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Ruby Falls and Rock City

 

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Ruby Falls

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Rock City

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 20 November

It was cold last night, below 40F, even colder than it would be at home! Traffic noise on the road outside wakes us early; best to get even numbered rooms, not odd numbers in this hotel (Holiday Inn Express, Chattanooga).

Another sunny morning and after breakfast we manage to get onto Lookout Mountain early for some photos but sadly, much of the foliage had now dropped after a couple of days of wind but smatterings of red were still visible.

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Colours on Lookout Mountain

 

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Gate to nowhere

Pass the site of a now demolished dwelling although for some reason, someone forgot to undo the gate!

Our first visit today is Ruby Falls, the third of the Combo ticket and we are so glad we got there shortly after it opened as there were numerous school type parties later in the morning despite it being Thanksgiving week when, we understand, schools are out so a bit perplexed as to why there should be school parties.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

To access the falls we are taken in small groups down in a lift about 600ft, met by our guide, and join up with others already down there.

We are now lead about 2/5ths of a mile along tunnels which are well lit and scattered with stalactites and stalagmites some of which had interesting names such as Donkey, Steak & Potatoes and Elephant’s foot and you can see why.

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Inside Ruby Falls caves

We eventually reach the falls which are well worth the walk.

Lighting on the rocks is timed so we have to get photos in quick before we have to make our way back along the same route to the lift back up to ground level and the observation platforms.

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The Ruby Falls

There is some building work to extend the “reception” area but this did not detract from the experience.

Whilst the guide was good at keeping us all together on the way to the falls, he failed miserably to see if we had all followed him back – we could have stayed with another group had we so wished and he wouldn’t have noticed.

Most of the other groups were of school children though so not sure we would have fitted in.

Drive now to Rock City, park up and join a very long and slow queue at the adjacent Starbucks for a piece of cake and a drink.

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Civil War relic on Incline Mountain

 

Get chatting to a family from Clermont, Florida whose children have some allergies (I overheard what they had ordered), like Harry. They have found it difficult to source dairy free food but the situation has got better in the last few years.

They very kindly provide us with a couple of restaurant names and outlets that are good for allergies including Walmart in Clermont which is good for dairy free items.

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Water wheel in Rock City

Rock City itself is set high up on Look out mountain with lots of boulders that create passageways that all lead to an outcrop with a waterfall and some magnificent views over, it is claimed, 7 States.

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The plaque says it all!

The Rock City complex, it seemed to us, was easy to get into without a ticket but perhaps it was just a bit lapse at the time we were there, as when we left, the entrance was manned.

Once in, we followed one of the three routes available to us which are well signposted, towards the rock outcrop and overhang which I suppose is the main attraction.

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Narrow passages and lots of stairs

Before you get there however there is a maze of passage ways, tunnels and walkways to navigate which would take a long time to walk.

One or two very narrow squeezes between rocks but a lot of stairs which Sal wasn’t too keen on so we missed some of the passageways out.

We go over the stone bridge first for a magnificent view of the 7 states and some great foliage on the slopes below us.

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Rock City Swinging Bridge

Coming back however we do venture on the swinging bridge.

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View of the Viewing platform

We get to the entrance of the crystal cavern but decline to go all the way down – what goes down has to come up again which is not good in Sally’s world.

Christmas is coming and they have a night time light spectacular already in place which takes a bit of an edge off what we are seeing as they are not lit up.

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Ubiquitous Rock City sign

The Rock City very distinctive sign dates back to 1936 when a certain Garnet Carter commissioned a painter to paint an advertising message on the roofs of barns along major roads in the area to entice people to the area as Rock City was “off the beaten track”.

The advertising worked and adorned over 800 locations from Michigan to Texas to Florida and is now a much loved pieces of Americana.

Back to the hotel for a rest and gather together all our belongings – we leave tomorrow – before heading out at rush hour in even worse traffic than yesterday to Hamilton Square for a browse in a couple of shops and a meal in Bonefish. Had we joined their “frequent users” club we could have got tonight’s meal for 50% having been to Bonefish twice already on this trip.

Mental note to join before we come to the US again!

Tuesday 21 November

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39F this morning!

Another cold night but not as windy as it has been.

After breakfast we set off back south to Atlanta airport, arriving somewhat early but thankful for access to the Business class lounge as we have been upgraded to Business on the way back.

Our holiday is nearly over.

