Carole King is a legend in her own time, capturing the hearts and emotions of those of us who grew up listening to the music of the Sixties and early Seventies.

In masterful style, opening night at 'Beautiful – The Carole King Musical', at TPAC (Tennessee Performing Arts Center) this week began with the haunting melody of 'So Far Away'.


“Here tonight, it’s like coming home again,” says Carole King, and for the audience it is indeed. A stunning performance of King by actress Julia Knitel has us all mesmerized for the entire evening. “Sometimes life goes the way you want, and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes when it doesn’t, you find something…beautiful.”

Carole King is a woman of positivity and resilience who has stayed true to her own voice. Honest words from her heart resonate in songs that became a soundtrack to a generation. 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow', 'You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling', 'It Might As Well Rain Until September', 'You’ve Got a Friend', and 'A Natural Woman'.

Telling the story of King’s rise to personal stardom as one of the most successful female songwriters in popular music history, beginning with her passion as a teenage songwriter, the stage performance is colored with timely musical cameos of Neal Sedaka, The Drifters, the Shirelles and the Righteous Brothers. They are all so authentic you need to blink to realize they are not the original artists on stage. With husband of her dreams Gerry Giffin, the hit songwriting pair wrote many hits for some of the biggest acts in Rock ’n’ Roll. The story tracks her relationship with best friends and fellow writers Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, but it’s only as cracks appear in her personal life, that Carole King finds her true voice and her career soars to new heights.

The spectacular finale introduces the legend – “Best Record, Best Song, Best Album, and Best Female Vocalist…Carole King”…with a vibrant rendition of 'Beautiful'.

This amazing production is only in Nashville May 23-28, so don’t miss out Feeling the Earth Move Under Your Feet before the show moves on to the next city on its tour across America.

#OpeningNight #TPACBroadway

Photos courtesy TPAC & Joan Marcus

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This was one on my bucket list! Niagara Falls has its own spectacular beauty in the winter. Swirling waters from the fast-flowing Niagara River plunge over the sheer cliff of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and disappear into the mist 187 ft below, caused by the drop in elevation from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.

My first glimpse was at night, opening the door to my hotel room with its amazing view overlooking both the Canadian and American Falls. Illuminated in a changing kaleide...scope of vivid colors, it was rather surreal to see the world famous Niagara Falls almost close enough to touch.

Niagara Falls actually includes falls on both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the river. The more spectacular is the 2200 ft wide Horseshoe Falls, the iconic image of Niagara. The smaller, 850 ft wide American Falls, and the Bridal Veil Falls, on the U.S. side of the river, cascade onto an encroaching pile of black boulders at their base.

It’s worth timing your visit to catch the seasonal fireworks over Niagara close to the Rainbow Bridge (see their website for schedule). They light up the sky at 9pm, but only last 5 minutes, so keep your camera ready!

Several hotels on the Canadian side afford stunning views of both the American and Horseshoe Falls from the comfort of your own hotel room. Call the hotel direct to make sure you get the best view. My 14th floor Embassy Suites room was a fairytale suite with amazing views of the falls, plus one of the best buffet breakfasts I‘ve encountered anywhere.

At daylight, it’s a short walk past the casino to the riverwalk, or a quick descent on the incline railway right to the Visitor’s Center. Even on a snowy morning, everyone is out for a brisk walk in the icy wind, cameras aimed at the falls thundering to the river far below.

The real adventures only begin when the weather warms up in the spring. Then visitors can descend below the rim, and go through a tunnel to the white water walk overlooking the treacherous whirlpool rapids, visit the Cave of the Winds behind Bridal Veil Falls, or take a cruise right into the spray of the Horseshoe Falls on the Maid of the Mist.

The IMAX Theater next to the casino is a great place to hear the legends of “Thundering Waters,” watch a daring tightrope artist cross the falls, and hold your breath as the first woman survives a daring trip over the falls in a carefully corked barrel complete with mattress and kitten!

So yes, I’ll be returning in a warmer season to see Niagara Falls by boat, explore the wineries and festivals at Niagara-on-the-Lake, and follow the hiking and biking trails in this region. It is indeed one of the world’s memorable natural wonders!

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A stop in paradise should be mandatory on every trip back from Australia! It certainly helps eliminate jet lag from those long, sleepless flights.

Most visits to Hawaii begin with Waikiki, and I’m right in there. First ambition is to walk barefoot on the beach and dip my toes in the ocean.

If you stay in Waikiki, you can get by without a car. Shuttle from the airport, walk locally, and take the inexpensive bus all the way around the island. This time I was staying with friend...

