Day 1 of 3
As the late great Minnie Pearl once so eloquently said- How-dee and greetings from the rolling hills of Tennessee. Chances are if you didn’t grow up knowing Mr. Roper, that pesky short fella yelling “the plane, the plane” or memorized the lyrics to Laverne & Shirley, then you will not know the fancy jargon from Hee- Haw or the famous catch phrase. But, let’s move on. There is always Google and you can catch up…
It’s been a while and for good reason. A Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase abandoned the usual spring vacation this year in lieu of an aggressive campaign of fitness and health promotion. Well, hard work pays off and the Gods have been shining down on this girl -because the pounds have shed little by little and life is certainly looking up.
Honoring the Hubs and this Girl’s 23 year union of love and the celebration of 5 years married- prompted a spontaneous domestic voyage to Nashville. For this seasoned pair-interestingly enough we have never been- and what better way to launch the renaissance of this new enriched life but a good ole country adventure.
Leaving Florida at O’ dark thirty this diabolical duo set out for an easy 1 hour and 22 minute flight to the land of the Volunteers.
The Nashville airport is quite unique. Trendy colorful stores and energetic bars tempt even the most focused traveler. Guitars and hokey country memorabilia lead the sojourn to baggage claim- as acoustically crooning amateurs, strum melodically inspired songs about heartbreak and a cowboy’s life.
Our journey begins with a Tennessee native Uber driver serving as our chauffeur to the main hub of “the Gulch” http://www.explorethegulch.com – our residence for the next 3 days. His thick southern drawl and southern gentile manner was pleasing to the ears as his words dripped thick like honey.
A quick 20 minutes later we were at our destination The Thompson http://www.thompsonhotels.com/hotels/nashville/thompson-nashville?utm_source=local&utm_campaign=gmb&utm_medium=organic. This trendy sleek architecturally sexy structure is an 18 floor boutique hotel chic in design, nestled strategically in a popular neighborhood with high price real estate restaurants and expensive stores.
We were greeted with a “Nashvillian” friendliness that I soon became familiar with. The soothing smile and charm of the front desk attendant inquired the reason for our trip and I informed him it is our 5 year anniversary. Well- later on – this benign comment and subtle nod would result in a surprise bottle of sparkling wine, fancy chocolate and an endearing card hand written from the manager. This kind gesture was one of many details that separated this hotel from any other.
Due to early arrival our room was not ready. But, the charming attendant graciously stored our bags so we were left untethered to explore the city. The hubs suffering from caffeine withdrawal was in luck as a Starbucks was adjacent to the hotel. Working millennials and Victoria Secret model types in colorful spandex fresh from barre class steadily streamed in while the hubs energy began to perk up courtesy of Starbursts dark bold.
After adequate coffee consumption, the plan was formulated. With a speedy Uber request, another car was waiting for us curbside. Once again, a lively conversation took place en route to The Hermitage http://thehermitage.com.
The Hermitage is the residence of former seventh President of the United States and General Andrew Jackson. This top rated presidential site is a quick 20 minutes out of the city. Located on over 1,100 lush acres- it is a multi-layered informative experience. As one enters the calming plantation, unassuming deer lazily munch along the perimeter. The admission price offers the museum which is chuck full of interesting facts, as well as a tour of the mansion and all the grounds. We were granted discounts (even though student discount specified 8-13 years old- I told you this fitness thing is really paying off for me…).
The tour begins with a timeline of Jackson’s life. Orphaned at 13 years old, his accomplishments are nothing short of inspiring. He was a war hero and revered almost celebrity status. As he transitioned into Presidency, many of his practices that he instituted remain active and integral to the current system today. Regardless of what side of the political fence you reside, the love and admiration unanimously honored to this leader was refreshing. However, as one continues through the progression of his life, presidency and endeavors- he had his share of haters and adversaries as well.
After touring museum, we made our way onto the grounds. The plush emerald green lawn traversed as far as the eye could see. Dotted by cabins, workers quarters and the occasional horse drawn carriage (for an additional $11) we made our way exploring on foot. We eventually made our way to the mansion.
Greeted by coquettish ladies in colonial garb, that frankly looked itchy and flammable- we were given strict instructions on what to do as well as what not to do, touch or disturb once in the mansion. Obviously these rules are in place for good reason- to maintain the authenticity of the dwelling. Ironically, almost all rules were broken upon entry.
As our group spilled out of the house, the sky opened up, black clouds released a monsoon like downpour. Hubs and your truly conveniently were perched on the covered porch for the deluge. Chomping on bootleg nuts pilfered from home, we watched the less fortunate run for cover.
