Travel With Bradley

TRAVEL WITH BRADLEY! Bradley has always put his clients first and his tours reflect just that. Making travel dreams a reality is his speciality. Follow this blog and he'll take you around the World!

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Day 2 – Onwards to Picturesque – Stowe, Vermont

It was a wintery crisp morning when we woke.

Breakfast and service was excellent.

We were met by a couple Montreal experts who showed us the sights of this city which is known for having the “largest Underground City in the World”.  Their tour highlighted some of the many “one-of-a-kind” Christmas displays around town.

Todays luncheon was at an excellent Steakhouse in Old Town – owned by an immigrant family from Greece who arrived in Canada many years ago with very little but after a great deal of hard work, now own many restaurants and even a few top hotels in the city.  My passengers had a choice of 3 entrees but most picked the steak with Montreal “frites”.  Many restaurant critics rate their steakhouse as one of the top ones in town, some say its the very best.

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After lunch it wasn’t too long of a drive before we crossed into scenic Vermont.  Border procedures were very simple.  In fact we didn’t have to get off the coach.  The very friendly customs official collected our passports and scanned them in the customs building.  She then passed them back to me to distribute to my passengers.

The Mountain View’s on our way to Stowe were just spectacular.

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Stowe looks like a Christmas postcard.  There is plenty of snow here – a few feet of the white stuff is on the ground,  but the roads are perfectly clear.

Our home for 2 nights is the famous Trapp Family Lodge.

After our arrival we gathered in a meeting space for a historical tour of the Trapp family who we all know thanks to the movie, “The Sound of Music”.

As an added surprise I arranged for Sam Von Trapp, Grandson of Maria to chat with my group and answer their questions.  He is going to return tomorrow for a private book signing.

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The Trapp Family Lodge is a bit of a maze to get around but everyone is getting their bearings.  My group has basically filled the rooms in this small, very homey resort.  The rooms are fitting with Stowe’s mountainous terrain.  Its the sweeping views that are most impressive due to the higher elevation location of the lodge.

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Some of my passengers are making themselves right at home – wearing their slippers as they walk around.918C29A2-60E4-4B4F-B633-CBFCC7721CC8

 

Dinner was off-sight at the Trapp Family brewery.  This is a very large operation.  My group is the largest that they have ever had dine with them.  Their chef is top notch as the cuisine was exceptional – so much variety and everything was delicious.  Some of my passengers were after recipes – they even make their own mustards.

The lodge is filled with many “private” areas where you can gather with family and friends to chat or play board games so many of my passengers took advantage of this last nights before retiring for the evening,

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The weather has been gloomy here for a couple weeks so the locals are happy to see todays blue sky.  I teased the locals telling them that we brought Canadian sunshine with us!

 

 

 

Day 1 – Christmas Cheer in Montreal

When I announced a “Christmas Themed” Journey to Stowe, VT it sold-out in record time.  Vermont is a perfect Christmas holiday destination.

There are 90 of us on this getaway.  We enjoyed a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings and an overnight stay at the Quality Inn, Woodstock the night before this “Travel With Bradley” departure.

After a hearty breakfast we were ready to depart.  I’m pleased to have Bonnie hosting one of the coaches.  She has traveled the World with groups and is just as excited about this journey as I am.  Paul and Kevin are our professional coach drivers.

We stopped in the small community of Napanee, ON for an old-fashioned luncheon smorgasbord.  What a spread – turkey, roast beef, red snapper, pasta, variety of homemade salads, real mashed potatoes – the list goes on and one….  The dessert table was so tempting – it was filled with freshly baked tortes and cakes.  Thanks to this family run operation for opening especially for us on a Sunday morning.

Surpringly we have more snow at home than they do in the Montreal area, where there is just a dusting of the white stuff on the ground.  The temperatures are cold but we are dressed for it.

The boutique hotel that I hand selected for our stay is an exceptional one.  Our suite accommodations dazzled my passengers.  All rooms are unique so it was “open house” for a while as my passengers checked out each other’s accommodations.

 

3ABF3031-17E8-49E1-8BB0-2DB919DE12A2  My passengers then dressed in their festive finery for our Welcome Banquet which reminded me of wedding reception – without a bride and groom….

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The surroundings in the elegant banquet space was ideal for this festive occasion and the delicious dinner was perfect!

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The staff at this family run, boutique property are so professional.  Its a pleasure dealing with them.  I’ll look forward to bringing them more groups.

