2/5/17 – Just a hunk-a hunk-a burning love

This time, we had a trauma just from getting up. The oldies knocked on for us for breakfast, but Kel hadn’t even got up, so they went on without us. When she did get up, she spotted something above the balcony doors, but we couldn’t figure out what it was. Whilst she was then getting changed in the bathroom, the thing suddenly an across the ceiling and I could see exactly what it was. It was a huge red spider, albeit one that had been through the wars as it only had five legs. The less legs didn’t make it any less scary. When it’s big enough for you to count how many legs from a distance and your eye sight is as bad as mine, it’s definitely cause to be scared. We had to wait for it to run enough down the wall so that we could reach it. Kel hit it with her flip flop (after turning into Lee Evans on the windup) and I then attacked it with hair spray to make sure it was dead. We make a good team.

We were suitably traumatised when we went down to breakfast and had to just sit for a little while with the oldies first, after filling them in. General breakfast stuff, as usual. We went back to the room afterwards for sun creaming and had another inspect of the smush on the floor, just to be sure. The crazy hot was on again, so I took to sunbathing on the sunbeds in the pool again. Still a bit hard on the ribs, but I was determined to get my back more tanned and this seemed like the most chill way to do it without melting. I finished off my Kinsey Millhone book and wrote another short story, as I’d already done one in the room before Kel got up and enlightened me on the spider trauma. They’re a real nice break away from big projects sometimes.

We went for lunch for the general stuffs and finally, finally, the mash was back to its amazingly creamy, whipped self. The holiday suddenly went from being all about the rice to all about the mash. After lunch, I popped back up to the room to get a new book. Next up was one of Kelley Armstrong’s ones. The first in the series was awful, but since I’d already been bought quite a few, I decided to try a couple more. Glad I did, because the follow-ups are far better. Kelley clearly improved a lot after the first flop. Went back down to the punishing heat, dodging in and out of the shade to start with before eventually just settling down in the sun, utilising the frozen margaritas to keep cool. Even wrote a little more of my main NaNoWriMo project before coming back to the room. Not bored with it yet!

Watched a bit of Clannad before shower time and then that was when I realised how sunburnt I was. I’d been wearing factor thirty all holiday and then just a fifteen on my back, since that didn’t see the sun whilst I was writing. Only I forgot I was still on fifteen when I decided to tan my back. I succeeded a little too much – I burnt the backs of my legs from the bottom, right up and onto my bum cheeks. This is Jesus getting me back for laughing at Mel when she burnt her bum in Greece. So sad. Needless to say I slathered in aftersun until I was literally slimy. Lovely.

We decided to go to the Mexican restaurant when we came down, since they had space available. They didn’t seem to mind about the sittings. Had the same taco roll, nachos, refried beans and beef tostadas as before. You really can’t beat authentic Mexican food. Followed that with chicken in green mole sauce. Green mole sauce turned out to taste very much like coriander and nothing else. It was quite nice though, even though I’m not usually a fan. Just in small doses. Not the huge dollops they piled on my chicken, most of which got pushed aside.

We spotted Daria, Danielle and Gelisa in the bar, so we decided to sit with them for a while for a catch up, since we hadn’t really seen them around the last several days. They’d been at the water park all day. We got the cocktails in and added one another on Facebook in time for the entertainment to start, because that’s what you do in the modern age. We had an Elvis show tonight, which I’d obviously been excited about, but it turned out to be a disappointment. The Elvis was only okay and although he did some of the classics, he also did some really odd song choices, like Bossa Nova. They had dancers on stage again and whereas last night, nobody could take their eyes off the Michael Jackson, this time, we all just watched the dancers. Says it all really. I think this Elvis was ready to put out to pasture. I was probably also a teeny bit more critical, because God, it hurt to sit down. Even more to get back up. Plastic seat cushions that stick to you really aren’t nice on burnt bottoms.

