Farewell Tour – Part 3

As I sit under the eucalyptus trees, listening to the magpies in 28 degrees celsius, I will fully admit that I am running behind on the Farewell Tour blogs. We are back in Australia, it’s 2018 and the rest of the Farewell Tour updates will be more of photo gallery style with a few comments thrown in instead of the usually more rounded post that contains some information and detail about what we’ve been doing.

City we’re visiting Nashville & Memphis State Tennessee
State Facts
Capital: Nashville Nickname: Volunteer State
Motto: Agriculture and Commerce Bird: Mockingbird
Tree: Tulip Poplar Flower: Iris
Main rivers:  Mississippi, Tennessee 16th State Settled: 1 June, 1796
Our first stop in Nashville! Made famous by American Pickers’ Mike & Frank, they had some cool stuff at hefty prices.
Nashville, known as the capital of country music, necessitated a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. So if you don’t mind a bit of Shania Twain…
… Hank Williams…
… Webb Pierce and his classy…
… 1962 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, complete with saddle, over 150 attached silver dollars and…
… mounted weaponry and longhorn horn…


… beautiful guitars…
… the Man in Black…
…Johnny Cash
… a giant guitar that you can put your head in, and…
finally, Kenny Rogers…
THIS is the place for you!
I tried on so many pairs of boots. So many that I ended up a sweaty mess with no boots. Trying on boots is hard work!


Next stop, the home of Graceland (Elvis Presley’s former home) and surprisingly (to us!), one of our favourite cities on this trip.

We visited Graceland on the afternoon of our arrival in Memphis and it really was amazing. The home itself is actually quite modest by todays ‘mansion’ standards.
It has been preserved beautifully.
It kind of felt familiar!
And then not so much.
That wallpaper.
Money can’t buy taste.
Lots of artifacts on display.
The wedding attire from his marriage to Priscilla.
Also the final resting place of Elvis, his beloved parents and grandmother and there is a memorial to his stillborn twin brother.
Graceland. Purchased when he was just 22 years old he lived here for 20 years. It remained part of his estate until he died in 1977 and was bequeathed to his daughter, Lisa-Marie on her 25th birthday.
Graceland, the museum (you take a shuttle to the house from here) complete, with 6 merchandise/gift stores, 3 restaurants and room after room of Elvis’ belongings is where it gets a little crazy!
A 1975 Super Trike was custom made for Elvis.
Apparently he had eight of these for his family, friends and himself to get about the farm. The blue one is Lisa-Marie’s.
A 1969 Mercedes 280 SL Roadster gift for Priscilla. That’d do me.
Elvis’ mother was a huge influence in his life and she predeceased him by 19 years.
White suit anyone?
I’m all shook up. The thing that most struck me about all of the things on display was that it was the first time that I have ever seen evidence of one person’s wealth all in one place. It was staggering. Numerous cars, including 2 Rolls Royces and the same again of other vehicles including motorcycles, 2 airplanes, so many costumes, many of which were covered in bling… he wanted it, he bought it. Master P and I are currently including A Little Less Conversation, Kentucky Rain and Suspicious Minds on our playlists. Long live The King.

Sampling some Memphis BBQ was high on our list and we hit the jackpot at Central BBQ, as recommended by our Airbnb host, Larry. Larry was awarded the Eagle Scout award in 1979, served 3 tours of Afghanistan and whipped Master P into line without batting an eyelid. We were frankly scared not to take his advice. (just joking, he is a legend)

Can I have some aioli please?
And a little bit of geography and history thrown in.

After chatting to the kids about Afghanistan, giving them some legit Taliban money, a few cardboard coins that are issued to serviceman over there as legal currency (so that it doesn’t rattle in their pockets) and a few rather sordid and graphic tales, Larry recommended a stop at the Bass Pro Shop. We had never heard of it but given it is housed in a huge, glass pyramid in downtown Memphis, it’s hard to miss.

Bass Pro Shops is a chain of outdoor retailers covering everything boating, fishing, hunting and camping and this particular store has it’s own hotel (Big Cypress Lodge), a glass observation deck, an archery and pistol shooting range, a Ducks Unlimited  heritage centre, a restaurant and several Aquariums and open pools with fish and alligators!
Welcome meat eaters!
After seeing some of the vehicles that Elvis had, Master P was shopping for his own.
This is a display of vintage duck callers. Yup. I satisfied my craving for a buffalo checked puffer vest and that was an interesting way to spend an hour or so.


A tour of Sun Studios, where the likes of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis were discovered (known as the million dollar quartet) and recorded some of their earlier music and more recently U2, John Mellencamp, Def Leppard and Bonnie Rait.

The original digs are pretty small but the equipment is all original.
Lots of interesting things to look at.
And an excellent tour guide who had lots of great little stories.
Sam Phillips was the man!
Master P feeling the vibe  from the drum kit set up in the studio.
Memphis street art.
Walking in Memphis.
Enjoyed a great lunch, blues band and one too many Long Island Iced Teas here!
Master P, official tour photographer.
Had to duck across the river to add another state to our list!
I think we spent 10 minutes in Arkansas

During our Memphis travels we came across a flyer for a local antique market that happened to be on our way out of the city when we left. Obviously our luggage didn’t allow any large purchases but Miss E and Master P scored some little trinkets and we found some interesting pieces.

My Mum had one of these and there is a photo of each of my sisters and I with it blown up on our heads!
So cute.

And off we went, on our way to New Orleans.

City we’re visiting New Orleans State Louisisana
State Facts
Capital: Baton Rouge Nickname: Pelican State
Motto: Union, Justice & Confidence Bird: Brown Pelican
Tree: Bald Cypress Flower: Magnolia
Main rivers: Mississippi, Red 18th State Settled: 30 April, 1912


Prior to entering New Orleans we stopped at the Joyce WMA Swampwalk that takes you into a swamp on a raised boardwalk. The boardwalk was destroyed in 2012 during Hurricane Isaac but has been rebuilt and opened again in 2012.