Wednesday 22 November

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View from the Delta Lounge at Atlanta

Despite the flat seat, limited sleep is had on the overnight flight and to cap it all, I am awoken by a bang on my knee by the breakfast trolley and Sal’s breakfast order has to be relayed to the stewardess more than once, she was useless. Also, not really impressed with the choice of films; nothing to get excited about.

Wiz through immigration at Heathrow, luggage (3 bags) off quickly and we are landslide at within 30 minutes of landing so head for the arrivals lounge for a freshen up and then bus to meet Flic & Cody at Reading.

Tip: Don’t buy your RailAir bus ticket to Reading at the National Express counter, buy it from the driver it is £3 cheaper, AND, they accept Railcards.

Offload extras at Flic’s, mainly presents and summer clothing and head for Gatwick where we have only a 20kg allowance per bag and have only booked two bags in. One of our bags ends up exactly 20kg, quite an achievement I thought.

Arrival back home in torrential rain, Mel picks us up: it has been like this all day apparently- some roads are flooded.

We missed lots of things that we could have gone to and really didn’t do justice to some of those we did go to during our two days in Chattanooga but it was very enjoyable and to think that in 2 and a half days we:

  1. Had a meal on a train
  2. Visited Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel and station
  3. Went up Incline Railway
  4. Learnt about the Civil War battle for Chattanooga and took in some of the places
  5. Went down into caves to see Ruby Falls
  6. Clambered along narrow passageways to reach a viewing platform at Rock City
  7. Saw many wonderful houses on Lookout Mountain

Well, another holiday is over and we have packed so much into this one, Artists studio in Asheville, Waterfront in Savannah, Lovely houses in Florida, Animals at Animal Kingdom, Segway at Mt Dora, a Helicopter ride over part of Disney, all the things in Chattanooga and of course meeting up with our friends, Laura & Jim, so, here’s to the next holiday.

Our next booked holiday, apart from Christmas in Maidenhead is a cruise in 2019 but I am sure we will manage something next year, we just haven’t booked anything yet.

 

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Courts

If it is Monday and Tuesday in late March or early April then I must be in a Court.  No, I haven’t committed a crime or two, nor am I a lawyer (albeit I know a bit about the law)but on two successive Monday’s and Tuesday’s I was in a Court which was an interesting experience.

Court Appearance No. 1.

I had received a summons for Jury Service locally in the Isle of Man which quite by chance had arrived just after I had returned from our 50 day cruise.

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The Isle of Man Court House

Had it been sent out just after our cruise had started, I am not sure what the Court service would have done in the absence of any response from me – probably arrested me.

Anyway, being a small island, only a small number of people (21) are summonsed, well in excess of the number of jurors required, who all meet at the first day of the trial, watch a short introductory video and are led into Court.

A ballot ensues and although the last time I was not called, this time, my name is the 2nd one out of the box and nobody objected to me so there I am sitting at the head of the jury benches (the first person called was objected to) watching the others being selected out of the ballot box.

Once the 7 jurors had been selected – many persons whose names had been read out were already excused and some were objected to for various reasons so the whole process took about 10-15 minutes – we were sworn in and had the case presented to us by the prosecution before witnesses were called and the defence had the opportunity to present the defence.

To cut a long story short, the jurors are then asked to deliberate on the evidence and return a guilty or not guilty verdict.

This case lasted into a 2nd day and of course we were not allowed to discuss the case with anyone until after the case had been completed.

The defendant’s livelihood is at stake here and we as jurors must get the verdict right which I hope we did before we went our separate ways.

Court appearance No. 2

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Southwark Crown Court

I left working for an employer nearly 5 years ago but had the thought at the back of my mind that one day, a particular case might still need my input and I was not wrong.

Before we embarked on our January cruise, I had received notification that I would be required to give evidence at a trial in London of some individuals who I had dealt with whilst working for this particular employer so the letter awaiting me on my return was not unexpected.

Flights, train travel and a hotel were organised to enable me to attend Southwark Crown Court and I must say that the organisers were very accommodating with my other travel plans, fitting in my court appearance to suit me as well as them.

What I was not expecting though was to be on the witness stand (actually I was able to sit) for two whole days and even then they were not able to finish with my evidence, this had to be completed (at my suggestion) by way of a video link back home three weeks later which thankfully only lasted about 30 minutes..

The court room was not only filled with the usual people (including 20 or so lawyers in robes) but unlike my experience the previous week, many monitors were in place scattered around the court room  all of which were used by the court to refer certain people in court to particular documents or witness statements as directed by the judge and implemented by a technical team.