Came back up to the room after the usual JC wind down, this time accompanied by one hell of an aftersun application. I later learnt that I’d burnt some of the front of my legs too. Looks like I’ve gotta sleep on my side tonight and not move at all. One thing is for certain and that’s that I’m not wearing any shorts to sleep in tonight. Bottoms up!


Capybara chilling in the shade. Which is what I should have done.

09/1/15 – The girls have been let out

It’s a new year and we’re off on the road again! Like an idiot I forgot my travel notebook this time. I brought three notebooks with me but none of them happen to be that one! But no matter, I figured for this girly four-day weekend I can just document things on my old BlackBerry for now. Praise the lord for Word To Go!

Got up fairly early and got ready, packed the last few things I needed, then headed out to pick up best cousin Sarah. She was very impressed that she go to go in my ‘posh’ car (oh yeah, I have a Mazda MX-5 now! Check me!) Got a little lost on the way to her flat because I have a horrible sense of direction unless I’ve been somewhere twenty-plus times, but a few phone calls later I managed to find it. As we were pulling up back at the house Kel was also doing the same, having picked up Auntie Ann and Auntie Helena. Our taxi then rolled up too. Great timing! Grabbed the cases, said bye to the dog and then all piled in.

We were dropped off on the high street on Kings Heath at our pick-up point. Me and Kel did a quick run down the road to Greggs like the classic Brits that we are. My first try of a sausage, bean and cheese melt was nicely successful. We claimed six of the back seats of the coach when it pulled up. It’s very cushy. Fold-out tables, lots of leg room and plenty of little hidey holes about the seats to hide all the parts of our picnic that we’d brought.

Only just got on the coach and we already have the sweets out AND fits of the giggles!

Only just got on the coach and we already have the sweets out AND fits of the giggles!

Felt like we’d barely been on the coach when we were pulling up at the services in Corley. Not exactly far from home. Grabbed some fruity Volvic and some yummy hot chocolate from Starbucks with Sar (they spelt my name right on my cup too, woohoo!) Back onto the coach – again not for long – and then we stopped off at Hopwood too. So basically a three-hour round trip to get to just outside of Birmingham, where we’d just come from. That’s logic for you.

When we got back onto the coach AGAIN we started up the picnic. Cheese and onion cobs, sausage rolls, posh M&S crisps and mini eggs. Not complaining about the crazy route now that we’ve gotten food out of it! Had an actual couple of hours this time before the next stop in Sedgemoor. I had to give in to buying some Red Bull this time (been trying to quit again but that never seems to last). It was so warm on the coach that I’d been in danger of falling asleep. Can’t afford to waste precious writing and/or nattering time!

As we rejoined the coach for our final stint we were told that we didn’t have to worry about our suitcases – they’d be delivered straight to our hotel rooms. We thought this was very fancy until we remembered that when we’d first loaded them onto the coach we’d forgotten to put our provided tags onto them, so in a panic we’d just put any tag onto any case. So the chances are we’re all going to get each other’s cases. Let’s hope our rooms are close together or we’re going to have to go trekking round to play swapsies.

We did some house window shopping once we got into Torquay. Some real weird-looking mismatched places! I started playing silly buggers and trying to tickle Auntie Ann’s head with the end of a phone charger and hilariously when she looked round the woman across the aisle pretended to apologise for it. Auntie Ann clearly then thought that must have meant they were friends so started chatting to her, whilst the rest of us were sniggering in the back.

We got our first views of the sea and the ‘English Riviera’ side of Torquay and then arrived at the Torbay Hotel. Straightaway me and Kel concluded that we’d gotten stuck with the reject room round the corner. It’s much smaller, the toilet doesn’t flush properly, the view’s crap and I found a woodlouse within minutes of being in there. Eek! May be going down the corridor and spending more time in the other two rooms.

