Travel theme: Freedom

East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, Knoxville

To honor the men and women who protect our freedom, the City of Knoxville placed wreaths for the month of December on the graves of our veterans.  Although we posted pictures of this cemetery for our Memorial Day 2014 tribute, we thought we would share this lovely sight of over 6,000 wreaths honoring our service men and women at the East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery on Lyons View Pike during this Christmas season as well.

We hope you, too, will be moved by this tribute to those whose actions ensure freedom for all of us.

“To be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of all others. ” 

Dwight Eisenhower, State of the Union Address, 1953

Grave in East TN State Veterans CemeteryGraves with wreaths in East Tennessee State Veterans CemeteryFor more entries in Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack challenge this week — Travel theme: Freedomclick here.

East Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery

5901 Lyons View Pike

Knoxville, TN 37919

(865) 577-3228

ETSV.Cemetery@tn.gov

 

Posted in Travel, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Staying calm at Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Garden Conservatory, Opryland Hotel

Garden Conservatory, Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Stay calm?  At the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center?  Is that not an oxymoronic question in itself?  With 2,711 guest rooms and 171 suites on six floors, you would think it an impossibity to indulge in rest and relaxation. Especially when an event such as the conference I attended last week —  Learning Forward 2014 —  brought together 3,600 educators in 600,000 square feet of meeting space.

But yes, you can stay calm. And relaxed.  And enthralled.  You just have to know where to go in this magical, multi-space resort where gardens flow harmoniously into well-appointed living spaces.

First, ask for a balcony room in the Delta wing of the hotel so you have a view of the Garden Conservatory, an architecturally beautiful space with a glass ceiling open to the sky.

View of Garden Conservatory, Gaylord Opryland

Glass ceiling, lush greenery — view from my balcony room and the Garden Conservatory

Swing open the door to your balcony and enjoy the lush greenery that awaits you — palm trees, ferns, manicured shrubs and, at this time of year, massive plantings of pink and white and red poinsettias.

Banks of pink poinsettias  line the area near a waterfall in the Garden Conservatory

Banks of pink poinsettias line the area near a waterfall in the Garden Conservatory

Watch as people take pictures of family members near the light-bedecked gazebo . . .

Mom captures her husband and child at the decorated gazebo in the Garden Conservatory

Mom captures her husband and child at the decorated gazebo in the Garden Conservatory

or climb into one of the boats meandering the waters and listen while a guide selects other features of this indoor paradise to share with you.

Riding the Delta Riverboat through the waters of at Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Riding the Delta Riverboat through the waters of at Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Indulge in the sights of balconies aglow from ceiling-hung strands of twinkly lights . . .

Balcony rooms all aglow with the light of streetlamps and thousands of twinkly lights

Balcony rooms all aglow with the light of streetlamps and thousands of twinkly lights

or stand in front of the all-red poinsettia tree and take a selfie for your Christmas card!

A popular spot for pictures -- the red poinsettia tree in the Garden Conservatory

A popular spot for pictures — the red poinsettia tree in the Garden Conservatory

Second, just sit a spell on your own balcony and notice how others are enjoying the privacy even in this full-to-capacity resort.  You might want to pamper yourself with a massage right on your balcony or just share early-morning coffee with your roommate.

Early-morning coffee on the balcony -- Gaylord Opryland Resort

Early-morning coffee on the balcony — Gaylord Opryland Resort

But if you choose to roam, you can still remain calm.  Bring your walking shoes and “hike” the walkways above the gardens.

Hiking the gardens on one  of the long walkways above the flora and fauna

Hiking the gardens on one of the long walkways above the flora and fauna

Look down at the restaurants yet to open . . .

The calm before opening -- Ravello, one of the restaurants in the Garden Conservatory

The calm before opening — Ravello, one of the restaurants in the Garden Conservatory

or the shopping areas where people gather but you hardly hear them.

View from above of the shopping areas in Gaylord Opryland Resort

View from above of the shopping areas in Gaylord Opryland Resort

You may opt for sipping coffee in front of the waterfalls just as my roommate Terry Frost of Knoxville did and plan your day.  Will it be shopping? picture-taking? attending a conference? or simply “staying put” in one of America’s premier resorts?

Enjoying her coffee and the calm of the Conservatory -- Terry Frost of Knoxville

Enjoying her coffee and the calm of the Conservatory — Terry Frost of Knoxville

Whatever you choose to do at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, rest assured that you can be hurried and active or calm and relaxed.  The choice is up to you!

Colorfully decorated trees seem to be everywhere at Gaylord Opryland Resort!

Colorfully decorated trees seem to be everywhere at Gaylord Opryland Resort!

