Towards holidays end

24 Oct

Sorry folks there is lots more to tell but I just don’t seem to be able to blog any more. Days are still full so we are all pretty interested in bed when we reach our hotels and I have a bad chest cold which is slowing me down. Keeping going though. The latest lovely experi ences being Charlston, South Carolina and Savannah, (Georgia i think,). See you all quite soon and looking forward to that. The trip has been a real success. ImageImageImage

Aside 20 Oct


Early start as it is 732 kms from Branson to Nashville. Travelled through States of Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. Crossed Mississippi and Ohio Rivers over huge bridges virtually adjoining each other. Saw great difference in economic status when we reached Kentucky…think bluegrass, horses, white fenced paddocks and more churches than you can poke a stick at. Never seen a country with so many churches per square kilometre. Just before reaching Kentucky we saw a little town called Cairo, pronounced care-oh,which was well known in the days of slavery. Escaped slaves considered themselves safe if they could reach Cairo. It was quite a thriving town once when the river boat trade was at its peak, and some people still live there but it is a sad sad place to see. Almost a ghost town that time forgot. Beautiful homes and civic buildings just abandoned and left to rot, some almost covered with rampant vines. Lovely old cinema closed down and decayed. I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures of the place. When we got to Nashville most people stayed in and left the honky tonks till the next day and caught up on rest, washing etc. lovely hotel where I had a suite to myself. With just a bit more kitchen, I could have lived in it. Next day, a sightseeing tour of Nashville with a local guide. She pointed out significant buildings and landmarks downtown as well as Music Row where the recording and publishing companies are. Some of the stars have their own studios there. Drove through an exclusive residential area but we weren’t familiar with a lot of the big names there. Kept an eye out for Keith Urban but no luck. Toured the historic Ryman auditorium. It was the Grand Ole Opry venue until 1974. Well known for its excellent acoustics and broadcasting its shows on radio. We went to a show of Country Classics which went to air. Probably would have appealed to 2air fm listeners! I actually liked it; not very western at all. Didn’t know the artists as I’m not up on country music (Mandy Barnett, John Conlee, Larry Gatlin, Jim Lauderdale) except for Crystal Gayle. I liked her but those in the know decreed she was pretty much past it. Her hair was almost touching the floor. I thought she might tread on it. Had some individual time and most of us went to the honky tonks. Most music was loud and contemporary whereas I had expected bluegrass and lots of pickin’ banjos and the likes. I think it just depends on who you strike when. At least you can just wander around and pop in and out of them. Few have an entry fee and although they would like you to buy drinks, they don’t press you to do so. They were ok but I enjoyed Beale Street, Memphis more. A couple of the women in the group do line dancing and they were disappointed as we went to a dance hall and there was some line dancing going on but to almost rock music. On the walk home we did drop in to another venue with a little dance floor and some very good line dancers, boots, hats, the lot. On our last day we visited the Johnny Cash and family graves and Craig did a tribute song to him; not tacky but respectful and meaningful to the Cash fans amongst us. They also enjoyed the new Johnny Cash Museum. I found it quite interesting I guess. What I did really enjoy, surprisingly, was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Spent ages there. Lots of instruments, mixing boards, pictures, videos, outfits and all sorts of memorabilia. Unfortunately though, I made my first travel mistake here. They took my drivers licence as id when I took an audio guide (can you believe it?) and I forgot to pick it up again. Bugger. Realised at night and we were leaving town hours before museum reopened. John, the tour leader, made calls for me etc and the latest is they will send it to my home address. It was in security when he rang, so at least I know no one is running around Nashville with it. Our last night was a concert at the current Grand Ole Opry Show, where again they were broadcasting. Funny to hear ads read between acts. What they try to do is include old favourite performers from the Hall of Fame and also give up and coming performers a go. That’s how people like The Everley Brothers got a break. They were a mixed bunch, some very old but it was enjoyable for the experience and seeing the theatre. The other interesting thing we did in Nashville was to visit the amazing Gaylord Opryland Hotel which features 9 acres of beautiful indoor gardens, waterfalls, canals and rooms with balconies that look like a tropical New Orleans. I wouldn’t want to stay there but it was impressive and stopped just short of being kitch.
Another interesting town where you could spend quite a few more days.

