Travels in Tennessee 2023

For me returning to the Great Smoky Mountains is inevitable. Most all who visit here fall in love with everything about this magical place. The air smells fresher, the people are welcoming and there’s no end of things to explore. While this trip featured several new experiences for me, I always make the drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Cades Cove Loop, seeking out scenic overlooks and photo-ops to capture the beauty all around me. Once you’ve driven through, you’re always drawn back. It’s ever-changing with the passage of time yet it remains clean and well maintained, a credit to our national parks workers. Photos can never do it justice but I wanted to share a few favorites from this vacation.

And one more thing, if you’ve never been here, I hope you will one day.

Returning to Tennessee – part five

Since my last visit in 2016, the Foothills Parkway was completed. The Wears Valley entrance was less than a mile from my cabin and I decided to check it out. I drove it several times during my stay; it’s scenic with many turnouts for taking pictures and little to no traffic.
The Foothills Parkway is a national parkway which traverses the foothills of the northern Great Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee, located in the southeastern United States”. Wikipedia

33 miles in total distance
I got up early to catch the sunrise.
Turkeys but no bears
In Wears Valley I love to seek out interesting photo opportunities and thought this was a cool old barn. And I love old barns.
It never rained during my stay but it looks like Gatlinburg got a bit of rain this day. The clouds were low, shrouding the mountains.
I pulled off on a side road to take this shot. This is Wears Valley.

Returning to Tennessee – part four

A trip to the Smoky Mountains isn’t complete without driving the Cades Cove Loop. I drove it three times during the trip choosing daybreak, midday and late afternoon to experience the changing light and wildlife sightings. It’s a one-way 11 mile drive that progresses slowly as you savor the scenery, take photos and stop for animals.

I get a thrill seeing the black bears that are a beloved fixture in Tennessee. I’d been following several Facebook groups in the weeks before my trip with numerous posts of mother bears with multiple cubs. I’ve always had multiple bear sightings on past trips – my hopes were high. I saw one bear cub on my late morning drive. He scampered across the road in front of me and was gone before I could get a photo. He was my only bear on this trip but there’s always next time.

Travels in Canada – part eleven – Canmore

After our first week spent in Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, we settled into a condo in Canmore (via for week two.  Canmore is a treasure of a town.  Our location was perfect, including a fabulous wine shop just a few steps from our elevator and an easy walk to shopping, restaurants and pubs in the downtown area and a panoramic view of the Three Sisters Mountains.


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Painted on the side of a building

“Canmore is a town in Alberta, Canada, located approximately 81 kilometres (50 mi) west of the City of Calgary near the southeast boundary of Banff National Park. It is located in the Bow Valley within Alberta’s Rockies. The town shares a border with Kananaskis Country to the west and south and the Municipal District of Bighorn No. 8 to the north and east. With a population of 12,288 in 2011, Canmore is the ninth-largest town in Alberta.”  source Wikipedia

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The Three Sisters are a trio of peaks near Canmore, Alberta, Canada. They are known individually as Big Sister (Faith), Middle Sister (Charity) and Little Sister (Hope)

Situated along the Bow River and surrounded by the Three Sisters Mountain range, you are always surrounded by beauty.  Canmore has a clean, fresh look to it with stylish architecture and flowers at every turn.  We found the dining options to be fantastic – a foodie lovers dream (my first meal with a Confit Duck Poutine, OMG right?)

“Canmore’s economic future seemed dismal until the announcement in the early 1980s that Calgary would be hosting the 1988 Winter Olympics, and that Canmore would play host to the Nordic events. This resulted in an increase in tourism, and Canmore began to develop into the recreational tourist destination it is today.” source Wikipedia

Canmore’s scenery has also drawn the movie industry, a fact we learned while staying there.  The following movies (several of our favorites) were filmed in Canmore:

Nikki, Wild Dog of the North (1961)
Naked Flame (1964)
Brother of the Wind (1973)
Death Hunt (1981)
High Country, The (1981)
Kelly (1981)
Harry Tracy, Desperado (1982)
Stone Fox (1987)
Nightbreed (1990)
Bekhudi (1992)
Last of the Dogmen (1995)
Edge, The (1997)
Wild America (1997)
I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)
HeartBeat: Changing Places (1998)
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
John Q (2002)
Snow Dogs (2002)
RV (2006)
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The (2007)
The Right Kind of Wrong (2013)
Canmore: 72 Hours in a State of Emergency (2013 Documentary)
Interstellar (2014)


This post brings to a close my Travels in Canada series, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.  God willing, Spence and I return to this stunningly beautiful part of the world.