For more information:

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214

615-889-1000

Websitehttp://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/gaylordoprylandresort

If you go:

  • Book early.  Space fills up quickly, especially if there is a convention at the hotel.
  • Ask for a balcony room, if it fits within your budget.  It’s worth it!
  • Check out the restaurants and early-morning coffee places.  Lines get long as walkers roam the hotel early and then stop for a pastry and coffee.
  • If you go at Christmas, check out the over 2 million lights and the lovely nativity in the Magnolia entryway.  Carriage rides are available.  (Access blog post here.)
Posted in Destination, Gardens, Hotels, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

Opryland Hotel by night

The glittery, twinkly magic of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel delights thousands of visitors each December.  No matter how chill the night air, guests push open the doors of the Magnolia entrance of this Nashville, Tennessee, convention center and stroll down the tree-lit sidewalks.

Lighted trees in front of Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Horse-drawn carriages await their guests at the fairyland entryway.  And then the clop-clop sound of the slow-paced steeds begins.

Magnolia Entrance -- Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN

Inside, the glitter continues as long strands of tiny white lights lead all eyes upward to the glass ceiling and the magical atrium-turned-glitter-ball that lights the way through the rain forest paths.

Interior of Opryland Hotel decorated for Christmas holidays

The Opryland Hotel will definitely put a twinkle in your eye!

For more entries in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle, click here.

Gaylord Opryland Hotelhttp://www.marriott.com/hotels/hotel-photos/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/

Facebook: Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resorthttps://www.facebook.com/gaylordoprylandresort

Posted in Destination, Holiday, Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone, But Not Forgotten

While driving through one of our favorite Middle Tennessee towns — Franklin — we paused near the entrance of St. Philip Catholic Church to take a closer look at the Nativity laid out beautifully on the front lawn.

Nativity: St. Philip Catholic Church, Franklin, TN

Nativity at St. Philip Catholic Church, Franklin, Tennessee

It was old-world, if you will — beautiful figures in colorful clothing, animals gathered ’round, all focused on the manger scene.

King bearing gifts, Franklin, TN

King bearing gifts at Nativity of St. Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, Tennessee

But as we moved in for a closer look, we noticed something missing.   Where is Baby Jesus? we wondered.

Just as we were looked into the stable, a woman jogging by stopped and said, Are you from out of town?  Do you know the story of this Nativity? We admitted that we were from out of town and no, we didn’t know the story.  She continued.  I’ve lived here all my life.  Grew up with this lovely old Nativity and adore it still.  But a few years back someone stole the Baby Jesus.  The church people got together and decided not to replace Him.  Said they didn’t want to put another one in just so someone could remove one after another.  And so, the manger is empty.

Manger scene missing Baby Jesus

Manger scene missing Baby Jesus at St. Philip Catholic Church, Franklin, TN

I replied that I was sorry to hear about the theft, but a friend of mine had a different take on this.  My friend, I said, actually purchased a Nativity from a store that had marked the set way down because there was no Baby Jesus.

But my friend bought it especially because the baby was missing.  Her reasoning?  ‘The Baby Jesus doesn’t live in a manger.  He lives in our hearts.’ 

The lady jogger in Franklin loved the story.  For her and for my friend who bought the Nativity missing the central figure, the Baby Jesus was gone but definitely not forgotten.

For more entries in this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone But Not Forgotten, click here.

 

Posted in Photography, Travel, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge

African buffalo

It seemed ordinary. An early-morning Jeep ride through a game preserve near Kruger National Park.  Not much in sight.  Not many sounds.

But when the driver veered near this watering hole, something we’d never seen before unfolded in front of us.  A convergence of buffalo. A gathering by the waterside.  A find for those of us who never dreamed we’d see so many so far away.

For more entries in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Converge, click here.

Posted in Photography, Weekly Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Picture Perfect: Christmas 2012 at Bellagio!

Las Vegas -- like no other city in the US!

Las Vegas — like no other city in the US!(

(We are republishing this post from Christmas 2012 so you can take a look at one of the most over-the-top holiday rooms we’ve ever seen — the Bellagio Conservatory in Las Vegas.  You just may get inspired to deck out your own abode accordingly!! :)

I’m one of those rare people who had never visited Las Vegas.  Now, thanks to working with Discovery Communications and training teachers in Clark County, Nevada,  I’ve been there three times since October!

And I like it!  There’s nothing better for me than strolling through hotel lobbies, looking at sculptures (especially love Chihuly!), artfully decorated rugs and drapes, fountains that shoot sky high to the “Star Spangled Banner,” and interiors that imitate street scenes in Venice or Paris or New York!

