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Evie Mohrfeld: Memories of Christmas past

Christmas season is upon us; what a wonderful time to look back at some of our favorite places to visit. As we look around, we realize it IS a” Wonderful time of year,” as the popular Christmas saying goes. Visiting other areas as they too enjoy celebrating, as we witness on our six-day motor coach trip. This has us learning about their heritage and the fantastic displays as we travel along our way.

Our destination is taking us to the Nashville Christmas with many stops along the way.

We begin our journey to the Amana Colonies, located in Iowa near the Cedar Rapids area. The seven villages there take us a step back in time. The Amana Colonies offer a unique history and culture like nowhere else in the world. We first take a stroll through the magical Tannenbaum Forest, twinkling wonderland of lights and a breathtaking Nativity scene with a 17-foot German-style Christmas pyramid located in their century-old Festhalle barn.

Our tour includes stops at the basket maker, the bakery, winery, cheese house, and lunch at one of their four-generation restaurants serving meals with recipes passed down through the generations.

We are off to Peoria, Illinois, as we take a drive through Folepi’s Winter Wonderland, two-mile electric park featuring many lighted displays and floats. Another amazing display.

We then continue on to Nashville, Tennessee, “Music City USA.” A stay at the Opryland Hotel is nothing short of amazing. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel is a city in itself. Taking  a boat ride inside, around and through the premise to see some of the many scenic designs of floral arrangements and displays with the balcony rooms all facing the interior so you can only begin to absorb this Music City. A dinner cruise on the General Jackson Showboat, The Grand Ole Opry at the famous Ryman Auditorium. We then head downtown to take in only some of what Nashville has to offer, getting in the spirit with a Nashville cowboy hat and into the swing of things with line dance lessons at one of the local cowboy cafes. This city is lit up and ready for the holiday season.

Memphis, Tennessee, is on our route to visit the ICE Exhibit, featuring an indoor winter wonderland walkthrough attraction which is kept at a chilly nine degrees. It is over two million pounds of hand-carved colorful sculptures depicting different themes and a full Nativity in stunning crystal clear ice.

Elvis Presley’s “King of Rock and Roll” Graceland with the mansion tour is in the swing of Christmas with its music. Many holiday shows as we see them feature the Presley Mansion. His automobile museum and other exhibits relating to Elvis’s career are also there for us to enjoy seeing. We are singing along as we make our way around and looking forward to more visits we will make on our travel.

We stop in St. Louis, Missouri, to check out the Anheuser Busch Brewery with a tour and hopefully get a glimpse of the famous Clydesdale Horses, ready in their attire for another tour. Sometimes  the very best is saved for last: The  National Shrine  of “Our lady of the Snows.” This shrine is located in Belleville, Illinois, about 20 minutes from St Louis.

Since the early 1970s, the Catholic Missionary Oblates of the Mary Immaculate have invited one and all to make the Way of the Lights a part of their family tradition. This breathtaking display focuses on the birth of Christ, the one true light of the world. Here we will feast on a buffet dinner with one of the residents hosting and sharing their story. Beautifully decorated trees and wreaths were displayed for auction to help with funding for the Oblates and their work. One particular display that stood out was the birth of Jesus and the Holy Family made completely out of Lego  blocks. Our evening ended with a drive-thru light display as the snow was falling softly in the twinkling lights with music all around.

The holidays are coming quickly. Enjoy it all. Hope to see you all soon.