After a while me and Sar started getting the giggles over some of the drama stories. We tried to style it out over a pretend game of footsie across the bed, then quickly escaped to one of the other rooms with Kel for a drink and our own gossip. Once the restaurant was open we retrieved the oldies and headed downstairs. Straightaway we could see that we’ve managed to end up on an old biddies weekend. We are genuinely the youngest ones here. Ah, this is going to be amusing…

Meals were included and we had a few choices for all three courses. I had a potato and leek soup to start, turkey with various potatoes and veg (which I obviously avoided) then a Belgian waffle. Not bad considering it was free! Had another cider, then the weirdest Cosmopolitan ever. Since when do Cosmos have tequila in them?! If you happened to read my blog posts from Greece last year you’ll know how much I hate tequila. Still drank it though of course. I’d paid for it, duh.

We moved into the ballroom to play bingo. Yes, that’s the equivalent of the night life here. And oh my god, it was like that episode of Impractical Jokers… Old people take bingo really, really seriously. None of us won anything, which was probably a good thing. I wouldn’t have put it past them to hold it against us! We seem to be looked down upon as we’re younger. After that was a cabaret act. I’m totally open for having a laugh but even I was like cringe at the cabaret woman. We did attempt to join in with a few of the songs. They played some Elvis in commemoration of what would have been his 80s birthday yesterday – respect for that; happy birthday, King! – and thanks to The Simpsons I know most of the words to Que Sera.

Had some more drinks and chilled to some 50s and 60s music for a while after the cabaret act had gone before retiring to the rooms. Had to open the window to air ours out for a little because it was roasting. Never expected to be lying around in my underwear in January! Here’s hoping that the entertainment tomorrow will be a little livelier…

Just smile, act normal, be quiet and maybe we'll fit in more...

Just smile, act normal, be quiet and maybe we’ll fit in more…

6/10/13 – One to remember

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me… If I’m honest it’s been a very up and down day. I started feeling quite homesick and we were stuck in the van for most of the day, but there were certainly some definite ups. We had a more relaxed start this time, which was nice. Kel, Jayda and Robyn wanted to see the country walk of fame, but me and Tanya were more interested in breakfast so we all split up. We couldn’t find any breakfast places that were open, so we ended up having stuffed pizza slices. They were surprisingly good for pizza.

Once we got in the van Kel then gave me my present. It was a memory book filled with photos of friends, family, memorable moments and personalised notes from all of my friends and family! It was amazing – Kel really did a fantastic job. She even managed to get things from friends of mine that she doesn’t know, like Karnah and Nicole. Nicole did me a special birthday Harley drawing and Kay wrote me notes from Mav and Old Barb! Way cute! Even Liz drew me a Pikachu with a wizard hat and me in my Finny cosplay! It was totally sweet and made me laugh and smile a lot (particularly Dale’s lovely message of “happy birthday, you massive freak”) but it also made me feel quite sad.

We had a few brief stops on the way and lost an hour as we got closer to the coast again, so I had the shortest birthday ever. We were on the road for roughly eight hours – not necessarily the most fun way to spend my birthday. It was dark by the time we reached out hotel, so there was definitely no chance of seeing any bears like I’d hoped. On the plus side though I got to drink some Red Bull, watch some Psych and give Derek my music requests that he’d asked for. So we listened to a whole Elvis album (actually the same one I have in my car, so Kel felt like we were going to work) and then topped it off with some Tears For Fears.

Everyone felt a bit delirious by the time we reached the motel in the Appalachian Mountains – there was a lot of giggling over nothing, particularly when we stopped off at the wrong motel on the first try! We had to get Derek and Adam to get a cockroach out of our room, eeek (Kel had to kill another one later on too, double eeek!) We then went to Cracker Barrel for tea. I sat up front in the van this time too! We had some weird tee game on the table that me, Kel, Tanya and Derek ended up playing the whole time. The others had one to play with down the other end of the table too. None of us did very well (too much logic and planning involved, for me at least).

I had country fried chicken with mash and some frozen apple cider. All really nice, even if I couldn’t get alcohol on my birthday! Then to top it off the staff all turned up with some chocolate cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. One of the waitresses told me I had Derek to blame/thank for that (whichever way you wanna look at it). Happy Birthday’s a very long song when you don’t know where to look, but it was still really sweet – apparently no one else had been in on it. The cake was great too!

