Review: America's Southern States
Escorted Tour - Coach
Which tour was this anyway?
19 people found this review helpful
If you could ever imagine the WORST start to our Saga holiday, this was it! On the coach transfer from the airport to the hotel in Atlanta, the tour manager welcomed us to “The Rhythms of the Deep South”. Everyone on the coach thought they’d booked for “A Taste of the Deep South”!! This was the cause of not a little consternation among the 44 ‘silver’ travellers, but all was soon to become clear…
The tour was a round trip, staying overnight in Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, Natchez, New Orleans, Montgomery and back to Atlanta, with visits everywhere along the way. The difference between the two tours, it turned out, was that the “Rhythms” included a lot more visits of a musical nature than were in the original itinerary. For some people on the trip, that was a disappointment as music wasn’t their first interest, but for my wife and I this improved the whole experience from being very good to really A-MAZ-ING!!! (to quote Craig from Strictly!).
There were so many highlights, it is difficult to know where to start, but here follow just a few:
In Chattanooga, we rode the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain – a fantastic ride with Wonderful views at the top, and fascinating history from the Civil War.
In Nashville, we went to the world-famous radio show at the Grand Ole Opry, which was brilliant – if you like modern-style country music. (This was an optional extra to the cost of the tour). The “Rhythms” tour did include a backstage visit to the Opry, and a chance to stand centre stage on the famous ‘circle’ – but unfortunately no chance to perform! A guided coach tour of the town had the quirky addition of a stop to do some tasting – of moonshine! (Not what you think Nashville is famous for!). The town centre itself – Broadway – is renowned for its music clubs (honky-tonks) and lunch there with musical entertainment was memorable. I even managed to add to my record collection with the purchase of vinyl 45s for my jukebox in Ernest Tubb’s record shop, and in the Johnny Cash museum. Marvellous! I also have to mention RCA Sudio B where many famous musicians started their careers, including Elvis. We all stood on the blue cross spot in the studio, where Elvis stood to record many of his famous songs, some of them with the lighting switched off!
The Elvis theme continued via his birthplace in Tupelo to Memphis and to Graceland. It’s a big tourist attraction of course, but an excellent visit which left us thinking much more highly of Elvis than we had before. His charity work was truly amazing. I couldn’t leave without sampling an ice cream with Elvis’ favourite flavours – peanut butter and banana! That was DEFINITELY an experience! Memphis was as equally great as Nashville, with a visit to Sun Studio (where Elvis began his career) and a musical tour where a guitarist/singer got on to the coach and sang us round the town! We just had to finish at the Peabody Hotel, however, for the daily parade of ducks. Yes, strange but true – every day, twice a day, the ducks leave the fountain in the hotel lobby and parade into the lift to their home in the penthouse. Only in the USA….. An evening stroll around the clubs in Beale Street and dinner at BB King’s blues club rounded of a brilliant day.
Our journey to New Orleans was punctuated with stops in Natchez and a visit to an antebellum mansion, and in Indianola, the home town of BB King. There was an interesting visit to his museum there, but the highlight was lunch in the Ebony Club where he first started playing. Fried chicken and crawfish, accompanied by a blues band – all just for our group!
New Orleans is a much bigger town than we’d previously visited, but maybe has more to offer. Unfortunately, the weather while we were there was wet and we were unable to see as much as we would’ve liked. However, we discovered two excellent restaurants (Brennan’s and Bourbon House), enjoyed coffee and beignets in the Cafe du Monde, and the (in)famous Hurricane cocktail in Muriel’s. We found the main music street, Bourbon Street, not quite as welcoming as Broadway and Beale, with more sleazy clubs and beggars than expected, but the highlight was an evening dinner cruise on the Natchez paddle steamer, accompanied by a dixieland jazz band. We also enjoyed an optional extra Swamp Cruise. You just have to see ‘gators in the deep south! I even sampled alligator sausage in a Po’Boy sandwich for lunch!
Our return to Atlanta via Montgomery took the theme of civil rights, with a lot of history relating to Martin Luther King, which again was fascinating, but for us the music made the tour. One of the few drawbacks of this tour was that there was a lot of coach travel to get to the different places, and we would’ve liked more time in each one. It also seemed to us that 44 people on a trip like this was too many, as it always took some time to get everyone on and off the coach, and to check into the various hotels etc.
In summary, it might be worthwhile to check in advance with a tour company exactly which trip you have booked! In this case, for us, it wasn’t a problem and the change worked in our favour. We’d go back and do it all again tomorrow!
19 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.