The 12 jurors had been chosen from a short list after the presiding judge had reviewed a sort of CV each prospective juror (I believe over 90) had been asked to complete. Even then, one chosen juror was very honest and early on in the trial had asked to be excused as he or she said they “did not have the mental ability to understand the case”.

I must say I have a lot of admiration for the jurors in this case bearing in mind the content of the case and the projected length of time the case is likely to last – some of them have jobs to go back to!

Obviously I cannot go into too much detail about the case but the above does represent some of the views I can share.

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Hays Wharf

Having to answer questions continuously for two days on something that happened well over 5 years previously was somewhat taxing to say the least so I was grateful of the lunch breaks and comfort breaks afforded during the proceedings and I must say the area around the Court House including Hays Wharf was modern, lively and considerably more photogenic than the actual courthouse itself which looks like something from the old USSR in design.

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The Shard in the mist

The hotel I stayed at had a good morning view of the city once the mist had cleared although by the time I returned in the evening,  it just wasn’t quite the same.

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Tower Bridge from Duchess Walk

 

It was an area I was not all that familiar with so an interesting two lunchtimes were spent exploring.

By the time I got home on the 2nd day, it was time to pack for our next adventure – the following day – in our new car, to Jersey.

 

Heading for Bermuda

Happy_birthday8 January

A sea day as we head for our first “new” country on this adventure since retirement – Bermuda.

I had misread the daily newsletter – the Horizon – and had put my iPad forward by an hour overnight but in fact it is tomorrow they go back – twit.

Consequently, we get up late but are still in time for breakfast – Sunday special is Smoked Salmon in Scrambled Eggs and still we have a lovely calm sea, aren’t we lucky.

The Port talk today is on Key West, a place we were at 3 months ago just before the Hurricane hit the northern part of Florida, but are always happy to go back here. One new point that we didn’t know about is the origin of the Key Lime Pie, which was created by Aunt Sally in her kitchen.

We meet an Isle of Man person after lunch, travelling on her own and just assumed that we knew everyone on the island, as they do. We never saw her again!

We even venture into the golf practice area – the first time we have hit a golf ball in years – enough exercise for the day though!

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Fore

Sal & Deirdre off to see Bridget Jones Baby whilst John & I opt for a talk on the RAF’s Vulcan bombers. A somewhat disjointed talk, but the two violinists, Electra made the evening along with the earlier performance by the Harmony Duo, a classical pianist and his female Russian violinist.

9 January

Today’s Port talk is on New Orleans and was interesting although we intend doing our own thing during the day but have opted for an organised Jazz dinner on the Paddle Steamer as we are overnighting there.

The evening entertainment is by an American juggler, not something that I would have rushed to see but he was good and a bit of a comic to boot.  Just as well the ship’s motion was not too violent to start with – it got choppier later on though.

10 January

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Birthday couple

Now this is one of the reasons we are here – John’s 70th and Dierdre’s “not quite” 70th birthdays are today, so presents at breakfast, pictures at every meal but very inclement weather, with a Force 8 for the day, driving rain, high waves and as the captain put it, “a number of potholes in the sea”.

As a birthday treat we all went to the cinema in the afternoon to watch “Sully”, a film about the crash landing of the passenger plane on the River Hudson in New York a few years back.  Isn’t it “wonderful” how insurance firms try to wriggle out of paying up after an incident like this.

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Chocolate desert – Yum!

P & O have a separate restaurant (for which you pay a cover charge) called Sindhu which is an Indian Restaurant so, with the added bonus of a couple of free bottles of wine we settle down for a celebratory meal.

Not perhaps as good as another occasion when we dined in Sindhu on another ship but nevertheless still a good evening, especially the deserts although should I be eating so much chocolate?

It is a shame though that the waiter came up to John near the end and said “shall I bring out the surprise cake now?”.

John of course wasn’t aware that the cake was a surprise for him from Jill, Pete & Lizzie! Too much food so the cake will have to be eaten later.

Fogwell Flax was the comedian tonight with lots of impressions of not only people but helicopters, washing machines, bikes and many other items. Very talented guy but you have to question: “How did he know he could do these things?”. Let us hope we get a better night’s sleep after the previous night’s loss of sleep with the bouncing around on the waves.

11 January

A better night, with less bumping around and not so many waves hitting the boat and somewhat surprisingly, we are hungry. Port talk today on Montego Bay followed by a talk on Elvis Presley and lunch in the Peninsular restaurant as there was no room in the cafe upstairs.

Still a bit rough but now easing slowly although it is still cool. Night time entertainment was another rendition of Destination Dance by the Headliners Theatre group. It is Bermuda tomorrow.