Month: November 2018

Getting High on Life in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee!

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Morning mountain mist

The Great Smoky Mountains, and corresponding National Park, straddle the states of Tennessee and North Carolina in the southern United States. My entry point into this natural wonderland was Gatlinburg, Tennessee. As I enjoyed the breathtaking view from the rocking chair of my porch, the Smoky Mountains namesake morning mist hovered, weaving its way through the mountaintops, and providing a perfect sight from which to contemplate the day’s adventures on which I would embark! (For more on where I stayed during my visit to the Smoky Mountains, look for my Wyndham Legacy Smoky Mountains Resort tour blog linked below.)

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Scenic overlook in the Park

A visit to Smoky Mountains National Park in undeniably the first place you are going to want to begin your adventure. In one of nature’s ultimate playgrounds you will discover many natural wonders, as well as, as the National Park Service describes, “One of the best collections of log buildings in the Eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures – houses, barns, outbuildings, churches, schools, and grist mills – have been preserved or rehabilitated in the park.” (www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/historicbuildings.htm) These minimalist yet fascinating structures give a good glimpse of what life was like in the 1800s in the rural South.

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John Oliver Cabin, from 1822

For the energetically-inclined there are an array of hiking trails available in all difficulty levels, from short to long, and from easy to challenging. Hiking options are listed on the National Park Service’s Smoky Mountains website, and hiking trail maps are available at the Welcome Center (as well as driving tour maps of the Park.) On these journeys you will witness waterfalls (in varying sizes), creeks, and dense forests of a multitude of varieties of trees. A hike in the Smoky Mountains stimulates all of the senses, with spectacular views of the mountains, the soothing sounds of bubbling brooks and trees rustling in the wind, and the smell of pine… truly a feast for the senses! Enjoy breathing in the fresh, pure air while you indulge in the epitome of peacefulness!

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Strolling along a bubbling creek

One of the greatest perks of a visit to Smoky Mountains National Park is enjoying the abundance of wildlife therein! The Park is most well-known for their Black Bear population. When you see a log jam of cars parked illegally along the road and no scenic overlook – you can safely assume it’s a makeshift wildlife viewing stop! And if people are looking up into the trees, they are likely viewing black bears, for whom the treetops are a favorite hangout!

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Black Bear

If you still have the energy after all of the walking, hiking, and driving through the Park, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, minutes away, is billed as a tourist Mecca for the area, where nightlife is readily available and tourists flock to in droves!

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“The Island” ferris wheel

I quickly realized upon arriving in Pigeon Forge that, well… it’s not for everyone. An extreme contrast from the National Park, the area is overwhelmingly commercial, touristic, and in some cases, tacky. Nonetheless I was drawn to the giant Ferris wheel at “The Island,” which towered over the town. Here there is a small amusement park, numerous restaurants, and a bounty of retail shops. I had preferred to do my shopping at the National Park Service’s shop where proceeds from my sale went to help the park, so I wasn’t in the market for more retail outlets at that point. For the celebrity restauranteur aficionado, Jimmy Buffett and Paula Deen both have restaurants here at “The Island.” There is also a pizza place I was familiar with called “Mellow Mushroom.” While I did not partake in their offerings on this visit, I had eaten at other locations for each of these restaurants in the past and greatly enjoyed the meal, so if you are looking for a dinner experience here in Pigeon Forge (and prefer to avoid the heavily billboard-promoted and, at least in some cases, “obnoxious” dinner show buffets in town), I would recommend any of these dining outlets.

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Wyndham Legacy Resort, Sevierville, TN.

Please refer to my post linked below if you are interested in great accommodations from which to enjoy your Smoky Mountain Experience! The Legacy Resort by Wyndham is definitely a place I look forward to returning to again and again:

Bountiful Bliss at Wyndham “Legacy” Smoky Mountain Resort!

And you can watch my video tour of Smoky Mountains National Park here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhUR3UA4ijY

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Bountiful Bliss at Wyndham “Legacy” Smoky Mountain Resort!

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First floor porch – spectacular views!

*Note: this blog post is NOT sponsored by Wyndham and reflects my honest experience. The Wyndham Legacy Mountain Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee provides an excellent home base for exploring the Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (a few minutes drive away) and the many (albeit tacky) tourist attractions of the neighboring town of Pigeon Forge. Best of all, it also provides a spectacular backdrop of magnificent mountain views back at the cabin!

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Cabins lined up along the mountain

Within this resort there are multiple individual two-story cabins along the slope of the mountain. Rates are comparable to those of an upscale hotel room, and very reasonable for the amenities you enjoy here.