After dinner some enjoyed the large indoor pool, others strolled and took pricture of the beautiful Christmas displays.  Everyone eventually relaxed in the beautiful accommodations. 13257D2D-7004-482A-8287-5D5EA38119AF

The NEW “Celebrity EDGE” – Bradley’s Review

When I am asked how I would describe the “Brand New” Celebrity EDGE – the first word that comes to mind is “WOW”!

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If you have sailed on a cruise ship in the past, don’t expect the EDGE experience to be the same – the EDGE has dramatically raised the bar and is a totally NEW innovation.  

This ship is very high tech and creative.  Its design is beautiful.  The public areas look spectacular.  It reminds me of an ultra-luxury hotel.  The colors are calming – nothing loud and brash.  As I walked around the ship I kept saying that word “WOW” over and over again.

When stepping on its many interior carpets I noticed how plush they are – you sink into them.

A new cruise terminal was built in Ft. Lauderdale/Port Everglades to accommodate the EDGE.  Its by far the most impressive cruise terminal I have ever entered.  It definitely matches the quality of the EDGE – it is stunning.

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Celebrity now allows you to pre-register for your cruise by using their app.  You take a picture of your passport and yourself using your tablet or cell phone – then fill in a few questions and you are basically done.  If you take a few minutes at home to do this prior to sailing, it makes check-in at this new terminal an absolute breeze.  When you finish this at-home process you end up with a bar code on your phone or tablet which a staff member at the new terminal scans.  Next you go through security (just like at an airport) and after one more scan of your unique bar code you walk on the ship.  Your stateroom keys are waiting for you at the entrance of your cabin in a very secure package.  If the package has been tampered with you take those keys to the front desk for replacement.  No lines – no waiting – I could not believe how seamless this procedure is.  The competition cruise lines will take note of this.  Certainly, Celebrity now has the easiest and quickest check-in process.  Well done.

The Edge is 129,500 tons and can cary 2900 passengers.  I was very fortunate to be one of the very few invited to the EDGE naming ceremony 2 night innagural cruise. 

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On board were a few top tier tour professionals but it was mainly VIP’s along with press and bloggers who were invited.  I mingled with some very exciting people – the owner of Fine Cooking Magazine, a pair of male bloggers from England who have over 1 million subscribers, a UK film maker who often works with the Royal Family and is personal friends with Price Harry, the publisher of the #1 cruise magazine in Germany, a staff writer from People Magazine and an eccentric instagram foodie from NYC.  I learned a great deal from all of them.

Since there were so few of us on board its impossible for me to comment on how busy this ship will feel when it is full, but I have to assume that this was carefully considered when designing this one-of-a-kind cruise ship.

When I entered the Grand Lobby for the first time my first word was WOW.  Its design is cutting EDGE.  When I walked into my infinite balcony stateroom I said WOW again.  I spent hours walking around the ship – and kept repeating WOW over and over again!

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Over 80% of the staterooms on board the EDGE are either balcony or outside.

I was fortunate to be placed in an infinite “balcony” stateroom.  The infinite balconies on the EDGE are unlike other cruise ship balconies – somewhat similar in design to what you will find on newer river cruise boats.

The EDGE “infinite” balcony is an extension to your stateroom making it 23% larger and features a floor to ceiling window.  When I walked into my stateroom for the first time the first thing I saw was the ocean – the view was incredible.

There are up and down buttons beside the balcony window – which allows you to bring 1/2 of that window glass down and back up – this quickly transforms the outside space to inside space.  There are 2 very comfortable balcony chairs to sit on while enjoying the vast views and fresh air, but unlike some cruise ship balconies I don’t believe you are going to be able to sit in this area to get a suntan.  Easy to close Bi-fold doors make this area even more traditionally Balcony like.

The EDGE Stateroom restrooms are much larger than you are going to find on most cruise ships and the curved glass door shower compartment is SO large which is an added bonus.  Electrical plugs are out-of-sight to keep a clean look.  The hairdryer is stored in the vanity drawer (glad my rooms steward pointed that out because I didn’t realize a drawer was there as it so easily blends into the vanity).  The bathroom towels are thick and fluffy just as you would expect on a luxury cruise vessel.

In the main part of the stateroom there is a decent size closet which contains a very generous 22 removable clothes hangers (you can always request more) along with a number of drawers.  