As the sun dried the wet earth, we explored the grounds culminating the tour with an enchanting stroll through the garden. The flowers were in full blossom. The aromatic smells perfumed the air as bumble bees danced from bud to bud. Unfortunately most of our experiences in gardens through the years have been less than impressive as it is commonly off season. Viewing anemic weeds struggling to envision their potential-because of this, we were even more appreciative of the rich, robust multisensory display. The Hermitage is a real “must see” if you have the time to explore outside the city. It was an entertaining afternoon well worth it.
Fully satisfied and now Jackson experts we summoned our next Uber. On the journey back to the hotel, hot, tired and fueled only by nuts, we discussed dinner possibilities with our driver. He made a few recommendations- one of which we chose.
Back at the hotel, we were able to access our beautiful room. The room was clean, comfortable and actually quite lovely. Ceiling to floor windows created a dramatic bird’s eye view of the hip restaurants below. Succumbing to exhaustion at this point, we allowed ourselves a brief indulgence of rest.
From there, re-energized we walked down the 2 flights to the convenient hotel fitness center. An adequate offering of cardio machines flanked the walls. Fresh cucumber water, clean towels and tempting apples were available as well. We adapted our usual exercise regimen to our new setting allowing respite for future potential guilty pleasures later.
After showering in the spa- like bathroom equipped with fluffy robes and heavenly towels we ventured out to Little Octopus https://www.littleoctopusnashville.com/ just steps from our hotel. If you recall this was at the recommendation of Uber driver #3 if you are keeping track. He neglected to leave out one minor detail –that the cuisine is Caribbean inspired. My palate is as refined as a toddler’s-finicky and feisty with a loathing for all things spicy.
This hipster establishment screams vegan snobbery combined with tiny plates that one feels obligated to “ooh and ahh” at. The limited menu is full of big words, but miniscule portions as they are tapa based. For me and my caloric restrictions this worked out perfect. Additionally, I am vegetarian so in theory this menu should have sufficed.
I settled on a beet salad that was fresh, healthy with a hint of an undefinable earthiness and grit that settled in my canines. The hubs had a clam dish that prompted a hidden talent of puppetry as he played with the carcass shells serenading his wife through traquilism- like skills. The dish that followed still riles me up- as how does one ruin perfectly good brocollini? The chef made it so spicy that one is rendered speechless with numb lips, an inactive oral orifice and slightly traumatized with various stages of PTSD- by just the thought of red pepper flakes and pepper infused oil. No photographic evidence is available as the Hubs took advantage of my incoherent stupor and consumed the remainder of the vile vegetable. I admit I exaggerate a bit and in full disclosure-the Hubs disagrees with most of this bloated diatribe- but I stand by my keen and insightful analysis.
After dinner, we did some harmless window shopping in stores frankly I had no business being in, displaying styles for a much younger, cooler and perhaps richer version of myself. From there, we returned back to the hotel, which was now in full throttle Friday night mating season mode. The hotel is apparently the meeting Mecca for all the “Cool Kids” these days.
Entering on this Friday evening, the lobby is alive with action. An intimidating line coiled around the reception desk, all in an effort to get to the elevator to get to the 18th floor to get to La Jackson http://www.lajacksonbar.com/ – the rooftop bar which was our final destination as well…
For some odd reason, I had this silly notion La Jackson would be quiet, romantic, with just the illumination of the moon twinkling in the Hub’s luminescent blue eyes. Soft music, candles and strangely the summer child hood scent of honey blossoms in the air. Well, get this image out of your head- because it was none of this. Now, granted the magnificent views from up above of the Nashville skyline were breathtaking. But, as we shoved our way through the 20 something crowd, self-involved phone scrolling monsters stared blankly at their phones. The combination of hundreds of conversations taking place at once whirled together into an over stimulating frenzy of sound. As we hugged the side of the glass partition, which separated us from death, we took in the stillness of the evening below. And for one moment of solitude- it was just Hubs and I and 23 years of glorious memories. The gravity of the time passed and the time ahead of us laid heavily in my heart-and for that split instant-no other people were on that glorious balcony with us.
After that, we ventured down to our room for a good night’s slumber.
Day 2 of 3
Taking full advantage of the extra hour earned from Central Standard Time, I arose early and busted butt at the gym. All with a secondary gain of being in line early at Biscuit Love http://biscuitlove.com/ Yesterday, in our room, we were highly entertained lazily eyeing the crowds outside our hotel, particularly on the steady, rather ridiculous line that remained all day long outside a rather indistinct, unimpressive restaurant- Biscuit Love. Well, we just had to find out what the hubbub was…It didn’t matter that I am carb restricted, gluten free and a biscuit would be my caloric capacity for the week. I had to know the deal- even through osmosis and living vicariously through the hubs.
