Florida: Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney’s Magical Kingdom was last on my list. I was overwhelmed by the choice of parks and activities in Orlando, and having not experience many of the others I went for those first.

However you can’t really say you’re a Disney fan and not visit the original park when you get the chance. So on our last day that’s just what we did.

Unlike California and Euro Disneylands though, this one you have to reach by steamboat!

I think this picture accurately sums up the feeling when you complete the epic voyage and reach the opposite side of the lake…

I was curious how the Florida park would compare to others – particularly as I’ve had my fair share of trips to Euro Disney – and there were a few differences.

There are a couple of rides I hadn’t been on before – the runaway mine train (based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and the Log Flume (based on Song of the South).

They’ve also upgraded one or two rides and I particularly enjoyed the changes to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

At the end of the day though, it’s Disneyland and you can be sure that you’re going to feel the magic, no matter what.

And the day always ends on a high…

About our travel:

As this was primarily a business trip – with a leisure break included – our flights and accomodation were take care of for us by another party.

Flights: Virgin Atlantic

Car Rental: Sixt

Accomodation: Grande Villas by Diamond Resorts

Charleston’s Charm

I am just going to say it… I think Charleston is possibly the prettiest city I have ever visited. Not to mention the most warm and welcoming. It really showed us some amazing southern hospitality.

We only stayed a couple of nights, but I could easily live here. 

On our first evening we arrived starving after a long, long drive. I had heard wonderful things about Magnolias but sadly they couldn’t squeeze us in. So here is my hot tip: head next door to it’s sister restaurant Blossom. Which is every bit as good and much less crowded. 

For shopping; you can’t beat King Street, but the market hall was fun to wander through and we also found a fun farmers market on the square (held once a month).

Mostly though, I spent my time in Charleston drooling over dream houses and other pretty places.

Oh, and if you want to splash out on a fancy dinner – try this place. I celebrated my birthday with a Bison steak which I am still talking about now.

Sights and Sounds of Nashville

When I was eleven, I discovered Leanne Rimes (thanks to Coyote Ugly) and Country Music became my guilty pleasure. (Believe me, for a teenager in the UK it was not cool, but I fell in love with it anyway.)

I love almost all genres of music, but Country is the clear favourite.

There isn’t much of a country music scene in the UK, so visiting Nashville has been on my bucket list for a very, very long time… and if you can’t do something special for your 30th birthday when can you?? 

We rose bright an early on our fist morning in Nashville (very early in fact – thanks jet lag!) and didn’t waist any time heading Downtown. I have been following Kelsey Montague‘s art on Instagram for ages, and literally stumbled into her famous wings not long after we left the hotel. 

I think this picture accurately sums up my feelings about being in Nashville for the first time…

Why can’t every city have bike stands in the shape of music notes?

After the obligatory walk down Broadway and a spot of boot-browsing, we decided to head for a lunch time treat with live music. 

Yes, it may be a little gimmicky but BB King is a musical legend so how could we not eat here?

We walked off lunch by heading up the hill to look at the State Capitol building.

Which had a great view past the war memorials and across the city.

Not long after this the top end of a hurricane hit Nashville and our afternoon activities were rained off. We retreated to our hotel where the jet lag caught up with us. After a quick snooze, we were refreshed (as was the city) so we headed out to The Station Inn. If you are ever in Nashville and want to hear some of the best live bluegrass go there – the Sunday Night Jam was brilliant. I’m not going to say more than that as it’s really the sort of place you have to experience for yourself.

Day Two dawned almost as bright and early as the first so we headed out to explore some more. 

As the weather had perked up a bit we headed to Centennial Park, which is a beautiful oasis of green in the middle of a very concrete-and-glass city. It also happens to be the home of a full-size and to-scale replica of the Parthenon from Ancient Greece…

For reasons that I still can’t wrap my head around, just over 100 years ago the state of Tennessee decided to spend lots of money it didn’t have, building this in the hopes of attracting visitors and boosting the local economy. It now houses an art gallery which sadly was closed on Mondays.

I’ll be completely honest though, Nashville was a bit of a let down during the day. If you aren’t day-drinking on a bachelorette party and/or don’t like country-music-themed-museums you might be a bit stuck for activities. We spent most of our 2nd day wandering aimlessly and doing a little shopping in 12-South.

Another way to pass time in Nashville is by queuing to get in to this famous place:

The concierge at our hotel warned us that people had been known to queue for up to 7 hours for a show at the Bluebird, but we didn’t want to spend all day sat on a wall so we took a chance and arrived just under 3 hours before the first show. Luckily we timed it just right and made it into the singer-songwriter showcase that evening. (Side note – since mu visit, the Bluebird has now started to allow online booking for some shows to eliminate the queues. More info here.)

So that’s another item I can cross off my bucket list!

Americana

I’m a big fan of America – In fact it’s my dream to do a coast-to-coast road trip across the States one day.

Last week it was Independence Day on the other side of the pond. (It was also, coincidentally, a year since I completed on my house, so I like to think of it as my own day of ‘independence’ …more about that coming soon!)

The star-spangled banner is the main image associated with Independence Day, and this summer it’s something that’s really influenced high-street designs. So here’s my pick of the best stars and stripes still out there at the moment…

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Star Denim Hotpants, £28 from Topshop
wear with: Stipe Crop Top, £10 from Topshop & Ring, £8 from Urban Outfitters
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Flag Vest, £20 (on sale) Hilfiger Denim via ASOS
Skinny Jeans, £45 (on sale) Kill City via ASOS
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Flag Shorts, £15 from boohoo.com
wear with: Emroidered Blouse, £20 from Dorothy Perkins & Cowboy boots, £110 from Kurt Geiger
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Skinny Jeans £38 (on sale) Tripp NYC via ASOS
wear with: Denim Biker Jacket £12.99 (on sale) from Zara & Canvas Shopper £13.00 (on sale) Pieces via ASOS
How would you wear this trend? S x