The extremely comfortable stateroom bed has 8 pillows on it (4 oversize useable ones plus 4 decorative), there is also a small lounger and a desk with chair.  

An oversize flat screen television sits on the wall in front of the bed.

The colors in the staterooms are calming – greys and dark purples with a pop of red in the framed wall print.

A white box on the desk nicely keeps out of the way, many electrical outlets and usb plugs.  There are also usb plugs conveniently located next to the bed making it easy to charge your cell phone and tablet.  The phone which is next to the bed is a treated anti-bacteria device.

Bedding is of a high tread count.

The wall panel controls are very simple to use.

The EDGE staterooms are very high end – so beautiful yet so comfortable.

 

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There are some outside and a handful of single occupancy staterooms that also have incorporated floor to ceiling windows but they do not open – another innovation improvement over other other ships that feature small port holes or no-view single staterooms.

I toured all the suite categories – these include some very glamorous suites that are bi-level.

Ok – what next?

Let’s talk about the restaurants on board.

The EDGE dining is innovative too.  There isn’t just one main dining like you find on almost all cruise ships – on the EDGE there are 4 smaller, very intimate main dining rooms that are as elaborate as any cruise “speciality” restaurants.  These main dining rooms are themed – French, Italian, Greek and Cosmopolitan.  Their interiors are totally unique and remind me of very high end, big city restaurants – absolutely beautiful.

These restaurants offer extensive menus with some items exclusive to that restaurant (these themed selections don’t change from day to day), and there are classic food items that are the same in all 4 restaurants and remain the same from day to day (Caesar Salad, Shrimp Cocktail etc) and then there are a variety of food items that are just offered that evening ONLY in all of the 4 restaurants.

It is my understanding when reserving your cruise if you decide on “Select Dining” you can switch among the 4 different main dining rooms.  If you pick “Early or Late Dining” you will be assigned to 1 of these dining rooms for the duration of the cruise. 

There is also a massive, large selection buffet area that features vast views of the ocean, a spa cafe, pastries in the Coffee Bistro and in another corner off the atrium lobby plus a lighter entree salad/sandwich/soup location next to the 3 level Eden Area.  Don’t forget to try out the outdoor Grill for burger/fries.

There are also a number of speciality “for a fee” restaurants that you will not currently find on other Celebrity Ships – including a very glamorous Steak House, French Bistro, Raw Bar, Outdoor Garden Cafe, and the Eden sit down restaurant.  One of these speciality restaurants features an unique “one of a kind” experience.  Your dining room table comes to life as you watch small characters create your meal – I watched patrons constantly clapping for these “make believe” characters.  I can’t wait for the opportunity to try the “Le Petit Chef” experience when I sail on the EDGE next time.  

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Most Edge cruisers will be thrilled with the four “no fee” main dining rooms and won’t find the need to pay for a speciality restaurant because the atmosphere in the main dining rooms is very “speciality dining” like and the menu selections are extensive and very impressive.

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If you have been reading about this cruise ship I’m sure you have heard about its Magic Carpet.  When I first learned about it I wondered if it was just a gimmick but when I experienced it I loved it.  The magic carpet is basically a luxurious moveable  platform deck the size of a tennis court that hangs over the side of the ship with many purposes including a relaxing seating area with commanding views, a lounge, at other times it transforms into a speciality restaurant.  Its main home is on Deck 14.

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The Magic Carpet can magically be lowered to Deck 2 where it becomes a spectacular landing for boarding tenders heading to shore.  This landing makes it ideal especially for those with mobility changes to get between the cruise ship and tenders.  In fact a young lady who is confined to a wheelchair was smiling from ear to ear when she very easily rode her motorized large wheelchair on the tender. 

I had the opportunity to try this “Magic Carpet Tender Landing” and it was just incredible.  I was “actually excited” about boarding a tender boat because of it.  The area that you gather in before getting on the Magic Carpet platform is also very beautiful.  The “Magic Carpet” lounge remained open as we boarded the tenders.  Many passengers were enjoying beverages on this platform before boarding a tender.

Currently there isn’t any other ship that can state their tender service experience comes anywhere close to on the EDGE.  

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Wait until you board the EDGE tender boats.  As the travel writer that was sitting next to me stated, these tender boat seats are nicer than what United Airlines offers in business class.  They are wide and so comfortable.  These tender boats are even air conditioned!  I can’t believe I am calling tender boats “luxurious” but on the EDGE they are!  I hear rumors that these tenders cost over 1.6 Million each!