So, after the gym, just as the sky turned black and rain began to pelt down, we took the long journey 50 feet away and joined the ever growing cue. Now, just know if you go to this establishment there are rules. You must know in advance apparently what you are ordering, be prepared and don’t waste time. It is the equivalent of the famous Seinfeld soup Nazi-just replaced with Biscuits.
After a rather short wait, we were urged to make our selection. I ordered a rather unmemorable omelet that lacked any character. Hubs had a version of eggs benedict with biscuits. Neither entrée overly excited us-which was good because the recovery phase of biscuit withdrawal cannot be pleasant.
Evidently, the “bonuts” a hybrid somewhere between a donut and a biscuit are all the rage. I will say, for the entire 3 days, there was a steady, rambunctious line that only disappeared during closing times.
We once again beckoned another Uber to Carl Van Vecten Gallery on the Fisk University Campus https://www.fisk.edu/services-resources/fisk-university-galleries/the-carl-van-vechten-gallery. A sprawling campus void of any activity, due to summer, early hours and rain felt a bit eerie. Some concern began to resonate as we were dropped off in a completely empty parking lot with little signs of life.
We waited and waited and waited a bit more. Then, we started to concoct a plan B. At that precise moment an eager, short of breath gentleman came running towards us. It turns out he was flooded out of his house and he himself had to come by Uber. Apologizing profusely, he waived both entrance fees.
We were the only ones in the museum. We leisurely perused the odd paintings consisting of most famously Georgia O’Keefe and some others from her era. All in all there are probably 20 paintings and an exhibition in the basement. Nonetheless, we entertained ourselves and embraced having the whole place to ourselves.
Guess what we did next? You guessed it! We requested an Uber. We were transported to the famous region Broadway. When you think Nashville-this to me -is what it really is. Good old fashioned grit, country music, honky-tonk. One area consists of music city and it encapsulates entertainment of every venue. The common theme is a distinct feeling of wanting to hose oneself off after entering some of the establishments. Now, please understand –it is only 1100 AM in the morning at this point. Our first stop was the Johnny Cash Museum http://www.johnnycashmuseum.com/. We never made it past the gift shop. A little speed shopping performed; we got the gist of it, but couldn’t commit to it- so we moved on. To be noted-The Patsy Cline Museum https://www.patsymuseum.com/ is on top of Johnny Cash…
Leaving there we walked past barbeque restaurants boasting the best, most authentic and tastiest. Boot stores with penetrating hide aromatics pouring out onto the streets. The intense staccato of struggling musicians with pitiful desperation thick in every note echoed in the street. Powerful odors so offensive at times-breathing was painful permeated the humid air. This was a complete juxtaposition with the rambunctious cookie cutter bachelorette brigades with tacky sash’s and hokey veils screaming in frantic euphoria. Goofy hashtag names and clone like bridal parties celebrating their final hours of independence by pedaling frenziedly 3 miles an hour through the traffic-all the while singing female empowerment songs at the top of their lungs. If nothing else, this served as incredible amusement.
We continued to walk as the humidity hung over us like a thick blanket. Exhaustion and hunger began to settle in and anchor us down. It was at that moment we spotted Puckett’s https://puckettsgro.com/nashville/. This eatery is one of the highlights of this trip. The crowded establishment was teeming with eager patrons, very civilized anxiously waiting for a table. The smells, unlike the hideousness of Broadway were sweet, smoky, hickory and that indescribable essence of barbeque.
Hubs had a brisket taco salad. Mine was a delicious black bean burger, unique and fulfilling in every way- which was accommodated over a small salad for me. Sadly but wisely, the Hubs suppressed his desire for the cobbler-which he still regrets. If in Nashville- I really suggest you try to make it there. Apparently, we were lucky to get seated so quickly as its popularity is evident.
Once again, another Uber escorted us to back to our hotel. After some rest, we prepared for the big event- The Grand Ole Opry https://www.opry.com/. Although, country music is not our forte we felt it essential to participate as this captures the true heart of Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry is situated on a massive campus with a hotel, a mall and a movie theater http://www.simon.com/mall/opry-mills. The original Grand Ole Opry was at the Ryman Theater https://www.ryman.com/. In the 1990’s it was moved. The Ryman still has performances and I regret on this trip not making it there. It is considered hallowed halls with country greats such as Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.
The Uber dropped us off at the Opry Mall. The place was packed with eager shoppers on bargain hunts. No exception for yours truly. Some mindless browsing kept us busy momentarily. We made our way to the entrance to The Grand Ole Opry. It was a plethora of activity. A stellar seniored band belted out amazing tunes revving up the crowd.
