Wildflower Walking – Picos de Europa
An appropriate last photo - Forget-me-not.

Wildflower Walking – Picos de Europa

Colletts delivered a well organised wildflower walking holiday with expert guiding to ensure you could locate all the best examples of the Spring flora in the Picos de Europa.

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Mountain Heaven in the Picos de Europa
Globularia Ripens and Helianthemum oleandicum ssp. piloselloides - shot at at F22.

Mountain Heaven in the Picos de Europa

The Spring flower season in the Picos de Europa is short but spectacular. There are around three weeks between 20th May and 7th June when the mountains burst into life with a wide array of colourful alpine plants.

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Deep South USA Road Trip – Final Reflections
Struggle for Civil Rights

Deep South USA Road Trip – Final Reflections

Our Deep South USA Road Trip has been such a great experience. Good music, food with soul and one warm welcome after another. never had much time for history at school, but I really enjoyed seeing modern history being brought to life in the Deep South and appreciated how important it is to an understanding of the world we live in today.

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Accommodation Review:  The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville
The Hermitage Hotel Nashville - Perfect!

Accommodation Review:  The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville

The Hermitage is a fantastic hotel.  If I could sum it up in one word, it would be "PERFECT."  If I get the chance to add a few more words, I would pick: elegant, efficient and peaceful.  It is the oldest hotel in Nashville and the first million $ hotel to be built here.  "Meet me at the Hermitage" is what the locals say - you can certainly see why!

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Deep South USA – The Cocktail Trail
Mint Julep - Monmouth Historic Inn, Natchez

Deep South USA – The Cocktail Trail

The 1800s were heady days for drinking in the US, but especially in the South, where (some say) one of America’s first cocktails – Sazerac – was invented.  America’s only native spirit was also created in the Deep South:  Bourbon, made from the corn that was prolific in Kentucky.  To be authentic, it must be: made in the US; have at least 51 percent corn mash and aged in charred oak barrels.  A few decades later in 1920, prohibition came into effect – manufacture, sale, transport, import and export of liquor was all illegal, giving rise to the illicit manufacture and trade of alcohol.  Moonshine (un-aged corn mash whisky) was prolific – named in tribute to its clandestine manufacture at night.  Prohibition may have made liquor illegal, but spirits flowed freely in the back alleys and countrysides of America. Many of the best cocktails were created in those days and survived the dry years.  These days there is a growing appreciation for the traditional cocktails of the Deep South.  Here are my absolute favourites, where best to enjoy them and recipes for re-creating them when you get back home*.  Sampling them all will take you on a winding course along the banks of the mighty  Mississippi River all the way from New Orleans to Nashville, discovering the fascinating history, toe tapping  music and all the fun that this vibrant region has to offer along the way.  It is for sure one of the USA’s best road trips.  Are you ready?   “Cheers!”

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Nashville Day 2 – Love can build a Bridge over that Old Man River …
Nashville State Capitol Building & the stage in the foreground

Nashville Day 2 – Love can build a Bridge over that Old Man River …

Nashville Day 2 - the city changed its name to Draftsville as the NFL draft got into full swing.  Broadway was completely packed out with music ringing from every bar and stage as the crowd worked themselves into a frenzy yelling "The Pick is In".

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Nashville Day 1 – or NASH – Vull (as the locals would say it)
The world famous Orchid Lounge at Tootsie's purple bar serves as the headquarters for the NFL draft

Nashville Day 1 – or NASH – Vull (as the locals would say it)

It took us most of the day to drive from Memphis to Nashville.  We arrived to discover that the NFL professional draft had just started - Nashville is the base this year.  Nashville has a very upmarket feel to it.  It is a booming city with a rising population that is growing fast.  

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Two Days in Memphis Day 1
I am a Man Memorial National Museum of Civil Rights Memphis

Two Days in Memphis Day 1

Two Days in Memphis Day 1 - There is a LOT to do here and you need to be very well organised if you want to do it all!  This was how we tackled it.

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Find out where the first Teddy Bear came from
The original teddy bear that Teddy Roosevelt gave to a local kid and how the toy got its name.

Find out where the first Teddy Bear came from

The first teddy bear was given life at the Onward Store at Rolling Fork, on Highway 61 between Vicksburg and Memphis.

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The American Civil War – The More you Know the More you Grow …
The most impressive war memorial - with 47 steps - one for each day of the Vicksburg siege

The American Civil War – The More you Know the More you Grow …

The American Civil War - "There they lay, the blue and grey intermingled; the same rich, young American blood flowing out in little rivulets of crimson, each thinking he was in the right."

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Accommodation Review:  Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn, Vicksburg
Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn Vicksburg - The prettiest bed I have ever slept in!

