Thursday, April 30, 2015

April

Time just keeps flying and it's time I wrap up another month! So here's April:

Travel
I traveled to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee this month with  my sister. She hadn't been on a vacation in a good long while ( a couple years - I would never make it!) so I told her to pick anywhere she wanted to go and I would go with her. She didn't want to go too far and she's a mountain girl so she picked Pigeon Forge. We went to Dollywood, rode the Smokey Mountain Wheel ferris wheel, ate at Margaritaville, went to the outlet malls and to the ginormous Christmas store there (her favorite) It happened to be Rod Run weekend. Ever heard of it? It's when people drive their old cars and hot rods to Pigeon Forge and line the entire strip with them. Then everyone either walks or drives up and down the strip to look at the cars. Never again! It took us 2 hours to drive 5 miles back to the hotel from dinner! But ladies, if you like guys who like cars I think it was about 5 to 1 men to women that weekend.

Eats
I can't think of anything that I ate that really made a huge impression on me. I guess I'll go with the nachos at Dollywood. They were handmaking the nachos right at the stand and all the ingredients tasted really fresh. Pretty good. Oh, and I tasted moonshine. Ole Smokey Mountain Moonshine has a tasting room in the thick of the new touristy area called The Island - and it's free tasting. They give you about a thimble full of any flavor you want. My favorite was cinnamon but the peach and pineapple were also very good.




Read
I missed my goal of 4 books this month but I did manage to read 3. A friend loaned me "Before I Met You" by Lisa Jewell which I enjoyed. It was a flashback kinda story that takes place in London and the English island of Guernsey. I also read "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty which was quite though provoking. It deals with the issue of domestic violence. I'm not sure I enjoyed it per se but it really made you think. And last but not least is "The Vacationers" by Emma Straub which I did enjoy. It takes place on the island of Mallorca in Spain about a family vacationing and it's told from all their viewpoints.


So now we're on to May already! Big vacation coming up for me and Mr. UR visiting our oldest and attending a wedding. More details to come.....

Dollywood

I had been to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg Tennessee  area before but I had never been to Dollywood. Yep, that Dollywood. The theme park  named after country music legend Dolly Parton who grew up in The Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. (Can you believe it's been around for 30 years?)



Dolly opens the park every year in March. And they hold a parade through Pigeon Forge with her as the Grand Marshall (the Dolly Parade!) every year also. She is incredibly well-loved in this area and her rags to riches story - she was one of 11 children born here and grew up in a 2 bedroom cabin - is legendary.



My sister and I  went to Dollywood on a Friday morning during The Festival of Nations, the largest international festival held in the Southeast. When we were planning the trip, we weren't even sure we would be going to Dollywood. But then we thought, "We're here. Why not?"



Dolllywood isn't an incredibly large theme park. Like other theme parks, it's divided into areas or "lands". It was incredibly clean, probably the cleanest theme park I've been to. Another unique feature to Dollywood is the age of it's employees. Almost all the employees that I encountered were of retirement age. Some even using canes. And friendly, friendly, friendly. Everyone from the lady handing out caramel corn samples to the train engineer went out of their  way to greet you and help if needed.

As I mentioned, we were there for The Festival of Nations which features shows with performers from all around the world. (Other months feature Southern Gospel music, Barbecue and Bluegrass, Great American Summer and Smoky Mountain Christmas) We were able to see Mariachi Divas from Mexico,a Grammy winning all-female Mariachi band, and the National Dance Troupe of Ireland performing a River Dance style show. Both were excellent!





We also rode the train, ate some fantastic food (we had the nachos with homemade chips representing Mexico), rode some really cute cars modeled after those from the 1950's including fuzzy dice  and enjoyed a short movie presentation with Dolly highlighting the Smoky Mountains. One of the unique things to Dollywood is the museum representing Dolly's life and career - which was surprisingly interesting and impressive. It highlights her climb to the top and showcases her many awards. Then you can take a tour of her tour bus.




I realize that Dollywood isn't for everyone. It plays up the Smoky Mountain location and backwoods style alot. But then that's what's unique about it. It's a theme park about a particular person and a particular location.. I don't feel the need to go back but I did enjoy my day there - quite frankly we ran out of time to do everything we wanted. So for those of you thinking about visiting Dollywood, know that if you arrive after 3pm and pay for admission, the next day is free. And if you go, go hungry - there's plenty to eat!