We got back to our rooms then for a much more chilled night. Showered and sat watching the Nutty Professor. All in all a very mixed day, but certainly preferable to my last birthday when I was hungover all day!

The room where we kept our suitcases on the tables in case of further cockroach invasion!

5/10/13 – Elvis lives

What an incredible day. We had breakfast at a diner called Arcade. It’s the oldest cafĂ© in Memphis and one of the places that Elvis himself used to visit! (It was also obviously a Man vs. Food place, as there were a few photos of Adam Richman at the checkout). We had a quick look at the Civil Rights museum afterwards, which was surprisingly sad (even if I had to be reminded of who Martin Luther King was). There was an awesome Dodge parked out front too.

From there we went to Graceland – the place I’ve been waiting for this whole time. We started off with a walking tour around Graceland itself. We got a shuttle up to the estate and were given individual headsets to listen to information around the tour. The house was really incredible. Some of it was so gaudy and crazy and ridiculous… Like a jungle themed room, mirrored ceilings, tapestry walls, etc. I loved it all. It just screamed unorthodox rock star. We got to explore some of the grounds too – including the pasture for the horses, the racquetball room, the park front and the firing range. The upstairs to the house was kept closed out of respect.

The Graceland part of the tour ended with the meditation garden. Elvis had had it built as a quiet place to relax and think. It was also where he was laid to rest, along with both parents, his grandmother and a memorial to his stillborn twin brother. I did actually get a little teared up seeing Elvis’s grave. It’s such a sad place… The words on it were so beautiful too – one of the last lines read “God saw that he needed some rest and called him home to be with him”.

One to tick off the bucket list!

After that we checked out the automobile museum. That was so fucking awesome! My favourite was instantly the Stutz Blackhawk (1973 model). Black with red interior of course. That just suits me all over. It turned out to be one of Elvis’s favourites too, as well as the last one he ever drove through the Graceland gates, which was really quite sad. We checked out his two planes too. You could actually go on the Lisa Marie. Poshest plane ever – it even had gold-plated seatbelt buckles! (More of that gaudy celebrity flash I was talking about). We went round all the other tours, most of which were case displays with music and more information on the key points of his life.

Once the tours were all finished we hit the gift shop. I knew from the start that this was going to be one of my most expensive days and I wasn’t wrong. Including the ticket price I definitely spent over a hundred dollars. I got a shot glass, some gold record earrings and a gorgeous handbag (I know, right? A handbag! Me!) Me and Kel also bought our group’s photo pack between us, since we hadn’t actually had a photo of all of us together yet.

When we got to Nashville it was safe to say we were all a bit horrified to see our first hostel. Derek was in a room on his own (apparently with no window, like a cell), Adam and An were in separate rooms with strangers, and then the rest of us were together. We all agreed it was like being on a school trip. We all had bunk beds (which we even had to make ourselves) and we didn’t have any showers on our floor. And the bathrooms we did have were a trek away round the other side of the floor. This was embarrassing later on, but we’ll get to that. The one cute thing was that all the rooms were named after musical instruments and ours was called Cowbell! Appropriate for my cow love!

We went to the Wild Horse Saloon for tea. Nashville wasn’t a place I was originally majorly fussed on but man, was I wrong! It was huge and had a live band playing. The singer was called Craig Wayne Boyd. He was really great, not to mention pretty hot! He even did a cover of Achy Breaky Heart! Since when do I ever hear that played anywhere?

In between the band’s breaks we had instructors teaching us to line dance. The dance floor was huge, which worked out well because there were a LOT of people there. We’d all just finished learning the moves to one dance (even Adam and Derek joined in, get in the bath!) when we realised our food had arrived, so we didn’t get chance to put them all together. Annoyingly they then played some awesome songs whilst we were eating – including the Cupid Shuffle, Cotton Eye Joe and bloody Footloose! I was half tempted to leave my steak and cheese sandwich to go dance, but food still won out. Afterwards we then got to learn a dance called the Nashville Windup. It took me a while to get the hang of, but now I can’t wait to show off some moves!