Scenes from Europe – Part Ten – Amsterdam – architecture, street scenes, markets & more

Amsterdam is the one of the most unique and diverse cities we’ve ever visited. The architecture, houseboats, canals, flower markets, bicycles – unlike any place Spence or I have ever traveled.  We are completely enamored of this special place and I’ve already started looking at a possible return trip in 2016 – fingers crossed. If you’ve never been, I implore you – visit Amsterdam!

Scenes from Europe – Part Nine – Amsterdam – Houseboats & Canal Cruising

On our European adventure, we started and ended in Amsterdam. For the first three days, we rented a houseboat, a unique and fun experience. I don’t think I’ve slept better in my life than being “rocked” gently to sleep.  The canals are such an integral part of Amsterdam, as are bicycles and houseboats.  The architecture was stunning and is unlike anywhere else in the world.  Every moment spent in this lovely city was memorable.

Our houseboat with Spence (by the green door). Once you entered, our apartment was to the left, another to the right.

Our little kitchenette and door to the bathroom.

Our window and seating area. Ducks were frequent visitors, swimming by and climbing up to sun themselves on the side rails.

Our comfy bed and armoire. Not fancy but fabulous and exactly what we needed.

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Scenes from Europe – Part Five – Lerici

Arriving in Italy, we had no destination in mind. It was a Sunday evening around 6:00 p.m. and we needed a hotel when we came upon the charming coastal town of Lerici. Lerici is a town and commune in the province of La Spezia in Liguria, part of the Italian Riviera. After stopping at a small trattoria, Spence engaged the owner to ask for a recommendation. The gentleman was so kind and called the Hotel Doria arranging a room for us. Now to find it….we drove up the narrow streets, climbing ever higher. At last we found it and what a spectacular view, overlooking the harbor. There was a concert in town which we enjoyed from our balcony. Sunday nights the restaurant is closed but the man who checked us in brought us a lovely tray of meat, cheese and bread with a bottle of Chianti. It was a balmy night, so memorable.  Here are my best of the best photos:

Scenes from Europe – Part Three – The Champagne Tour

During our European trip, we stopped for a tour at Mercier Champagne Cellars.  It was fascinating. Here’s a few facts:

Mercier is a Champagne producer based in the Épernay region of Champagne. The house, founded in 1858, produces both vintage and non-vintage cuvée. Mercier owned the original rights to the name Dom Pérignon but gave the brand to Moët et Chandon in 1927. Today the house is under the umbrella of the LVMH group and is the number one selling brand of Champagne in the domestic French market. (source Wikipedia)

Inside the dome at Mercier Champagne Cellars
Inside the dome at Mercier Champagne Cellars

A model of the 1889 Champagne cask pulled by 24 oxen to the World’s Fair in Paris France.

The actual cask from that 1889 World's Fair
The actual cask from that 1889 World’s Fair

After riding down in an elevator to the subterranean champagne cellars, you take the tour on a little red train, passing hallways filled with champagne.
After riding down in an elevator to the subterranean champagne cellars, you take the tour on a little red train, passing hallways filled with champagne.

Chalk carvings inside the champagne caves also help regulate temperature and humidity
Chalk carvings inside the champagne caves also help regulate temperature and humidity

Champange as far as the eye could see
Champagne as far as the eye could see!


For the Writing 101 Assignment for Day Two, participants were asked to be transported to a place we’d want to go to right now, our “room with a view”, the back story and how it affects us.

Where I want to go right now:  In a few short weeks, Spence and I will be heading back to this place; I simply need to be patient. It is a place we’ve vacationed every year since we discovered it.


The Back Story:  A number of years ago, I found a place on that Spence and I now think of as our second home.  Located in the midst of the woods, through a valley, up a winding hillside adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, it is a haven for Spence and I.  Here we reconnect with each other and nature, recharge and relax.  A log-built home, perfect for two and with no one else in sight.  Our haven.