It was heading towards dusk and it looked a little ominous.
Always with the no horseplay! Geez.
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We were a little jumpy… waiting for a gator to suddenly rise out of the water but it really was beautiful and quiet.
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A few restful turtles off in the distance were the only wildlife that we saw.
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All of this in a foot of water. If you didn’t know it you would be forgiven for thinking you could just walk on it.
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These yellow flowers added some colour and as always, lots of Spanish Moss hanging from the trees.

We stayed at an Airbnb in Algiers Point, across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter of New Orleans. Just a $2 ferry ride across to the city.

The ferry ride over to the city was a lovely way to start and end the day. We even found a geocache along the way.
Birdlife, ships and lots of other interesting sights are always happening along the great Mississippi River.
An abundance of cute, tiled signage dotted the French Quarter with historical information.
Always time for a quick photo with a statue.
With Bourbon Street under construction, Royal was the place to be.
Many weird and wonderful retailers, old and new, to explore.
Stopping for a pile of beignets was a must.
Too cute.
Special K was dying to sample some of the local music.
You really can always hear music whether coming from a club or out on the street.
Plenty of historical relics around.
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The New Orleans that I always imagined looks almost exactly like this!
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Jackson Square with The Cathedral-Basilica of St Louis on the border.
Tram line
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Street musicians playing a rousing Bourbon Street Parade (here’s a version by Louis Armstrong and another by our favourite New Orleans native, Harry Connick JrDo yourself a favour…


Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World was definitely a must do on our list, especially as we were visiting this city outside of the Mardi Gras season. And I say season deliberately because, as we discovered, Mardi Gras actually takes place over about 6 weeks rather than just 1 day as most people probably believe. The opportunity to come to a warehouse containing both old props and floats, and new designs being prepared for the next Mardi Gras simply can’t be missed.

Mardi Gras, like Christmas, is a whole season – not just one day.  That being said, Fat Tuesday is the biggest day of celebration, and the date it falls on moves around. You’ll find that Fat Tuesday can be any Tuesday between Feb. 3 and March 9. Carnival celebration starts on Jan. 6, the Twelfth Night (feast of Epiphany), and picks up speed through midnight on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is always 46 days before Easter, and Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday. Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25, with the exact date to coincide with the first Sunday after the full moon following a spring equinox. There you have it. Voila! If you’re still confused, get out a calendar that has the holidays printed on it. Fat Tuesday is always the day before Ash Wednesday!

Excerpt taken from http://www.mardigrasneworleans.com

This pic taken before we’d even entered the warehouse
Her Royal Miss E’ness.
A new cutting machine is able to create some of the designs out of polystyrofoam, changes it’s own blades and can run over night.
Probably used on many Chick-fil-A cows
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Boo! It’s usually the kids depositing their heads in cut out circles around the country but we couldn’t resist.
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This beauty in the process of her transformation.
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Another transformation of a previously used prop being transformed to fit into a new theme.
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This Orpheus group float, funded by my very own future 2nd husband Harry Connick Jr, is awaiting repairs and an update for the next Mardi Gras.
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A look back at part of the warehouse.
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At the end of the tour, Special K and Miss E couldn’t resist the opportunity to play dress ups in some previous Mardi Gras attire.
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Isn’t she a beauty

Learning some about the history of Louisiana would not be complete without covering the era of plantations and slavery. There are a number of beautiful plantation mansions around and after a spot of delicious lunch at The Cabin in Burnside, we took a drive to look at some of these beautiful homes from a bygone era.

Southern style food
and drinks
with, according to my children, a bathroom that deserved to be photographed
and lots of old farming tools.
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Bocage Plantation, closed to the public. Built in 1801 by Marius Pons Bringier as a wedding gift for his daughter Fanny when she married Christophe Colomb. As you do.
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The Houmas Plantation house. Open to the public. Named for the original landowners, the Houmas Indians, they sold the land in the mid 1700’s and by 1803 was a thriving sugar plantation.
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Oak Alley Plantation. Special K quickly jumped out of the car and snapped these shots.
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The oak trees either side of the pathway lend it such a grand quality.

We visited the Creole Laura Plantation where we were able to have a tour inside the main home and historic slave quarters with an extra bonus. The story told by our lovely tour guide Kristen was taken from the personal journals of Laura Locoul Gore, the fourth mistress of the plantation. Her memoirs provide an unusually honest record of life on a plantation, including how the slaves were treated, the Creole traditions that dictated the handing down of property (including slaves) and what happens when the ins and outs of the family dynamic can influence these things.

Creole is the non-Anglo-Saxon culture and lifestyle that flourished in Louisiana before it became a part of the United States in 1803 and continued to dominate South Louisiana until the early decades of the 20th century. Native birth, the French language and Roman Catholicism were the benchmarks for identity in this Latin-based society that included people of white, black and mixed-race ancestry.

Culturally, influences from three groups, namely, west Europeans, west Africans, along with significant input from Native Americans combined to become Louisiana Creole culture.

The Creole functioned in an elitist structure, based on family ties. In its philosophy, economics and politics, European custom and modern thought were thrown out and, in their place, a strict, self-serving pragmatism was born out of the isolation and desperation that characterized Louisiana in her formative years. The earliest, tragic lessons of survival in Louisiana created a family-oriented world that would, for centuries, put little value in public education or public works and even in the rule of law.

Creole Louisiana was a place where class, not race, determined social status, where rural life conformed to rigid disciplines, where human bondage created wealth, where adherence to the family business and tradition was paramount, where women ran businesses and owned property, where democratic ideals and individualism were held in contempt and where, until the 20th century, people spoke French and lived this way, separate from the dominant White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant American culture.

Exerpt taken from http://www.lauraplantation.com

The tour took us through the cellar under the main floor where wine and huge urns of olive oil were kept, into various parts of the house which were resplendent with antiques from the time period, even some that are original to the home, the outdoor kitchen, slave homes and even another home on the property, built for the aging matriarch that has since fallen into complete disrepair. It was a fascinating and sometimes confronting account, particularly regarding the fathering of dozens of children by the white plantation owners with slave girls (some not more than 12 years old).

Creole Plantation home – The Laura Plantation home reflects the way that most Creole homes were painted.

Reflecting the Creole style with lots of colour, the Laura Plantation house is probably not what you think of when you think of a Louisiana plantation home, but in fact is probably more typical of the homes of the time.
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Looking out over the outdoor kitchen area at the rear of the house

I have purchased the book Memories of the Old Plantation Home which is the full version of Laura’s journals and I can’t wait to read it.

Loved these three cities and their surrounds. Off to Texas next!

Nic x




Farewell Tour – Part 2

When you think of Charleston, you probably think of historical, pastel coloured mansions, The Charleston (dance), long, hot days, bug-filled nights and possibly a group of entitled dimwits from a reality show called Southern Charm. Thankfully there’s more to it than that.

City we’re visiting Charleston State South Carolina
State Facts
Capital: Colombia Nickname: Palmetto State
Motto: While I Breathe, I Hope Bird: Carolina Wren
Tree: Palmetto Flower: Yellow Jessamine
Main rivers: Savannah, Pee Dee 8th State Settled: 23 May 1788

The Airbnb we stayed in is part of a large Charleston ‘single’ or ‘half’ style house (meaning that it is suited to long narrow pieces of land where the appearance from the street is that the home is one room wide), split into 3 separate apartments with the long porch/piazza on the upper floor and 2 doors. The first door appears as a normal front door but is really only entry down to the side of the house where the true entrance to the home is.

Charleston ‘single’ or ‘half’ house. (photo from a real estate site)

The path through time displayed through the Colonial, Georgian, Federal, Classic Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Victorian and Art Deco, homes and other buildings in Charleston has seen 502 acres of the city declared a National Historic Landmark District. The neighbourhood we stayed in is slowly being gentrified, only going slowly I suspect because of the rules and regulations around doing so in such an historical place.

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This club was so tiny that most of it’s members sat out the front.

Charleston was founded in 1670 so it seemed appropriate to take a guided, horse-drawn carriage tour to discover some of its secrets. Something about the clip clopping drowning out Master P’s whining adding to the ambience… not so helpful for taking photos as you will soon see. Most of the houses are in reality not tilted!

Our dryly humoured tour guide Al (Charleston Carriage Works), an architecture and history buff withstood his grumpily disobedient stead (Jake) and filled our minds with a very different Charleston. Earthquakes, fires, slave uprisings and plantations are all a part of Charleston’s history and evidence is all over the city when you know where to look.

Historical features included large ‘earthquake’ bolts that were used after an estimated magnitude 7 earthquake in 1886. These bolts pass through the existing masonry, effectively tying opposite walls together to provide stability to structures that survived but were unstable.

The round earthquake bolts appear on many structures however new builds have taken to adding fake bolts as they seek to mimic the style of surrounding properties.

At least 104 mounting/carriage or upping blocks  still remain in their original positions outside of homes or public buildings and are a protected entity. These generally consist of a large block of stone next to the curb, used to assist in stepping down from a carriage.

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A carriage stone and a beautiful wrought iron fence and gate show the history of this home.

There is some beautiful examples of decorative wrought iron work adorning various buildings, the history of which began in 1772 when a wrought iron communal rail was shipped over from England and installed in St Michael’s Episcopal church. The local blacksmiths began to create more elaborate designs as the wealthy in the area began to use wrought iron for their gates, fences, rails, a status symbol I’m sure, however over the years through various natural disasters much of it was lost. Many blacksmiths continued the wrought iron tradition. Philip Simmons (1912-2009) was a famous iron-worker, and his work can be found in various locations throughout Charleston and various museums in the States.

Following our tour we wandered around the Charleston City Market where most of the fare was hand-made and picked up a few trinkets to remember our stay. I bought this hand drawn illustration of the gates of St Michael’s. Artistry in both the original ironwork by J.A.W Iusti  (who arrived from Germany in 1820) and this rendition.

By artist Nicki Williams

Special K’s passion for a good, fresh oyster was satiated at a nearby restaurant and then we took a drive over the Cooper River on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to Mt Pleasant, Sullivan Island

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The Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge from Charleston to Mount Pleasant & Sullivan’s Island over the Cooper River, as taken from on the bridge itself.
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A large part of Charleston’s history.

On our way to Savannah we stopped for lunch in a forgettable town called Beaufort, where we geocached for the first time. If you’ve never heard of Geocaching, neither had we until Master P and I started reading The Candymakers and  the Great Chocolate Chase  by Wendy Mass. One of the main characters excitedly recounts his experiences with Geocaching and you’d better believe that the thought of mini treasure hunts along our travels lit Master P and I’s fire so I downloaded the app a few weeks before we set off on our Farewell Tour, made sure I could understand the app and BAZINGA! We found our very first geocache! We were all pretty pumped and the thing I love about it is that if you need to travel by foot from point A to point B, it is a fantastic way to keep the kids interested and perhaps stumble across an area that you wouldn’t have necessarily come across otherwise. For more information on geocaching click on the link <–.

City we’re visiting Savannah State Georgia
State Facts
Capital: Atlanta Nickname: Peach State
Motto: Wisdom, Justice & Moderation Bird: Brown Thrasher
Tree: Southern Live Oak Flower: Cherokee Rose
Main rivers: Chattahoochee, Flint, Savannah 4th State Settled: 2 January 1788

Earlier this year I did a wreath making class (just a couple of hours) at our local Michael’s (craft supplies) store. The class was a complete waste of time however the lovely lass that took the class (who had never made a wreath before!!), happened to have done her Fine Arts degree in Savannah. As I hot glue gunned a heap of faux flowers and foliage to a wreath base, she wrote me a fantastic list of ‘must do’s’ (it was just her and I in the class) which did not disappoint. Ice-cream from Leopold’s was definitely some of the best we have ever had (I highly recommend the Butter Pecan and Master P also recommends the mint chocolate chip). Leopold’s, a Savannah institution since 1919 had a line of people out the door even though it was November.

And of course she recommended a steamboat ride. We boarded the Georgia Queen, whose previous life as a casino boat on the Mississippi River ended after a change in legislation, made for a grand trip down the Savannah River. We saw her the night before and she looked glorious all lit up. I’m yet to master night photos however!

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Built in 1995, she has 3 grand ballrooms, chandeliers, boasts 38,000 square feet of usable space and can cater to 1,000 people. The Georgia Queen is the largest vessel of her kind in the USA.
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At first Master P ran…
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… and then he found other ways to amuse himself.

A couple of scenic highlights were the infamous Waving Girl statue. The waving figure of Florence Martus and her dog are a prominent feature on the shoreline and there are many and varied legends regarding the real life figure that inspired the statue. The truth (we’re assured by the boat tour operator) is that Florence lived with her brother (a lighthouse keeper) on Elba Island started waving to the ships that went by out of boredom. It is said that between 1887 to 1931 she did not miss a single ship, day or night and waved with a white handkerchief or lantern accordingly. She became quite well-known and ships looked out for her as they came through. Since her death in 1943 this statue was erected, a Liberty ship took her name and in 1999 a Savannah Belles Ferry was named after her.

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She’s kind of fabulous. Sure she could have used the internet and a job but why ruin a good story.

Fort (James) Jackson, a restored 19th century fort is the oldest standing brick fort in Georgia, saw action in the War of 1812 and the American Civil War, and is now a National Historic Landmark. A reenactment, complete with canon (fake) firing was part of the entertainment.

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A couple of other points of interest along the Savannah River.

Post river ride, we started to walk back up the hill and came across a film set. A car was being towed with the director etc sitting in the back of the truck while filming through the windscreen (does that make sense?).

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A lot of people, not much action.

We weren’t too surprised as a vacant lot near our Airbnb cottage was obviously being used to house all of the trailers etc involved with filming and after a quick Google search there were a number of projects being filmed around the place. One of which was a film called Killerman, starring Aussie Liam Hemsworth, who had reportedly been spotted around the traps with his fiancé Miley Cyrus. We decided to stop and watch for a bit.  It’s not something you see everyday and Master P found it interesting to see how part of a car chase may be filmed. And lo and behold the area began to fill with more people and out walks Liam Hemsworth himself ready to do his next scene in the driver seat of the car. There were stunt men (2) dressed in the same clothing, one other actor in the car, an entirely different car and even the female star came to visit the set. All very interesting. And yes, Mr Hemsworth is a tad handsome. #teamchris

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I’m a bit of a rock star.
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This shirt though, man. Not cool.
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Cheers Mr Director, the jacket works.
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Eye contact! Sparks flew!

That’s a wrap Mr Hemsworth. Swoon.

Savannah is quite a striking city and has and interesting lay out that involves 22 historical squares. They are set out among the streets and the edges are lined by homes, inns, churches and museums and provide the city with many areas to enjoy the greenery, admire the many historical statues, have a picnic and, in our case, a failed geocache attempt! As we dug around under the beautifully kept gardens and started attracting suspicious sideways glances, we gave up! We learned that the grayish-green, foliage hanging from the limbs and leaves of many trees and seemingly taking over some of them is called Spanish Moss, but neither originates in Spain or is in fact moss. It is called moss but looks like lichen and is in fact a member of the bromeliad family and is native to many places, including Queensland, Australia where it is known as ‘grandpas beard’. Here is Savannah, in mainly hangs off  of live oak trees (the Southern Live Oak is Georgia’s state tree), which I had also never heard of! (I’m sure this is not surprising to those that know me!). Technically the tree is an evergreen, however live oak leaves go brown, stay on the tree and then drop immediately before new leaves emerge in the spring.

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It’s a statue in a square… and that’s all I remember about that!
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Cobblestones and old brick on the way down to the river.
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Spanish Moss
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A lovely Savannah home…
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… and street
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A couple of good-looking oldies

An uneventful stop in Atlanta, Georgia followed Savannah but the journey there proved to be SO awesome!

Firstly, COTTON FIELDS! Who knew they were so pretty. As we passed a few along the highway I insisted that we exit post-haste and hunt as down an appropriate cotton field to plonk the kids in the middle of, preferably with a barn in the middle! All wishes don’t come true so I was sans barn but here are my cotton pics.

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Almost better than snow, but not quite.
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I would love to see a time lapse pod explode.
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Rough on the outside, soft and squishy on the inside.
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Little piece of natural wonder.

And then it was off to Juliette, GA for lunch at THE REAL WHISTLE STOP CAFE FROM THE MOVIE FRIED GREEN TOMATOES! With a bazillion quotes, visions of Kathy Bates wrapped in cling wrap and sweet southern accents from the movie buzzing around in my head, we sat down to a plate of fried green tomatoes (delicious) and I swear I could hear the train whistle sounding in the background.


