HOW TO TRAVEL ALONE – NICE, FRANCE

Hello to anyone reading! I wanted to write today about something that can often seem very daunting – travelling alone. The idea of travelling alone has always attracted me and it was often something that I talked about doing, however the fears surrounding it really put me off for a while. Obviously as a lone female traveller there seems to be many more warnings and things to avoid, and of course these warnings should be taken into consideration, but I realised that this shouldn’t get in the way of going on a great travel adventure! So about a month ago it seemed the right time to take the plunge and book a trip alone – I travelled to the South of France, so not too far from home but still a big step that I’m glad I took!

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WHERE SHOULD I STAY?


Staying in a hostel is my number one tip for travelling alone. I stayed at the wonderful La Maioun Guesthouse, in a mixed gender dorm on this trip, which I was so nervous about at first! However this place was lovely, I felt welcomed and at home and it gave me the opportunity to meet so many new people, many of whom were also travelling alone. I met people from South Korea, Australia, the Netherlands, France and the USA, and made a new close friend called Rebekah, who took some of the photos in this post! Its incredible to meet people from across the globe, and explore a new place alongside them, which is something that is harder to find when staying alone in a hotel. To find the best hostel for me I used reviews from booking.com, Kayak and TripAdvisor and eventually booked with booking.com. I’d avoid booking on ‘hostelworld’ as this can often be overpriced.

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THINGS TO DO


Finding things to do alone when travelling is super easy, and can often be more enjoyable as you can do exactly what you want when you want! I stayed in Nice on my trip to the South of France but also visited Monaco and Cannes as they are a short train/bus ride away. My hostel provided a list of recommended restaurants and attractions which was very useful, but of course the internet is your best friend here and TripAdvisor is especially good for finding the best places to go as a lone traveler. Eating out is a great way to explore the local cuisine and I did this both on my own and with new friends from my accommodation. I would highly recommend visiting La Rossettisserie when in Nice – situated in the old town, this restaurant has a simple menu of roasted meats and a selection of sides (choose the mash potato its amazing!) and everything is local and super tasty. Another recommendation for the low budget traveller is Chez Pipo which serves local food and wine, with the ‘best Socca in Nice’, at very low prices. In Nice you can also explore the local markets in the morning which have great food as well as flowers, gifts and other local specialities.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE TOURS! 

In many European cities, companies offer free city tours in which you tip the tour guide an amount of your choice at the end. These can help you to learn a lot about a city in a few hours, especially if you have limited time on your trip. I only had one full day in Nice therefore this was super useful for me to learn lots of fun history about the city which I otherwise wouldn’t have found out! Make sure to sign up online before your tour so they are aware of the numbers attending.

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EXPLORE OUTSIDE OF THE CITY


Traveling in Europe gives the opportunity to see many different cities and countries in a short space of time, especially when there is good train links available. If you are travelling to Nice, or any of the main cities in the South of France, I would recommend using their train service to explore outside of where you are staying. I went to both Monaco and Cannes and both were in easy reach at a reasonable price. To get to Monaco from Nice, simply take the 500 train from the port at only €1.50! The bus journey provides amazing views as well, so sit on the right hand side when travelling to Monaco for the best sights. If you stay on the bus it will take you right up to the Monte Carlo Casino, which is open for tours during the morning and then for general access in the late afternoon. Monte Carlo and Monaco are both gorgeous and definitely worth visiting – just be aware that these two places seem to be a bit more expensive, so avoid eating out here to save money. Cannes is another beautiful city, famous for it’s world renowned film festival. I’d recommend visiting here on a sunny day as there is a great selection of public and private sand beaches here. There is also a beautiful old monastery from which you can get an incredible view over Cannes.

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STAYING SAFE


Travelling alone is something that everyone should experience at some point, however it’s always good to know the risks too! Make sure you are very aware of your surroundings when travelling to a new city alone, for example knowing exactly where your hostel is and large public spaces such as railway stations, shopping centres etc. Know your emergency numbers and have an ICE number saved on your phone for people to contact, as well as your medical ID saved on your phone (option on iPhones) if you are comfortable with this – this is really useful if you have health conditions or allergies and get yourself into an emergency situation. Know your areas, where is safe to be walking alone and where is not, and use your hostel/hotel staff for local information! It’s all pretty simple and common sense knowledge, however it is important to have that extra awareness when you are alone.