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The Magic Carpet is one of many unique EDGE venues.  

EDEN is a massive 3 level “dream like/fantasy” area that incorporates 2 restaurants and a massive lounge/sitting area.  It quickly becomes a favourite day and night destination on the EDGE.  Its filled with tropical plants and has a conservatory vibe.

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Another hang out area is the impressive designed outdoor garden which features another restaurant, plenty of outdoor park like seating, a big screen for showing movies and a stage for live music performances.  

291BF161-C403-4890-AA97-BC2A9F8F3696The multi-story main Atrium is the ultimate gathering place for a beverage before heading for dinner.  Its so architecturally stunning, its hard to describe.  Truly another WOW!  The only negative comment I have about it is when this area is at capacity, its loud so if you are going to enjoy a romantic dinner in one of the surrounding speciality restaurants ask for a table away from the noise.  

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The main “partially in the round” theatre is smaller than on most cruise ships so it’s more intimate.  Its audio/visual components are as impressive as the stage show I experienced at a recent “Elton John” concert.

I watched two productions in this space – one show was “pretty far out there” and although it highlighted the theatres impressive technology, I couldn’t figure out what the meaning was of this very futuristic extravaganza.   I forced myself to stay thinking that maybe it might get better but I ended up being one of many that left early.  This is not to say that some people are going to enjoy this “Jewelry Box” Production but it was not my cup of tea…

The other show I saw was so good I came back to watch it again later that evening.  It was basically a high energy live concert event – Marcus Terell, the lead singer was terrific and so was his band and back up singers.  The audio/visual effects were mind blowing.  An exciting atmosphere.

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The EDGE has produced 5 exclusive productions which avoids having to fly in main-stage entertainment.  This is now a trend with most cruise lines.  I’m not a fan of this but its the way the cruise industry is going.

I feel once Celebrity Cruise Lines gets feedback on its current entertainment there will be some changes, in order to cater to ALL age groups.  Currently I believe the entertainment is “somewhat” slanted to a Millennial Crowd.  I was told its basically an older demographic that has been flocking on the maiden cruises so I believe the entertainment needs to be more varied.  Celebrity will see this need and I expect will make the changes.  My fingers are crossed that a piano bar lounge and singer will return.

The extensive gym features Peloton spinning bikes so you can attend a live-streaming class.

Most shops on board are pretty high end – there is even a Tiffany’s and Cartier store.  One renowned parfumerie has given the EDGE an exclusive to carry her brand.   I don’t think you’ll see the $10. morning sales like you often see on many other cruise ships.

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The main outdoor pool is large and very impressive and so is the adults only atrium indoor pool.  There is ample “comfortable” loungers surrounding them and vast views of the ocean.  Don’t be surprised if a staff member brings around a treat for you to enjoy while you are basking in the sun.  Try out the jacuzzis resemble oversized Martini Glasses.

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If you are lucky enough to be staying in a suite you can enjoy a wonderful private outdoor retreat with a smaller pool and hot tub.  

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There are 6 oversize, very beautiful, “for a fee” cabanas on the resort deck but their placement is strange – they do not face the pool and don’t seem to be very private.  

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I don’t think the EDGE caters to a family audience.  There are more suitable ships out there for families.

The Celebrity Edge is the newest cruise ship on the market and you need to put her on your “travel list”.  Sitting on the “Magic Carpet” is a must for all!  Celebrity Ships are designed for comfort.  Grab a free freshly made waffle cone ice cream from Scoops and sit in one of the ships very comfy chairs – they are not hard to find – “private” areas are everywhere.  I have never sat on a Celebrity Cruise chair that isn’t overly comfy.

Cruisers have been waiting many years for the EDGE to arrive.  It delivers more than it promised.  Can you believe, it is possible to open your stateroom door, and dim your interior stateroom lights using your cell phone!

Malala Yousafzai is the 21 year old “godmother” of the Edge.  She is the first Nobel prize recipient to christen a cruise ship.  The Edge features a crew of 30% women.  The EDGE next-in-line Captain is also a woman.

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The ship is a blockbuster. 

Be sure to join me from Feb 15-23, 2020 as we sail the EDGE in the Caribbean.  Space is already limited for this “Travel With Bradley” departure.

The EDGE has defined the NEW future of the cruise in industry.