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Our cabin: “Moondancer”

The cabins boast whimsical names – we stayed in “Moondancer.” This was a good choice, high above many of the other options and a source of spectacular views!

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Living room with fireplace

With walls of wood, a stone fireplace, leather furniture, and black-bear themed decor (black bears are notorious residents of the Smoky Mountains!) the cabin is a copiously cozy, comfortable home for the duration of your stay in Sevierville. The cabin has a natural, woodsy feel amply appropriate for the location!

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Fully-equipped kitchen

The kitchen is fully-equipped, with oven/stove, microwave, full-size refrigerator, dishwasher, sink, toaster, coffee pot, and even a “gift basket” of travel-sized kitchen supplies! This is a very good thing, not only for the convenience and value of being able to prepare meals here, but because the surroundings, especially the sumptuous views, are so pleasant it is doubtful you will want to leave to dine elsewhere! An outdoor grill is also available, overlooking your mountain paradise!

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Dining area

There is also a dining area, and the cabins have either one or two bedrooms. “Moondancer” is a one bedroom, but there is also a loft which sleeps two and a sofa bed that can sleep one more. Five people would sleep very comfortably here. There are two full bathrooms.

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Game room upstairs

In the unlikely event you get bored with the views lounging out on the patio (?!), there is a game room upstairs in some of the cabins. In “Moondancer” we had a pool table and foosball game.

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Second floor porch with Jacuzzi!

My favorite amenity here was the Jacuzzi on the second floor porch! The Jacuzzi in and of itself is indulgent enough – let alone these incredible views you can soak in while you soak in the swirling Jacuzzi water! This is definitely one of the greatest things that make this place so special, and stand out from your average accommodations. (By the way, there was a second Jacuzzi – an indoor one – in the upstairs bathroom!)

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Breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains!

With all that this place has to offer I definitely look forward to returning again and again. As far as resort accommodations go, this was one of the most memorable and pleasurable I have ever stayed at! You can view my complete tour of the cabin, including drone footage of the resort, here!:

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Sassy and Sophisticated Stockholm, Sweden!

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Stockholm, Sweden: city of hills and waterways

Stockholm, Sweden was the final port stop on my Baltic Sea cruise on the Norwegian Breakaway. Stockholm is replete with natural beauty, with its many glistening waterways and lofty hills, as well as charming historic and modern architectural structures seemingly climbing the playfully rolling hillsides.

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Views inside of City Hall

Completed in 1923, the National Romanticist style City Hall is a quirky building that pays significant homage to Byzantine Design with its gilded mosaic hall and arcaded main lobby. The building is surrounded by meticulously manicured grounds that provide an excellent place to view Stockholm’s Old Town across the water and people-watch.

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Views of Stortorget

Stortorget, the main square of Gamla Stan, or Old Town, houses the Nobel Museum, narrow side streets, whimsical Lion statues, and colorful, ornate buildings. Hordes of tourists congregate by its central fountain, lingering amidst the delectable scents of the bakeries and cafes lining the square. Stockholm is expensive, but these temptations are irresistible! To escape the crowds, stroll down one of the numerous side streets and let yourself get lost in pleasureful peacefulness.

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Changing of the Guard

Around the corner in front of the Royal Palace, time it right and you’ll catch the majestic ritual of the Changing of the Guard.

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Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum is home to the Vasa ship, Swedish warship from the early 1600s. It managed to sail 1,400 yards before sinking during its first voyage. Rediscovered in the 1950s, it was given a new home above ground and where modern Swedes and tourists alike can contemplate its enticing story. Too top-heavy to be fit for sailing, it tragically sank in 1628 when the impatience of King Gustavus Adolphus got the better of him. His underlings lacked the fortitude to advise him of the ship’s problems and suggest a delay of embarkation. Today you can visit the Vasa Museum to see the ship itself and many displays pertaining to its troubled history.

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Riddarholmskyrkan

Riddarholmskyrkan, or Riddarholm Church, is the site of burial grounds for Swedish royalty, including the aforementioned Gustavus Adolphus. No longer used for monarchial burial grounds or as a place of worship, it now serves only as a site of historical importance. A monastery in the 1300s, it later served Protestant parishioners post-Reformation. The original spire was devastated by lighting and replaced with the current cast-iron spire which serves as an important landmark representing the city.

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Modern Stockholm: Convention Center

After enjoying the many historic sites in Stockholm, it’s fun to take some time to delight in the signature Scandinavian streamlined and geometrical style of its modern structures.

You may view my complete tour of Stockholm, Sweden here!:

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I am extremely grateful for your generous donation to help keep the site running! This site and individual posts are not sponsored, and I receive no wage or salary!

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