Saturday, December 24, 2016

Anniversary In The Smokies Part 1

If anyone was to ask me my favorite place to vacation, I would, of course, say "Walt Disney World." But if actions speak louder than words, the Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee is the real answer. 

Because its only a 5 hour drive (as opposed to 13 to Florida), it is easier to get to there more often. Paula and I have now been there 7 times over the last 15 years.   

This year, we decided to make our anniversary getaway destination the Smokies as well. 

A week or so before our trip, the area suffered devastating wild fires around Gatlinburg. By the time our trip came up the fires were out. The road to recovery had begun. The rallying phrase "Mountain Strong" and opportunities for donations were prolific. 

When we arrived mid-afternoon on Friday December 9, it was obvious from the many lights and displays that the Smoky Mountains' Winterfest was well underway. 

We stayed, again, at the Whispering Pines condos just off the parkway from the Old Mill restaurant. This time it was building 6, Condo 643. 

For our first night in town we went to TGI Friday's for dinner. We each got the sizzling chicken dinner (Paula's had shrimp too) which is our favorite TGIF offering. If you listen close on this video you'll actually hear the "sizzle". 
Needless to say it was delicious. 

For our evening entertainment we went back to the Comedy Barn for the first time in 15 years.
They were performing their Christmas show. I really enjoyed the trained rescue dogs. Steve Knowles did a ventriloquist act with a real dog as his puppet. While I don't really like those kind of vent acts, his material was solid and very funny. I enjoyed him a lot. 

But the highlight of the show was the two performances of comic, Eric Lambert. 

Ironically, his acts was basically the same as they when we saw him the first time back in 2001. 

You can see part of his act for yourself by searching for him on You Tube. 

His act depends strongly on members of the audience coming up on stage. He's very good at making the best of choosing the right person. He does use some planned jokes but a lot of it is improvisational. He's very good at both.  
After the Comedy Barn show we drove around Pigeon Forge looking at the light displays. We stopped at Patriot Park, to see their holiday display. 

It was a very cold night (the temperature was down in the low 20s) but Paula got out of the car to take these pictures. 

The next day, I was feeling a bit poorly because of upper respiratory issues. We spent most of the day in our condo so I could rest and get to feeling better. 

This was the two views I enjoyed while resting. One was the scene just outside our condo and the other was a seasonal tradition on our living room TV. 

Later in the day we decided to drive through Gatlinburg to see what effects the fires had had on the downtown area. There was an unusually amount of traffic from the time we left Pigeon Forge. It was bumper to bumper all the way there, and it continued through to traffic light #10 at Ski Mountain Road, where we turned around. This is what it looked like most for most of the drive. 

Other than the slight smell of smoke in the air and a few places that were still closed, it seemed like business as usual for the downtown area. 

Paula took some pictures of some of the Christmas lights as we drove through including a great shot of the Space Needle.

 Once we got back to Pigeon Forge we went to Dollywood to spend the evening enjoying the lights and the Parade of Many Colors. 

To say it was cold that night would be an understatement. While we were in the park the temp went down into the 20s again. But being out in the cold for a long time made it feel even colder.   

We hiked up a rather long hill on the west side of the park so we could see the Timber Canyon Festival of Lights. It's a musical Christmas Tree show. 

It was nice but to be honest not worth the long uphill walk. 

The park was very crowded. Proportionately, it was almost at "Disney Park" levels; especially along the parade route. I was surprised given that it was so cold.  

Even though we got to our chosen parade viewing spot 30 minutes before it started, were still a little late. We had to stand at the back of the crowd limiting our view. Here's our POV. 
While waiting for the floats to come past the Pines theater, we leaned against the building and huddled together to try and keep warm. 
 It was while we were waiting for the parade that I got a text message that gave us our first Christmas surprise of the year. (actually, for logistic reasons, I knew about it beforehand but it was still a nice surprise).

Our family had gone together and gotten us a brand new dishwasher, which my son, James installed while we were away. 
It's the first step in our plans to replace our kitchen appliances next year. We look forward to using it a lot.  

Because we were so far back in the crowd I didn't get any good pictures of the parade but it was nice for what it was. 

Because our tickets allowed us to return the next day, after the parade we had had enough of the cold and were more than ready to head out of the park for the night. 

We picked up some hot drinks at the Spotlight bakery and headed out. 

Our anniversary getaway was half over but there was still a lot of things to do. 

There's more to come in part 2 of "Anniversary In The Smokies". 

I will probably take a bit of a break from blogging over this holiday week but I will be back with more about our anniversary trip, what Christmas was like for my family and me, 2016 in review, and my goals for 2017. 

I appreciate you reading my blog. Please feel free to share it with anyone  you think might be interested in it as well.  

From all my family, Paula, and me best wishes for a Merry Christmas. God Bless Us, Everyone. 

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