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I can’t wait to sail on her again!  1641A6A6-C2D1-428C-82CC-2E3CFE342884

Day 4 – Frankenmuth, MI – Homeward Bound

After a hearty Amish style breakfast we departed Shipshewana, IN.

What a beautiful day for traveling – mild temps and sunny, blue skies.

At 11:30am we arrived in the German themed town of, Frankenmuth, MI for our farewell luncheon at Zehnder’s and what a delicious feast it was!

Crossing the border back into Canada was quick so we arrived back in Woodstock, ON, 30 minutes ahead of time – 430pm.

I think my passengers appreciated the opportunity to start their own homeward journey while the sun was still out.

We all enjouyed a wonderful time on this journey that was filled with country, gospel and Christmas music – of course there were also many delicious meals!

The Amish Community of Shipshewana made us feel so welcome.

As usual my passengers were just terrific.  I thank them for traveling with me.  I appreciated the many new passengers that joined us.  Welcome to the family!

Thanks to my Mom for helping me out on this journey.  Thank you to Paul, our professional coach driver.

After that festive getaway we are definitely in the Christmas Spirit!

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Day 3 – “Gatlin and Booth Brothers” Christmas

Enjoyed another terrific day visiting Indiana’s Amish Country.

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This afternoon the cast of “Annie” at Amish Acres Round Barn in Nappanee, Indiana kept us entertained with their very professional production!  The young Annie was a superb actress.  Couldn’t have asked for better seats in the theatre – 1st 3 rows!

We enjoyed Christmas music during dinner performed by a talented pianist.

This evening “The Gatlin Brothers” and “The Booth Brothers” took the stage in Shipshewana, IN – a perfect “Farewell” Christmas Show – amazing harmonies.

Larry Gatlin performed at our Walters Dinner Theatre a couple years ago.  I have been a fan of the Gatlin’s for decades and could easily listen to their sweet music day after day.

Tomorrow we’ll start to head home filled with the Christmas Spirit.  Shipshewana, IN has treated us so well!

Day 2 – Gaither Homecoming – Christmas Edition

It was a foggy start to the morning in Shipshewana, IN.

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Breakfast at our hotel was buffet style.  An busy Amish cook prepares 5 “made to order” omelettes at a time.

Our first stop of the day was at the Jayco House Trailer Manufacturing Plant where 60% of the employees are Amish.  Young Amish can start working here at the age of 16.  It was an amazing experience watching the speed of the workers – with NO exaggeration they “run”!   We toured the 5th wheel trailer plant on the large campus.  Trailers aren’t made until an order is placed and we understand that business is currently booming – there is even high demand for their $700,000 luxury models.  

There is a bit of controversy though.  These very difficult hourly jobs pay well – approx 75 G a year so many Amish make a career here instead of on the farm as land prices are 30 G an acre and its therefore next to impossible to pay off a farm during a lifetime.  When you work for Jayco or other similar firms you can be debt free.  

Employees work for an hourly wage and there is very little absenteeism.  They start early in the morning and finish early in the afternoon so it is possible to still run a secondary business like growing ducks which is a very popular local Amish business.  

Many of my passengers have toured and some worked at Car Manufacturers at home.  They said they could not believe how different the work ethic was here in comparison.  

We were then welcomed into an Amish Home for lunch.  The “Amish haystack” meal was scrumptious.  The Amish often offer “haystack” fundraiser dinners.  We piled 14 ingredients on our plate just like a “haystack”.  Let me see if I can remember most of the ingredients – crushed crackers, then sticky rice, followed by hamburger prepared with taco seasoning, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, peppers, green olives, black olives, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, crunched up nacho chips, shredded cheese and finally a cheddar cheese sauce covers everything.  Its a mighty filling meal.

Our Amish host told me she prepares a “morning breakfast style haystack” – biscuits piled with vegetables and meats, at Christmas for her family.

There was a choice of 2 different homemade pies for dessert – custard or raspberry cream.  I think our many “hot tea” orders took them a little off guard – they are use to serving coffee to fellow Americans and welcome few Canadian guests so were unaware that many of us drink hot tea.

We then travelled through the countryside with a very friendly/knowledgeable Amish man,  We visited many local Amish family businesses including – a basket maker (works of art), cheese manufacturer (many samples, great variety and SO reasonable to purchase), buggy shop (fascinating – just like buying a car with SO many options – saw a completed special order that was ordered for an attraction in New Orleans 85G).  Finally we visited a popcorn shop – everyone received a complimentary bag of popcorn and most of my passengers purchased a supply of kernels to bring home!

