Saturday, December 10, 2016

Dickens Festival in Franklin, TN

December is a month filled with festivals, holiday parties, lights and boat parades. We are huge fans, and have written about some of the major festivals in this space.

When in Chattanooga, TN, we like to go to the Dickens Festival in Franklin, which falls on the 2nd weekend of December (this weekend). A quintessential small southern town with a public square and courthouse, Franklin downtown exudes charm and sophistication, complete with civil war history. Many buildings were built in the 19th century, and are so well-preserved the downtown is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Christmas tree with vendors in the background
Which is the perfect location for the Dickens Festival! Musicians, dancers and characters from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol entertain you as they wonder around the streets of downtown. You are encouraged  to come dressed up in Victorian-era costumes.
This family made their own costumes! 
Don't you miss the days when people were more well-dressed?
Marley's ghost haunts
Lining up for a dance
About 17 miles from Franklin is Music City Nashville. We like going to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel to see their spectacular Christmas lights. The Grand Ole Opry and a shopping outlet are located next to the hotel; expect major traffic getting there this time of year.
Christmas tree in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Perfect decor for Music City, the capital of country music

Main entrance to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Don't miss the stunning lights and a gorgeous nativity scene at the main entrance to the hotel!

I  hope the weather in Franklin and Nashville will cooperate so folks can have a jolly good time. Merry Christmas, y'all!

Here are some of our favorite holiday lights and festivals:
Happening today, Dec 10
Winterfest Boat Parade, Fort Lauderdale, Fl
Regatta of Lights, St Augustine, Fl

Dec 17
Boat Parade in Bimini Basin, Cape Coral, Florida

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Gasparilla Pirate Festival in Tampa, Florida Christmas Boat Parade in Bimini Basin, Cape Coral Holiday Decor and Lights in New Orleans

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fire in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, TN

Having lived in Chattanooga for almost ten years, we've experienced various hazardous weather, from snow to flood and tornadoes. And now fire! Although that occured in the Great Smoky National Park area, which is about a three hours drive away from the marina. Still, the smoke and haze had been felt as far south as Chattanooga and Atlanta. This past Monday, hurricane-forced winds spreaded the wildfires into the town of Gatlinburg, forcing thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate. The fire raged through the mountains burning more than 17,000 acres, killing 13 people and damaging almost a thousand structures. Read more here.

Clingmans Dome, at 6,643 feet, is the highest mountain in the Smokies
View from Clingmans Dome
Since we're in Florida, we hadn't paid attention to the weather in the southeast region. Until we saw pictures of the devastation on Facebook. Of a dock destroyed in our previous marina - Midway Marina on the Tenn-Tom Waterway in Fulton, Mississippi, a favorite stop of the Great Loopers. (Thank you Margaret for posting the pictures!) Apparently, tornadoes had raged across the southeast region that night. Fortunately, no one was hurt or injured.  Of the burned West Gate Resort in Gatlinburg, entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had enjoyed a week's stay at the property in September last year, so we knew exactly the location of the fire. Per their website, only the cabins at the top of the mountain were scorched; many buildings in the lower elevation were left intact.
View from our suite balcony
Resort grounds
Our stay in Gatlinburg was filled with adventures and fabulous southern food. We were thrilled to see bears on at least two occasions.

Our day trip to arty Asheville, N. Carolina was quite memorable. Somewhere along the way, we must have taken a wrong turn, and the GPS redirected us down this narrow serpentine mountain road. We thought nothing of it because we saw a car every so often. Until the asphalt ended and turned into a gravel road. It brought us to the Big Creek Trailhead. We were not planning to hike, let alone the Appalachian Trail.

Were we elated when we saw a sign to the Big Creek Country Store! We hurriedly made our way there to ask for directions so we can get back to civilization pronto!

Big Creek Country Store
Back on Interstate 40, we stopped at the visitor center for recommendation for good southern food. Moose Cafe is the ultimate farm-to-table restaurant (a farmer's market is at the back of the restaurant). We devoured everything on our plates. It was finger licking good.
Delicious chicken and dumplings, excellent cornbread

Some of the best fried chicken we've tasted
The next day we managed to get lost (again! Or perhaps we underestimated the distance?) as the trail seemed to go on forever; we were totally exhausted when we finally got to our car. 

Our adventure culminated at Clingmans Dome. We had enjoyed a short hike to the Observation Tower to see the spectacular views, and returned to the parking area for a picnic lunch. While munching, we looked over to our car and stared in disbelief at a flat tire. How lucky are we to experience this at the highest elevation (6,643 feet) in the Smokies? The next couple of hours found us asking around to borrow the right tool and changing the tire. Needless to say, driving a donut spare tire down the winding mountain road was downright nerve-racking.

As for the fire, we are sad to hear news of disaster, even more so when it happens right around the holiday season. We pray for the victims and hope they will get their lives back in order soon.