But overall, after doing it myself, travelling alone is an opportunity you should definitely take, even if it is a small trip close to home! You can meet new people, have some valuable thinking time to yourself and explore a new place on your own terms. Thank you to La Maioun Guesthouse for making my trip so wonderful, and to Rebekah and everyone else I met for making some special memories!

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Thank you to anyone who’s still reading! The support for this blog has been incredible, with my viewer number reaching nearly 1,300 which I never expected! I hope you all continue to enjoy my posts, and feel free to email me at elena@elenaswanderland.com, comment down below or follow my Instagram: elenaredmond. 

ELENA 

SUMMER IN THE CITY – GLASGOW

 

City breaks are a great affordable way to see new places in a short amount of time, especially if you work full time but still want to fit in some travel! I spent one night in Glasgow recently, and wanted to share with you how I had a great couple of days on a budget!

 


BOOKING FLIGHTS AND A HOTEL

 

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My first place to go for booking any trip is kayak.com, which allows me to compare sites and prices and find the best deal! You can also compare hotels on the site however I tend to head to booking.com for the best deals, especially as they have a rewards system in place if you create an account. You can use my code: D7375EE1 to get £15 back after your stay.

I chose to stay at The Argyll Hotel in Glasgow, which is near the Exhibition centre. It’s a great location as it’s not too central so you can escape the busy city at night. It’s also near the West End which is a buzzing student area with lots of coffee shops, pubs and restaurants. I was so impressed with my stay at The Argyll Hotel, in a beautiful traditional tartan bedroom. The room cost me around £30 for one night with breakfast included which is one of the best bargains I’ve found, and for this price the service, room and breakfast were all brilliant and I had no problems during my stay. The rooms are fairly small, but for a short stay I think they are perfectly equipped with a nice bathroom, television, information guides and a selection of teas, coffee and biscuits. I would definitely return for another stay here in Glasgow. For travel, the hotel is around a 10min walk to the Exhibition Centre station and then only two stops to Central Station.

 

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EXPLORING THE WEST END

 

My flight got in around 2pm, so I had plenty of time to get back to the hotel and head out and explore! There’s a quick shuttle service from Glasgow airport that takes you into the centre, costing £12 for an open return. As I mentioned, The Argyll Hotel is not too far from Glasgow’s West End, also home to Glasgow University and therefore super lively and fun. It was really sunny the day I went so I decided to visit the Botanical Gardens as these are free. I always like to find some good coffee when I’m in new places, so I stopped off at the ‘Papercup Coffee Company’, a really cool independent cafe serving great drinks and food. Then onto the beautiful Botanical Gardens! As you will see below the array of plants and flowers was so gorgeous, I couldn’t believe it was all free to see. My favourite part was the palm room which has bird and rainfall noises, making you feel like you are in the Amazon. On a sunny day like this it’s also great to relax in Kelingrove park or take a look around the lanes around Byres Road for the best independent stores and cafes.

 

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In the evening I headed to the Hillhead Bookclub Bar, which also does amazing food. This place has a really cool vibe,  it’s in an old cinema building, and it is retro and super fun. This would be the perfect place to hang out with friends, and I can imagine it gets a lot of buisness with the students of Glasgow. The food is reasonably priced, there is a bar and ping pong tables, and most importantly you can get strawberry mojitos for as little as £3!! As I was travelling alone, I found this a great place where I could relax, eat good food and read a book! (It would also be a destination for meeting new people if travelling alone!)

 

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Obviously there is so much more to discover in Glasgow, however I wanted to share what I managed to do in a short amount of time. I think that travelling locally, for example within the UK & Ireland, is something that is often passed up for trips further afield. However I have realised how much there is to see closer to home, and small, cheap trips like this can really open your eyes to a new world around you. By keeping an eye on flights and train prices, you can often find really good deals for a quick trip away – something that I’m going to do more of this summer.

 

 


 

 

Let me know if you enjoyed this post in the comments down below or by emailing elena@elenaswanderland.com. My next trip will be somewhere in Europe, and the first time I’ll be travelling alone outside of the UK & Ireland, so I’m super excited and nervous too. Keep up to date by hitting the subscribe button in the sidebar or down below.

