Archive for April, 2015


We went to a concert at this beautiful location on 11 April. We hit traffic on the way, so we just had time to have the dinner we had pre-booked, go to the concert, and take a few night time shots in the conservatory.

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The concert was by ‘The Crossing’ – a chamber choir, performing a selection of conetmporary music on the theme of ‘light’. Performed in the amazing conservatory at Longwood Gardens, it was a wonderfully atmospheric show.

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The place was so amazing that I asked Frankie if we could make a return visit the following weekend. She was up for it, in spite of allergies. I can hardly describe the beauty of the place with its flower gardens, herb garden, open air theatre, lake, tree house and Italian Water Garden. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here is a collage of shots from both visits covering the flora.

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I will be posting more photos from the gardens when I get home, and will add links in here.

The following Sunday and Monday (26-27 April), we had a sightseeing trip to Washington DC. This will be covered in the next and last illustrated post about this amazing trip to the States.

Even when I ‘know’ what to expect when visiting the States, I am always overwhelmed and somewhat surprised. This trip, and especially New Orleans and Disneyworld, has been no exception.

Frankie’s brother, Josh, got married in Disneyworld on 7th April and we arrived on the 5th, returning home on the 8th. I was expecting a kind of exaggerated version of the UK’s Butlin’s holiday camps – not the socialist ethos of Billy Butlin’s original promise of a ‘week’s holiday for a week’s wage’, but what Butlin’s has become in the 21st century. Of course, if you put something the size of Disneyworld in the UK it would take up a large portion of the coast. Still, nice try Butlin’s!

In our stay, we did the tourist bit in two of the parks – The Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Both lived up to their promise of ‘magical’. With spectacular light and fireworks shows, parades, and of course, friendly staff. The warmth and sunshine (apart from a substantial downpour when we were in Epcot) were also very welcome. It was wonderful to go and sit by the pool and have morning coffee before the resort (we were in the All Star Music Resort) started getting busy.

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The wedding itself was at the ‘Yacht Club’, with a lunch at the Grand Floridian. It was a beautiful day in every way.

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So that was the central part of my trip. Basically, I came over to accompany Frankie to her brother’s wedding. All the rest – including getting engaged to her – built up around the event.

I am into my last week here now. The next post will cover two visits to an amazing place more locally – Longwood Gardens. The have the most amazing flower gardens, lake, conservatory (where we went to a very enjoyable concert of choral music with a dinner before hand at the restaurant), Italian Water Gardens. It is breath-taking!

For my last weekend here, we are planning a trip to Washington DC.

USA 2015 Part 2-New Orleans

As a Brit who had never been to New Orleans before, I could never have imagined anything like it. We really don’t have anything like it in the UK. I had thought it was just Jazz, Alcohol and striptease – but it was so much more!

So having got over all but a residual cough from the flu, Frankie and I went to New Orleans for the weekend of my birthday, for what was to be an amazing blow-out of a weekend. I am describing the place as a first-time visitor from a little island nation the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and as such it was just mind-blowing!

Frankie had booked us into a fabulous hotel about 50 yards from Bourbon Street – which is where the 24/7 partying goes on. First night there we went to a club on the corner where they had live music sets, punctuated with DJ sets. There were waitresses going round selling shots from test tubes and huge mock hyperdermics! I had one, but unfortunately ended up wearing more than I drank. If ever you are visiting for the first time, you have to have a cocktail called a ‘Hurricane’. Be warned though – it tastes sweet, fruity and innocent… And then you stand up and it hits you like the Louisiana humidity! One striking thing about this club was how much fun the staff seem to have there.

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What was the best part of New Orleans? The night life? The cajun cusine? The Music? The sightseeing? I couldn’t choose – I would have to say all of the above. I will insert some foodie photos at the end of this post.

