I have been organising holidays for Gary and Helena since I started with Holidaysplease in 2006. Their latest amazing trip was originally booked back in 2019 and I was thrilled that it finally got to take place last summer...
Our adventure got off to a fantastic start with an unexpected upgrade on the British Airways flight out of London Heathrow.
The first stop was Nashville, where we collected the hire car and headed for our city accommodation.
The whole place quite simply was brilliant fun. From 10am through to pretty much whenever people want to go home, it's alive with music. Bars on the ground floor, first floor and rooftops are full of energy and atmosphere, and various genres of music - country & western, blues, and rock music ring out all day and night long.
About half a dozen music-inspired museums are dotted along the 'Hop-On, Hop-Off' bus route which we took on the first morning, plus plenty of other attractions, including a walking tour around multiple recording studios where 'everyone' has worked over the years.
The town is littered with decent restaurants and diners, not just on Broadway but further afield too, and the level of service and hospitality was amazing. We managed to meet up and enjoy checking out several places with our friend Dianne too.
The Capitol Hotel is ideally placed just a five-minute walk from Broadway although it feels rather old and in need of a serious refurb, but on the plus side has great aircon.
The breakfast is a bizarre 'takeaway' affair where five minutes after ordering, it comes out at the end of a counter and then you sit down in another area to eat. Strange, and not massively appetising.
Next up was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Memphis where the Crowne Plaza is a cinch to find, being located just off the Interstate. The hotel was of the expected standard with a decent buffet breakfast and a good and well-stocked bar.
A courtesy bus to and from the hotel to Downtown takes ten minutes and is very welcome as the walk we were told can be half an hour, which in that temperature is tough. Beale Street is lively with mainly blues and jazz bars; BB King's Bar & Music Room is a must with fantastic live music all day long from seasoned performers.
Graceland was a phenomenal experience from start to finish. Just a 15-minute drive from the hotel, we had pre-booked for late morning and enjoyed everything - the house, the paddocks and surrounds, the cars, planes, and of course the gift shops!
Overall, it took about four hours, but the time flew by with so many fascinating things to learn about Elvis and his career (and yes, we've seen the film since returning).
We headed straight to another pre-booked trip on a paddle steamer along the Mississippi, an interesting guide through the history of the river and how Memphis became the city it is today.
Lunch at The Peabody Memphis close to Beale Street was excellent. An iconic place with (at the right time of day) live ducks in the ornate Italian fountain in the bar area plus great cocktails too.
Our final drive was down to New Orleans. Given our time again, we would take the train as overall it took seven and a half hours (with a lunch stop) but the long, straight road made for a pretty tedious journey, although a few games of 'I Spy' were attempted to break the monotony.
It was our only poor decision of the trip. We stopped halfway at what we thought would be a nice town, Canton, just north of Jackson on the I55. Unfortunately, it has suffered from Covid and many of the shops, tea rooms and restaurants around the central square were closed.
A nice-looking place nevertheless but sadly lacking people, we did find a Chinese buffet open for lunch which was tasty and great value. And who would have thought that the community PA system would be blaring out ABBA songs around the town, something that made Helen laugh a lot and me cringe!
Ruth made a great suggestion to drop the car off at New Orleans Airport on the way down to the city, then catch a taxi with our bags to the hotel. It's en route and worked perfectly as we didn’t need it for the last four days.
The InterContinental Hotel was fabulous, with great facilities, bars and restaurants, and located just five minutes from Canal Street and seven minutes to Bourbon Street and the rest of the French Quarter.
The 'Hop-On, Hop-Off' bus once again helped us on the first morning to get our bearings - really worth doing for just a few dollars and as with Nashville, the driver was an expert on his hometown.
We were surprised at how modern the city appeared, having expected it to feel older and tired after hearing stories that Hurricane Katrina had left its mark, although we didn’t travel far from the centre of town, so there may be areas that have not fared so well.
Disappointingly, we found Bourbon Street a little "tacky" although it still has plenty of music going on, but a few streets away, still in the French Quarter, was closer to what we expected: plenty of classy shops, bars, cafes and restaurants with a great atmosphere.
The sound of authentic jazz and blues was audible all-around and someone at the hotel had recommended The Spotted Cat Music Club in Frenchtown Street which had stacks of individuals turning up to jam as well as regular bands. It was brilliant.
Prices were reasonable throughout our journey and most places are not charging the earth to recoup their Covid losses quickly, which was pleasing.
We had a brilliant time. Ruth organised everything in her usual terrific way, enabling us to enjoy every moment.
Thank you, Ruth.