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Perth, Australia is all about blue skies, sunshine and beaches. There is something quite different about the quality of the light that snaps your attention the moment you look up for the first time. The blue is the deepest blue, clear and vibrant, the Indian Ocean a vivid turquoise, aquamarine and cobalt. Houses sparkle white and crisp and modern under the hot Southern Hemisphere sun.

The pace of the city is slower and less frenetic than Melbourne and Sydney, but it speaks o...f prosperity, progressive growth and relaxed lifestyles.

Much of the leisure time focuses on the water, and one visit to any of the white, sandy beaches will transform you into a convert.

One of my favorites became the local Dog Beach, a long stretch of sand and surf at Quinns Rocks, where dogs are welcome, greeting new found friends in exuberant frolics in the shallows. Kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders join swimmers and pooches alike, and the sky turns blood red at sunset.

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On the eastern outskirts of Melbourne, the Dandenong Ranges rise 2000ft, a combination of cool temperate rainforest, market gardens, coffee shops, cafes, bed & breakfasts and tiny communities tucked into the winding hillsides. Forests of tall Mountain Ash, lush tree ferns, creeks and waterfalls are home to brilliant rosellas, the timid lyrebird, kookaburras, ringtail possums and many small creatures and birds.

My grandparents grew up in the mountain communities of Sassafras ...

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Down Under for Christmas with my family – what a treat, thanks to my Town Planner publisher, Cathy Rhodes! The adventure began in Sydney, gateway to Australia. And what a perfect place to start!

I love being around the water, and Sydney is blessed with the most beautiful harbour and waterways. Flying in, the first thing you notice on all the glimmering waters below are boats and masts everywhere, and marinas around every curve.

Staying with my niece, Julie, and her family, we... hiked a segment of the cliff top coastal walk, a trail that extends 6km from the famous Bondi Beach to Coogee. It’s a relatively easy walk with stunning views, beaches, parks, cliffs, bays and rock pools. Very tempted to ask for a ride on a colorful catamaran that skimmed into one of the coves!

Carols by the Sea was a wonderful evening hosted by local churches in the Coogee area. Families spread their blankets on the lawn overlooking the beach, sharing picnic meals, and the Christmas carols ended with spectacular fireworks.

On our way to church on Sunday morning, I was amazed at the coffee and café culture in the beach communities. I’ve never seen so many people out and about on a Sunday morning! Cafes and coffee shops overflowed onto the sidewalks filled with tables and colorful umbrellas, as laughing and relaxed crowds gathered for breakfast, brunch and lunch. The sparkling beaches were filled with Sydneysiders enjoying the sun and waves.

All surf life saving clubs around Australia offer a Sunday morning program called “Little Nippers,” that teaches youngsters from 5-13 surf and beach safety. Kids learn about swimming, body boarding, beach sprints, dolphin diving, spotting a rip, and basic life saving skills.

Sydney Harbour is the focal attraction of Australia’s largest city (pop. 4.8 million), and I had to get my fix. The Botanical Gardens, next to the Opera House, are a popular spot in the heart of the city, where you can also watch sailboats surfing the waves in the strong breezes, competing in local regattas. On a sunny weekend, the harbour is a sea of boats of every description, including the ferries and water taxis which are an integral part of life in Sydney. Imagine taking a ferry to get to and from work, go shopping, visit the beach, take the kids to Luna Park or the zoo, or meet friends at a harbourside restaurant! It certainly helps keep the stress down in a culture that is all about lifestyle.

It was fun catching up with family after a three-year absence from my native Australia. Josephine and Anthony were both accomplished musicians, as well as involved in sports and many other activities. If I were to ever live back in Australia, Sydney would be the top of my list!

Next stop, Melbourne…

LIKE this page if you'd like to keep up with all the travels Down Under!

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About to hit the road again. Get ready for some more fun adventures for those who like to live vicariously! I'm going for a straight line record. We'll start at the Atlantic Ocean, then cross the Pacific, and keep going all the way to the Indian Ocean. I'm sure there'll be lots of stories along the way! Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years...why stop?

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Yellowstone National Park is the epitome of surprise. A stream of red lights greeted us as we crested a hill, several cars pulled over on the side of the road, cameras and binoculars pointed into the meadow. In Yellowstone this is a good sign, usually indicating a wildlife sighting.

This was our lucky day. A black bear foraged through the grasses, getting closer and closer, while park rangers, who had also arrived on the scene, kept a watchful eye. The bear was totally oblivi...