“I can’t even look at my own vagina!”

“A big old ox like Grady won’t sit next to a coloured child, but he eats eggs.. shoot right out of a chicken’s arse.”


Ok, I’m done.

Nic x

Farewell Tour – Part 1

And here we are! The final leg of our American Adventure. We can hardly believe it ourselves. But if there is a resounding visual to say that yes, you are indeed about to leave, it’s all of your worldly possessions being loaded into one of these…

And if you’re wondering, yes, it is bigger than the one we came with! Bye bye stuff.


Every time we travel in the States, I make up activity packs for the kids including a colouring page for each state that we are visiting. I’m including some of the information contained in those pages because some of the Official State Mottos are cool/weird and you can feel like you’re learning something amongst my drivel!


City we’re visiting New York City State New York
State Facts      
Capital: Albany Nickname: Empire State
Motto: Ever Upward Bird: Bluebird
Tree: Sugar Maple Flower: Rose
Main rivers: Hudson, St Lawrence 11th State Settled: 26 July 1788

For our final two nights in NYC we decided to immerse ourselves in a few of our favourite places, make a few pertinent purchases and if possible, hang with a few of our fave people. We took the kids to see School of Rock on Broadway again. We all absolutely loved this show the first time around and it was just as good the second time with the secondary actor playing the lead role. Much better than some of the other family offerings on Broadway at the moment. An awesome cast, fantastic sound track and a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of our final hours in this great city.

Bryant Park became one of our NY touchstones after we happened upon a great little production of Shakespeare in the park during one of our early weekend stays in the city. Totally captivated Miss E. Almost every time we came into the city after that we stopped by and invariably there was something different happening or we just enjoyed the general atmosphere. By some amazing kismatic event, the opening of the Bryant Park Winter Village coincided with our final weekend and the kids enjoyed a final ice skate with their friend Max and some of us wandered around the shopping village (looking for a hot toddy, but without success), followed by a yummy Chinese dinner.

Our final day in the city it poured with rain all day but we had a list of things we needed to purchase. We wanted to buy our kids a memento of the city for them to keep. Nothing too over the top but something more than a magnet or a sticker which are generally our go to souvenirs. Miss E was easy as we had bought her a charm bracelet for her 10th birthday so we took her to the appropriate store and had her choose from their NY charms that are only available in NY. Tick.

Special K’s mum had requested we pick up some items from a street vendor for her which the rain was making very difficult and frankly we were totally stuck as to what we should get Master P. During our wanderings the night before at Bryant Park, Mrs JM and I had come across a lovely little shop that specialised in making jewellery items out of American coins. She immediately fell in love with a charm style bracelet. Master P quite likes wearing a necklace and I suddenly thought what a nice idea it would be for him to choose a pendant made from the coin of his choice. He loved it and BP came through on some lovely items for SK’s mum too so it was a win.

I tried to breathe in as much of the city as I could. I took moments. I relished the sights and sounds. It was emotional and I shed tears as we headed out to JFK airport to collect our hire car (Dodge Grand Caravan people mover – the RV is for the second leg of our trip in California) the next morning. There’s just something about this place that feels like home and I recall feeling it, somewhat less intensely when SK and I came here the first time in 2006. All I know is that I’ll be back.

Rocking on at The Winter Garden Theatre
Bryant Park, our happy place
These peeps – friends for life.
The lads
Look what NY did for me – a misty Empire State Building.
Rainy & wet, but still awesome
Master P chose the American Eagle quarter for his pendant memento.



City we’re visiting Annapolis State Maryland
State Facts      
Capital: Annapolis Nickname: Old Line State
Motto: Manly Deeds, Womanly Words Bird: Baltimore Oriole
Tree: White Oak Flower: Black-eyed Susan
Main rivers: Patuxent, Potomac 7th State Settled: 28 April 1788

Annapolis, the capital of Maryland was our first overnight stop on our Farewell Tour and we settled into our Airbnb house for 2 nights. Staying in the historical part of the city, right on the water proved to be the right decision as it was a lovely quiet neighbourhood, we parked the car and spent our whole stay walking around and getting into our road trip groove began. In some ways the stress of the past couple of months started to dissipate but getting used to being on the road brings with it its own challenges, even though we are well and truly seasoned road trippers by now.

Master P really struggles to find his comfort zone when we’re traveling so the first week or so are usually quite challenging with him. His final few weeks at school were tough and I will be SO glad to get him back to Australia where he won’t be picked on for not being Jewish, having blonde hair and any other number of things he probably hasn’t told me. He takes it hard and tries so hard to fit in. It was just a constant extra layer that he had to battle seeing his pride in his individuality take a bit of a hiding over the past couple of years has been one of the most difficult things about our experience. He did manage to find a few kindred spirits while he was there and he and one gorgeous little friend in particular have been having the most endearing text conversations since we left.

Miss E has been Facetiming, texting, calling… you name it! It will take a little longer for her to let go, for her to realised she is not going to be an everyday part of Great Neck life anymore. But she is also very much looking forward to re-joining her friends in Australia and re-developing those relationships and some new ones.

Annapolis is probably most well-known for being the home of the US Naval Academy and also managed to satisfy SK’s constant need for cobblestones! We spent Halloween here and as we walked around the main street of the town, the local elementary school had a parade which was totally adorable. So many cute costumes, big smiles and appreciative locals. I was completely impressed with one of the teachers’ dressed up as a rain cloud, complete with grey umbrella with what looked like grey and black polyester cushion stuffing on top and beads that looked like rain hanging from under the umbrella. Might have to steal that idea next year.