The “Room with a View” and How it Affects Us:  With a balcony off the loft and one off the bedroom, these are our windows to the sunrise, rainfall, woodlands and wildlife. I rise early and climb the stairs to the loft, a steaming cup of tea in my hand and a soft blanket to wrap around me. I inhale the pine scented air, breathe in the dew on the leaves as I feel the steam from the tea against my face.


I sense the breeze and watch the sun as it peeks through the leaves.


I listen closely for signs of wildlife as we’ve seen bears here but am more likely to see butterflies and squirrels.  I meditate and enjoy the solitude, grateful for everything good in my life.

During the day and into the evening, our balconies draw Spence and I to them.  Here we read, talk about everything or nothing, happily observe and enjoy being together. With many a glass of wine or beer, we’ve toasted each other as daylight fades into twilight then to dark.

At least once every trip, it rains. At times intense then soft, it’s always welcome at night when it lulls us to sleep.  Last year on our first night while sipping a glass of wine, we heard the rain start to fall. I stood and leaned against the railing with my face and arms stretched forward.  Spence held me and we remained there, suspended in the moment, letting the mist cover us.

Moving Mom – Part Two or It’s Not Only About Packing

March 4th – I awake and realize I’m in Florida, out of the sub-zero, frozen tundra of Michigan.  Lovely. Over breakfast I can see that Mom, who’s by now on her third dose of antibiotic, seems sick but is hanging in there.  We start talking about the tasks at hand and I start my “take-charge/bouncing off” ideas that are cascading out of my amped-up, moving-motivated brain. She’s grateful and all too happy to have someone else suggest ideas on packing the POD which will be dropped off 3/9 and once loaded with her worldly goods, taken away on 3/16.  We discuss our road trip north (I-75 to Michigan) and the importance of stocking in a few bottles of wine (we could be stranded in dry counties!) for the road as well as Kindles and Dominoes.

Part of this trip is the nostalgic last-time tour of my favorite spots. We decide that today is as good as any to drive out to Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda for lunch at my favorite seafood restaurant.  Off we go, with me driving her car (a good plan since we’ll share the drive north) and make a bee-line for the Village Fish Market Restaurant.  Our tradition, order the basket of Fried Mozzarella and Zucchini appetizer to split (served with ranch and honey mustard) and I get the fried oyster entree with their exceptional onion rings and the jalapeño cornbread.  I can only say that there is NOWHERE ON EARTH that does fried food any better! (check my Trip Advisor review if you think I’m embellishing)  I almost weep thinking “will I ever be here again?” but suck it up so I don’t make Mom cry as well.  She even makes a point as we’re leaving to say goodbye to their bartender who’s waited on us in the past and is exceptional.  (Sigh)

March 5th – Mom is really sick today. I’m concerned based on her past. Some years back she had a horrific sinus infection that lasted seven months during which she lost 20% of her body weight (and she can’t keep weight on – and yes, lest you ask, she is my birth mother – sadly she didn’t pass on this trait to my sister and I. Sigh again.) She’s now losing her voice and looks (as I did the week prior) like a kitten could kick her ass.  I’m still in the take-charge mode but know she’s grateful and frankly doesn’t even care what I’m doing.  She just wants to lie down and sleep. I decide to get out of her hair and do some pool time since I think my hyper-activity is stressing her out.

I’m at the pool, hanging out and showing off the pedicure. This picture makes my legs look huge.  Oh well.

The view from the pool, oh how I'll miss this.
The view from the pool, oh how I’ll miss this.

I come back in time to freshen up and meet her Financial Advisor who’s arranged to stop by. I get her out of bed to join us and her voice is down to a squeak.  She looks like she’s barely hanging on.  I think she’s on the wrong antibiotic but she wants to stick with it till the next morning so I back off my “Dr. Laura” routine.  I take out the recycle bin and notice the night sky is full of stars and the moon is magnificent.  I run for my i-phone to capture it.

My attempt to capture what cannot be described. Not bad but seeing it while standing outside in shorts and sandals at 9 p.m. is a different experience. Take my word for it.

Tomorrow is another day, hoping Mom is improved or I’ll be hog-tying her and dragging her to the doctor!