Read in USA Today that 'The National Park Service said the fire that began on the Chimney Tops trail  before spreading to  Gatlinburg appeared to have been "human-caused."'

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Fall Foliage at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tornado ripped up dock at Hales Bar Marina Nashville under water

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fall Colors at Point Park, Lookout Mountain

A friend from Mississippi posted this question on Facebook last week - "Still waiting on my favorite time of year. Autumn, where are you?"

In Southeastern Tennessee, we were having the same summer weather, with temperatures in the 80s. It was hot! Rain finally came last Thursday bringing cooler temperatures with it. We were pleasantly surprised to see some nice fall colors up in Lookout Mountain when we hiked from Cravens House to Point Park (elevation 2,135 feet). The colors were the best we've seen so far this fall.

Fall Colors along the TN River
As we were leaving for our hike, we sighted the Columbus ships Nina and Pinta; they had spent the night at Hales Bar Marina. We saw them again when we were atop Lookout Mountain. They were heading for Knoxville, and will call on Chattanooga November 10-27.

How are the fall colors in your neck of the woods?

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Fall Colors along the Tennessee River Serendipity ... at Foster Falls Fall Foliage in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Port of Call: Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is one of our favorite ports of call. We boated here for three years and had many unforgettable adventures. We loved the boating lifestyle so much we quit our jobs and moved to a bigger boat to cruise full time, and now, we've been cruising/living on the boat for the last sixteen years! You know what they say - time flies when you're having fun!
View of Boston from Marina Bay, our last station
We've been back to Boston many times since then, albeit not by boat. This week, we happily played tour guides to a friend and her sisters who were visiting from Paris. It gave us the opportunity to explore and rediscover our old stomping grounds. The notorious Big Dig megaproject of the 90s had moved the Central Artery (main highway in the heart of the city) underground. With the new space, the city of Boston created an urban park with gardens and walkways connecting many neighborhoods.
So, come along with us as we walked the Rose Kennedy Greenway from Chinatown to Faneuil Hall, stopping to admire artworks and various attractions along the way.

Monkee See by Sante Fe artist Don Kennell in honor of the year of the Monkey 
Farmer's market and 
food truck
The Dewey Square farmer's market near South Station is opened Tuesdays and Thursdays from May to November.
Tour guide in action at Harborwalk (Boston Tea Party ship in the background)
Continuing on Atlantic Avenue, we veered off to Harborwalk (behind the InterContinental Hotel) to catch a glimpse of the Boston Tea Party ships and museum, where reenactment of dumping tea into the waters can be sometimes be seen.
Best place for a lobster roll
Checking out the seafood at James Hook + Co
Yummy lobster roll
We couldn't resist checking out the seafood at James Hook. Too bad we already had dim sum in Chinatown earlier:-(! We had enjoyed a delicious lobster roll the last time we stopped here.

Bronze sculptures "Circle of Animals/Zodiac" by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei
At the Rings Fountain, we encountered the Circle of Animals/Zodiac exhibit by Ai Weiwei, undoubtedly the most famous contemporary artist in China.The story behind the zodiac heads is quite intriguing. The original zodiac heads were designed by the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione, who served in the Qing Court in the 18th century. They had adorned a water clock-fountain in the Old Summer Palace (YuanMingYuan) before they were looted by European soldiers who ransacked and burned down the palace during the Opium War of 1860. Of the seven zodiac heads that are known to have survived the pillage, five have been repatriated back to China, while ownership of the remaining two is still being contested.
Heading towards Boston Harbor Hotel at Rowes Wharf
Boston Harbor Hotel
See Boston by land and water via a duck tour (Boston Custom House in the background)
Faneuil Hall, a marketplace and meeting hall since 1743
The Great Hall, where town meeting members discussed issues of the day
Prosperity in Boston resulted in the expansion of  Faneuil Hall - Quincy Market was constructed in 1842
Interested in playing chess outdoors?
Travel and Leisure rated Faneuil Hall Marketplace as the number 8 most-visited tourist attractions in America. Whether it is food, shopping or entertainment, you can find it all here at Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market. And get a dose of some American history at the same time.
We followed the Freedom Trail back to Chinatown (Old State House on left)
The Granary Burying Ground, where famous patriots like Paul Revere, John Hancock and Sam Adams were buried
The Massachusetts State House, facing the Boston Common
Boston skyline seen from the Boston Common (a park in downtown)
Hope you've enjoyed our tour! This incredible city has so much more to offer. As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston has history and culture to please any discerning visitor. A harbor cruise to nearby islands, Cape Cod or whale watch is highly recommended. While in the Boston area, don't forget to feast on seafood - raw oysters, clam chowda, steamers, fried clams, scallops, and the quintessential lobster and lobster roll.

What's your favorite port of call?

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