And then there’s one of my favorite hobbies:  people watching.  Which, in a town like Vegas, is a 24/7 pastime whether you’re on The Strip watching the fashion parade or in a casino catching glimpses of folks caught up in roulette or the new “penny” slots.

Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas

Fountains of Bellagio, Las Vegas

If you follow my blog, you may remember that in November, the Bellagio Conservatory was decked out with three-hundred-pound pumpkins, towering scarescrows, and a talking tree surrounded by lines of people listening for his next phrase.  It was, in short, “over the top”! (Click here to read “Fabulous Fall at Bellagio.”)

If I’m lucky, I’ll return again just in time to see the Chinese New Year display debuting January 9th, 2013.  (Click here for schedule.)

The talking tree in the fall display at Bellagio's Conservatory

The talking tree in the fall display at Bellagio’s Conservatory

But during the month of December, the Bellagio Conservatory was all Christmas and winter wonderland — in the best sort of way.

If you want magic, you can’t get much better than this Bellagio dream world. It begins with a centerpiece tree reaching almost to the top of the Conservatory’s glass dome. Silver and gold bells (hung by brave people in cranes, I suppose) draw guests and photo bugs into the expanse, inviting us to leave the grown-up world at the doorstep to become a child again.  I did, for sure.

Visitors snapping pics of the Christmas bells and ceiling-height tree

Visitors snapping pics of the Christmas bells and ceiling-height tree

Snowflakes, soldiers, and silver bells!

A wintry touch with snowflakes suspended mid-air

A wintry touch with snowflakes suspended mid-air

A soldier stands at attention near the centerpiece Christmas tree at Bellagio

A soldier stands at attention near the centerpiece Christmas tree at Bellagio

In the center of room stood shoulder-high log houses resembling their miniature counterparts made of gingerbread.  And through the village ran trains on winding tracks.

Hundreds of poinsettias form the landscape for artful gingerbread houses

Hundreds of poinsettias form the landscape for artful gingerbread houses

Varietal mums (the likes of which we don’t see in my neighborhood greenhouse) formed the base of the village with tags proudly defining the blooms and bracts.

IMG_6678

Beautiful variegated leaves in these Picasso Premium Poinsettias

Probably more than one child has asked a parent if he can ride this rocking horse that almost reaches the height of the stars. (Another popular photo-op, judging from the families using him as a backdrop!)

Rocking gracefully -- this horse stands tall among the landscape.

Rocking gracefully — this horse stands tall among the landscape.

And penguins moved, too, flapping their wings and taking a spin around the ice as they showed off their best moves under the crystalline trees.

Home for the penguins -- a miniature pond for skating!

Home for the penguins — a miniature pond for skating!

Costumed carolers added sounds of the season and then graciously posed with young and old.

What fun!  A picture with the Carolers at Bellagio!

What fun! A picture with the Carolers at Bellagio!

Polar bears danced, pranced, and swam to the delight of everyone.  (An awesome sight made more spectacular when you realize they’re covered head to toe in white carnations!)

The center of attention -- a polar bear of white carnations.

The center of attention — a polar bear of white carnations.

Later that week during the morning hours, we happened upon the “refresh” team cutting more carnations and doing balancing acts to make sure only the whitest whites would be visible to guests that day. (Reminded us of the Rose Parade preparations, if you’ve ever been to Pasadena.)

Cutting the stems of replacement carnations for the dancing bears

Cutting the stems of replacement carnations for the dancing bears

With thigh-high waders, this team works on keeping this bear lookin' good!

With thigh-high waders, this team works on keeping this bear lookin’ good!

And their efforts paid off.  Here’s that bear in great form!

The Bellagio's floating polar bear!

The Bellagio’s floating polar bear!

Other bears required more maneuvering, but the prep was worth it!

A bit precarious, if you ask me, but necessary to maintain that awesome white polar bear appearance1

A bit precarious, if you ask me, but necessary to maintain that awesome white polar bear appearance!

Perhaps it was by design that the section with the postcard backdrop (all flowers, too!) had the longest line.  Everyone wanted a family picture in front of Happy Holidays so that, I suspect, the photo could anchor their 2012 Christmas Card or, at the very least, be forwarded to Facebook and on to the folks back home.  We loved it, too!

A very busy, very popular Happy Holidays backdrop

A very busy, very popular Happy Holidays backdrop

Photos weren’t just taken by the guests at the Bellagio Conservancy.  Trains also got into the action. A camera mounted on the locomotive panned the crowd and then sent the images to a screen held high above the poinsettias.

An inset camera on the locomotive reverses the action by photographing the crowd!