BRANSON, MISSOURI Branson is a funny place; it fits somewhere between Vegas, Blackpool, Kings Cross and Surfers Paradise. Lots of neon signs, attractions/billboards, eating places, gift shops, hotels and what it is really all about, live theatres that operate morning, afternoon and night. Many of them are owned by famous ex performers, some of whom still hanging in there themselves and others producing shows. They mostly tend to have a somewhat nostalgic flavour and nearly all music of some kind. I went to one about the number one hits of the sixties, well done but corny emcee needing lots of noise from audience as well as their participation. Next a show called SIX which was brilliant. Six adult brothers did lots of excellent impersonations, sang lots of their own with lots of harmonising and special effects. Thirdly a show by the Duttons who are a big extended family who all perform, from Dad to grandchildren. It was a bit schmaltzy but they were exceptionally talented, especially with instruments. In one piece they kept swapping instruments with each other, showing their expertise in each. They also stood in a line and played fiddles except that they bowed the next person’s fiddle while someone else bowed theirs. They played everything from bluegrass to opera. I enjoyed it despite it being a bit cheesy and must admit I must be more cynical than some because they didn’t comment about that. Something odd happens in all performances. They devote a segment to honouring war veterans. It’s a big patriotic spiel with all forces recognised and all various wars and engagements. Vets are asked to stand and they are clapped and honoured by all. There are quite a few of them at every performance too. I’m sure the Vietnam vets would have liked a bit more appreciation on their return and I do think that military service should be acknowledged, even if I don’t think our (or American) participation is always warranted. I don’t get though, how fighting in some arenas has anything to do with “our freedoms”. And it is all rather over the top and so, well, American! Perhaps it’s my cynicism again. I commented on the gun sales in another post. How about these objects in the photos? They were in a shop window in Branson township. Enlarge if you can, in order to read the messages on the caps etc. Honestly! Anyway we have now arrived in Nashville and a bit surprised at how big it is. This hotel is beautiful and I have a whole suite. Great to stop for three days, unpack, wash and restore some order to the luggage again!

17 Oct


Of course Memphis is much more than Elvis. We went to Sun Studios where lots of the big names recorded. The downstairs is an old fashioned diner and the rest is the studio in its original format with displays and photos from the early days of rock and roll and the blues. Spent our two nights crawling music joints on Beale Street which we all loved. Went to Jerry Lee Lewis’ place. He appears monthly and has bands perform at others. The guy there at the moment is brilliant, playing the piano with his foot and backside and even momentarily lighting up a flame on the piano top and the cymbals. At another place there was a very energetic and talented rockabilly group and in another, a great blues band. Watching the dancers was almost as entertaining as the band. Black people having great times and doing VERY “dirty dancing”. Shy little things, calling out to dancers and musicians. Talking about calling out and music we visited the phenomenal Al Green’s Episcopalian Church on Sunday and boy, that one was NOTHING like Sawtell Union Church! They had a band which could only be described as a rock band, great voices and harmonies, lots of noise, laughter and Praise the Lords and Hallelujahs. Al Green was very theatrical. He must not be able to completely give up his old stage habits even though he is a Bishop (not much like Pell and Jensen!). He entered with white gloves and a velvet cape which he removed when he sat on the leather throne-like armchair. In good spirits (pun unintended) he told a young child to shut up when he was talking! Interesting stuff. Craig sang a gospel song during the service that he had written for the occasion. Of course there was Martin Luther King’s memorial which was rather moving. You could go up onto the ill famed balcony and see into his motel room. Across the road you had access to the bathroom and window from which the fatal shot was fired, supposedly. They had a lot of artifacts relating to Ray and a section looking at the conspiracy theories relating to the assassination and the possibility that there may have been more than one person involved and that they may even have accused the wrong person. Of course there were lots of displays about the civil rights movement and a third section devoted to women activists. Regret to say girls I ran out of time to see it but quite a few of them were acknowledged in the main section.  One night we had dinner in a former picture theatre which was great…the restaurant, not the food. I ordered an appetiser of onion rings expecting something like calamari rings in size. Wrong! There were 8 huge things that looked like oversized doughnuts and were quite oily. I ate almost two, a couple of blokes had one each and the rest joined all the other junk and waste that exists in this country. Went to see the Peabody Ducks but it was a bit of a let down. The place was very crowded and from where I was I saw them get out of the fountain and do a couple of metres on the red carpet and then they were out of sight. They have a daily ritual of being brought down from the top of the Peabody Hotel via the elevator, marched along a red carpet to a fountain in the beautiful ornate foyer/lounge where they splash around all day till 5pm when it all happens again in reverse. Huge tourist draw card. Done with ceremony and music and presided over by a uniformed instructor. It’s not completely silly stuff; there is a history behind it all. 

