memorabilia that you won’t see anywhere else. 

For those of you that practise karate, this is a working dojo, and you can pre-book classes so you can say you’ve trained where Elvis has!

Stax – Museum of American Soul

I had intended to walk everywhere but checking google maps I saw it was a near five-mile walk to Stax – Museum of American Soul so I cheated and took an uber!

The museum is on the site of the original Stax Records recording studios where Elvis recorded some of his best work in 1973. The museum pays homage to Elvis but more importantly to all the great soul singers that have passed through its doors such as Isaac Hayes, Otis ReddingBooker T. & the MGs, Marvin Gaye and many others.

Normally museums are quiet places but not here with lots of music blasting out and dancing down the exhibits is actively encouraged! Well worth a visit.

Coletta’s Italian Restaurant

I was getting hungry and saw that Coletta’s Italian Restaurant was around the corner. This time capsule/restaurant claims to have created barbecue pizza, a favourite of Elvis’.  I dined in the Elvis Room among pictures and memorabilia commemorating the times when Elvis and his entourage would take over a private dining room at the restaurant. I left suitably stuffed.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

I cheated and got an uber to Beale Street so I could tick off the next two stops in my Elvis trail. I didn’t know until I arrived that Elvis has been inducted into five halls of fame with the Memphis music hall of fame being the fifth.

The MMHoF has been inducting members since 2012 with the museum opening in 2015. Elvis was one of the first inductees. The museum itself is quite small but what they lack in space they more than make up for with inventive ways to display their exhibits such as suspended guitars and a grand piano repurposed as a light fitting.

The museum has exhibits and memorabilia from all Memphis’ famous singers, from Elvis’ jumpsuits to Johnny Cash’s famous black suit and handwritten lyrics from Al Green, there is something for everyone here and it’s great for discovering bands you’ve forgotten and links between famous artists.

A liked the conciseness of the museum and the fact I was in and out within an hour.

Lansky Brothers Clothes Shop

Since I was already on Beale Street and knowing I needed to buy some gifts I popped along to the Lansky Brothers Clothes Shop where the King himself used to purchase his clothes. I spent way too much time and money in the store and came away with more for myself than others, but it was so worth it to get some retro 50’s shirts and Elvis-inspired wear like a beautiful belt.

Since the shop is located inside the Hard Rock Café I partook in some ice-cold beers and some hot wings whilst listening to some live music.

On to New Orleans

After a hard day wandering the streets of Memphis I went back to the Guesthouse for a nap before heading back to Beale Street for some authentic BBQ food then onto B.B. Kings Blues Club to dance the night away.

Tomorrow, I check out and head to New Orleans but since I’m catching the train I can overindulge.

I hope you liked my blog about my Elvis-inspired journey to Memphis. At Bon Voyage we make your holiday truly bespoke and tailor your trip to suit your tastes and budget. Talk to one of our Memphis and Deep South experts to book YOUR next trip – dream 0800 316 3012 or email sales@bon-voyage.co.uk.

Since you’ve made it this far, you deserve a treat, we have a special digital guide to the Deep South, want a copy? Just click here to request one.

Enjoy!

 

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

Keep an eye on www.bon-voyage.co.uk for news on our next solo travellers holiday or why not sign up to our newsletter to be among the first to find out all our news, click here to do it – you won’t regret it!

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.

Magic Of The Mississippi – Cruising Ol’ Man River

American Queen banner

Nick Dalton is a travel writer and expert in both cruises and American destinations. Following his recent journey on the American Queen he has kindly allowed Bon Voyage to feature his article that appeared in the Daily Express.

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“I’m sitting on deck hypnotised by the relentless flow of the mighty Mississippi as the paddle steamer American Queen heads upstream.

“The river must be a mile wide, its banks thick with forest and the air is warm.”

Continue reading Magic Of The Mississippi – Cruising Ol’ Man River

Magic of the Mississippi – Cruising “Ol’ Man River”

Nick Dalton is a travel writer and expert in both cruises and American destinations. Following his recent journey on the American Queen he has kindly allowed Bon Voyage to feature his article that appeared in the Daily Express.

I’m sitting on deck hypnotised by the relentless flow of the mighty Mississippi as the paddle steamer American Queen heads upstream.

The river must be a mile wide, its banks thick with forest and the air is warm”.

We are only a few hours from our starting port of Memphis yet the only signs of civilisation are clusters of coal barges heading down to New Orleans.

I walk to the stern to watch the giant wheel, powered by piston engines salvaged from a 1932 boat. It’s even more impressive to watch at night through portholes from the Engine Room Bar. Continue reading Magic of the Mississippi – Cruising “Ol’ Man River”