An inset camera on the locomotive reverses the action by photographing the crowd!

Ohh, ahh said the crowd.  And then they pointed to themselves and smiled at the fun technology can bring!

Look!  Here we are!

Watching ourselves on the screen as the locomotive videos us!

Watching ourselves on the screen as the locomotive videos us!

Some people were definitely in the Christmas spirit. When we saw one person in front of a tree, bear, horse, etc., and one person readying the camera, we heard this quite often: Would you like for me to take a picture of the two of you?

And the answer was almost always Oh, would you?  That would be wonderful!

People loved watching others being photographed or offering to take pictures for them.

People loved watching others being photographed. Some offered to take pictures for them.

It worked for us.  Here’s our picture snapped by a very friendly visitor from Osaka, Japan!

Merry Christmas from Vegas!

Merry Christmas from Vegas!

So, from the Bellagio Conservatory to you, we wish you Happy Holidays and new travels in 2013!
Thanks to all of you for reading our blog this year.  And a special thanks to those of you who clicked Like or Follow. (Your support meant a lot.)

We hope to bring you more Places to See in the coming year!

Sincerely,

Rusha and Bert

Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South

Las Vegas, NV 89109

888.987.6667

http://www.bellagio.com/attractions/botanical-garden.aspx

For more information, check this out:

Posted in Decor, Destination, Holiday, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Knoxville kicks off Christmas: Regal Celebration of Lights

Balloon Santa face, Knoxville

Balloon Santa faces were a big hit at the Regal Celebration of Lights 2014!

So what’s up, Knoxville? Gay Street closes? Families with kids smushed into strollers or perched on daddy’s shoulders move through Krutch Park? And the waiting line for the ice rink in Market Square snakes all the way around the big white tent?

It was the Celebration of Lights sponsored by Regal Cinema — Friday, November 28th — when Mayor Rogero (with the help of Santa, of course) lit the city’s holiday tree kicking off Christmas in the City.

And what a crowd it was! Parking lots at capacity. Restaurants with long wait times. And lines at family-friendly booths confirmed what we suspected — kids love doing as much as seeing.  Like writing letters to Santa (sponsored by Visit Knoxville), designing Christmas cards for the troops at the Red Cross booth, or concocting “reindeer” food with the help of Earth Fare employees.

Busy balloon maker, Knoxville

Busy making Santa faces and reindeer hats out of balloons!

Some folks hopped aboard the train snaking its way down Gay Street . . .

Holiday train, Gay Street, Knoxville

Holiday train, Gay Street, Knoxville

while others just tried to stay warm.

Huddled around the fire in front of Urban Outfitters, Knoxville

Huddled around the fire in front of Urban Outfitters, Knoxville

Strains of holiday sounds from a man playing a saw (yes, really) drew a crowd . . .

Man playing a saw, Knoxville

This guy played a saw for hours at Knoxville’s Celebration of Lights.

as did the Salvation Army players . . .

Entertaining the crowd at Krutch Park.

Entertaining the crowd at Krutch Park.

and this happy bell ringer.

Ringing the bell for Salvation Army, Knoxville.

Ringing the bell for Salvation Army, Knoxville.

A group of exchange students from France and their host families in Oak Ridge loved posing in the midst of the mayhem on Market Square . . . 

Students from Oak Ridge High and exchange students from France pose in Market Square

Students from Oak Ridge High and exchange students from France pose in Market Square

while wobbly skaters packed into the rink on Market Square — some just lucky to be upright!

Ice rink on Market Square

A popular place — the ice rink on Market Square. (Open ’til January 5th)

Bundled-up fans like this little panda on her daddy’s shoulders . . .

Daddy with panda on shoulders

Daddy with a panda on his shoulders listens to EmiSunshine and the Rain performing in Market Square.

listened — amazed — at the grown-up sounds coming from 10-year-old EmiSunshine and the Rain.  (She even yodels!)

EmiSunshine and the Rain performing on Market Square

EmiSunshine and the Rain performing on Market Square at the Regal Celebration of Lights

But the longest lines of all moved cautiously in and around and through Krutch Park beautifully lit with over 100,000 lights as young and old tried to find a place near the stage.

Knoxville's Krutch Park lit for the season.

Knoxville’s Krutch Park lit for the season.

We joined the crowd, grabbing a free sample of Cheerwine from the girls of Rowan County, North Carolina, where it’s made, and then . . .

Free samples of Cheerwine

Who can resist a free sample of Cheerwine?

when Santa arrived, we listened as Mayor Madeline Rogero urged everyone to enjoy what the city had to offer — from decorated windows to the parade coming on December 5th.  The countdown began — 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — ’til the tree was lit and fireworks shot up toward the top of The Holston!