Accommodation Review:  Anchuca Historic Mansion and Inn, Vicksburg

Anchuca means "happy home" in Chocotaw and this bed and breakfast/hotel certainly makes you feel very welcome.  Built in 1830, the house was a hospital after the surrender of Vicksburg in the Civil War and, interestingly, cared for both Confederate and Union soldiers.

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Walnut Hills Restaurant – Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Fillet Gumbo
Walnut Hills Restaurant Vicksburg

Walnut Hills Restaurant – Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie and Fillet Gumbo

Crawfish sauce was the nearest I got to crawfish pie - but I did sample the local catfish at Walnut Hills - 1214 Adams St. and it was delicious.  This restaurant is full of old world charm at its best and serves good Southern Plantation cuisine.

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Accommodation Review: Monmouth Historic Inn, Natchez
Monmouth House Natchez

Accommodation Review: Monmouth Historic Inn, Natchez

Monmouth Historic Inn, Natchez is a really lovely hotel - full of charm and character.  The rooms are beautifully furnished and there is great attention to detail throughout.  Meticulously maintained grounds; a well stocked cocktail bar with a skilled bar tender that knows exactly how to mix whatever is your favourite tipple and a superb breakfast offering.

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A One Way Ticket – Natchez Trace Pathway
Bread Pudding Muffin with white chocolate topping - the Mad Baker

A One Way Ticket – Natchez Trace Pathway

The road from Natchez to our next stop in Vicksburg follows the Natchez Trace Pathway, which runs for 444 miles through three states from the southern Appalachian foothills of Tennessee to the bluffs of the lower Mississippi River.

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Longwood – Romance, Tragedy, Trauma, Grace … and Truth?
The unfinished dream that never came true

Longwood – Romance, Tragedy, Trauma, Grace … and Truth?

Longwood was the dream that never came true, but not for want of trying.  An entertaining story of  romance, tragedy, trauma and grace.  The magnificent octagonal house was never finished - the civil war intervened and changed the lives of its occupants - the Nutt family - irretrievably.

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Evergreen Plantation – What was Life as a Slave really Like?
Slave Quarters - Evergreen Plantation

Evergreen Plantation – What was Life as a Slave really Like?

Beautiful as the Nottoway Plantation was, I was left with wanting to know what was life really like on the Deep South Plantation?   What were the slave quarters like?  Was it really true what you see in films like Roots?  We drove back up the River Road towards New Orleans and visited Evergreen Plantation to find out.

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Mississippi River – Laisser les Bons Temps Roulez …
Mississippi River Road

Mississippi River – Laisser les Bons Temps Roulez …

Laissez les bons temps roulez - let the good times continue to roll though...  We moved on today to White Castle, driving the river road up the great Mississippi River to White Castle.  This is sugar plantation country.  It was fun to pass road signs to all the places you hear about in the songs you love

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From Rooter to Tooter – The food here has SOUL!
Bananas Foster - Chucking in the Cinammon!

From Rooter to Tooter – The food here has SOUL!

The New Orleans School of Cooking was a great place to spend a morning here.  The cooking in the Deep South is way different from the rest of the USA.  It is Creole - a veritable melting pot of all the nationalities that coalesced in this part of the world (Portugeuse, Spanish, French, Italian) and made it what it is today.   Nothing goes to waste - it is "rooter to tooter" as the expression goes - i.e. - everything on the hog is used except it's squeak.

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New Orleans Jazz Festival “Morning Sunshines”
New Orleans - in full Swing

New Orleans Jazz Festival “Morning Sunshines”

We woke to the smell of beignets wafting in from the street curiously mixed with the scent of lemon from the disinfectant they use to wash the sheets here.  Breakfast was served by a cheerful waitress who greeted us with "Morning Sunshines!"

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New Orleans – A Ton of Fun!
New Orleans Jazz Festival

New Orleans – A Ton of Fun!

New Orleans has been throbbing 24/7 since 1718.  It is the birthplace of jazz and has always had music at its heart.  The French Quarter Jazz Festival was in full swing when we arrived - what a great week-end to visit!  New Orleans i's way more than honky tonk pianos and saxophones though.  The food is great here, the welcome is warm, the people are full of life and colour and the vibe is great.

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Heading to the Big Easy – Deep South USA Road Trip
Deep South USA Itinerary

Heading to the Big Easy – Deep South USA Road Trip

On Friday, we head to New Orleans for the start of our trip to the Big Easy - Deep South USA Road Trip. We will walk along the sweeping bends of the Mississippi River, visit the bayous of Louisiana and get familiar with the great cities of Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans.  I am looking forward to sampling Cajun food and hearing some great live music in the birthplace of soul, jazz, blues, country and rock and roll.

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Hiking the Lake District in Springtime
Derwent Water - Spring sunshine and swathes of daffodils

Hiking the Lake District in Springtime

A lovely couple of days spent hiking in the Lake District brought swathes of yellow daffodils, some interesting fauna and some smashing views.  A week later and the whole place was covered in snow!

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