Miami Beach

I’m So we have spent the last bit our trip organizing the next phase as well as enjoying some time in Miami and we managed to score a cool hotel right near south beach.

Flying into Miami was pretty exciting as it is one of those cities we had seen lots of on tv and it was great to see it all unfold from the air.
Unfortunately while Miami has had some highlights it has also had some lowlights too but we won’t dwindle on those. Just to say that everything has been very expensive and there have been lots of “hidden costs” and surprising additions to bills. It’s hard not to have that feeling that you are being conned all the time.
Plus it’s one of those places where there aren’t a whole load of attractions, the bus tour of the city didn’t exactly reveal a lot about the place in fact it’s difficult to say what we actually got to see!
But then of course there are some definite positives. The Art Deco buildings around Miami beach are really very cool and it’s absolutely brilliant walking along the streets looking at all the intricacies in the architecture. They are all protected by law so even if buildings are renovated the exteriors have to maintain their look so the whole area looks great.
We also had a great lunch in Little Havana and it has certainly wetted our appetite for the real Havana, can’t wait.
The main attraction in Miami is the beach and to be fair it was pretty spectacular. In particular the sea was just fantastic, it was a beautiful turquoise colour and it was great to swim without the waves.
All in all I guess Miami is a place where people come to look at each other and get suntanned, two things we aren’t that into so while it was pleasant to visit it won’t make many highlight reels for us.
On to the next adventure!! T

   
The hotel where we were staying just one block off of south beach.

 
Some examples of the cool Art Deco buildings of Miami Beach.

   
 
The entrance way to Little Havana, English was definitely the second language around here.  Certainly made you realise that Cuba was only 91 miles away.

  
A really cool looking lifeguard tower, the whole way up and the beach they were all different.

Ozarks National Park

After leaving St. Louis with slightly sore heads we decided to head a little further south to the Ozarks National Park for our last bit of camping. 
The park was again deserted and we ended up with our little section pretty much all to ourselves again. The weather wasn’t that great on arrival so instead of the canoe trip we had planned we went for a little hike to some springs which feed into the river system. They were so vividly blue!
The next day saw blue skys but Baltic temperatures. It was 8 when we ventured out of our tent! But we decided to continue with our plan off canoeing down the river. It was definitely worth it! The water was the clearest we have ever seen while canoeing down and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The highlight was coming across two bald headed Eagles on separate occasions. They look so regal and intelligent! 
To cap off the end of the camping experience we have fully mastered the art of schmores!! On the way back to Chicago we stopped off at a Salvation Army store and reluctantly said goodbye to all our extra camping stuff. The tent served us very well. We are obviously keeping our sleeping bags and mattresses for some trekking trips in South America. S

   
One of the springs. You can see how blue and clear the water is.

 The view from the overlook at another of the springs. You can’t see the water but there was a cute little mill built around it. Very quaint.

  
 

It’s Autumn!

  The hard worker out the front! Haha only nearly capsized us once!  
There were turtles everywhere.

   

One of the Eagles. Photo certainly doesn’t do them justice.

 The view near our tent one crisp morning!

Ozarks National Park

After leaving St. Louis with slightly sore heads we decided to head a little further south to the Ozarks National Park for our last bit of camping. 
The park was again deserted and we ended up with our little section pretty much all to ourselves again. The weather wasn’t that great on arrival so instead of the canoe trip we had planned we went for a little hike to some springs which feed into the river system. They were so vividly blue!
The next day saw blue skys but Baltic temperatures. It was 8 when we ventured out of our tent! But we decided to continue with our plan off canoeing down the river. It was definitely worth it! The water was the clearest we have ever seen while canoeing down and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. The highlight was coming across two bald headed Eagles on separate occasions. They look so regal and intelligent! 
To cap off the end of the camping experience we have fully mastered the art of schmores!! On the way back to Chicago we stopped off at a Salvation Army store and reluctantly said goodbye to all our extra camping stuff. The tent served us very well. We are obviously keeping our sleeping bags and mattresses for some trekking trips in South America. S

   
One of the springs. You can see how blue and clear the water is.

 The view from the overlook at another of the springs. You can’t see the water but there was a cute little mill built around it. Very quaint.

  
 

It’s Autumn!

  The hard worker out the front! Haha only nearly capsized us once!  
There were turtles everywhere.

   

One of the Eagles. Photo certainly doesn’t do them justice.

 The view near our tent one crisp morning!