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Our Yorkshire adventure continues. Driving northeast from York across the windswept and snowy moors to the coastal town of Whitby, the morning mist gradually burns off, revealing the beauty of the English countryside. Even in winter it’s beautiful, tinged in various shades of green and dotted with sooty-faced sheep.

The maritime fishing port of Whitby sits in the shadow of Whitby Abbey, the crumbling ruins a dramatic silhouette on the cliffs that draw Goth fans every Hallowee...n and was also the site of the movie Dracula.

The abbey and monastery, first built in 657 AD, map the rise and fall of invasions and religious turmoil. Destruction by the Vikings in 857, rebuilding by the Normans in 1078, and the final dissolution and destruction of monasteries all over England in 1540 by Henry VIII. Forbidden from divorcing his wife by the Catholic Church, Henry VIII established the Church of England and set himself up as head of the church, with license to do as he chose.

After a self-guided tour, a little charm resulted in a complimentary wine tasting. Yes, Benedictine monasteries were very resourceful financially in medieval times, and often known for their wine making and local brewing.

Whitby is also famous for its shipbuilding. Imagine 14 shipyards at its peak in the 1790’s! Captain James Cook was born in Yorkshire, and moved to Whitby in 1746 to begin his 3-year merchant navy apprenticeship. It was here that his ships ‘Resolution’ and ‘Endeavour’ were built for his exploration voyages across the Pacific.

Beyond the picturesque fishing harbor, quaint cottages and inns line the main street on the cliff’s edge, overlooking rock pools and a broad, sandy beach. Dogs splash in the shallows, chasing gulls and terns.

You can hike the “rails to trails” walking track along the clifftops for spectacular views. Alum shale was mined here from the early 1600’s for around 200 years, and transported along rail lines that have now been pulled up and converted into hiking trails. If you’re lucky, you can see puffins nesting on the cliffs. Dinosaur fossils have also been found in the smooth black mudstone formations.

Our return trip across the moors coincided with an extraordinary sunset that turned the sky blood red and orange, even being reported in the UK newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.
Wild beauty on fire on a wintry night.

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The English countryside is dotted with charming villages, picturesque farmhouses hidden behind hedgerows, farm animals grazing in fields crisscrossed with stone walls, and English pubs with the most intriguing names. Every village grew up around ancient churches dating back centuries.

Traveling through Essex, in the southeast, thatch-roofed, half-timbered and half-brick houses hang out over narrow cobblestone streets. Many are whitewashed or painted in pastel colors. Village... life traditionally centered around the local pubs or inns, the lively evening gathering place, and the old stone parish church, perched on the hilltop in the center of each village. Surrounded by moss-covered graves, each church bears the tales of parish life, recording the names of each vicar over the centuries.

In the little village of Elmdon, the 14th century stone parish church of St Nicholas was more intriguing the closer you looked, with walls made of stone and napped flint embedded in mortar. Gargoyles drain water off the roof, and carved stone faces of perhaps the lord and lady of the manor are mounted on either side of the stone entrance archway below two family crests.

The biggest surprise awaited in the neighboring village of Strethall, where the church is an astonishing one thousand years old. The stone chapel was very likely built by the lord of the manor in 1010 AD to show his enthusiasm for Christianity before the invading forces of the Viking King Swein enforced their allegiance.

Spying the long bellpulls inside the nave beside the baptismal font, I couldn’t resist, and claiming my first experience, rang the bell in this thousand year-old church! The list of rectors is recorded next to the date of their induction and the current reigning King of England. The 12th century font was larger than I’d seen before, a reminder that before the Reformation, an infant was totally immersed three times.

Two days before we had visited the grave of my great-grandfather in the cemetery of the Thaxted parish church, and the smaller stone chapel at Lindsell, where my grandfather had worshipped as a boy. But that will be a story for next time!

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Following the historic York Cat Trail is a fun way to explore this Medieval city in the north of England.

Cats have played a significant part in the history of York, in northern England, and their statues were placed on buildings since Medieval times to ward off evil spirits and bestow good luck on the citizens as they protected the inhabitants from rats, mice and disease.

If you’re visiting this famous city in Yorkshire, you can pick up a brochure and follow the York Cat Tr...ail. I couldn’t resist! The trail starts at The Cat Gallery shop (where else??) and winds through the streets of this walled, Medieval city. Following the clues is a fun pastime, and a challenge to find the illustrious cats hidden on walls, above doorways, on roofs and perched in a variety of poses.