For more information on visiting Dollywood, go to www.dollywood.com

Per usual, I am linking up for Travel Photo Thursday with Budget Travelers Sandbox,  Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels.Click on the link and go check them out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis is a city that knows how to do it up right. Since they have some brutally cold winters, they have installed heated and enclosed walkways throughout the downtown area so you never have to go outside. They have been voted the #1 Urban Park System in the United States by the Trust for Public Land. And they have a thriving arts scene including The Walker Art Center, a center for contemporary art.



And next to The Walker Art Center is the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a free sculpture garden open from 6am to 12am most days of the week. It's an 11 acre sight with more than 40 works of art plus a memorial arbor and flower garden.



It took Mr UR and I about an hour on a cool summer morning to tour the garden and grounds. The first exhibit we came to, and one of my favorites, was an interactive exhibit officially titled "Two-Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth"  Which is the technical  way of saying "goofy face weird mirror exhibit".





The next exhibit we came to, and another one of my favorites, is The Spoonbridge and Cherry. This is the bread and butter exhibit for the garden - the most famous and iconic sculpture of the garden. It is a cherry resting on a spoon in what the museum calls "humorously gigantic proportions", which I took way too many pictures of. But hey, it's The Spoonbridge and Cherry!



We wandered around seeing all there was to see including:











The sculpture garden is the perfect place to take kids. It's outside, they can run or walk around and they don't have to be quiet. In fact, a group of preschoolers was touring the garden and a little girl walked up and hugged the snow woman, so I decided I needed to also.



And if you have the time, you can play a round of miniature golf at the artist-designed golf course. It looked really cool - maybe the most unique mini golf course I have ever seen. Once again, something saved to do next time.


For all the information you need to visit The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, go here


I'm linking up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox , Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute and Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels  so go check them out!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Broadmoor

When you read this I will hopefully be doing one of my favorite things - traveling! Just heading out for a quick weekend pop away - so I am highlighting a quick pop over (seriously, just about an hour visit) to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hopefully I'll get back there someday for a longer, more relaxing visit!



Opened in 1918, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs  is the grand old dame of the Rockies.. Replacing a casino which had burnt down, the resort was built by Spencer Penrose who wanted to build the "finest resort in the world." Mr. Penrose hoped to build a resort in the style of all the grand old European resorts, and it was built in the Mediterranean  style. The first celebrity guest was John D. Rockefeller. She still stands in all her glory today welcoming guests from all over the world.





We had just spent the better part of a day enjoying Pikes Peak and my family indulged my whim to pop over to The Broadmoor for a visit. We were between lunch and dinner so we didn't eat there but we did enjoy a walk around Cheyenne Lake and the grounds.








A meal or drink on the patio would be nice, wouldn't it?









You can stay in rooms, suites, cottages or Brownstones. And dine at one of 5 different restaurants along with a cafe and bar. There is a spa and 2 different pools, one of which is open year-round. Plus you can play golf at 3 different golf courses, designed by Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones. Have I sold you yet?



A beautiful place. 

What about you? Have you been to The Broadmoor? Have you stayed there? If you are interested in visiting, more info is available at their website www.broadmoor.com






We left the Broadmoor to head back to Denver and saw these two sights as we exited the grounds. You never know what you'll see in suburban Colorado Springs!


Per usual I am linking up with www.budgettravelerssandbox.com for Travel Photo Thursday, www.abritandasoutherner.com for Weekend Wanderlust and www.walkingontravels.com for Friday Postcards. Go check them out for some great travel ideas!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Field of Dreams

One of the states that I had left to visit on my quest to visit all 50 states was Iowa. Many people asked me "What are you gonna do in Iowa?"  But I knew exactly what I wanted to do in Iowa - The Field of Dreams. The Field of Dreams was the exterior movie set for the film of the same name starring Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta and Amy Madigan. The movie, released in 1989, is about an Iowa farmer who starts hearing voices telling him to build a baseball diamond on his land and what happens after he does. It was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture of the year and coined the catch phrase "If you build it, they will come."