St Louis

St LouisWell we really only came here because we were trying to see an NFL game and St Louis vs Pittsburgh Steelers fit the bill more due to location and timing rather than anything else, but even so we were pretty excited.
St Louis is most famous for its gateway arch and as we drove into the city it loomed up in front of us and was pretty impressive. Unfortunately the park around the arch was undergoing some major reconstruction but nonetheless it was still worth seeing.
Another sign we saw on arrival was one advertising a BBQ competition to be held over the weekend, lucky us! Now this was certainly worth a visit and while we had been lucky enough to have had some great BBQs over the last few weeks we thought we could fit one more in. Turns out we have been spoilt and we could have thought of half a dozen places which should have been represented in the competition but it was still good.
Sunday was game day and we went down a little early to the stadium to soak up the atmosphere, and it was great. We started off as Rams supporters but the guys sitting next to us were Steelers fans so we decided to switch! Plus the Steelers were the better side but mostly because of the “terrible towels” which were a yellow towel the size of a golf towel and all the fans swirled them above their heads during the game. They had a spare so we were in!
The game itself wasn’t the best but the atmosphere was great and the stadium was very impressive, 66,000 capacity and with a domed roof meant that even though it wasn’t full the noise was still electric. One of the other amazing things was that there was also a baseball game on in town, and after our game finished we wandered down towards the baseball and luckily found a bar where you could see into the ground, just in time to see a couple of home runs, brilliant.
By this time we had met up with another guy, Fabian, who knew of a good oyster bar in town so off we went. While the oyster bar was good it certainly put us in the right area of town, and once again we got to experience some great music and ended up having a great evening. T

   
The Gateway Arch really does look very impressive.

    
Some thing to get the tastebuds going!

 
The Edward Jones Dome stadium in St Louis.

  
The view of the Cardinals from the bar.

Land Between the Lakes

We found a little peice of camping paradise a few hours north of Nashville. The campsite was massive and right on a lake. The campsite had around 350 sites and as it is off peak I think maybe 20 were full. We had a whole section to ourselves.  It is really beautiful watching all the leaves fall from the trees. I have never really experienced Autumn before and I can see why some people say it is the prettiest season. S

   
   
 

 

 

Nashville

 were both just so knackered after our epic music trail thus far that upon arriving in Nashville we were a little fatigued. So we decided to check into our hotel and relax for the afternoon and evening. It was fabulous!
The next day we got up and went to an old plantation called Belle Meade which bred horses. Apparently their horse Bonnie Scotland was one of Americas foundation sires and the progenitor of all 21st Century Kentucky Derby racehorses. We were quite excited to see the farm as they were breeding in the 1800’s and we were interested in learning how different it was from today. Unfortunately the original estate which was 5400 acres had been sold off so we really only got to see the mansion, stable for their carriage horses and everyday riding horses. Still it was very impressive the lavishness of the place. 
We then walked into downtown where all the action happens. Like Memphis it had a pedestrianized street with bars on either side, but instead of Blues it was country. There were also loads of cowboy boots and hat shops so that kept me entertained for an hour trying on all different kinds of cowboy boots!
The place I am sure is really very fun and Tim and I went into a few bars with country music playing but it just doesn’t float our boat. But for country lovers I am sure this place would be heaven. S

  The Belle Meade plantation  
The stables for their carriage horses

 Boots, boots and more boots   
  The Main Street – Broadway  
Guitar outside the Grand Ol Oprey. This was where all the country stars performed. We drove out there it see the museum but unfortunately they had a flood in 2010 and destroyed the museum. The concert hall was saved and famous country stars apparently still perform there.

  Broadway St at night. One of the cool things about this street was that some of the bars were on the rooftop.

Me and my toffee apple! This sweet shop rocked! 

Beale Street

So far our tour of the musical cities and towns of the southern states has been epic. We have been so lucky in the number of bands we have seen live, most of them for free and most of them really talented too. Great stuff.
Beale Street in Memphis is known as the street where all the blues artists from the surrounding areas came to perform and try and hit the big time! It’s a bit similar to Frenchman St in New Orleans in that it’s a street lined with bars in both sides all playing live music!  
The sounds as you walk down the street are great and even though we were there through the week there was still plenty going on. It has to be said though that the street was full of tourists rather than the locals but still it was a great atmosphere.

  
Memphis is known for the blues, but over the years there have been a whole host of musicians recording and performing here especially at Sun Studios and most notably Elvis. We were extremely lucky that the first place we went to had a band playing a whole host of covers and while he was doing it the lead singer gave a brief history of who sang the song and where and when it was released. Brilliant, entertainment and education!! To top it off they served some amazing ribs too!!!

   
 Another great venue was also free entry and was outside in between two buildings and had a small bar at the front serving draft beer in plastic cups. We went here both nights and were treated to some epic performances on both nights by some great old school blues musicians.

  
The last bar we went to was the BB King blues bar and their tribute band was on, we were about to walk away from the $5 cover charge but decided to go in anyway. Lucky we did, the band was great but the lead singer was superb!!! She and the band took us through a whole variety of styles of music which was great but the highlight was her absolutely nailing Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you”. Really quite spectacular to see live. Great venue, great evening.