Lighting of the Christmas tree

And the tree was lit!

Another great Celebration of Lights kicked off Christmas in the City.  Knoxville was officially ready for the 2014 holiday season!

For more information about activities all over Knoxville during the month of December, go to the City of Knoxville website.

Articles on the Regal Celebration of Lights:

“Look past Thanksgiving to ‘Christmas in the City'” by Amy McCrary: http://www.knoxnews.com/knoxville/family/look-past-thanksgving-to-christmas-in-the-city_96084918

“Christmas in the City Kicks Off Nov. 28 with Tree Lighting, Market Square Holiday Ho-Ho-Hoedown, Ice Skating”http://www.cityofknoxville.org/Press_Releases/Content/2014/1113.asp

Facebook pages

City of Knoxville Special Events:  https://www.facebook.com/CityofKnoxvilleSpecialEvents

EmiSunshine and the Rainhttps://www.facebook.com/emisunshinemusic

Mayor Madeline Rogerohttps://www.facebook.com/MayorRogero

Visit Knoxville: https://www.facebook.com/visitknoxvilletn

 

Posted in Festivals, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Travel theme: Above

We remember it vividly — the color, excitement, and right-there-on-the-field experience of being at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014 before dawn.  Before we arrived, we had the impression that we would be on the sidelines, standing on tiptoe trying to get a glimpse of balloonists as they filled colorful balloons to the tipping point on the ground.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014

But we couldn’t have been more mistaken.  We were there.  On that field.  Right beside the balloons. As if we were a part of the action.  Spinning from one exciting fill-up to another.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014

And then we could hear the buzz of the crowd.  This one was ready! And we joined in the applause for initially what seemed impossible — getting one of the huge, ball-shaped masses airborne.  We pointed. Yelled, Look! It’s going up! And then fumbled for our cameras to capture the moment of take-off  .  .  .

Right before lift-off: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014

It was then that the lucky balloon riders gave us crowd people thumbs up’s and big waves as they lifted up. And over. And above us all into the morning air.

Lift-off success! Balloon Fiesta 2014

It’s about as big a rush as you can get in a field in Albuquerque before dawn.  Well, yeah!

For more entries into Ailsa’s photo challenge — Travel theme: Above — on her blog Where’s My Backpack, click here.  They’ll take you up, up, and away!

For information about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2015 including dates and schedules, click here.

Posted in Destination, Festivals, Photography, Travel, Travel Theme | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Day to be Grateful

Gate to Maple Grove Inn Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  Melody Beattie

For all that we have here at home in Knoxville, Tennessee — family, friends, and the comfort of familiar places — and for all the sights we’ve seen in the U. S. and abroad this year, we are truly grateful.

May the blessings of this Thanksgiving be yours today and always.

Bert and Rusha Sams

Posted in Holiday, Travel | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Thankful for Carrot Cake

In order to pull our family together on the same day, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving on Sunday rather than when everyone else does this Thursday.  Not a problem.  The older we get, the more we realize it really doesn’t matter when you get together, just as long as you do.  We’re having the usual — roasted turkey, Southern cornbread dressing, cranberry casserole, and corn soufflé — but adding something new this year:  Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake from Joy McCabe

Thanksgiving 2014: Carrot Cake from Joy McCabe

Our friend, Joy Georges McCabe, shares her recipes and kitchen tips on local station WBIR during Live at Five at Four, an afternoon show that once aired at five o’clock but now comes on at four. (Thus the name.)  She posted on Facebook that she was demonstrating how to make Carrot Cake (a dessert we both love), so we searched her website From the Kitchen of Joy McCabe for the recipe.  (By the way, it tastes yummy if the scrapings from the bottom  of the pans are any indication! Will be serving it tonight.)

So, here’s a little Thanksgiving gift from us to you: Joy’s Carrot Cake.

Carrot Cake

Cake

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots

Icing

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter, softened

1 16-oz box 4x powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup pecans, chopped

Cake: Blend together eggs and oil.  Sift sugar and other dry ingredients together.  Add to egg mixture, mixing well.  Add carrots.  Blend well.  Pour mixture into 2 9-inch cake pans which have been greased and floured.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

Icing: Cake must be completely cool before frosting.  Cream together cream cheese and butter.  Add sugar, vanilla, and nuts, mixing well.  Frost the cake between layers, top and sides.  (We omitted frosting the sides and put more in the middle and on top.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours — no matter when you sit down to celebrate together!

 

Posted in Cooking, Recipe | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments