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Hi, y’all! Oh, how I loved the Southern drawl. October was a fantastic month that flew by. I have been thoroughly enjoying seeing all that America has to offer. It is a diverse nation with a lot of friendly people in beautiful cities. Here is a recap of where this Australian expat ventured this month.
After Boston, I took my last overnight bus to Washington DC. You can read this post to find out why I am saying NO to overnight buses. But I was able to meet back up with my fellow expats, Amy and Michael to take on one last city together before saying farewell. We did a Free Tour by Foot around the National Mall: this is where these tours began and it was a little different from others, as the guide gave us time at the World War II and Vietnam War Memorials to take it all in, which was appreciated.
We then went to the free Smithsonian Zoo and checked out Georgetown and Capitol Hill. The next day before my bus departed I visited another two free Smithsonian Institutions: the Museums of Natural History and American History. I preferred the American History Museum but I did enjoy the Australian animal exhibit in the Natural History Museum AND in the gift store, there was super cheap and beautiful jewellery. Just saying.
So I fell hard for Wilmington. I loved everything about this town: the people, the tours, the scenery, and the fact it was once Tree Hill didn’t hurt either. Thanks to the Wilmington and Northern Beaches Visitor Bureau. I partook in Ghost and Hollywood Location Walks, a cruise along the Cape Fear River and visits to the Cape Fear Museum and Bellamy Mansion. I also lived it up for once and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites. Gina, the manager here was so lovely and friendly, I enjoyed chatting to her in the morning about my day. I wish I could have stayed longer.
Named multiple times across various media as America’s Best City, I had high hopes for Charleston. I did another Free Tour, booyah, which takes you through the city’s Historic District. Charleston’s architecture has French, English, Spanish and Dutch influences so you can imagine how pretty it is. But here’s a photo so you can see the beauty for yourself.
I also visited the City Market and King Street, which made me laugh as it seems like this country town, but then you have a Louis Vuitton store surrounded by palm trees outside. Bizarre. My Couchsurfing host nicely took me out to Foley Beach too, which was a popular spot on the beautiful day we visited. It looked like a Nicholas Sparks movie.
Another bus to another beautiful town. Seriously, the south is so bloody pretty. I should put that more eloquently, but it’s the truth. However, what sets Savannah apart is that Spanish moss gracefully hanging off the tree canopies.
I walked a lot here around the Historic District, from Forsyth Park passed the many well-presented town squares to its own City Market and River Street. There are also free walking tours here through a locally-owned company, which was one of the best I have done.
Oh, St Augustine, my one port of call in Florida. I wish I could have enjoyed you more. But the whole Greyhound-being-useless-and-losing-my-bag situation made me want to eat chocolate and watch TV, which I did. But after two nights I was reunited with my baby, my precious, my suitcase, so I spent a day exploring the oldest continually occupied town in the United States, thanks to the team at the Visitors Bureau.
I hopped on the Old Town Trolley Tour and visited the Lightner Museum, Villa Zoryada Museum, Ripley’s! Believe It or Not, the Fountain of Youth, the Castillo de San Marcos and another ghost tour – the south sure like their ghost stories! The town is already preparing for its 450th birthday next year, with roads being repaved, buildings being restored and plans for visits from the Pope and King Felipe of Spain. No biggie.
So I wasn’t expecting much from Atlanta, but the city surprised me… in a good way. There was so much to see and do! I spent two days here and it was definitely not enough. I got my stalk-on again (yes, I have an addiction. To films and TV. It’s hard) thanks to Atlanta Movie Tours. What a great morning. Then I visited the World of Coca-Cola with my CityPASS thanks to the Atlanta Visitor Bureau and spent way too long here enjoying myself way too much.
The following day included a behind-the-scenes tour at CNN Studios and a ride on the world’s longest free-standing escalator. Random fact. Next, there was a visit to the world’s largest aquarium, Georgia Aquarium, which has also been used in movies. I spent about 15 minutes staring at the dolphins. I think we bonded though as they kept swimming up to my face planted on the glass. The beluga whales were also super cute. Look at them. Urgh, cuteness overload.
I finished at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site. I did not know he was based in Atlanta and Montgomery, Alabama, so I got a free history lesson.
So Music City is a pretty cool place to be. There is music playing from speakers on the street; live music being performed at various venues for lunch, dinner and in-between; and you know, the Musician’s Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Thanks to Visit Music City I even did a Home of the Stars Tour (I feel like I should stop admitting all of my celebrity stalking moments from NOW). Interesting fact though: being based in Nashville = no income tax. So if I was a celebrity earning millions, this is where I would be. The city wasn’t pretty like others in the south, architecture-wise, but the atmosphere is what makes you move here.
New Orleans was FANTASTIC. I had so much fun here and I wish I could have stayed longer. Please don’t make my mistake and spend more than two days exploring. I happened to be there on a weekend and the town was buzzing with people. It seemed like an entire plane filled with Green Bay Packer fans flew down from Wisconsin for the Sunday night game. I have never seen so many people, over the entire weekend, wearing sports gear. Australia has nothing on American supporters.
I had fun at Mardi Gras World, held an alligator on a Swamp Tour, ate Jambalaya on Bourbon Street, strolled the French Quarter and cruised the Mississippi on Steamboat Natchez. It was such a good weekend, thanks to the team at Visit New Orleans. For souvenir shopping, check out the French Market.
Austin & San Antonio
Goodbye, south! Onward to Texas. Austin seemed like it was all about the food and the drinks and the night-life. I had to have Texas Barbecue, which was basically half a calf on a bun. I also did a day trip to San Antonio to check out The Alamo and the River Walk.
The final destination of the month and the shiniest, brightest and busiest of them all: Las Vegas. I felt like this is the place to come with a significant other or friends, but nonetheless I did as much as I could solo. First up was a mammoth day trip to the breathtaking Grand Canyon National Park South Rim. What a beautiful place. I will not forget that spectacle, ever.
Then I had to partake in a buffet. I ate my body weight in food at Stratosphere. Then meandered down the strip with my mouth open most of the time as everything is just so grand. I also did a tour at night so I could see the Strip lit up and experience Fremont Street. Vegas, there is no place like you on Earth.
Now that is a wrap of October. What a month of amazing places, big bus rides and lost luggage. This time next month I will be at my parent’s house on Magnetic Island, which freaks me out just a little. I don’t want the ride to end. But then the new journey will begin. I hope you will join me.