From there we went for a drink in a bar called Legend’s Corner. They had a live band playing too, but it was all country and we didn’t know any of the songs. Jayda and Robyn stayed, whilst me, Kel and Tanya moved to a blues bar called B.B. King’s. That was much more like it. Heard some music we actually knew and had a bit of a bop to Robin Thicke. We also attempted to learn the crazy grinding/line dance to the ‘Wobble Song’. During this the clock struck twelve – I am officially no longer twenty-three! This also means no more using blink-182 as my theme song though. Sad times.

We got back and me and Kel went upstairs to try out the showers. I didn’t want to carry dirty underwear around with me, so I took them off in our room and went commando under my dress. I was very aware of it when we ran into people on the corridor, eek! After putting my cream on when I got back to the room I then had to trek round to find the toilets to wash my hands. I bumped into Derek both on the way there and back. I had no glasses on, my mad wet hobbit hair and crazy short pyjamas. Awkward, to say the least. I then had to try climbing up onto the top bunk in said pyjamas without flashing anyone. Not entirely sure if it worked… It’s all fun and games.

Petrolhead? Who, me? Yeah okay…

4/10/13 – Satisfy me, baby

You guessed it – another early start. We Skyped Mom in between packing and getting ready, but didn’t have time for a proper breakfast. Boo! I grabbed an apple cinnamon roll to go instead. This ended up being the longest drive yet. Roughly eight hours, including a McDonalds stop. I personally found it quite enjoyable though. We listened to more of the same comedian (learnt his name is Pat Oswalt, I think?) and I got a decent chunk of writing done. Derek also plays locational music in the van, depending on where we’re going to or passing through. So obviously I was excited to get a good dose of Elvis!

When we got to Memphis we quickly checked into the hotel then headed straight over to Sun Studios, where a lot of musical legends recorded. I got a little yellow guitar pick from the gift shop. In the bar there were a couple of glass tables with photos inside. I totally fell in love with one of a young Elvis wearing a blue turtleneck jumper, yum!

We then had our tour around the studios. Inside the first room were displays based around the history of Sun Studios and the connected artists. They have the exact record of ‘Rocket 88’, which was actually pegged as the first rock ‘n’ roll song in history! They played us a little clip and I loved it! Gonna have to download it when I get home! There was obviously a sizable Elvis display in this room – they even had his social security card and high school diploma!

We learnt a little more about his first recording too. Back in the day anyone could go into Sun Studios off the street, pay four dollars and record a song. Eighteen-year-old Elvis did the same and a recorded a song called ‘My Happiness’ as a gift for his Mom. They played us a clip of the actual recording of this too. It totally gave me goosebumps – it was so weird thinking that this was where the King first started out.

We then went downstairs into the actual recording studio. Nothing in there was replicated, besides them adding a few newer instruments. The studio wasn’t inhabited for twenty-five years after Sun moved out, so it was well-preserved. The floor tiles, soundproofing and even the light fixtures were all the exact same ones as when it had first been founded. I also got to stand in the exact spot Elvis stood when he recorded his first official song to be released. We were even allowed to pose with one of the genuine microphones that he used too, providing we were careful with it. They also showed us a clip of the Million Dollar Quartet’s jamming session – comprising of Elvis of course, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. My mind was officially blown after all of this.

We went for tea on Beale Street, which is like the central hub of Memphis. I had some awesome fried chicken and a sex on the beach. The night was then totally perked up by Preston Shannon, the live act. He was great and really funny. He did some awesome covers of Ben E. King and Purple Rain too. We headed back to the hotel after that (me, Kel and Tanya) whilst the others had a wander around, as we still needed to shower and the like. We captured an Elvis impersonator for a picture on the way. Now just eager for Graceland!

Standing in the exact spot where the King recorded his first single and using his microphone. My fangirl brains basically turned to mush