I’m finally back in the UK, after the most amazing travelling experience with Trek America. I remember a few years back, looking into booking one of their US tours, but I backed out as I was too scared to do it solo; so when they asked me along on their 2017 Blogger trip I couldn’t back out again. My confidence has grown so much with blogging; from working with brands, taking part in shoots and just generally meeting new people daily, so for once, I had no nerves meeting all of the bloggers on the trip. Trek America asked 8 Bloggers from different backgrounds (beauty, fashion and travel) on their USA tour of the Deep South and I couldn’t believe I was one of them! In the new few blog posts on Sophie Hannah Richardson, I’m going to share with you my experience.
I was already actually in the US when the trip was meant to begin on the 1st May 2017, so Trek America kindly allowed me to fly from LA to New Orleans to meet them there. Everyone else flew with British Airways from Heathrow on a direct flight; a new flight path they’re now offering! My flight only took around 3 hours which was pretty chilled; it was very surreal flying from the Californian desert to swampy New Orleans; however I took the sunshine with me! We were only staying in New Orleans for one night before beginning the Deep South tour the next day. I arrived around 4pm and everyone else joined me at about 9pm. We didn’t get up to that much in the evening apart from grabbing some dinner and getting a little teaser of what we’d see in New Orleans at the end of our trip; we were starting and ending the tour there.
The first day of our Trek America tour we were up early and made our way to Birmingham! I pretty much slept in the bus the whole way and we arrived at lunch time. We were greeted by the Birmingham PR team at 16th St Baptist Church where we tucked into some food before beginning an electric bike tour of the town in the beautiful sunshine. It was so cute cycling round, taking in the views and being educated on the civil rights movement.
After our tour of the town, we checked into our hotel, freshened up and headed out to take some outfit snaps before dinner. Dinner was at Bottega Cafe, an Italian restaurant, where we all sat outside in the warm, sunny evening. One thing I have to praise this restaurant for, was their service! Our waiter knew every food recipe, every cocktail recipe and left out mouths watering at his descriptions of everything; something you don’t really get when you go out for food. Most of the time you have to wait for them to ask the chef and then by the time they come back you’ve changed your mind because you got bored of waiting. The food was delicious, so I would definitely recommend if you’re ever in the area. After dinner we headed to Hot Diggity Dogs as we were informed of their ‘secret’ bar through an old telephone booth – I know how cool! You had to use the phone to say your reservation and then you were greeted into a gorgeous 1920s themed bar. Oh and something so surreal happened… The bar girl knew who I was as she followed me on Instagram! MENTAL! Out of all the places I’ve been, someone recognised me in a small town in Alabama! After a few drinks, we headed back to our hotel to get some kip before travelling on to somewhere new the next day…
GATLINBURG, SMOKY MOUNTAINS
The next part of our adventure began with a long road trip to Gatlinburg in the Smoky Moutains. We stopped a few times though and our first stop of the day was to True Adventure Sports for some rappelling! YUP! RAPPELLING! I think only one of us had ever abseiled before, so we were all newbies to the sport and bloody petrified! But you know what, it really bonded us and brought the group together. Everyone gave it 100% and we cheered everyone on! It was such an amazing achievement when we had all got to the bottom.
After an adventurous morning, we stopped off for lunch at the CUTEST cafe! OMG I fell in love with the decor and the food and service was 10/10. It was called Wildflower Cafe and had a very homely feel to it; they even had a little shop as you walked in where they sold handmade gifts and souvenirs. I would 100% go back!
After lunch, we headed for Gatlinburg! I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest; I had never heard of the place before or researched it. But WOW! When we arrived, I loved it instantly. I’m a huge kid at heart and love all cheesy amusements, so when I spotted crazy golf, go karts, mirror maze, Ripley’s and lots more attractions on the strip it got me excited! We arrived quite late, so our evening was pretty chilled; dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then a few of the group had some drinks whilst the rest of us headed to bed to feel refreshed for the next day.
Our time in Gatlinburg with Trek America was meant to consist of visiting the National Park for a hike and cycling. However, the weather had other plans for us. We started our day with an amazing breakfast hoping the weather would change… But it didn’t. Now when I say the weather had other plans, you might be thinking, ah it just rained. NOPE. It was insane! Nothing like I had ever witnessed before! There were 60-80 mph winds and roof slates were flying off buildings, trees were coming down, things were being blown everywhere! We did head to the national park however, to find that it was closed so the PR for the town had to think on her feet about what else we could get up to. Unfortunately we had to spend the day inside with all of the amusements and attractions… WOO!!! I was so happy! We played indoor mini golf, went go karting and had so much fun!
Another attraction Gatlinburg offers is Moonshine tasting. I had heard of Moonshine before, but never really knew what it was. We had 2 tours of 2 different Moonshine distilleries in Gatlinburg AND 2 tasting sessions! It was a lot of shots! Even though I hardly did many as I’m not a big drinker. It was really interesting learning all about how they make it and the back story to the alcohol. We even had a little country music to enjoy at one of them too.
Gatlinburg was very different to how I imagined our Smoky Mountain tour. I assumed Trek America was going to make us stay in a cabin in the woods, but instead we were in a sort of mini Las Vegas and I had the best time. Apparently lots of people get married there and bring their whole families! It’s definitely a place where you can have a lot of fun.
So that was what I got up to on the first part of my Trek America trip! I have SO much more to share with you all, so keep your eyes posted for the next few posts! If you would like to see a more detailed version of events, then do check out my Youtube channel as I filmed a Weekly Vlog of the trip and my Instagram for more photos.