Blue Ridge Parkway

Heading South

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday period we decided to drive to New Orleans for New Years Eve. We left New York City, five days before Christmas heading south. The only ‘plans’ and accommodation we had wasn’t until the 30th, so we could enjoy the drive and see where we would end up! Looking at the map of the USA, I also decided that I would love to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way down. So we headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Scenic drive

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute dream, the scenery is breathtaking.  It is America’s longest linear park, stretching 469 miles, connecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Shenandoah National Park. Located in the States of North Carolina and Virginia. Parts of the Appalachian mountains are also included in the parkway.  The Blue Ridge Parkway is a nature lovers dream, rich in biodiversity. There is so much variance in the fauna, flora, climate and geological features.

 

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Peaks of Otter

Before we left NYC, we had decided that we would rather camp in various National forest or State forest camping grounds, so the trip could remain relatively unplanned and be more cost effective. So the first area that we stayed at, was Peaks of Otter,  now being that this was in the middle of December and we did not do any research, the visitor center and camping area is actually closed at this time of year! It was raining and getting late, and as our car is set up for sleeping in ect we still stayed near the visitors center. The next morning we woke up to a blanket of fog, I felt that the thick fog enhanced the beauty. Peaks of Otter surrounds the Jefferson National Forest, and provides breathtaking views. You can take multiple hiking trails near the visitor center. Due to the fog being so thick, we decided to hike the shortest route, the elk run loop. This hike offers a self guided ecology walk, with displays along the walk describing the forest community, very cool.

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Overlooks

Next stop along the parkway, the Head Foremost Mountain overlook and the Arnold Valley Overlook.

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The fog had still not cleared up by lunch time! I can only imagine how spectacular these views are on a clear spring or summers day.

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Curtis Creek

For our second night, we camped at Curtis creek, a camping ground nestled in the mountains at the base of the Blue Ridge mountains. This campsite was open (Closes December 31st) and works on a first come, first serve system.  Near the camp ground, there are multiple hiking trails on offer, plus the pretty creek.

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Nantahala National Forest

After hiking during the morning at curtis creek, we drove to Asheville, N.C to spend the day there ( a separate blog post). After Asheville, we continued the journey towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time, camping in the Gorgeous Nantahala National Forest. Nantahala is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun” a very fitting name for this beautiful forest. The forest is half a million acres of pristine woodlands. A true beauty to explore. Our campsite for the night was located at Lake Santeetlah, a mountain lake surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest. A really pretty and relaxing place to camp.

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Next stop – The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mountain States

After a beautiful road trip through California and camping in the amazing Joshua Tree national park, it was time to continue the journey towards New York. Next up, the fabulous Las Vegas! Driving through Nevada was amazing, with stunning views of the desert. It is unbelievable to drive through a desert, with not much going on, to hit a hectic city in the middle of a desert! Las vegas is like no other place. It is hard to describe ‘sin city’, you just have to absorb the atmosphere. Time was spent, relaxing under the palm trees in the pool and shopping by day. Night we spent exploring the hotels, casinos and bars. A very different experience, but still very enjoyable.

After Vegas, it was time to get back on the road. Next, Arizona. We stopped by the beautiful Lake Mead and Hoover dam (highlighted in a different post), before moving on to the breathtaking Grand Canyon national park, where we camped and hiked park of the park (also, highlighted in a separate post). The views driving through Arizona are beautiful! After the visit to the Grand Canyon, the next main stop was the four corners. A very remote area, the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. The Northeastern corner of Arizona, Southeastern corner of Utah, Northwestern corner of New Mexico and the Southwest Corner of Colorado.

Next, the gorgeous Colorado. Driving through, we saw some of the most scenic views. One of the highlights, was a stop in Sliverton, with its breathtaking mountain views and being one of the highest towns in the United States. Next was camping at Elk creek, which was a great way to relax and enjoy nature. Colorado is a state that I need to visit again, perhaps during winter time, to hit the slopes.

Driving through the desert and mountains was a memorable journey, enjoying the varying environments that the US has to offer.

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California dreaming

Road trip down highway 1

We made it to continental USA!  First stop, the charming San Fransisco, we spent a few days exploring and absorbing the great food, city vibes, stunning scenery and hiking some beautiful state parks. In amongst exploring, we brought a van, removed the back seats and transformed it into a bedroom ready for the road trip across the country! Starting point, California and to finish in New York City!  The first part of this trip was a road trip through California.

From San Fransisco we decided to take the most scenic route to reach Los Angeles, highway 1 (Pacific coast highway). The views along the Pacific coast were breathtaking, California is a beautiful state. Our first stop was Big Sur, and what a surprise we got here…colonies of elephant seals laying out on the beach! Did not expect to witness this, and it only occurs a few months annually for the elephant seals to birth, mate and molt.  So grateful to witness. After Big Sur, the next big stop was Santa Barbara. What a gorgeous place!! Ocean and Mountain views. The final destination was Los Angeles, before hitting the city center we ventured first to Malibu, this place is stunning. Next was the famous Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, so picturesque and just like in the movies! We spent a couple of days exploring LA, visiting Venice beach, downtown LA,  the Hollywood walk of fame and hiked as close to the Hollywood sign as possible. An amazing road trip, visiting some beautiful places.

From LA we drove to Joshua Tree national park, this place is breathtaking and will be featured in a different post. I have loved everything about California that I have seen so far. Cannot wait to visit this dreamy state again, hopefully soon.

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Seren del Grappa

Panoramic mountain views

Seren del Grappa is a gorgeous Italian village located in the province of Belluno, in the Italian region of Veneto. The small village is located near the sacred mountain, the Monte Grappa. Three battles were fought here during world war one.

A visit to this pretty village, will provide you with an authentic local Italian experience. The locals are very friendly and helpful. The homemade food is amazingly delicious – I had the best Italian meal of my life here. Seren del Grappa is a great place to explore  history and the natural reserves by hiking the many trails, either by foot or by bike. The views are just gorgeous.

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Two days in Seren del Grappa

My boyfriends grandfather  was born and grew up in Seren del Grappa. We were visiting Venice, which is located 70 km away and his mother asked if we could visit this small village. So we decided to go. We took a train from Venice to Feltre a hill town located 7.4 km from Seren Del Grappa. The train journey was really nice and quite picturesque, with the ice, snow and mountain views. From the Feltre train station we took a local bus into the small village of Seren Del Grappa.

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So now we had arrived, with no plan! His mother had given us the name of the bed and breakfast that her cousin owned. So we walked around the village until we found it. We walked in, and started to talk to the man and women at the desk. Luckily there was a man who could speak both Italian and English who was able to translate between the two parties. Next thing, they were greeting us with big hugs and kisses, as his grandfather was a well know and respected man. The family put us up for night, and made us the biggest and most delicious authentic meal. The warm welcome and generosity was a true indication of the people in this village.

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We spent our time in Seren Del Grappa, connecting with the family and friends and then exploring the gorgeous mountains. The mountains are just so pretty here! The hiking trails are very enjoyable. Other points of interest include the thirteenth century church of San Siro and scenes from the world war one battles that occurred at Monte Grappa.

The trip to Seren del Grappa, was really enriching as it provided an insight into the small village life of Italy. I have visited some of the big cities in Italy which are gorgeous, but this was a nice change, and we didn’t run into any other tourist! A very memorable trip.

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