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Graceland

We got up at the crack of dawn on our second day in Tennessee – we had places to be.

While we’re on the subject of early mornings – one travel tip for Tennessee – bring your aeropress, beans, coffee grinder or cafetiere. I couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee in the whole state, and we tried a lot of places while we were there. We were getting pretty desperate, and we are all massive coffee junkies.

Coffee troubles aside, we were all in pretty good spirits during the three hour drive from Nashville – we were headed for Memphis.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
I say Memphis loosely, as we were really headed for Graceland, home of the King of Rock n Roll – Elvis Presley.

Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
I’d always wanted to go to Graceland – my family are massive Elvis fans, and when I’m at a karaoke bar, it’s Elvis all the way.

I really liked the way the tours were run – each person was given an iPad with preloaded audio content (narrated, bizarrely, by John Stamos), meaning you could take it at your own pace.

Graceland, Memphis, TennesseeDining Room, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
The property itself was so much fun to explore. It’s totally garish and gaudy, but great – it’s always fun to have a nosy in someone else’s home, and the touches that would’ve been cutting edge in their day were hilarious. Three TVs next to each other, on at the same time? Sure.

Graceland, Memphis, TennesseeGraceland, Memphis, Tennessee
I also had a look at the inside of his private jet, his collection of cars, and his iconic headstone.

Living Room, Graceland, Memphis, TennesseeLiving Room, Graceland, Memphis, TennesseeElvis' Grave, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
We started getting a little peckish, so once we’d had our fill of Elvis for the day, we went in search of a bite.

Pollards, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
Luckily, we didn’t have to venture too far afield – just further down Elvis Presley Boulevard to Pollard’s Bar-B-Que.

Pollards, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
I couldn’t get enough of that Southern Hospitality  down there – everyone was so friendly, so welcoming, and so accomodating. Pollard’s was no different, thanks to the attentions of the fabulous Denise! Absolutely starving at this point, I ordered half a portion of ribs, with a side of beans and fried pickles.

Fried Pickles, Pollards, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
If you haven’t tried fried pickles, you’re seriously missing out (I have a recipe here!) These were great – not too greasy, not at all soggy, and the batter was light.

Ribs, Beans and Fried Pickles, Pollards BBQ, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee
The ribs and beans were great too – the meat melted off of the bone, and the beans were seasoned in a flavoured stock. Again, if you’re looking for fine dining, this isn’t it, but if you’re looking for a good, cheap eat, then this is right up your street.

Have you ever been to Graceland? Be sure to comment below, and be sure to let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Pollard's Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Nashville, Tennessee

I had been back in New York for about 24 hours before I was on another plane – this time, to the American South.

Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
Despite having lived in the States for ten years, I’ve never actually managed to venture to that part of the country before, and I’m so glad I did!

Nashville, and Tennessee in general, is known for its vibrant music country music scene.

Nashville, Tennessee | IslandbellTootsies, Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
That, of course, and BBQ (but more on that later).

The Broadway really comes to life at night, full of bars with live country music – it’s a really fun vibe.

Nashville, Tennessee | IslandbellCowboy Boots, Nashville, Tennessee | IslandbellNashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
We stayed in the downtown Nashville area, in a Residence Inn. Not only did I have an awesome view from my hotel room, but the room itself was about as big as my flat in London – it was absolutely huge! Nashville is a great city to walk around in – it was around a 30-minute walk from the Broadway, and I couldn’t recommend my hotel enough.

Peg Leg Porker, Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
Not least because the lovely staff (who were amazing. I absolutely LOVE Southern hospitality) pointed us in the direction of our first BBQ feast in Nashville – Peg Leg Porker.

Peg Leg Porker,Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
Peg Leg Porker specialise in dry ribs and pulled pork – they do it really well, and represent what’s truly great about unpretentious, standard Southern fare. The food is deliciously dirty and messy, and the venue is decidedly no-frills, but it is absolutely excellent (and really hit the spot after a delayed flight)!

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich, Peg Leg Porker,Nashville, Tennessee | IslandbellPulled Pork BBQ Sandwich,Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
The pulled pork sandwich with two types of beans looked absolutely incredible – the meat looked succulent, and juicy, and the smokiness made this dish smell absolutely heavenly.

Peg Leg Porker, BBQ Pork Ribs,Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell I had half of the rack of ribs with fries and coleslaw. The meat really fell of the bone, and the sauce was delicious, and didn’t overpower the flavour of the meat. The coleslaw was dressed perfectly – not too much mayonnaise, and the vegetables were crisp and fresh.

While they haven’t beaten the best ribs in the world quite yet, I would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone visiting the area.

Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell The best part about walking around Nashville, instead of driving, is that you’re more likely to pop in and discover places you might have missed, like the Yazoo Brewing Company!

Yazoo Brewery, Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell They are a local microbrewery based in the Gulch neighbourhood, and is a really nice place to just sit back and relax. They also brew Gerst beer, reviving a local brand that was the stuff of legends before Prohibition. I love that!

Yazoo Brewery, Nashville, Tennessee | Islandbell
In total, I was only in Nashville for just under two days, and there were so many things I wish I could’ve seen – the Grand Ole Opry, RCA Studio B, the Hermitage… but I can always see those next time.

I’m really glad I managed to go for a drink inside the Union Station Hotel, which used to be the main railroad terminal from 1900 – 1941.

Union Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee I absolutely love the old-timey names for the trains – the ‘Pan-American’, ‘Dixie Flyer’, and the ‘South Wind’. I wish they had such awesome names for the trains in the UK!