So on a very pleasant July afternoon, Mr UR and I drove a few miles outside of Dyersville, Iowa, to The Field of Dreams. 

Legend has it that the movie producers looked all around these parts for the perfect farm. When they saw this farm, they knew they had found the one. Of course, they worked their movie magic and made repairs and improvements to the farmhouse. Oh, and they had to build a baseball diamond with corn around it. Unfortunately, there was a drought the summer of production and water had to be pumped in to make sure the corn, which was vital to the movie, would grow and look perfect. But it all worked out and the movie was a hit. And it brought people from around the world to this little corner of Iowa.






Visiting the farm is free. Of course, you can purchase souvenirs and make donations. But the owner has made it accessible for anyone to come visit. 

The day that we visited there was an afternoon performance by The Ghost Players - a comedy troupe that dresses up like the baseball players in the movie. (The show is free also) We missed the performance and arrived to a large crowd of kids and adults playing baseball on the diamond, walking in the corn and standing in line for autographs from The Ghost Players. 












I loved our visit to The Field of Dreams. It probably helped that there were so many people enjoying their day there. The atmosphere was fun and we had beautiful weather.







Of course, you can't visit The Field of Dreams without getting a photo walking off into the field.



"Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa."


For more information on visiting The Field of Dreams, you can visit their website here.


This post is part of a link-up with Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels,Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute  and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner. Please hop over to see some great travel ideas!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tokyo Musings

Last month I went on my first trip to Asia. Japan, to be specific. I've fielded the typical questions about my trip. How did you like it? How was the food? How was the long flight? What was it like? And to be honest, I don't know quite how to answer them. I've been mulling it over for a month now and I finally have some answers to the questions.. So I'm going to empty my brain here with some musings about Japan.



1. First up, how was the long flight? Without going into lots of drama and complaining, my flight to Narita was through a connection in Atlanta. (a 14 hour flight)  My first flight landed a tad bit late so I ran for my flight to Tokyo as it was already boarding. Then we proceeded to sit at the gate for 4 hours. It seems a "check engine" light was on and the necessary repairs took longer than anticipated. We deplaned then as they now needed a new flight crew. So we got back on 2 hours later and left an hour after that with it being a total of a 7 hour delay. Not a good start. There's more but I won't go into that (I did say I wasn't going to do alot of complaining)
Other than that, the flights were long but I was able to sleep some and there was lots of entertainment to keep me busy otherwise.



2. What did you think of Japan? Welllll.........I'm of two minds about my experience. I expected this trip to be mind blowing with everything being so different. And it was. From the food to the language to the architecture to the landscape to the customs. It's all so different. Yet it's also incredibly the same. Parents teaching their children, people going to and coming from work, stopping at the Family Mart to grab a quick lunch, Happy Hour with friends on Friday night are all so much like the US. In fact, Tokyo seemed like  New York in a different language. Well-dressed workers, all in black, using their transportation pass to commute to work on the train. Eating out. Families taking a day trip out of the city to the ocean and eating octopus crackers. Wait. Octopus crackers. Well, that is different. Which brings me to...




3. What was the food like?  I stated at the start of the trip that I wouldn't eat anything that was still moving. So I didn't go there but I did like almost everything that I had. I ate a mix of western and asian foods. I probably wouldn't have be as adventuresome if my daughters weren't trying new foods - trying new foods isn't my strong suit. But I did try sushi, yakitori, soba noodles and some delicious potato salad. I'll cover it in more detail later.




4. Did you like it? Yes, I did. I went on the trip with my two daughters so I will have to say I would like going just about anywhere with them. And I will have to say that I can only spend so many days in big cities until I start feeling overwhelmed - too much noise, lights, and general busyness for me. We did go on two day trips which gave me some peace and quiet. And we went to shrines and parks in the city to balance the noise and some quiet.. It is the largest city in the world so it's to be expected though.




5. Would you like to go back? I definitely would. We only touched on the teeniest, tiniest tip of the iceberg. There is so much more to see. I didn't see Mt Fuji, or Kyoto, or Osaka, or Okinawa. There's only so much you can see in a week. So put it on the return trip list. Maybe I will even learn a little Japanese before then!



I'm linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute,  Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Friday Postcards at Walking On Travels and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner. Please check them out for some weekend travel inspiration!