>Friday – March 18, 2011

After work, drove from Fayetteville to Memphis. Found a hotel to accommodate us on only our second stop in Germantown.

Saturday – March 19, 2011
Up and on the road by about 9 am. Arrive in Nashville at 11:30 and it was just TOO pretty outside to stay in the car. A quick Google search followed by a mental coin toss and we opted to pay a visit to the Frist Center for Visual Arts.

The building reminded me of the renovated Washington Pavillion of Arts and Sciences in Sioux Falls. Great exhibit of local students artwork, Egglestrom’s photography, and “Vishnu” an exhibit of Hindu artifacts dating back to the second century, as well as photographs of the altar spaces within the whims of Nashville’s Hindu community.

After the Frist we walked down Music Row. The street was HOPPIN’ with lots of tourists and live music playing in every little bar. Most of the restaurants had substantial waiting times, so we decided to just walk down to the riverfront before getting back in the car for the last leg of our trip.

When we got to Pigeon Forge (which we pass through just before arriving in Gatlinburg) we had major Deja vu. Pigeon Forge is like Branson on steroids! Without all the music shows (there are some, but not nearly as many as Branson), Pigeon Forge is attraction after attraction along the “strip” and six lanes of traffic at a standstill!

However, as soon as we passed through Pigeon Forge we saw the sign for the Great Smoky Mountains and it suddenly became luck and serene. A babbling Brrok ran between the divided roadway. The road winded and curved beneath a canopy of trees. GORGEOUS!

Our GPS took us off the main road for a quick jog up and down a hillside, and when we got back to the main road we took a quick left and arrived at our resort.

We checked in at the clubhouse where they had a fitness center, sauna, and indoor/outdoor pool, then made our way to the condo. Our units are beautiful and have everything we need PLUS beautiful views.

Ahhhhhhhh. . . .

Sunday – March 20, 2011

The kids were itching to check out the resort pool today, and we are on vacation with NO AGENDA so we said why not?!?! But, when Gracie put her suit on it became apparent just how much she’s grown in the past year! So We dropped Mark and the kids at the clubhouse and we ran into town to find a shop. . . Or, worse case scenario we would brave Pigeon Forge traffic to go to Walmart. So off we went. . .

As soon as we got half a mile down the road it became apparent that the little jog the GPS took us on last night skirted the entire heart of the city. Gatlinburg is sooooooo cute and just filled with restaurants, shops and things to do. It also has very limited parking. So Gracie and I took a little driving tour and then turned around to get the rest of the crew so we could come back together to take it all in.

We drove to a park and ride lot to catch a Trolley down into the center of it all. We walked and shopped and walked and shopped! We rode the Gatlinburg Skylift. Mark and Ethan visited the Ripley’s Haunted Mansion (it was Ethan’s idea. . . The WORST idea he’s ever had he says now!)

We went to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies which is rated the #1 aquarium in America by Trip Advisor. I’ve only been to two aquariums, and it definitely put the Jenks aquarium to shame! Sharks, sting-rays, saw-tooth fish, sea dragons, and penguins. . . Oh my!

Waiting for the trolley back to our parking lot was a bit chilly, as the sun had started to go down, but we survived it. We had dinner in our condo then the kids swam while we hot-tubbed. As if we weren’t already worn out, the hot-tub totally zapped me.

Zzzzzzzzzz. . . . .

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