Union Hotel, Nashville, TennesseeUnion Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee
I had an absolutely fantastic time in Nashville, and for the rest of my stay in Tennessee – stay tuned for what I did next!

Have you ever been to Nashville? Be sure to comment below, and be sure to let me know on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Peg Leg Porker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Golf with Monarch

I was a tiny bit sad when I turned 24 this year – it’s the last year before I officially turn a quarter of a century old, and feels like a bit of a milestone.

#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, Compas#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasBut what I didn’t already realize was that I was practically bordering on 70, if my Wednesday night plans were anything to go by!

#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, Compas#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasThe plans consisted of fly fishing (with the lovely folks at Orvis), followed by an evening of golf. Monarch Airlines invited me to their #GolfWithMonarch event. If I thought golf was for old people though, I had another think coming!

N1 Golf is located right next to North Greenwich station, and has an incredible view of Canary Wharf.

#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, Compas#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasIt’s in a fantastic location, and the newly opened venue is really contemporary and fun. It’s got comfy seats, and an amazing big city feel – this isn’t your grandfather’s golf course.

I was playing with Alina, Haydy, and Chynna, and at the end of the evening we all left with pro golf contracts and new glittering career paths ahead of us.

#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, Compas#GolfWithMonarch#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasBy which I mean we were all pretty terrible, although I was the worst by a mile. We did manage to get some great shapes going, and #CheckThatBooty trended*.

#GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasBeef Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasAn absolutely hilarious round of golf was followed by tapas and wine tasting at the restaurant downstairs, Vinothec Compass.

The tapas was really incredible – beautifully presented and delicious, too! Unfortunately the wine tasting portion of the evening turned out to be beer tasting, but by that point I’d had more than enough prosecco, so that suited me fine.

Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasPork Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasIt was an absolutely fabulous evening – made even better by the fact that the lovely Olivia won the Instagram competition and flights to Barcelona, the lucky thing!

Pork Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasSeafood Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasSeafood Tapas, #GolfWithMonarch, N1 Golf and Vinothec Compass, North Greenwich, CompasMany thanks to Monarch for a great evening – you can check out their golfing holidays here!

You can find N1 Golf at Tunnel Avenue, Greenwich Peninsula, London, SE10 0QE.

* Total, utter lie.

I was invited to spend the evening with Monarch at N1 Golf, but all opinions are my own.

#PrideInTheSky – Manchester Pride, 2015

In what seems to be becoming a tradition, I spent my bank holiday in Manchester, my old university town.

#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015I was originally just planning to stay with friends after a day in Knutsford, but I couldn’t resist the offer when Thomas Cook Airlines offered me two tickets for Manchester Pride, as part of their #PrideInTheSky takeover. For someone who spent quite a few days hours of her student years on Canal Street with her closest friends, it was an offer that couldn’t be refused!

#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015Having spent a lot of time in countries where, unfortunately, events like Pride can’t take place due to fear of violence, an event like the one I attended on Saturday seems even more poignant. Although in some aspects we as a society still have some way to go, Manchester Pride was really full of joy, and made me feel proud, too.

#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015I spent most of my night out on the streets, and in the Gaydio Dance Arena and danced the night away – I had an absolute blast.

#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015#PrideInTheSky, Manchester Pride 2015My only regret about the weekend was that I missed seeing Sir Ian McKellen in the parade – I was too busy drinking prosecco!

Many thanks to Thomas Cook Airlines for our fabulous tickets – I had a wonderful time!

Did you make it to Pride this year? Be sure to comment below, and don’t forget to follow me on TwitterFacebook or Instagram!

Porto, Portugal

Our last full day in Portugal was spent exploring the city of Porto.

Porto, PortugalAfter spending days in the heart of the Alentejo it was great getting back to the hustle and bustle of city life!

Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto is absolutely stunning. It’s a great mixture of the old and the new, and it’s all quite romantic by the river – the funicular railway is a highlight, too.

Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalIt would seem almost rude to go to Porto without tasting some port, so we spent an afternoon doing a tour of the Sandeman cellars. We spent the extra €3 and went on the 1790 tour over the classic visit (€9). I’m so glad we did – at the end of the tour, we were taken into a nicer room, and got to try some of the more premium ports. I didn’t think I was much of a port fan before, but I’ve definitely been converted – some of the tawnys were exquisite.

Yes, it is unbelievably touristy, but it was so much fun – and for €16, it’s a really reasonable day out.

Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalSandeman, Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalPorto, PortugalAs for dinner? We avoided the riverside like the plague – the combination of dodgy accordion music, and the abundance of over-priced, bland-tasting tourist trap restaurants made us look elsewhere. I’m so glad that we did – because we found a little local gem in Miss’Opo.

Miss'OpoPorto, PortugalThe decor is very minimalist and on-trend, and the seasonal menu of small plates are really quirky and unique.

Porto, PortugalThe small plates were delicious, particularly the sashimi and the Moroccan chicken, but the highlight was definitely the desserts.

Porto, PortugalSashimi, Porto, PortugalIt’s unusual, as I don’t usually go for the desserts, but these were really spectacular. I had a melissa and raspberry ice cream, and my boyfriend had a frozen banana pie with a minty marscapone.

Porto, PortugalPorto, PortugalMiss’Opo is located on Rua dos Caldeireiros, 100, Baixa, Porto.

4 Stars (4 / 5)

The next day, we woke up early and drove three hours to get our flight back to the UK from Lisbon. I had such a brilliant time in Porto, and Portugal in particular and would definitely recommend it for a few weeks away!

Have you been to Porto? Where are some of your favourite spots? Let me know by commenting below, and be sure to follow me on  Twitter, Facebook or Instagram!

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