Island Pond

We planned to leave Burlington slightly earlier yesterday so that we could give ourselves enough time to find a nicer place for accommodation for the next 2 nights. We were concerned that given today is 4 July (Independence Day) we may struggle to find accommodation. We headed to NE Vermont which is described as the ‘Northeast Kingdom’ (named by Governor George Aiken in 1940s because he just loved the area and its people and he was a politician and I am sure it helped get their votes too!). Our plan was to go to Lake Willoughby and a town called Westmore as there seemed to be plenty of accommodation options on the lake.

On route we passed the original Ben & Jerry’s factory (at Waterbury) and so we had to stop. It was tea time and so we felt ice cream at tea time was appropriate. They do a factory tour but we noticed that while the tour was operating, the factory itself wasn’t producing yesterday so we decided to give it a skip and rather just eat the ice cream. They have a flavour graveyard where all the ‘retired’ flavours have gravestones and a little poem explaining why they are no longer in existence. It was a fun little interlude on our journey north.

When we arrived (around midday), we drove through the town once before deciding on our order of preference to check accommodation. S then went in and asked about availability. He did that for 4 or 5 places but unfortunately none of them had availability. C had found online a motel in a town called Island Pond called Lakefront Inn & Motel and so we decided to call them and check availability. While H was doing that, K spotted a black bear in the forest area and it had 2 cubs with it as well. We discovered later that it is not common to see bears and so we really were happy to have seen them (unfortunately no photos though as they were too far in the wooded area and were quite shy). H did get us accommodation though and that is how we ended up in Island Pond.

H described the town as a ‘frontier’ town and it really does look like that. The motel is on the lake (Island Pond though it really isn’t a pond!) and it has it’s own jetty. C was first into the water (though it is pretty cold in my view). They (SMC) bought tubes from the Dollar store and they all just floated around the lake for a good part of the afternoon. The rest of us sat on the shore sunbathing (or least the 3 other ladies did that).

There is only one restaurant in the town so we headed there for dinner but when we went in there was already a line of people waiting. So we decided to go to Westmore where we had seen another restaurant at one of the places we wanted to stay called Gil’s Bar and Grill. We decided to call to see if they had space (as it is about 20 minutes drive partly on gravel roads) and fortunately they did. It was so good a dinner that we asked midway through dinner whether we could book again for tonight. Our waitress was from the area and she told us where we should go today (and we are planning to do that). It was also from her that we discovered that bear sightings are not that common and moose sightings even less so. We even ended up engaging with the chef on moose sightings in the end. The food was also very good (I had scallops and they might have been the best I have ever had).

It really has struck us (again) that Americans are very service orientated. They really do make an effort and come across as friendly and helpful. For example, even when we couldn’t get accommodation at some of the places they were quick to offer some other suggestions for us to try. Even the deli (where I went to buy coffee this AM) has this service mentality. The guy making the bagels this morning noticed I was waiting at cashier to pay and he just stopped doing what he was doing to ensure I didn’t have to wait for the cashier to return. In SA you would have just had to wait

The weather is pretty mild at the moment. The evening and early morning (I have already been out for coffee this AM) are cool (currently 16 C) but during the day it gets up to high 20s (and today it is meant to get to 30 C). It is a lot cooler and less humid than NY and a lot more pleasant.

Until tomorrow

P, H (for phoning for accommodation and dinner), S (for going in so many times to ask including a walk down and up a steep slope for one of them), K (because she should have been higher yesterday and I forgot about it and for spotting the black bears – she can come to a game park with us for her spotting skills), C (for finding the accommodation online), M (for navigating) and O. (There was a lot of argument in the car yesterday about the order for today because everyone … except one … felt they had done something noteworthy!)

Burlington, VT

The quote of the day yesterday went to C. When she walked in for breakfast at the motel she said “Do we order the breakfast” after looking around. The breakfast was actually laid out but it was so sparse she really didn’t notice. Basically you could have a bagel, bread (or toast), yogurt and either oats (in a packet) or bran flakes. That was it. And everything was disposable – plastic knives, spoons, plates & bowls, paper and plastic cups (for coffee and orange juice) etc. It has really struck us how it doesn’t seem to matter about packaging and disposal of plastic etc in this country. We are really aware of it in SA (and so are the UK) but recycling and trying to limit plastic and packaging here in the US seems irrelevant to them. I’m not a big “climate” person but I do still think limit plastic waste would be a good thing for everyone living on this planet (that’s my preaching done for today!).