THE RITZ-CARLTON, TOKYO

 

I had the pleasure of exploring The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo which is situated within the city’s tallest building. The reception is found on the 45th floor and from there the stunning hotel rooms offer views across Tokyo, with floor to ceiling windows. Within the hotel can be found seven restaurants, a spa and pool, Club Lounge, and event spaces. Before I share with you all my experience at the hotel, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Maaya Arakawa who offered me this wonderful experience and for her great expertise which helped me write this post!

 

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THE 45TH FLOOR


 

The 45th floor is the main hub of The Ritz-Carlton hotel. Upon arrival you will find yourself in the beautiful reception area with views across Tokyo. A lobby bar and lounge is in the centre with people meeting for business and pleasure, having afternoon tea or some of the cocktails from the bar menu. One of the best things I noticed in this hotel was the high standard of service provided by staff members who were so kind and willing to help with any of your needs.

On the 45th floor you can find a range of restaurants, including La Boutique which showcases contemporary chocolates and pastries, created by French Pastry Chef Jimmy Boulay, Azure 45 a Michelin star restaurant offering exquisite French dining and the Towers restaurant serving wholesome food in a very cool and contemporary setting. However my overall favourite was Hinokizaka which offers Japanese cuisine in four areas for Kaiseki, Teppanyaki, Sushi and Tempura. Pictured below this restaurant offers incredible Japanese food, with meals prepared freshly in front of you, and the rooms are beautifully decorated with traditional Japanese design. You can eat sushi with a view of Tokyo, or eat in the Teppanyaki room where you will choose from a fine meat selection offered by the chef. A private room is also available here with traditional floor seating and a wonderful view of the city. These restaurants are not only for guests but the public too, so are well worth visiting.

 

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The lobby bar is also a fantastic location for a chilled drink after a long day, or a business meeting. As you can see below the Lobby Lounge and Bar serves what must be one of the most expensive cocktails in the world – totally around £13,000! Sadly this was not what I ordered, but the bar here offers a varied range of drinks including a great cocktail selection which is always important – I actually tried a Sakura themed drink! We were lucky to be served by the fabulous Kiver Yong who was a pleasure to meet. He went above and beyond to ensure that all our needs were met, whilst also being super friendly to my family and I. In the bar you can also listen to some live music with a pianist situated above a water feature which is so relaxing to listen to.

 

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THE CLUB LOUNGE – 53RD FLOOR


 

Exclusive to Club Level guests, the 53rd floor offers an array of Club suites and rooms, some of which are considered to be the most luxurious in Asia. When booking, the Ritz-Carlton website provides information of the view you get in each room, which I think is a great feature, whether you would rather see Mount Fuji or the Tokyo Tower is totally up to you. Club guests also have access to extra privileges and the service here is described as the ‘pinnacle of hospitality that will make your stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo unforgettable’. One of these privileges is the Club Lounge, in which Club members have seperate check in to other guests, and access to four areas: reception, garden terrace, dining room and library lounge which overlook Mount Fuji and are each designed for a different atmosphere for morning, day and night. I have some pictures below of this area, but definitely click this link to see the incredible suites and rooms on offer.

 

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Just imagine waking up to this view out of your bedroom window! Absolutely incredible, and I was really impressed with what the bedrooms had to offer here at The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.

 


SPA AND FITNESS CENTER


 

As soon as you step out of the lift and into the spa you are instantly relaxed. The hotel uses their original Crystal Bamboo scent on this floor and it matches both the beautiful setting to which you enter, and also the calm and friendly staff members that are their to meet you. This day spa, fitness center and pool has the most incredible view of Downtown Tokyo, and also offers spa treatments using the renowned Sodashi and ESPA products. A relaxing day at the Spa can be finished with an evening swim with a view of the bustling city, which is hard to find anywhere else! Being the tallest building in Tokyo, a stay at The Ritz-Carlton is an unbelievable experience and the service you receive here would be hard to beat.

 


 

I am so happy that I got to see into this beautiful hotel, with an unbeatable view of Tokyo. Five star hotels are of course always expected to offer a great service, but the Ritz-Carlton really went above and beyond, and showed why it is easily one of the best hotels in the world. Staying here not only offers a great nights sleep, but it has so many special aspects that ensure you will have an unforgettable experience. I would also recommend visiting the Lounge bar or the incredible restaurants on the 45th floor, even if you’re not a guest at the hotel.  Check out the Ritz-Carlton website for more details, and thank you again to the wonderful Maaya Arakawa for allowing me to explore The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo.