Can you see the white cat sitting in front of the window above The Cat Gallery, or Chambers - sitting regally overlooking the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens? I caught Gordon chatting with a pigeon. He was modeled after a cat born without eyelids on one eye, who always wore an eyepatch. Close to the River Ouse, while gazing up at a black cat scaling the wall of a tall building, a passerby stared in amazement, and asked me how on earth I happened to see it! I grinned and waved the Cat Trail map. She was a resident, but didn’t know such a thing existed. One of the hardest to find was a black cat crossing the peak of a roof way in the distance, as I stood on the Ouse Bridge.

Both kids and adults can complete a mini quiz while following The Cat Trail, and enter to win a free prize. If you’re feeling lucky when visiting York, ask for directions to The Cat Gallery and pick up your map and entry form.…

“You will always be lucky if you know how to make friends with strange cats.” – Ancient proverb

TRAVEL TIP: Looking for the unusual tours can often lead to some fun and unexpected local discoveries.

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Enjoy a sneak preview of a major new exhibit to be unveiled at The Hermitage on January 8 , 2015 to mark the Bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans, the pivotal battle in the War of 1812. “Andrew Jackson: Born for a Storm” ” is part of the historic Hermitage’s shift in focus on to Jackson the man. From modest origins to General and U.S. President, he significantly changed the course of America’s history.

Visit their website to register for free admission on January 8 and ...the chance to win a prize. Ironically, on January 8, 1835, Jackson became the only U.S. president to pay off the national debt!

Like to learn more about The Hermitage, home of our 7th President? Visit TripTales at…/experience-authentic-american-…/

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Visit Born for a Storm, the newest exhibit of The Andrew Jackson Visitor Center and Hermitage museum, featuring the life and story of Andrew Jackson.

Enjoy a genuine country Christmas in the historic town of Granville this weekend. Festivities for the 16th Annual Granville Country Christmas are Saturday, December 13, 10am-8pm. This is such a quaint river town, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time as you explore their completely restored historic pioneer village that features all kinds of demonstrations tomorrow. Make sure you stay for the Sutton Ole Time Music Hour Christmas Bluegrass Dinner Show!

Check out my TripTales story from last Christmas for a little background.…/granville-celebrates-its-past-…/

The historic steamboat town of Granville, on the Cumberland River, has witnessed an astonishing evolution in its lifetime. Driving into town on a Saturday afternoon you may find yourself blinking. Men sit on benches on the porch outside the old … Continue reading →

So it's a pretty chilly Thanksgiving in Tennessee, and you're wondering what to do with the extended family this weekend. A great spot for some cool weather exercise is on the ice skating rink at Centennial Sportsplex. A TripTales posting earlier this year may just whet your appetite!…/get-in-the-olympic-spirit-ice-…/

Inspiration is probably running like fire and ice in your veins after watching the Winter Olympics. The pursuit of excellence demands ice-cold determination, and we’ve all heard some amazing stories of resilience and faith and perseverance. No doubt you’ve marveled … Continue reading →

If you're looking for something to do on a cloudy, misty day in Middle Tennessee, why not visit the Sumner County Museum in Gallatin? It's one of the best in the area, originally established due to the untiring efforts of local historian John Garrott.…/explore-tennessee-history-in-sumner-c…/

Sumner County history is full of surprises, tracking not just stories several hundred years old, but dating back to prehistoric times when the area was covered by an inland sea. Tucked away behind Trousdale Place and within sight of Gallatin’s … Continue reading →

It's pumpkin time already! Re-visit TripTales for all the cool things you can do this month with your kids, family & friends.…/middle-tennessees-favorite-fal…/

If you're up for some good ghost stories, don't miss the Candelight Cemetery Tour at the Gallatin, TN cemetery this Saturday, October 4, 4-10pm. There's no tellin' who you'll meet!

Every day closer to Halloween draws more ghoulish fiends and sprites looking for mischief. To keep your own sprites out of trouble, we’ve come up with a great selection of Fall farms for you to take them exploring. See how … Continue reading →

Fall Creek Falls, 40 miles south of Cookeville, Tennessee, is a great getaway spot this weekend. Fancy a little hiking, a pontoon boat cruise, or an evening of stargazing? Pack up your hiking boots and head back to nature for a memorable escape that will totally refresh and energize you.…/back-to-nature-at-fall-creek-f…/

Click here for special activities this weekend.

Imagine yourself sitting on a wet rock ledge, feet hanging off. Sheer drop 86 feet to a huge pool below. A few yards away, at the edge of this leap into infinity, the waterfall cascades in a roar, spray and … Continue reading →