There was just enough time to freshen up at our hotel before heading out for dinner.  The restaurant was PACKED with people waiting for tables but of course we had a reserved space for our Family Style Amish Meal – tonight I selected chicken and roast beef as the meat choices for my passengers.  Delicious meal!

It was a very soupy, foggy evening but we only had short distance to travel before we arrived at the event centre for the “Gaither Christmas Homecoming” Concert.  I’ve been following the Gaither’s for years and often fly to Nashville or other American Cities to see their shows.  Their Christmas Concerts are always my favourite.

There were a number of guest entertainers on the program including the Nelon Family.  This is the first time I saw them on stage – Mother/Father/2 daughters – powerhouse performance – amazing harmonies.  The Gaither Vocal Band is who the crowd came to see and they never disappoint.  The show lasted around 3 hours which is so typical for Gaither Homecoming Events.  An absolute spectacular performance.  My passengers were trilled.

I invited everyone to a private “Ice Cream Sundae” social after the show.  I noticed a number of the man enjoyed a 2nd sundae – that ice cream was so good!

The day was a great one!  I have another busy one with some terrific stops planned for tomorrow!

Day 1 – Ronnie Milsap “Legend In My Time”

After enjoying a bountiful breakfast buffet we boarded an Ayr Coach for our journey to Shipshewanna Indiana.  Paul is my driver for this tour.  He was also the driver on my Branson, Memphis and Nashville journey that arrived back in Ontario two days ago.  A handful of the same passengers are on this capacity tour.  

We crossed the border quickly with no issues.  

Break stop was at a popular, Cracker Barrel.  Their staff was happy to see us.

When we arrived in Marshall, MI it was a winter wonderland.  Obviously a nasty snow storm had just fallen because many of the highway signs were covered in the white stuff.  Luckily we missed that precipitation and the main roads were clear.

Our 3 course Welcome Luncheon at Schuler’s of Marshall was excellent as always.  We were impressed with their wine bottle Christmas tree (over 400 of them).

Our first Shipshewanna stop was at Davis Mercantile, a unique shopping complex in the heart of this little Amish town.  Paul and I dropped our passengers luggage at our homey hotel for our 3 night stay.  Every time we stay here a group of Amish ladies look after luggage delivery and they have it down to a science – quick, and always perfect – it takes a woman to get it done right!

Dinner was family style at the Blue Gate.  Tonight’s two meats were fried chicken and meatloaf.  The bowls of food kept coming and the homemade pies provided the perfect ending to a true Amish style feast.  

I recall a few years ago before my family was going to be performing at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, I was invited to Music City to go over all the arrangements.  Typically my brother Darren is in charge of this but I steer headed our Ryman performance.  

I was sitting in a beautiful suite at Opryland Hotel during the meeting when it was announced that they had a special guest they wanted me to meet.  In walked “Louise Mandrell”,  of the famous Mandrell Sisters with her little dog wrapped in blankets just like a baby and Louise’s personal assistant.  Louise was dressed glamorous just like she was going on stage.  She sat next to me and even though I had only met her once before for a brief time she spoke like I had known her for years.

She congratulated my family on our upcoming Ryman performance and of course talked about what that performance hall mean’t to her but what I will never forget is when she talked about entertaining.

She said her sister Barbara wanted off the road and retired.  Barbara literally dropped off the face of the earth.  You hardly hear her name anymore but she does get involved with some charity fundraisers in Nashville.  She is content working in her garden and spending time with her family.

Louise told me that her husband was not a well man and she wanted to look after him so she took time off the road to do this but she said entertaining was in her heart and she needed to get back on stage.  She missed the audience interaction and her fans so much.  

A few days ago I was in Branson, MO with my passengers and we watched the Urban Cowboy, Mickey Gilley on stage.  It was a remarkable show.  When Mom and I met Mickey back stage prior to his performance I didn’t get the picture of him that he portrayed on stage.

When he walked on stage he turned into a new man, an Entertainer, something he loves to do just like Louise Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, The Walters Family….. I’m sure the excitement of being on stage is what Mickey Gilley looks forward to more than anything else.