 

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If you enjoyed my post then feel free to like and comment down below! You can contact me at elena@elenaswanderland.com and send me you’re own experiences in Tokyo or the Ritz Carlton. To keep up with my posts follow me on WordPress or email, both are detailed at the bottom of the post and in the sidebar.

 

Eléna x

HOW TO SEE WILD MONKEYS AND DEER IN JAPAN

 

During my recent trip I was able to get up close to some of the most amazing wild animals! In this post I’ll tell you how easy it is to meet the wildlife of Japan, just outside some of its biggest cities. The Snow Monkey park and Miyajima deer Island are my two highlights that I will show you pictures from below. Make sure to follow or subscribe to keep up with my posts and let me know what you think in the comments!


SNOW MONKEY PARK


 

My number one highlight of our Japan trip has to be seeing the Snow Monkeys of Nagano. These beautiful animals live in the Jigokudani Yaenkoen park (or Snow Monkey park) which I have read has been open since 1964 and welcomed thousands from around the world to observe the beautiful Japanese Macaque monkeys. The park is situated in a valley nicknamed ‘Hell’s Valley’ due to the hot springs there, however this seems to be a haven for the monkeys, especially in the extreme cold conditions they can experience! They seem to completely ignore their human visitors which makes it an even better experience as you really get to see them in their natural habitat, searching for food, washing each other, playing and sleeping! It’s beautiful to see these confident monkeys in their natural habitat, rather than in a zoo. They seem well cared for and unlike other species of monkey will not try to jump on you or steal any of your things – they really seem to keep to themselves and just enjoy their surroundings. Of course it is also important to respect that you are in their home so no feeding or touching is allowed.

I wanted to share with you some of the photos I was able to take here. Most were taken on my Nikon camera however some of these were taken on my phone, which just shows how close I got! You can see below the baby monkeys, families huddling together for warmth, bathing in the hot springs and searching for food! To visit the park its a bit of a trek from Tokyo but is so worth it. You can use the Shinkansen for just over an hour to Nagano, and from here purchase a Snow Monkey day pass which will cover all your train and bus travel to the park. There is also a 30 minute walk once you get there through the woods  – it’s definitely a day out that I would recommend booking when in Japan.

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MIYAJIMA DEER ISLAND


 

Now onto another fantastic destination to get up close to Japan’s wildlife. Miyajima island is overrun with tame deer! This beautiful and peaceful Island can be accessed from Hiroshima by a short ferry ride (this is included in JR Rail Passes if you have purchased these for a trip). Known mostly for its stunning temple and shrine, Miyajima island is a popular tourist destination for this reason, however the friendly creatures that live there have definitely attracted even more visitors over the years. Here the humans and deer live happily side by side, with the deer being incredibly tame and will even pose for pictures! I read online that the deer in Miyajima were considered sacred messengers from the gods, and until 1637, killing one was punishable by death! They are still protected today I presume in a similar way that swans are protected in England. You can easily pet or feed these deer however it is not recommended to do either, it is still important to respect that they are wild animals! But all the same they are so beautiful and it’s really surreal to spend a day with them. I would recommend staying at this island if you have the time, it’s peaceful, has stunning views and packed with things to do.

 

 

I have been so lucky to see all of these wild animals, being up close to them was very surreal and these have become the best memories of my trip. If you’re visiting Japan then seeing the wildlife is essential and so easy to access by train and boat at good prices! For example if you have a JR pass then visiting the deer is technically free. For animal lovers you will see how well looked after they are here and that’s the most important thing. 

 


I will be uploading lots of content over the next few weeks covering my travels in Japan, so make sure to follow me on WordPress or subscribe by email: both are easy to do at the bottom of the post, homepage or on my sidebar! You can now contact me by email – elena@elenaswanderland.com or leave a comment and like down below. Let me know if you’ve been to Japan and what your favourite parts were!


 

Eléna x

 

ST PATRICK’S DAY IN TOKYO

As the weekend comes to a close I wanted to share with you some of the pictures from an amazing St Patrick’s Day weekend, here in Tokyo! This is by far the best St Patrick’s Day parade I’ve been to – it even tops New York.

Firstly on Saturday Tokyo produced a super fun ‘I Love Ireland’ festival with pop up Irish bars, music and dancing. This was free to get in to and such a good day out, you could even get Guinness, Magners and special green cocktails here. Even better than this was today’s St Patrick’s Day Parade! This took place in Shibuya and attracted huge crowds in the Japanese capital. People from all over the world stood and watched the biggest St Patrick’s parade in the whole of Asia. It was so well put together and included pipe bands, ceilidh dancers, traditional Geisha women, and even three Santa’s dressed in green white and gold! It was the ultimate Irish celebration especially with the final group who solely celebrated Niall Horan which was hilarious for us to see. With so much variety in this parade I would definitely rate it above the New York parade which I was able to see in 2011. See below some of the photos I took today!


The opening line of the Parade included St Patrick himself and both Japan and Ireland’s Miss World Contenders. The parade was jam packed and did a loop around this Main Street in Tokyo so everyone had a good view.

Pictured below are some brilliant traditional dancers who had endless energy to perform throughout the parade!

Now we can see some of my favourite representations of Ireland including the U2 supporters, Irish dancers, Dubliners Irish pub and a man running around on a leprechaun.

There was lots of support for both Japanese and Irish culture in the parade including the beautiful Geisha girls.

And the best part of the parade: a team of samba dancers in green feather costumes lit up the parade with both the amazing dancing and drumming that came with it!

Being in Tokyo and seeing the parade end with a Niall Horan supporters group was hilarious. Clearly Niall seems to be one of the most important worldwide aspects of Irish culture and he was celebrated here with a banner, music and his face printed on paper masks!

What an incredible day we have had! Thank you so much to the I Love Ireland group for organising a great celebration of St Patrick’s Day and to all those who took part in the Parade! I hope I get to experience this amazing parade again in the future.

BEIJING AND KYOTO

BEIJING

Starting my tour of Japan with a day stop off in Beijing! So here’s what we managed to do in under 24hours:

First of all we flew with Air China. I was super impressed with the plane and the service on board. Flying economy class, my expectations were low however it was comfy and there was a decent amount of in flight entertainment on offer, although the screen does take a while to get used to. The flight was around 10hours and I had a very positive experience on board.

We landed in Beijing at around midday – be aware that this airport takes a long time to get out of, especially if you are looking to get a 72hr visa, so do prepare for that! I’d also advise against booking quick transits from here as it’s such an enormous airport that I think making another flight quickly would be a struggle.

From here you can get the train straight into the centre of Beijing! This is so cheap – I think it cost around £2.50 for 5 of us to travel, amazing prices especially compared to London. We stayed in a hotel close to airport – the Beijing Aulympic Airport Hotel – and this was great for early morning transfers, especially as there is a complimentary bus service to and from the airport. This was included when we booked with Air China, and I think this is a great option if you’re looking to save money, be close to the airport but also have a night in good quality hotel. I was very impressed by the service here – there’s plenty of freebies in the room, WiFi, tea, TV and comfy beds. Considering it’s close to the airport I didn’t feel disrupted by this at all during the night!

 

With limited time we decided to pick one place to visit and that was the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Security is strong here so be prepared to queue to get into the square and make sure you have ID on you! Sadly for us we could only see the outside as there was a conference about to commence, however it’s well worth seeing and if you have limited time I suggest this is the best place to pick. Finding food is super easy, we went to the Raffle City shopping mall where there was so many cheap food options. Ramen is probably the best option if you’re looking for a good meal at a low price! It’s so easy to get out an about in Beijing, and with our particular hotel you could get the train back to the airport and take advantage of the free shuttle bus! If you’re on a stop off, a hotel near the airport is a must, especially with the large amounts of traffic on the roads and queuing in the airport.

 

KYOTO

Next stop was Japan! We flew from Beijing to Tokyo, again using Air China. This flight was just under 3 hours but there was still a meal and in flight entertainment included so that was great! We took advantage of the tasty food at Tokyo Haneda airport before heading to Kyoto. You’ll find that prices in Tokyo are higher than in Beijing, however it’s still easy to find a reasonably priced meal which is great quality.

 

 

Then onto Kyoto! On this trip we are using Japan Rail passes (JR PASS) which you can purchase in advance and use on mainline rail – not including the subway. We took the Shinkansen from central Tokyo all the way to Kyoto, a journey of around 3 hours. The Shinkansen is so easy to travel on with loads of room for luggage, and recliner seats to relax after a long day of travel. Staying a few stops out of central Kyoto is a great idea to save money and have a peaceful evening. We were lucky to stay near the Fushimi Inari Shrine which is Kyoto’s most well known destination. This is incredible – there’s something really special and peaceful about being here. You can walk through the 10000 gates, explore the shrine, buy blessings and wishes and taste some amazing street food.

 

 

Our next stop in Kyoto was the Railway Museum. This is also a popular destination and is very busy! It was actually so fun and interesting, a great place to take children if you want them to be entertained all day! Here you can see the history of Japan’s famous trains, with many full size ones to look around. You can have a ride on a steam train as well for around £3 per person. It’s hard to see everything here as it’s so enormous, but the main centre of the museum is enough of you’re looking for a fun day out.

 

 

And our final stop. As we only had one full day here we just picked one more place to visit and that was the Imperial Palace. You can buy tickets to look around the outside of the palace and it’s gardens on your own or with a guided tour. It is so beautiful here and if you like history and beautiful architecture then go and visit! You can get here by subway from Kyoto station and then there’s a short walk under 5mins. Definitely check entry times and prices before going!

 

 

During our time in Kyoto we found the best places to eat at the Porto dining area which you can access from Kyoto station!

 

An amazing start to this trip of a lifetime !! Next stop: Nagasaki. Keep checking for more posts in the next two weeks and sign up via email or WordPress by clicking my sidebar! Let me know what you think by commenting or liking down below x

(Also apologies to any email followers, I accidentally clicked publish a few times on this one!!)

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DEEP SOUTH: 5 States in 14 Days

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It’s been a few years now since I’ve visited the USA, however it is here that I had one of my most memorable travels – a road trip of the Deep South. We were able to cover Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas and Tennessee in under two weeks (one of these states were slightly cheated as you’ll find out later in the post!) Road trips are an amazing way to cover a number of places in a short amount of time – because lets face it, travelling to the US from the UK is pricey, so you might as well use your time wisely! Obviously first you need a good driver who’s willing to cover long distances and is pretty good with direction. We also did a road trip in California, one state over two weeks, and so it really depends on where you’re going and how much you can cover in the time you have.

In this post I mainly focus on Tennessee, as that is where we spent most of our trip. All hotels, museums and other recommendations are linked so just look out for the blue words!

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TENNESSEE

We flew into Atlanta, Georgia, and drove straight to Chattanooga in Tennessee (just over a two-hour drive). Here we stayed at a brilliant hotel, Chattanooga Choo Choo, with rooms inside the famous Terminal Station and actual train carriages! From this area we did a six-hour round trip on the Tennessee Valley Railroad, with a two-hour stop off in Chickamauga, known for the ‘Battle of Chickamauga’ in the American Civil War. Both the hotel and the train ride are top recommendations from me, especially as you love quirky places to stay and great history! We also had a fantastic tour guide on the train which made all the difference and his knowledge seemed never-ending. There is also a great incline railway offering amazing views. A top food recommendation is Urban Stack in Chattanooga – I am yet to taste a burger better than the one I had here so definitely worth a visit.

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MEMPHIS

1.GRACELAND

Whilst focusing on Tennessee, we visited my favourite city of the trip – Memphis. There is SO much to see in Memphis that I think you could do it as one trip. First of all Graceland – probably the most famous of our visits. As the former home of Elvis Presley, this is such an exciting and beautiful day out. Not only is it decked out exactly how Elvis had it, but it is also packed full of original records, costumes and a beautiful burial garden. Whether you’re an Elvis fan or not, this is one of my top recommendations of the trip.

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2. CENTRAL MEMPHIS

Beale Street is of course another top destination in Downtown Memphis. Most well-known for its history, especially in Blues music, this is the main hub of the city where you can go to Blues clubs and restaurants for the best live music. Our personal favourite was BB King’s Blues Club: this is popular with tourists and in high demand, so make sure you book in advance! Another quirky destination is the Peabody Hotel – a ‘legendary 12-story hotel famed for its resident flock of ducks’. Yes that’s right, ducks. Every morning these ducks walk out of the lift and through the lobby to their fountain for the day, and when evening comes they perform again, this time heading up to their home on the top floor. This is both hilarious and unbelievably cute. You don’t need to book at the hotel, just head in and get a drink in their lobby bar. You can also go up to the roof and get an amazing view over Memphis. However, be aware that this can be super busy so just get there early for a good view of the famous ducks! And if it’s within your budget, I would definitely recommend staying here as it’s classic, beautiful and right in the centre of town.

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The Mississippi River runs through Memphis so be sure to get on one of the boat rides here. As I said earlier, we did kind of cheat one of the states on our trip, as we reached ARKANSAS by boat along the river! This was a great day out, with the best views from the rooftop seats of the boat.

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3. SUN STUDIOS AND STAX MUSEUM

Now onto some top recommendations for music fans: Sun Studios and Stax Studios. Both are in Memphis and can be done in one day. I’d definitely recommend doing both if you’re a fan of music, as you get to see where different artists and styles of music were recorded in history. Sun Studios is known for being the ‘birthplace of Rock N’ Roll and home to the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. Stax Museum is located in the former Stax Studios, home to American Soul music, with previous recording artists including Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding. There’s also footage of non-Stax artists including Aretha Franklin an Marvin Gaye. The staff here were also so helpful and friendly.

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4.NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

Now onto my number one recommendation of the whole trip – the National Civil Rights Museum. I can easily say that this was the most incredible museum I’ve ever been to. It’s located within the Lorraine Motel, the place of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. I don’t have many words to describe this place other than breathtaking, earth shattering and emotional. I don’t think you can fully understand the impact of this museum until you have been there and there is something about it that has never left my heart. If you are ever in Memphis, or anywhere near, please go here! You will learn so much and be so greatly impacted to continue the movement that these people began.

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NASHVILLE

1. GRAND OLE OPRY

After watching Nashville on TV and also being a country music fan this was a dream come true! The Grand Ole Opry is just such an amazing venue. On the tour you get to go backstage and see who stayed in the gorgeous dressing rooms, including Dolly Parton. Then of course you get to go on the famous stage and pretend you’re a country star yourself, something I enjoyed far too much. Again, this is a great place for those who love music and those who don’t!

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2. DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE 

Like Memphis, Downtown Nashville is the hub of the city with great live music, shops and bars – most of these can be found on Music Row, well-known for its great entertainment. You can also see the famous AT&T building from the city centre! Personal favourites were Betty Boots and Ernest Tubb Record shop.

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ALABAMA

We stayed in Montgomery, Alabama. This is one of the most famous cities for the Civil Rights Movement, with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Martin Luther King Jr. preaching at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. For us this was a really important place to visit for these reasons, and the wealth of history and culture here is unbelievable. Our two top destinations here were the Civil Rights Memorial and the Rosa Parks Museum. At this museum you can see the exact location where Rosa Parks was arrested after refusing to give up her seat on the bus, and the museum itself is informative, moving and breathtaking – a must see!

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We also stopped in Birmingham, Alabama to see the memorial to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing – this is definitely worth stopping by if you decide to road trip.

MISSISSIPPI

Mississippi was stopped by shortly on our road trip to see Elvis’ childhood home in Tupelo. This is worth stopping by even if it’s just to get a great picture by the memorial, as my parents show below!

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GEORGIA

ATLANTA

And finally lovely Georgia! Sadly we only had time to see Atlanta in Georgia as we returned to fly home. This is a great city that I would have loved to spend more time in, however we did go to one big attraction and that was the World of Coca-Cola. This is absolutely brilliant and I loved every part of it. On a guided museum tour you get to see the history of Coca-Cola in a fun interactive setting – this even includes tasting some of the crazy drinks flavours Coca-Cola produce for the world, some of which are not very appetising! This is a fun, easy and family friendly day out which was a highlight on our trip. It’s approximately two hours long so easy to fill a day before flying too. Such a fun museum and actually really interesting too.

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So that’s our trip! Our days were also filled with general city exploring and driving but these are the overall highlights! It’s such an incredible trip to do. I would recommend if taking children to wait till they’re in their teens so that they can fully appreciate the history and culture. But overall, if you’re fans of music and history this is most definitely the trip for you!! Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments, or by filling in a contact form below.

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