As we all become acclimatised to spending 24 hours a day with each other, we packed up and headed to Roanoke. We planned this trip months ago and when we looked now at the route we were taking we were like ‘What the why now?’ and SK was quick to point out that this was all my doing. I really wanted the kids to see the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains/Shenandoah National Park in the middle of the central Appalachians that my friend Tiff and I enjoyed on our road trip just over a year ago so even though we are kind of going south, then east, then west and south again, once we got onto the Skyline Road it was completely obvious why I wanted to do this.

Leg One route
The approximate route for Leg One of our trip.

It’s currently Autumn, my favourite season and these areas promised to be full of glorious colour and we were not disappointed. The roads were easy, quiet as it was midweek and the scenery was just breathtaking. Stopped at the Pollock Dining Room at Skyland for lunch.

After a day of glorious scenery, lots of stops and photo taking we pulled up to our next Airbnb accommodation and wondered if we and our car would survive the night in what looked like a crack den share house. Thankfully the ramshackle exterior of the house led to a charming and spacious interior AND a smart tv so we could catch up on Project Runway.


Is there a song about Shenandoah? I feel like there is…
Oh sweet Autumn.
Nature just keeps giving
We survived!
Is it haunted?
Hard to capture the beauty of the roadside
Just popping in to the local supermarket for bulk mayo



City we’re visiting Roanoke State Virginia
State Facts      
Capital: Richmond Nickname: Old Dominion State
Motto: Thus Always Tyrants Bird: Cardinal
Tree: Flowering Dogwood Flower: Dogwood
Main rivers: James, Potomac, Rappahannock 10th State Settled: 25 June 1788

partly on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get to Asheville, North Carolina. Another beautiful scenic drive but with Special K not really being a meandering kind of traveller, we popped back onto a more direct route. Still took some amazing photos. I’ll warn you, I loves me an old barn in a field!


With 2 iPhones, 2 hand held game thingies that take photos, a DSLR and a pair of binoculars, the kids really enjoy taking photos and really exploring what’s on offer.


I just need to Photoshop the power lines out.
The beasts!!


A self seeded cotton plant! We were so excited to find this on the side of the road.
This bug was ready for its close up on the cotton innards.


The kids were fascinated by this four trunk tree at rest stop where we stopped for lunch. Photo by Miss E.
Same tree, taken by Miss E. Love that she thought to do this.

Arrived in Asheville for dinner at Red Ginger Dimsum and Tapas (although I was being drawn to the few grungy looking curry houses that the kids would have struggled with) where I enjoyed a couple of cocktails; Red Lotus with lychee; and some kid of amazing jalapenified deliciousness.

Asheville is a happening little place with lots of microbreweries, art influences and live music. When last I was here with Tiff we met up with one of her friends that lives in the area and sampled the best Indian food I think I’ve ever had, a short hike to a cute little waterfall and breakfast at a huge Equestrian centre. It’s really a place that’s got something for everyone.

City we’re visiting Asheville State North Carolina
State Facts      
Capital: Raleigh Nickname: Tar Heel State
Motto: To Be Rather Than To Seem Bird: Cardinal
Tree: Pine Flower: Dogwood
Main rivers: Cape Fear, Neuse, Roanoke 12th State Settled: 21 November 1789

Next stop… Charleston, South Carolina.

Nic x



Things we’ll miss…

For all the things I’ve complained about since we’ve lived in the States, now that we’re leaving I should probably consider the things that we are going to miss! In no particular order…

The boys barber – just around the corner there is a barber shop run by 3 Israeli brothers. Special K and Master P troop off every couple of months and have a lovely blokey time with some lovely blokes. Toot sweet Great Neck Village Barbers.

People listening – On par with ‘people watching’, listening to the different NY and in particular Lawn Guy Land (Long Island) accents of those around us never gets old. Everything seems like it’s a drama and Miss E and I in particular are in heaven listening to one end of a telephone conversation or sitting in a diner listening to the next table.

i'm from long island

Fireflies – we discovered fireflies the very first night we stayed in our house. The power wasn’t connected yet, there were no window coverings, we were all sleeping on the floor in the living room and one after the other, we each had a “Did you see that flash of light?” moment. The following 2 years we knew that summer had arrived when we started to see fireflies.

Snow – I think I’ve probably raved on enough about my love of snow. Like fireflies, there is just a magical quality about a lovely dump of snow.

arrandale snow
The view from our front door after a dump of snow in 2016

Text updates/notifications – For a country that tends to be a little backwards in a lot of areas (ie our water bill could only be paid by cheque), the use of text message notifications is awesome. For example, when you need prescription medication, your Dr sends the scrip directly to your nominated pharmacy and (once you subscribe to the text service) they text you when it’s ready. If it’s an ongoing medication, the pharmacy automatically fills the scrip when it’s due and texts you that it’s available for pick up! Totes convenient.

Baseball – Once again, something I’ve already documented but regularly going to Citi Field to see the Mets play and watching Master P take to Little League baseball like a champ have both been such great experiences. I was so excited when Sis M managed to pop over for a flying visit recently and see Master P playing for the Bees and catch a brilliant comeback win by the Mets.


NYC – We are so lucky to have been just a short train ride away. I feel emotionally attached. From the weekends we spent as a family, to the days I managed to sneak in on my own (not nearly enough), I am already planning trips back. I love this city.

Visitors! – Running the whole gamut from family members coming to stay, right through to having lunch with one of my sisters friends, we have been blessed to catch up with a lot of people during our time here and each and everyone one of them was so appreciated. Here are a few of those friendly faces. Big hugs to EVERYONE that took the time.

Iavarone Bros – most supermarkets here have a pre-prepared meal section. This establishment close by Special K’s employers and where the kids did gymnastics received regular visits from us for their excellent salads, delicious cooked meats, deli, bakery section etc. Pasquale Iavarone opened his Italian ‘Salciceria’ in Brooklyn in 1919 and the rest is history. The best fast food EVER!

