Ready for more travelogue information? While this is part diary/part travel journal, I think you might find some useful tips if you’re traveling to the mountains or the sea.

Tuesday and Wednesday were shopping days in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg areas. Just like other touristy areas, these have every type of store imaginable. You can buy hats, salt and pepper shakers, jewelry, books, pottery, and well, you get the picture. To me, the high point of Tuesdays’ expedition was eating at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe and Grill.I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it for Trip Advisor, and if you go to the area, please check it out. Unlike the dozens of people standing outside in the sizzling sun for a seat at the restaurant across the street, Old Mill, we didn’t have to wait long at all.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 was a hot day in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I know because I had to wait, wait, wait on trolleys in all three places. Still, we wanted to experience Gatlinburg on the nation’s birthday, and so did thousands of other Americans. Although we didn’t relish the waiting, at least our time was spent in an entertaining way: people watching. I love this great country, and I enjoyed watching so many different ages, sizes, shapes, colors, and ethnicities who, like us, were in the celebratory mode. Some were even wearing red, white, and blue clothing. While everywhere we went in Gatlinburg was busy, the aquarium was an especially “happening place.” Plus, it had the biggest flag in town.

When I recall the highlights of the Fourth, the morning walk and all the flags along the parkway top the list. The evening meal is a close second. I doubt if anyone in the good old U.S. of A. had yummier burgers and hot dogs. And lest I forget, the apple crumb pie and vanilla ice cream were tasty too.

Up early on Thursday, we packed up, said our good-byes, and parted company. On the way home, I convinced my husband to stop in Hendersonville for a visit to the Mast General Store (my favorite of the Mast stores), and that three-hour interlude turned a so-so day into a memorable one. For starters, there was a sale going on, always a plus. Then Lynn and Karen, a brother and sister-in-law, also decided to take a side trip to Hendersonville. After shopping there for a while, we all found treasures and then decided to break bread together before going our separate ways.

Because of a tip from one of the Mast employees, we strolled a block or so down the street and walked into the Mountain Deli. We like the ambience and layout of the diner immediately. There were several tables at the front, and the lunch crowd seated there had a great view of downtown Hendersonville and its many artistically painted bears. We were greeted enthusiastically by a young man behind the counter and then sat in a booth to study the menu. Pleased by the variety of sandwich offerings (including breads), we all ordered something different and pronounced them delicious. This is how much I like the Mountain Deli: I bought an antique dresser box as a memento.

This is worth a separate paragraph: If you’re looking for a beautiful, friendly, clean mountain city to visit, you can’t beat Hendersonville. When my sister-in-law Lisa learned that we had visited there, she exclaimed, “I LOVE that place. In fact I could live there.” Her favorite place to shop there is the Curb Market. She also loves an apple orchard, Sky Top (I think). And then there’s the lovely and historic Carl Sandburg home in nearby Flat Rock. I think I’ve just talked myself into another trip to the area!

In the car once again, we headed to SC, stopping at home long enough to water some plants and pick up a laptop. Then we hopped back in the trusty Highlander and headed to the coast…at last. We stayed at the beach until Monday afternoon and managed to pack some cool experiences in while there.  If you’re interested in some restaurant and shopping tips from a former local (now a part-time one), check this blog tomorrow for an update.

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