I’m sure this is the same reason that Ronnie Milsap is still performing today.  At 75 he is much younger than Mickey Gilley but I’m not sure how well he is.  Paul, brought the coach right next to Ronnie’s tour bus.  As my passengers were getting off I noticed that one of Ronnie Milsap’s band members was taking a wheelchair out of the bus bay and he brought it next to the coach door.  It was for Ronnie.

Tonight’s Capacity Crowd for Ronnie Milsap was so enthusiastic.  They cheered as Ronnie sang his hit songs.  His band was just fantastic.  Ronnie certainly is no longer in his prime and was rusty at the beginning of the performance but as his concert went on he continued to improve.  I couldn’t believe some of the high notes he hit.  

I recall when Ronnie announced his farewell tour a number of years ago.  Like many artists they re-appear years later as they miss being on stage so much.  It was an honor seeing Ronnie Milsap

once again.  He is certainly a true legend.  I don’t think he’ll be well enough to continue much longer.  His show was scheduled for 90 minutes without an intermission – it only lasted 70 minutes.  I could tell that some of his fans that travelled from across the USA were disappointed but I think he probably performed to his max.

His performance was a throwback in time, bringing back many memories of his 40 hit songs!

Day 9 and 10 – Nashville, Memphis, Nashville

Day 9 and 10 – Branson, Memphis and Nashville

Yesterday we started our journey North from Nashville.  It was sad to leave Music City – just love that city!

We were treated so well throughout our stay in the South

Lunch was at a really unique destination in the rural countryside, by Louisville.  The scenic drive to get there was stunning – beautiful homes – many with ponds on their large properties, narrow windy roads/

Our destination was a Family Farm where we were served a Country Thanksgiving Feast.  Everything was made from scratch – salads, turkey, ham, fried chicken with all the fixings and a choice of cobblers for dessert.  We ate extremely well during this journey but if I had to pick a favourite meal I think it would have to be this one.  

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Dinner was fantastic too.  We dined at “La Comedia Dinner Theatre”.  I’ve taken groups here for years and I’ve learned how to beat their crowds.  It was a sold out house so we showed up just a couple minutes before they opened the buffet.  We walked in and were taken to our seats – the rest of the house had already been seated.  Perfect.  Below find the recipe for their famous “Sweet Potato Soufflé”.

Last nights production was the broadway show, “White Christmas”.  The cast was top notch.  This was a big production for La Comedia to mount but they did it with flying colors.  Probably the best production I’ve seen there.

Today I was concerned about the weather.  There were snow warnings especially around Detroit (up to 8 inches) but other than the odd snow shower there was no issue and the roads remained bare but wet.

Our farewell luncheon was at a very posh mansion close to Detroit.  It was beautifully decorated for the season.  Couldn’t ask for a nicer location and the 3 course meal they served was good too.

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Clearing customs into Canada was quick.

We arrived back in Woodstock at 545pm.

My passengers have been raving about this journey – we really had a fantastic time – everyone may need a day of rest now that we are home – we kept very busy while we were away but we saw so many wonderful things and everyone appreciated that I threw in MANY extras.

Thanks to all my amazing passengers – one big family!

Seasons Greetings to all!

 

Day 8 – Music City USA – Nashville

It was a beautiful weather day in the Music City.

We enjoyed a bountiful, high quality breakfast buffet at the Opryland Hotel before meeting our excellent “Singing Tour Guides” who Entertained us as we toured around Nashville.  What a unique experience.

Our lunch location was a passenger “Surprise”.  The “General Jackson” Showboat did not disappoint!  Terrific show and yummy meal.

There was a bit of time to tour around the Opryland Hotel before getting dressed up for tonight’s special dinner.

The “Trace Adkins” Christmas Dinner Show was SUPERB! What a Voice!

 

Day 7 – Memphis and Nashville

Enjoyed a 90 minute stop at very busy “Graceland” in Memphis.

In Nashville we experienced the finest Southern Cooking and hospitality at Monells.  I always take a bit of a risk taking my groups to Monell’s as “officially” they don’t take a reservation.  Yesterday, American Thanksgiving this small restaurant’s 4 waiters served 1300 people waits were over 2.5 hrs but the food is worth it.

Last nights Opry performance the Ryman was fantastic – we could have asked for better seats.

When we returned to our fancy hotel, “The Opryland” I took my group on a walking tour so they could get their bearings and then we relaxed on our ornate balconies that overlook the indoor atrium gardens and Christmas lights.

Terrific day!