After we have packed up and checked out we headed into town as we had seen ‘Gap Outlet’ the previous day and wanted to see if they had anything of interest in the store. We quickly discovered they did and basically everyone except O found something they wanted to buy at vastly reduced prices. When I paid for what H, C & I had bought, the discount was $160 and the total was $120. I don’t understand why anyone buys from a normal store! We discovered a few more outlet stores including Polo/Ralph Lauren (I bought a jacket at 44% discount) and for the ladies – Kate Spade – apparently famous but I had never heard of her until yesterday (H & O each bought bags).

By this time it was midday already and so we started to make our way toward Burlington which is further north in Vermont. We made a stop in one of the towns on route at a Dick’s sport store (yes lots of innuendos and comments around that name) as the boys wanted to buy baseball gloves. They found some but too expensive but that didn’t stop them messing around in the store while they were there. H bought some Nike shoes while they were messing around though.

Another quick stop to get lunch for those of us that didn’t have cold pizza saved from the previous night. It was one of those towns where everyone knows everyone so at the checkout the cashier was having a long discussion with one of the customers and then closed the till to help her take her bags to the car. Just a stereotypical example of small town America.

We eventually only arrived in Burlington at 4:15pm and quickly realised that it was a big town and not a small quaint place like Manchester. Our expectations had been set quite high after finding our first nights accommodation. It was clear very quickly that we weren’t going to find something similar. M & O went into the tourist centre to find out what our options are. Burlington is on Lake Champlain so we were hoping for a place on the lake shore but it became clear that we weren’t going to find that at all. We did find one places in the islands above Burlington but after calling them we discovered they only had 3 rooms available and those could accommodate only 6 of us.

Eventually at 5:30pm I told them to book the Hampton Inn at Colchester (it is a Hilton brand and I have a Hilton Honors diamond membership) and so that is where we have ended up staying last night. We had dinner at a restaurant right across the parking lot – Lighthouse Restaurant. The food was pretty good value compared to previous nights. With the main meal you could get a soup (Clam Chowder or Cheddar Soup) or unlimited salad bar. Given we were in New England I went for the Chowder which wasn’t the best I have ever eaten and so I’m hoping for better in the days to come. M had the King Crab legs (as you can see).

H wanted to go to a pharmacy and we saw a CVS across the road. Only problem was that it was a double lane road and no pedestrian crossing. I doubt anyone walked to that store ever before last night!

Until tomorrow …

P, M (for his efforts to find us accommodation last night), H, C (for her breakfast comment), S (his navigation is becoming a little sketchy), K (drinking straight out bottle of apple cider), O (for saying it was funny to see me running across the road!)


No we have not flown back to the UK – we are now in Manchester, Vermont. Yesterday morning we had to pick up our van from Budget Car Rental. Every time I said to people we are picking up a car in central NY they looked at me as if I was crazy to attempt driving in central Manhattan but it actually wasn’t that difficult. S came with me to collect the car and then helped direct me back to the hotel where everyone was waiting at the entrance so we could load up and then leave.

We headed due north out of Manhattan aiming for Albany, NY and then into Vermont. We drove through New Jersey and then back into NY state. We have now been in 5 states (one tenth of US) since we arrived. We started by taking the interstate and then S directed us off so we could take a more scenic route (which it was) passing through some smaller towns. We stopped at a town (and a Walmart) to buy some lunch and then found a picnic spot on the side of the river to eat our lunch. We then headed on to Manchester, VT.

Our drive took about 6 hours in total and we arrived in Manchester around 4pm. We didn’t have accommodation booked so we just drove around the town and looked at the various options and then picked one we liked the most. We used to do this when I was a kid and my Dad had to go in and ask the price, then when he got the answer he would say “I need to check with my wife” and if it was too pricey we would simply leave. These days you have Google that gives you a rough idea but M still went in to ask the pricing and said “I will check with my Dad”. The lady on duty said “I know what that means if you don’t come back!”. But we did and we are pleased we chose a good place.

We are staying at Palmer House Resort Motel. It is in some ways a typical American motel but in other ways it isn’t. It has a 9-hole mashie golf course, a shuffle board and a croquet lawn. We have used all three. After we had checked in the younger ones all played croquet (S was the winner) and then 5 of us played golf (S, K, M, O and myself). The girls did surprisingly well for people who don’t play. And S actually managed to connect a few balls way to well and into the bushes. M would want to me say that he won so I’m begrudgingly doing that!

C incredibly has a university friend working nearby and she got dropped off at the motel to catch up. She is working at a summer camp at a ski resort for the next 10 weeks. Quite random that a South African and a Brit studying together at Kings College in London would meet up in Manchester, VT! She came with us to dinner and then after dinner we drove her back to her house that she is staying which is in the middle of nowhere (and included a 7-mile long strip of dirt road).

We walked into the town to have dinner (0.25 miles only) and went to Christo’s which did pizza and pasta. O needed a pasta fix. The pizza’s were massive and none of the people who ordered them finished them but that seemed to be their plan to eat it for lunch today. I don’t like pizza and so the thought of eating cold pizza doesn’t grab me either.

It is much cooler in Vermont (mid-20s C) and this morning it is actually heavily overcast but not raining at the moment.

Until tomorrow ….

P, S (for coming with me to fetch the van), M (for going in to check the prices), H, C, O & K (she deserves last spot today … earned for her dismissive snort of a comment I made while driving up)

New York Day 3

We had breakfast on route to attending Church yesterday at another coffee shop recommended by my nephew. We (excluding heathens S & K) headed for one of the Redeemer Church sites (they have 4 around the city). Redeemer was planted by Tim Keller and a few years ago they split the Church into 4 smaller churches spread across Manhattan. We decided to attended Redeemer Lincoln Park because it suited us both in terms of location and time. Michael Keller (apparently Tim’s son) is the pastor there. It was only planted in 2017 (as an offshoot of Redeemer West Side). While I couldn’t see how many people were in the balcony, I reckon there were at least 400 people in attendance (not bad for a Church planted 2 years ago only).

When we walked in and sat down we noticed that Tim Keller was sitting right behind us (he was just attending the service). The service was very thoughtfully done. They produce a booklet for each service which includes the full order of service including the full music of the songs being sung. I am not sure how much that costs to do each week but I am sure it quite substantial. What did strike me was that while the singing was good, it was not as good as our home church and it was definitely done with a lot less expression.

After church, H and I headed to Banana Republic (I love their shirts – they are non-iron so H loves them too!) and managed to have the Pride Parade walk right past us (we were trying to miss the parade). What was even more frustrating was that H found more clothes at Banana Republic to try on than I had and we went for me! They had a sale on and we ended up saving over $130 on the sale – Helen got a dress that ended up being marked down by 75% because she got a sale on a sale situation. Given the quality of their shirts (they really are the best shirts I own), the price I paid was probably 50% of what I would pay back home.

A quick stop to pick up some lunch on the way back to the hotel (the others went to Wholefood Market again to get their lunch) and then a few hours rest before we headed out to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. We had seen the Memorial on our last trip but the museum was still being built. As some of you might know, 9/11 has significance in our lives as I was flying into America on that day on a United Airlines flight and so our family was directly impacted by those events. There was a period of time when H didn’t know whether I was safe or not. I was stranded in Canada and US for about a week before I could finally get home. The museum was therefore especially moving for us.

At points it is quite overwhelming seeing the photos of each person killed, reading the stories of individuals who survived and those who didn’t, listening to voice messages of loved ones before they died, seeing some of the preserved debris from the buildings (and even from the planes), the destroyed firetrucks, the video footage (which I am sure many of you saw on TV that day and the day following), the bent metal columns from when the buildings collapsed, the preserved staircase down which many people fled to safety and so much more. I am not an emotional person (as many of you will know) but there was more than one occasion when I was tearful and reminded that it could have been my picture on that wall. I am thankful that it wasn’t and it was good to remember that others were not that lucky. People from 90 different nations were killed in those attacks.

After the museum we walked down to Pier 11 (walking down Wall St past the NYSE) to catch the ferry to Brooklyn. It is a pretty short ferry ride but you do get a good view of lower Manhattan and also the Statue of Liberty. We met D & B (nephew and girlfriend) and then walked up the Brooklyn Bridge for some iconic photos of the bridge and Manhattan. Back down again and to the spot where you can take a photo of the Empire State building framed by the bridge and then we had dinner at a nearby restaurant. After dinner a walk along the water’s edge to take some sunset photos of Manhattan skyline. It was well past 9pm at this point and 5 of us (excluding M & C) headed back to the hotel in an Uber while M & C joined D & B to go to Williamsburg (which is where D & B live).

We got back to Times Square at just before 10pm and it was still very busy and the traffic was (as K always says) ‘hectic’. We were all pretty tired and headed to bed (M & C arrived home at just after 10:30pm – not actually too long after us).

That was our last day in NY as we head out to New England from today.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (for organizing the 9/11 tickets), C (for stamina to go to see Williamsburg after dinner), H & O (for coming to church with us), S & K (they bunked church to go see Grand Central station rather so this spot is rightfully theirs today)

New York Day 2

It seems everyone had a decent night sleep and the jetlag woes are gone for all of us. Yesterday we all walked a lot again and so I doubt anyone wouldn’t have slept well again last night.

We had our first decent coffee since arriving in the US yesterday morning at breakfast. My nephew recommended a place (Gotan) which we also had breakfast at before heading out. M & O decided to stay near the hotel and go see some of the buildings like Empire State; Grand Central Station etc and the rest of us headed to walk The High Line. It is a walkway on the West side of NY that was a railway line. Instead of destroying it they have made it into a park and walkway. It is 2.33km long and we walked the whole thing.

We then headed down to Washington Square Park to meet D. You walk through some of the districts of lower Manhattan including Greenwich Village. Today (Sunday) is a big LGBT Pride March to mark the 50th anniversary of riots that started at Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and we walked right past that on the way to the park. People were queuing up to have their photo taken next to the plaque and there was at least one celebrity (though we had no idea who he was) that was greeting people and having his photo taken with various people. We did walk past a Milk Bar which is apparently famous from some cooking show and so we stopped in for S, K, H & C to buy Milk shakes and a slice of Milk Bar pie.

H, C and I decided to head back to the hotel in an Uber as we were tired and didn’t really feel like lunch but D, M, O, S & K went off to a salad place. S & K eventually also opted out and walked back up to the hotel stopping at a few places on the way (one of them being the Lego store!).

We went for dinner at a Brazilian restaurant near the hotel called Via Brasil. According to their website they are NY’s oldest and most authentic Brazilian restaurant. Beside C & I (who had paella – which was very good), everyone else had different choices. S went for the traditional Brazilian stew, M went for Picanha steak, O & K had risotto and H had some kind of chicken dish with palm hearts. The food was plentiful and tasty and the service was pretty good as well. The ladies then headed off to H&M to do some shopping, S&M went off to a sports store and I headed back to the hotel.

At least one reader asked what the weather is like. Hot and humid is the answer to that. It has been well into the 30 degrees C since we arrived and even yesterday after it rained in the afternoon (a very brief thundershower), it didn’t really cool off much and was mid to high 20s in the evening.

Until tomorrow ….

P, S (for going for the traditional Brazil meat & bean stew), H, M, C, O & K

New York

We left yesterday at 9:48am from Nashville to New York. That was the precise time on our boarding pass and that was the precise time we departed. Incredible for a US flight that we left exactly on time especially since the incoming flight arrived over an hour late. The flight was uneventful and we landed in NY just before 1pm, collected our luggage and went to find a taxi to take us to our hotel. LaGuardia Airport is a total mess though as they are doing construction and so you have to take a shuttle bus to get to the taxis. We had to take 2 taxis and arrived safely at the hotel and after checking in we went to find some lunch.

S & K headed off separately because they wanted to go to M&M world and they did the NY thing and got a hot dog from a vendor for lunch. The rest of us went to find a coffee shop but it was closed and so we headed to Wholefood Market (the Amazon owned supermarket) to get lunch instead. You can get every type of ready made meal or you can make your own meal or salad as well. After we got the food we headed to Bryant Park and sat on the steps and ate the lunch while watching the world walking past. It was already past 3pm by this point.

H & I decided to stay in the hotel (we are staying at the Millennium Times Square) while the rest of them went to explore Central Park. We agreed to meet up at 6:45pm at the Bethesda Fountain. H & I left the hotel at 6pm but initially walked south instead of north, quickly corrected ourselves and then headed up north. The quantity of people on the streets is just overwhelming though. It was quite ridiculous. We got the fountain (after a fairly brisk walk) right on 6:45pm. M had taken O & C on a row boat on the lake – I was pretty impressed because I didn’t know he knew how to row even (and apparently – as O explained later – he didn’t but he got the hang of it).

We had agreed to meet D (my nephew) and B (his girlfriend) – they both live and work in NY – for a picnic dinner on the The Great Lawn. They had offered to arrange the picnic dinner. A whole lot of groups were playing softball (there are about 8 pitches on the Great Lawn). We enjoyed a relaxed dinner of chicken and salad (and cheese and biscuits) until we were chased off the lawn as they close the lawn at dusk (just before 9pm). We then started the long walk back to our hotel with a stop (not quick because there was a lengthy line) at Grom (Italian gelato) on way back to the hotel. We got back to the hotel at 10pm with everyone moaning about their feet and tiredness.

The good thing is that H & I slept until 7am which was the first decent night in since we got here and hopefully the others did too.

Until tomorrow …

P, M (because he rowed the boat ashore), S & K (because they tried the quintessential NY thing and had a dog from a street vendor), H, C & O.

Louisville to Nashville

We are flying to New York from Nashville so we had to head back to Nashville yesterday. We left at the check out time (10am) and decided to not take the interstate but rather to take the back routes to get back. It was obviously a lot slower (took over 4 hours) but it was much more scenic and pleasant drive.

We stopped on route back for lunch at Cracker Barrel which is a Southern chain restaurant. As we were in Kentucky we thought it essential to at least have Southern Fried chicken on one occasion. Only S and I had the fried chicken in the end but M, O, C & K had chicken strips (so it was close to fried chicken) and H had a grilled chicken salad (healthy option). Of course you also get the local ‘sides’ of a biscuit or corn bread and then a choice of another 2 sides as well. You’ll never lack for food in America! The other amusing thing was that before C had even drunk 1/4 of her iced tea, they brought her another refill! When we were finished eating the amount of leftover could have probably fed another family. I guess that all just gets dumped afterwards and so it really is a lot of wastage. It really strikes us when we are in the US as this just doesn’t happen in SA.

We got to the Embassy Suites hotel at the airport at just after 3pm. We decided to stay there as our flight was in the morning to NY (in fact we are at the airport now as I type this) and it would be convenient to get rid of the car last night. After we had checked in, S came with me to refill the car and then take it back to the airport and then we caught the courtesy bus back to the hotel. We had dinner in the hotel last night. When S ordered a beer they asked for ID and he had to go up to his room to get it. When I ordered one the waiter also asked me! While I could be flattered, I actually think that is somewhat ridiculous as I am clearly over 21!

We are now at Nashville airport waiting to board our flight. The incoming flight has just arrived so I reckon it will be a few minutes before we board. In order to send this before we board I am posting it now without pictures and will try do a few pictures later.

Until tomorrow …

P, S (because he ate fried chicken with me and helped me return the car), H, M, C, O & K

Louisville Part 2

Jet lag remains a problem for some of us though we are all seemingly improving. I was awake at 3:30am again this morning but managed to get back to sleep until 5am. Helen woke just before 6am. At least one person was awake upstairs again because I could hear the floors creaking but no one has made an appearance yet. I had a teleconference call today at 6am so I needed to be up early anyway.

Yesterday morning we went to downtown Louisville in the morning and walked around the Louisville Waterfront park. It is privately operated park that runs alongside the Ohio river and has numerous features including an Abraham Lincoln memorial (Abe was born in Kentucky), a water play area and series of walkways and paths running alongside the river. We parked at the one end and basically walked to the other end and back.

It was well into the 30 degrees C yesterday and relatively humid as well. When we got to the water play area some of the children (including H!) took the opportunity to run through the water sprayers. M got so wet he had to take his shirt off to ring it out. All of the other adults were sitting watching their kids play and were clearly amused by this bunch of adults playing in the water as well.

Louisville also has some famous bridges that cross the Ohio River. One of them (Big Four Bridge) was completed in 1895 already. It was originally a rail bridge but now is open only to walk or cycle over. It is 770m long (2500 feet). It has a ramp from the Waterfront park. We didn’t take it over but elected to rather drive across one of the other road bridges (they are also named including, yes you guessed it, the Abraham Lincoln bridge). The other side is Indiana so we have now been to Tennessee, Indiana and Kentucky on this trip so far. We needed to do some shopping so we found a Walmart in Indiana. It was massive. K described it as a mall not a shop. It has everything you could need so that is a pretty accurate description.