The second day, we went sightseeing. Frankie grew up six years of her life in New Orleans, so she knew a lot of the best sights. She was pretty clever though when we went into Jackson square. We came into it from Royal Street and she said “Don’t turn around until I tell you to.” At first I was a bit suspicious (we spend a lot of time joking around with each other like playful young lovers trapped in the body and a half of old farts). But when I finally did turn around, the sight that hit my eyes just blew me away:

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I knew nothing about St Louis’ Cathedral, so when I saw it the sound of my jaw hitting the ground was almost as loud as the spectacular sound of the bells of St Louis ringing on the hour. It is a gorgeous building – inside and out. Here are some more shots:

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The following day – the Sunday before my actual birthday – we took a ride on the ‘Natchez’ – a genuine working paddle steamer. We had an informative narrative on the first half, until the boat doubled back, and then we had jazz playing. I requested they played ‘I can’t give you anything but love’ for Frankie, which they were very happy to play. Funny thing is that we have heard that song in different arrangements about four time since. I think it may be telling us it’s ‘our song’ – what do you think?

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All too soon, it was our last day in New Orleans – but it was also my birthday! What a fabulous evening we had! It started with an amazing meal and ended with more jazz and cocktails. It was certainly the most memorable birthday of my adult life!

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So to the foodie shots. I had so many new (to me) tastes in NoLa – from fried oysters, to jambalaya, seafood platters, muffaletta, beignets and of course Hurricane cocktails and Mint Juleps.

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And so the end of a long weekend in New Orleans furnished me with a completely fresh palette of experiences and memories. I never thought – never in my life – that I would celebrate my 57th birthday in such an amazing way.

Next step of the trip was Disneyworld, and Frankie’s Brother’s wedding. But that’s another post!

Already almost two thirds of the way through my mega-trip to the states already, and it has been amazingly eventful!

I came over to visit Frankie, primarily to go to her brother’s wedding at Disneyworld, Florida, but we planned trips either side of it and once again I’ve had an unforgettable time here. Fran’s birthday was two days before I arrived, and mine was two weeks later, so we had joint celebrations. more on that in another post – it was a major experience!

So the first big life-changer happened the second day here. I proposed to Frankie and she accepted. So we are now officially engaged. Within a couple of days we were shopping for rings and came back with some really nice ones.  Originally we ordered the emerald engagement ring pictured below, but then went out and got matching wedding rings in silver with black diamonds. So they are doubling as engagement rings too. Fran was pleased enough with the emerald ring to keep that as well so – double-whammy!

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The double selfie above was taken at Atlantic City where we were over-nighting to see ‘Celtic Thunder’ in concert. More on that in another post.

So the engagement was the second day here. By the fourth day I had come down with flu and a couple of days later, Fran had picked it up from me too. We both had a couple of very uncomfortable days – aching, sneezing, not wanting to do much at all – followed by a couple of weeks of residual coughing. I have a spirometry test planned when I return home and won’t be too surprised if there is a slight worsening in my COPD. It is still very mild, though, and I refuse to be completely beaten by it. This bout resulted in us missing one planned event – a concert of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony by the Philadelphia Orchestra (who I have listened to in recordings since I was about 5 years old!). It was sad, but we have done so much else it is easy to shrug off and think that there will be other opportunities to see equally fine concerts in the future.

There have been so many levels of adventure in this trip – from sight-seeing, to ‘partying’ (yep – never too old to party!), gourmet experiences, music and a ridiculous number of selfies – alone and with my fiancée. Whenever I meet up with Fran – which so far has been once a year, we have a blast and this trip has been no exception.

The next part of the trip is worthy of its own post, as is the one after that. Firstly, my birthday weekend in New Orleans. If you had told me 20 or 30 years ago that I would be marking my 57th birthday in New Orleans with a spectacular meal, many cocktails and an evening of jazz, I would have said you were crazy. Yet here I was with my new fiancée having a crazy weekend in the heat and insanity of Bourbon Street.

So New Orleans will take up the next post, followed by Disneyworld, Florida, and my now-future brother and sister in law’s wedding there.