Traveling – By the end of our stay here, we will have managed to visit *34 of the 50 American States + Canada and Jamaica. Not a bad effort!!

*A few of these were visited by Special K only, for business.

Craft Stores – Michael’s and Joann’s, I thank you. I have purchased 2 new machines since we have lived here, which were not even on my radar before we came over. That’s what happens when you have lots of time on your hands and feel the need to create. I am looking forward to using these fabulous cutting devices to aid in my a new venture (see below). I am on a first name basis with one of the lovelies at Michael’s.

The houses – I am clueless about architecture. If it isn’t brick veneer, California bungalow or mud brick I’m lost. But people here appear to have very strong ideas about the style of home they like. I loved our little Colonial house, built in 1905, showing every bit of its age but the beautiful natural light in the living area, high ceilings and front porch (Christmas decorating heaven) made it warm and cosy.

I have fallen in love with the Dutch Colonial style of home and will miss driving around various parts of this country and our neighbourhood and enjoying the rich palette of diverse homes.

WNYC/NPR – As an avid 774 ABC listener in Melbourne, I was a little in crisis as to my talkback radio listening when we arrived. I had all of the greatest intentions of listening to podcasts from the ABC however time (and Netflix!) doesn’t allow for me to listen to radio all day and then catch up on Aus radio. So I kept it local and almost feel the same way about Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate as I do about Jon Faine and Richard Stubbs (who has since left radio). The amount of time dedicated to Potus 45 did my head in on a regular basis (enter Audiobooks) but I loved keeping up with the local issues, interviews with local NYorkers from the entertainment industry and the in-depth journalism from National Public Radio. Might have to sneak a few WNYC podcasts in on my return. I even subscribed (just to get a tote bag)!

New friends – I’ve blogged about my struggles to find my people here. Combined with a long period of self imposed isolation due to feeling so out of place and mourning the loss of my Mum it took me a while. But I found them. Their generosity, kindness and inclusiveness in such a short amount of time leaves me feeling intensely grateful. I knew I didn’t need a thousand friends, just a few treasures to share the weariness and joy of life over a coffee or wine (or a mojito!), a hug and some laughs. You know who you are.

Celebrating Fall – As an avid fan of Autumn, I am fully down with the way this season is celebrated here. Pumpkins, scarecrows, corn stalks and displays of flowers resplendent with every shade of red, yellow and orange adorn front lawns, porches, door wreaths, shopping centres, local parks etc. and celebrating the impending harvest feels right and kind of unifying.

Wreaths – I openly admit to being a huge fan of Christmas wreaths before we moved here. I had even progressed to a non Christmas wreath, featuring the number of our house. However, I think it’s safe to say that I am now obsessed with wreaths for every occasion, season and location. My crafty little mind is spilling with ideas that I am sure can be embraced by those that love a bit of beauty in and around their homes in Australia. Be it a beautiful seasonal wreath to give that touch of elegance and warmth to the entrance of your home, a rustic  living wreath of succulents for your outdoor entertaining area or something with texture and colour to bring together the elements of a room… see, told you I was obsessed. I’ve been doing lots of experimenting and planning for a small homemade business venture. Stay tuned. Here is one of my first attempts with flowers I made from fine crepe paper.

my wreath

And the Farewell Tour begins.

Nic x

Key West & Miami

With 2 months left of living in New York and 6 weeks on the road across the southern end of the States after that, we are feverishly trying to fit in some extra travel. The week before school starts back in our district sees us spending 6 nights in Florida split between Key West and Miami.

We have been to Florida before but really, I think Disney World needs to be reclassified as its own state. Whenever I said to anyone that we’re going to Florida, the assumption is that we’re going to Disney. I am happy to say, a trip to Disney is not on the itinerary.

The drive down from Miami airport, along the Everglades National Park and the Overseas Highway was quite spectacular.


US Rte 1 Florida

The beaches in the Keys are mostly man-made and the longest beach in Key West, Smathers Beach, is topped up with sand shipped in from the Bahamas every couple of years after it has washed away! But what Key West lacks in natural beaches it makes up for in colour, coffee, attitude, chickens (just walking around everywhere), drag shows and tropical flora and fauna.

OMG, the coffee!! The Cuban Coffee Queen restored our faith and this cute postcard backdrop was a bonus.
Lovely, weatherboard homes.
Rainbow flags everywhere. A very LGBTQ supportive community.
These kinds of places are what make Key West special.
This photo doesn’t do justice to these glorious flowers
During our wanderings we stumbled across the gardens at The West Martello Tower. Check out these tropical offerings, most of which were found inside the bricked walls..

We visited The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy and the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum which were both fascinating in different ways but also afforded a stressed out Special K some well-timed mindful moments!


Key West was a fantastic little get away and a bit of a step back in time. Duval St is the main tourist thoroughfare but we found that a block or two in either direction served us a lot better. Less drunk/stoned people, less carved wooden penises hanging at eye level and better food!

The highlights of our 3 days in Miami were a trip to the Everglades National Park, the beach, the art deco buildings on and around Collins Avenue and our bus tour driver who was very in the know with regard to where various movies had been shot and left Special K and I with a hankering to watch Scarface!

We only got to see a tiny part of the Everglades but one of the things I love about all of our traveling is seeing environments that I have never seen before – the Everglades was certainly that.

This trip was instigated by Special K and it probably really wasn’t on my radar, aside from the Everglades. I am a Winter lover so the thought of spending any time in Florida during Summer was pretty unappealing to me. But it was definitely worth it.

Nic x


It’s official! Homeward bound.

And just like that, our time living in the USA is almost over!

Special K’s contract has been extended for 3 months and he officially finishes up at the end of October. After a Farewell Tour of approximately 6 weeks we will be home for a Christmas with absolutely no chance of snow!