We headed back to our house for lunch and then after lunch we headed to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. You might wonder why we would go there but actually we had two good reasons. Firstly, K was taking some SA goods to people they know who are studying there. Secondly, the President of SBTS is pretty famous in Evangelical circles – a guy called Al Mohler and both H & S regularly listen to his podcasts. Al Mohler has transformed the seminary since he was appointed in 1993. His story is worth watching if you haven’t already. You can find it here:

The people who K had gifts for had agreed to show us around the seminary. It was a great experience and one that S described as a highlight of the trip so far. The facilities are fantastic and include their own hotel even. If we had known about the hotel we probably would have stayed there rather than in the AirBnB that we booked. They have a gym, an indoor pool, an indoor running track and obviously everything they need to run a seminary including an impressive library. The library covers 4 floors and included displays of a mummy (not kidding), coins from Biblical times, a Talmud scroll, CH Spurgeon’s Bible he used up until his death and numerous other artifacts. It was like walking around a museum and not really a library! They also have an incredible faculty including numerous well known scholarly authors (Schreiner, Ware, Whitney, Mohler, Jones, Hamilton, Blount, Bosch, Haykin, Gentry) to name just a few.

Spurgeon’s Bible

It might seem strange to y’all that it was a highlight so far of our trip that we visited a seminary but I guess it shows that seeing things that have meaning to you personally are more valuable than visiting places without any personal significance. It really was an enjoyable afternoon. The people who showed us around were really lovely and they are sacrificing significantly to be at the college. To give you an idea how much they are sacrificing, they don’t use their air-conditioning in their apartment as they can’t afford the electricity cost. In the current heat I am not sure how they are possibly coping. He also has to work 20 hours per week to supplement their savings so that they have sufficient cash to live on during their visit. It was a privilege to meet them.

We spent the rest of the day at the house and cooked our own dinner of steak and ratatouille (both of which were excellent).

Until tomorrow …

P, K (for organizing the visit to SBTS), S (because he cooked the steaks), H, C, M & O


It seems the boys don’t suffer from jetlag. They slept until about 8am and S had to actually wake M up otherwise he might still be sleeping. We went to breakfast at Union 417 which supports Military vets (and employs them in the running of the restaurant). You do know you’re in the South when they have fried chicken as a breakfast option! Pancakes though were the definite order of preference except H & I who had your standard fried eggs though H did get the biscuit (scone type of thing really) with her breakfast.

After breakfast we walked down to the river (Cumberland River according to google) and then along the river. It was already pretty warm (around 80F = 26C). We then walked down to Broadway (the honky tonk area) and back to the hotel. What struck us is the number of homeless people. It seems worse than other cities we have been and after a quick google search today it does seem to be a particular issue in Nashville (though it also seems no one knows why).

We checked out of the hotel at 11am and headed toward Louisville, Kentucky where we are staying for 2 nights. It is about 175 miles (225km) and takes about 2.5 hours to drive. It is an interstate motorway which started out as a 6 lane highway and for most of the time was a 3 lane highway. The sheer amount of people driving always staggers me in the US. Where are all these people going? The enormous number of (enormous) trucks is the other noticeable thing. While the roads are wide, the surface of the roads isn’t great (generally because of the extreme weather conditions in these parts). We noticed how much rubber from blown out tyres there is on the interstate – about every 500meters or so there are the remains of a tyre. I guess that’s a combination of the poor road surface and truckers not changing their tyres frequently enough.

We stopped at a small town and found a grocery store (Krogers) to do some food shopping for the next 2 days. That experience always takes longer than just to buy the food as everyone wanders around the store being entertained by the differences to home. I’m sure in future blogs I will post some shots of some of things. We did the self-checkout option which ending up needing constant assistance from one of the store people. It started off because we bought alcohol and so had to do a check that we were over 21 but then seemingly M & S (who were doing the checkout – not to be confused with M&S the store in UK) were either too fast or too slow at doing what they were doing. The store assistant was very helpful though and she gave us a Kroger’s card too which ended up saving us $20 on the $130 grocery bill.

It was around 1:30pm when suddenly the clock on my cell jumped forward to 2:30pm that we realised that Louisville was in a different time zone and we had lost an hour of our day and we hadn’t had lunch yet. So we stopped at another small town and had Wendy’s for lunch. H & C went for the healthy salad lunch. K had chicken nuggets and the rest of us had Wendy’s burgers (which are definitely better than MacD’s). It was also at this point that S logged onto WiFi to discover that our AirBnB that we had booked had been cancelled (basically at the check in time!). So now we were suddenly accommodation-less. Some quick searching found us another 6-bedroom house (cheaper than the first one) which means everyone got their own bedroom. S quickly booked it and while we were heading into Louisville (we had about 45 minutes still to go) we got the Pin code for the key. Pretty annoying that they cancel at the last minute and S complained to both the owner of the property (who said they had de-listed from AirBnB though surely not yesterday at 3pm!) and AirBnB (who have given us a credit to use in the next 30 days). All a bit annoying but fortunately relatively easily sorted with new accommodation.

We made our own dinner last night (trying to limit the number of restaurant eaten meals) and then after dinner we went to Walgreens (pharmacy chain) to try get SIM cards for the others and (more importantly) ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s) for desert. It was 10:30pm by the time we were in bed and unfortunately I was awake at 4am again though did manage to doze off again from just after 5am until about 6am. H got through to 5am. Someone upstairs is awake (hear them on the creaking floors) but otherwise it seems the rest of them are still sleeping.

Until tomorrow …

P, S (for sorting out AirBnB), O (for trying Wendy’s hamburger – she would go ahead of me for trying a MacDs one), M (for self-scan work at Krogers), H, C & K


Monday morning was spent cleaning the flat and washing the linen for 7 people – not an easy task to do in a few hours. We had a car pick up at 11am to take us to Heathrow and we arrived at the check in about an hour later. The check in process took quite awhile as we are booked on 4 separate bookings and they had to check visas for everyone, check the luggage in etc. Fortunately that all went through without a hitch and we had about 2 hours to kill in the BA lounge before our flight.

We boarded on time for our flight to Nashville. One of the things I always do is check to see my seat works before we take off and I did that as usual to find that it wasn’t working. I told the cabin crew and they called an engineer to come and fix it but he wasn’t able to resolve the problem. The cabin service director (CSD) was extremely apologetic and kept saying ‘You’re our most important customer on board today and we have to make a plan for you’. Even the captain knew about my seat issue and he told the CSD “I can’t believe the seat doesn’t work for the guy who flies the most with us on the plane today. You better make a plan to sort it out”! No pressure on the CSD. To be fair they were very apologetic and after take off they offered that I could use a First class seat when I wanted to sleep. However, amazingly after we took off the seat suddenly started working again. It is clearly an intermittent fault because by the time we landed the seat wasn’t working again.

The flight was 9 hours into Nashville and was pretty uneventful. S, M, O & K were not traveling in the same class as me, H & C but they were impressed that they got served pizza and magnums mid-flight. We landed in Nashville at just after 5pm (Nashville time). Immigration is immediately you walk off the plane (it seems only one international gate at Nashville airport for international flights). It took some time for O & K to get through because they had to go separately whereas we all went together as a family.

6 pieces of our luggage arrived before O&K got through and then we waited and waited and waited. It was S’s suitcase that wasn’t arriving but just as K came through immigration, his suitcase came off as well (basically 2nd last one). We were picking up a van but S & M had the bags on trolley’s so they had to use the elevator to get downstairs. They never arrived and eventually panic set in when we realised they had gone awol. Communication seemed to have been lacking as to where to meet us but finally one of them thought to go onto WiFi and send a whatsapp and we found them.

We are staying in downtown Nashville at Hotel Indigo just for one night and we were in the hotel at around 7pm. It did take me about 15 minutes to park the van though. It is so big it is quite ridiculous. It is actually a bus not a van. We have an extra row of seats to pick up waifs and strays. We could fit another family in the van with us as well.

We decided to try and keep ourselves going we ought to walk around the downtown area. O has been to Nashville before so she directed us to the Honky Tonk area where we walked around and marveled at the home of country music. Each pub/restaurant had live music pumping out of it. Very vibrant but after 20 minutes or so we were feeling overpowered and headed to try and find a restaurant that was quieter for dinner. We did eventually find that as we headed back to the hotel. Nice place, good food, good service. A little slow in bringing the food and we were tired so by the time bought it we were ready to eat and then head to bed.

Unfortunately Helen and I were awake at 3am and from our whatsapp conversations O & K weren’t far behind that either. Hopefully breakfast isn’t too far away as I’m feeling pretty hungry given I have been up for 4 hours already!

Until tomorrow …

P, O (she blatantly sucked up to me which is worthy of being moved up for that alone), C, H, K, SM (they got lost in Nashville airport and if you’ve been to Nashville airport you might appreciate how difficult that is to do!)