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Unread 30 Apr 17, 02:17 PM  
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#1
CrispyA
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Join Date: Oct 11
Touring Tennessee - August 2017

Touring Tennessee - with bits of Alabama and Kentucky, and a tiny piece of Mississippi

This has been booked for ages (flights booked on 16 October 2016) but I've only just started this pre-trip report for some reason. I think it's because we had a Berlin trip to focus on before that.

Meet the Cast

Here we are in Berlin.



From left to right

Evan: Teenage Boy and chief joker and instigator of catchphrases. Has to be bribed/cajoled into smiling for photographs. Loves America and Road Trips, the main Fool in the Pool. Appears to have hollow legs and would quite like to make "Second Breakfast" a thing.

Paul: Designated Driver and Daddy Cool. Loves order and things that run to plan. The only person who can pack a car, apparently. Adores live music and being outdoors.

Elizabeth: Chief Planner and organiser, the Clark Griswold/Monica from Friends of the family. Also, the person who invariably makes eye contact with the guide or information person and winds up spending half an hour discussing Moose while the rest of the family hide/snigger in a corner.

Hannah: Teenage Girl and the most fabulous poser in all photographs. Vegetarian. Loves travelling and learning about all sorts of things. The most laid back of the whole family. The only person I know who likes Root Beer.

Our Trip

This started as a trip to witness the Total Solar Eclipse on 21 August 2017. We knew that it would happen in Tennessee and Kentucky, and as we are all big Country music fans, a trip to Nashville and Memphis sounded enticing. Plus we like what we've experienced of the South so far.

Paul's uncle lives in Alabama and we thought it would be nice to build in a visit to them as well as staying in the Smokey Mountains. Some time looking into routes also brought up Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, so we added another state to the itinerary.

The flights were a bit of an accident. I had various alerts set up as soon as I got my leave approved at work and suddenly got an email from Google Flights suggesting an very reasonably priced flight from Gatwick to Nashville. I initially discounted it as there was a 16 hour layover in Toronto, but after thinking about it for a while, I reasoned that the layover was mostly overnight so could work out well for us. We get to see a bit of Toronto and then arrive in Nashville mid-morning, pick up the car and head out. In reality, it wasn't much different from us arriving late afternoon, early evening in Nashville and then heading out the next day. Gatwick is a bit of a pain to fly from, but we can go down to London the night before and get the Thameslink to LGW which will be fine.

This is our itinerary:

Travel to London, stay overnight

Train to LGW, Westjet flight to Toronto. I've heard good things about Westjet and the prices were good. Plus they have been extremely helpful if I've had to contact them. Stay overnight at airport hotel, spend a couple of hours Downtown.

Flight from YYZ to BCN. We have to be at the airport 2.5 hours before the flight, so around 7.00am. However, going on past experience, we will be up at stupid o'clock on the first day, so that shouldn't be a problem. We clear immigration in Toronto, so nice and easy once we land in Nashville. Pick up the car and head out.

1 night in Shelbyville, just south of Nashville.

Travel to Savannah, near the Shiloh Civil War battlefield. 1 night here.

Memphis - 3 nights. We had to arrange this to avoid Elvis Week, where the prices skyrocket and the whole city becomes packed out. Happily, we have managed to coincide this with my sister (katiebaz) visiting Memphis as well, so we are going to the baseball with them and hanging out. Our hotel has a rooftop pool which is pretty cool.

Then to Huntsville, Alabama, via a corner of Mississippi. We might call to Muscle Shoals on the way, past the famous studios. Then we have 2 nights with Paul's Uncle and family. We are planning to visit the US Space and Rocket Center but not sure what else.

Next stop is Chattanooga for 2 nights. We are hoping for Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River and to visit Lookout Mountain.

Then we head to Gatlinburg where we are staying for 4 nights in a Cabin in the Smokies. We spent ages looking for a cabin and in the end, we did a spreadsheet so we could compare them all. The cabin we have booked has fantastic views and a hot tub on the deck where you can sit and look over the mountains. Also, it has 2 bedrooms with proper beds as I didn't want the kids having to sleep on a sofa bed for 4 nights. While we are there, we will go hiking in the National Park and visit Dollywood.