15 Oct

One week to go

29 Sep

Please let me know if you see this post and if you were alerted to it by email. 

May 1/2

2 May


May 1

On flight now. Lucked in a bit as not sure whether we are on the refurbished plane or not but our Premium Economy seats are in the old Business area and are indeed business class seats. They recline, massage etc so I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep. We are pretty tired. Went to airport on bus which was much less hassle than that  Shinjuku station. Funny thing happened regarding the station today. We had been out a bit beforehand and decided to catch subway up to the station to go to a shop, and walked around a bit looking for subway entrance only to find that by some stroke of magic we were already at main station. Honestly that station is a mystery. I’m sure it’s not us!
Went to Electric City yesterday which was a bit of dangerous territory for Gadget Girl but I didn’t buy anything. Then returned to Ginza for a bit more exploring and ogling at designer shops. Waited for the lights to come on again as we thought we had not been in the centre of things last time. Turned out we had been. Liked it but I thought it would be more spectacular like I imagine Times Square to be. Then we went back to Shinjuku which was hardly recognisable at night. Neon signs spectacular. A bit seedy but lots of character. We were walking down one street which was obviously an area where you paid for a good time and a big black guy who was touting for business at his club said “Where you goin’? No good place here for mamma tonight!” We cracked up. Honestly, I forget I am old till something like that happens!
Here endeth the journey. Looking forward to home and to seeing everyone again. 

Monday 29th

29 Apr

Today we stayed in Shinjuku area and did a few practical things like washing and going up to the station (yes!) to reserve our tickets on the airport bus and find out where to go to catch it. Then we spent ages on one floor of just one department store. The floor was full of shoes and handbags Bought a bag. Some gorgeous but expensive shoes. Getting lost a few more times resulted in several people taking us 10 minutes out of their way. Incredible. Had a rest at hotel after lunch. Some sort of protest going on regarding increasing tension about China and Korea. Tonight we had mixed success at dinner. Jill got some information about a restaurant up in a tower nearby where we could enjoy the lights from the 50th floor. She is really quite dizzy and by the time we got outside of the hotel she didn’t know whether to turn left or right or the proper name of the tower. I took over with the map and finally got us to one of the options. The lights were great and food was nice and of course we expected it to be a bit expensive. It wasn’t outrageous but I left very hungry having paid over $20 for a glass of wine and two tiny skewers. I know that wont break the bank but in Tokyo you can easily have your fill for half of that without the hassle. Had to buy a steamed bun at the 7/11 on way home! Anyway, the view was nice but of course we couldn’t get a window seat without a reservation. We had another view today from 45th floor of Government Offices towers. Very expansive. Our feet are pretty sore and tired but we will need to do a lot tomorrow as the next day is our departure day, although it is a night flight. imageimageimage