It’s hard to know how to feel. So much has happened since we landed in July 2015 that we are forever changed by this experience and of course, that was the whole point. The people and places of this city, state and country are now a permanent part of our families history and the life we have led here a part of the fabric that feeds our world view. There have been periods where all we wanted to do was envelop our children in our embrace,  make haste to the Qantas terminal and never come back. There were also times (admittedly not as many) when we thought we would stay longer.

It’s the right time for us.

I always envisioned flying out of NY for the last time, gazing back over the city that I have been so blessed to become familiar with and shedding a few tears. The impending Farewell Tour Road Trip has put paid to that made for movies moment but those nostalgic pangs will still be fully felt as we drive our hire car out over the Hudson River on the The George Washington Bridge (even though it makes no sense to go that way, I will insist!) on our final American adventure.

Of course my mind is already going in a million different directions and the lists are well and truly underway. Coordinating the move, finding new homes for most of the electrical items and furniture we’ve purchased here, disconnecting services, changing subscriptions, wondering what is in our storage lockers in Australia that we have lived without for 2 and half years, enrolling kids in school (Master P for the first time in Australia), car shopping, attempting to get new flooring organised once the tenant moves out of our house in Australia, what has changed and what has stayed the same about our suburb, our friends, family and us. What are we taking from this experience and how will it change the way we live our lives going forward?

So many emotions.

Nic x



LV + Utah (in an RV) – Part 2

The things I knew about Utah before travelling to Utah can be listed as follows:

Desert – cacti and orange, sandy soil, not much water

Rocks – funny shaped towers of rock called Hoodoos

Mormons – approximately 62% of the population according to Lord Wiki

And now, having traveled through southern Utah for a week with Harvey the RV (I take no responsibility for the naming of this poor defenseless RV),  all I can say is that it is a beautiful place.

Harvey the RV was a hit! I even managed to drive for a short stretch but I had to draw the line at driving on the highways. The cross winds were just too much for me to get my head around without the image of us plowing off the road, across the desert, Joshua Trees being knocked into the air and Harvey ending up on his side with ramen noodle cups and Crayola supplies strewn from hither to thither. Not pretty.

Special K did a stellar job of handling Harvey over the 850 miles of our amazing trip, not just the driving but all of the less glamorous chores as well such as emptying the poo pipe and making sure we were balanced so that the fridge worked.

I’m not going to prattle on too much because the photos will speak for themselves. Utah is just stunning. And some of it so familiar, I assume due to the number of times we were forced have watched movies from the Cars movie franchise, Radiator Springs having been inspired by a number of places including parts of Utah.

Introducing Utah, no filters, no editing, bit of shabby lighting here and there…

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Couldn’t resist.
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Zion National Park – Riverside Walk
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Zion National Park – mule deer
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Riverside Walk – Canyon
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Plants growing from the rocks
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Miss E, very grateful for the path along the riverside
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Daddy/Son love in Zion National Park
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Zion National Park – the trend of building cairns caught on
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Zion National Park – Riverside Walk along the North Fork Virgin RIver
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Zion National Park – Master P befriending the local rock squirrels
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No kidding!
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Can anyone else see the face in the rock?
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Mt Carmel Tunnel – due to the width of the tunnel and the size of the RV, we needed to pay a fee for the staff to halt traffic to let us through. The RV can only go through the tunnel by driving in the centre of it, which means no one else can be in there. The baton has been passed…
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… and in we go…
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Bit spooky really. Can’t believe we neglected to sound the horn!
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Sorry for the hold up peeps.
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The numbers painted on hillside rocks in Orderville, Utah mystified us but I got to the bottom of it. Valley High School graduating classes have a tradition of painting their year on a rock.
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Bryce Canyon
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Bryce Canyon
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One of those times I really regret my complete lack of fitness. There are tracks that go down to the bottom of Bryce Canyon but they are way above our fitness level!
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The arse end of a tree that is attempting to take a dive into Bryce Canyon
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Bryce Canyon – we walked the Rim Trail
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Still a bit of snow around
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The glimpses of snow just add to the magic
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S’mores anyone?


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Toasting their own
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Undoubtedly one of the best parts of RV’ing – a fire every night
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Master P’s favourite Harvey position
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Definitely Miss E’s favourite lounging area in the RV


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Hoodoos on the Mossy Cave Trail
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Mossy Cave Trail
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Mossy Cave Trail


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Great stop for lunch at the Burr Trail Grill
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Boulder, Utah
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Gorgeous birch tree forest in the foreground


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Easter Egg collection in the freezing cold barely morning
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Note the terror
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Panorama Point – Photo credit: Miss E
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Cairns by Miss E and Master P
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Capitol Reef
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Capitol Reef National Park – Capitol Gorge
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Capitol Gorge
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Panorama Point
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Another local
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Panorama Point
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Capitol Gorge
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Capitol Gorge
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Capitol Gorge
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Riding the waves in Capitol Gorge
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Tree pose in Capitol Gorge
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Capitol Gorge
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Capitol Gorge – Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
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Capitol Reef – petroglyphs (carvings) by American Indians a while back
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More petroglyphs
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Love me some cacti
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Special K told the kids these were tarantula nests and given there were dozens of them above our heads, it completely freaked them out. Good times.
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Cafe Diablo in Torrey, UT – this is just the starter side of the menu but the Rattlesnake Cakes were delightful
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Ribs cooked for 12 hours served with brussel sprouts and sweet potato mash – heaven! Thank goodness Americans are all for doggy bags.


Utah. Just gorgeous.

Nic x

PS Yes, some of the photos are out of chronological order but my brain hurts and WordPress, sometimes you just make it too hard!