This is followed by 1 night in Knoxville then 1 night in Crossville which is in the path of Totality for the Eclipse. The event is happening early afternoon but we thought it would be better to stay over the night before rather than be stuck in traffic trying to get somewhere to see it. I have bought some eclipse glasses from Amazon so we are prepared - lets just hope for clear skies!

After the Eclipse, we head for Kentucky and Cave City for 2 nights. This is near Mammoth Cave National Park, so we'll spend some time exploring there. I love bats, so am keen to see some.

Then we head for the Land between the Lakes on the KY/TN border, staying in Aurora for one night, very close to Kentucky Lake.

Finally, we go to Nashville for 4 nights. We have Grand Ole Opry tickets but no idea yet who will be playing. Fingers crossed it is George Strait or Brad Paisley! We might look at trying to get tickets for the Bluebird Cafe but it's hard to get them and there are plenty of other places that have live music. Evan is a huge Alan Jackson fan and he has a bar there, so we might have to pay a visit to that one.

After Nashville, we fly back to Toronto with a 6 hour layover, followed by our flight back to LGW. I'd rather a shorter layover, but it looks like a pretty nice airport and we'll have time to have a nice meal etc, so may actually manage some sleep on the plane, although I'm not too optimistic.

It took some time for this trip to take shape as there wasn't an obvious route and we did change things a few times. However, we're pretty happy with it now and all hotels are booked. And it's less than 100 days to go!

Edited at 05:46 PM.
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Unread 30 Apr 17, 02:59 PM  
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WileyCoyote
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You see now I Have terrible trip envy. Having just swopped out the Smokies for New Orleans, only one night in Memphis and not getting to Chattanooga. I am deeply envious of what looks like a truly fabulous trip.

Can't wait to read along. Somewhat selfishly will be hoping you start your trippy on return and before we head off. Looking for tips!

Seriously great looking holiday. Lots of fun to look forward to.
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Unread 30 Apr 17, 03:11 PM  
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Col&Ali
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Sounds amazing! I'm in 😁
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Unread 30 Apr 17, 04:48 PM  
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Melbatb
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Another fabulous trip planned! I am already looking forward to reading about it!

I hope BCN is a typo as that is Barcelona!

Have you got your ETA (Canadian equivalent of the ESTA?)? Toronto is a nice airport and would give you the chance to try Poutine !
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Unread 30 Apr 17, 04:53 PM  
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Mortimer Mouse
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Sounds like a fab trip. I'm especially interested in hearing about your stay in the Smokies and Dollywood.

We flew indirect with Westjet last year and had a long layover in Toronto too.
They have a great express train service into the City (called UP) and you can buy a special layover ticket for the whole family for about CAD25.

The Westjet staff were always lovely and the cabin crew were prone to singing on the plane (?!). I booked some extra legroom seats which were excellent and only CAD30 each, when the exchange rate was CAD 2 to the pound. Bargain.

Have a great trip.
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Unread 1 May 17, 10:41 AM  
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MichelleS
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Sounds like a fabulous trip ,we are off to New Orleans,Memphis,Nashville,Gatlingburg and Washington at the end of May.
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Unread 1 May 17, 05:58 PM  
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CrispyA
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Originally Posted by WileyCoyote View Post
You see now I Have terrible trip envy. Having just swopped out the Smokies for New Orleans, only one night in Memphis and not getting to Chattanooga. I am deeply envious of what looks like a truly fabulous trip.

Can't wait to read along. Somewhat selfishly will be hoping you start your trippy on return and before we head off. Looking for tips!

Seriously great looking holiday. Lots of fun to look forward to.
Your trip sounds great as well - New Orleans should be fab. That's the problem with the US - so many options and you can't fit everything you want to do into one holiday. That's why we have to keep going back!
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Unread 1 May 17, 05:59 PM  
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CrispyA
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Originally Posted by Col&Ali View Post
Sounds amazing! I'm in 😁
Thanks, we're really looking forward to it.
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