From there, we made our way to the auditorium. There truly is not a bad seat in the house. Spread out like a church with pews in a circular ring, it looped around the stage. As the curtain went up, the stage glowed indicating a live radio stage. Mics strategically placed like land mines creating an auditory symphonic delight.
The effort of maintaining the authenticity by honoring the tradition and maintaining the same format since its radio debut in 1974 is apparent. It is separated in 4 segments with numerous varied live music acts in each part. The wizardry of the guitar playing, the octave tiers demonstrated and the true raw talent was really unbelievable. The commonality of each performer was their gratitude for being there, the symbolism of achievement and their genuine love for their craft. My favorite was from a band which I had never heard of before The Steel Woods http://thesteelwoods.com/- who played Straw in the Wood https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJhFz9jaoM0 . All in all, the night was pretty darn incredible and an absolute must if in Nashville.
Another Uber schlepped our butts back to The Gulch. We stopped across from our Hotel at Burger Republic http://burgerrepublic.com/the-gulch/. Some uninspiring pub fare provided lackluster nourishment as we finished the night out.
Day 3 of 3
Sleeping in just a bit in the comfortable womblike state of cozy room was luxurious. No alarm clock, no barking dog, no obligations. It really is the ultimate pleasure extracted from a vacation. However, this lazy lull was fleeting as we promptly made our last visit to the gym. After a good workout, we packed and prepared to depart from our wonderful stay at The Thompson.
Some Starbucks had and final preparations for our last day. We were on a mission to find the Green Line https://www.metrotransit.org/metro-green-line- which is a free bus that loops around the city. Apparently, no one and I mean NO ONE knows where this thing is, what it is, where it goes and how often. We chased this elusive green mirage over and over, continually missing it just by seconds. Exasperated and ready to give, the green vision appeared before us. Hopping on in victory, we soon learned this bus really does not go anywhere of much use. The bus driver offered us helpful information and suggestions and eventually dropping us off at Bicentennial Park.
The park displays Tennessee’s history including a revolving globe, a World War II Memorial, a 95-Bell Carillon playing energetic Tennessean songs and abundant Fountains. On the grounds as well is a thriving farmer’s market http://nashvillefarmersmarket.org/ -which is apparently a hotspot for the constant Hop on Hop off bus.
An Uber once again took us to our lunch of choice. We refueled quickly at PF Changs growing sadly aware that our Nashville extravaganza was coming to an end. We crossed the busy intersection for our final destination-Centennial Park which includes the Parthenon http://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Parthenon.aspx.
The park is situated directly across the street from the prestigious Vanderbilt College. Standing erect and center protecting its people is the Parthenon. It is a stunning re-creation of the same one from ancient Greece. It stands boldly as the centerpiece of Centennial Park. Inside the structure is a museum as well, which unfortunately time constraints did not allow for the viewing of these treasures.
We circled the structure and made our way on a path that snaked around the park. Trees shaded us as the sun smoldered in the sun heat. We made our way around a serene lake. We ended our walk in a sunken garden. Colorful flowers in bloom showed off their petals in a hue of flamboyant pride.
Our final Uber ride delivered us to the hotel to retrieve our bags and head to the airport for our departure back home. Nashville was a true surprise. Having heard of its growing popularity over the years, I naively thought one needs to be a country music fan to appreciate. Many years ago, I dismissed its place in the world of culture, art, food and “my kind of entertainment”. Well, I now know how misguided I was.
Nashville is a renaissance town. It offers it all. Family friendly, raunchy drunk debauchery bachelorette “Nash-vegas” style hijinks, world class music, divvy bars, barbeque for days…Not to mention the versatility and diversity of Tennessee itself. With its origins deep in valor and President Andrew Jackson settling his roots close by it has always been a symbol for an altruistic spirit born in the concept of honor, pride and sacrifice in the form of volunteerism. As my plane embarked for the journey back home, and I viewed the Nashville skyline as the pink summer sun set, I had sadness in my heart of saying goodbye to Nashville. The people have a Southern calmness with a country western spirit. They are salt of the earth, good old fashioned values in a not too fancy way. You may wonder how I have this analysis in my short time…In every single one of those 13 Uber rides, a commonality existed-they were all local and native Nash-villians. Each Uber driver shared a piece of their life with us. They gave us advice, recommendations, and for just a brief moment in time-made us feel we were the only ones that mattered. They asked questions, listened and showed genuine interest. Most importantly, they represented their city with pride, love and loyalty. Thank you Nashville for a memorable 5 year anniversary- you have set the bar high!
Nashville TOP 5:
(5) The Thompson- amazing Hotel & The Gulch
(4) The Hermitage
(3) Puckett’s Lunch- Yum…
(1) Grand Ole Opry
We will reunite at the end of September when The Girl, Her Hubs and a Suitcase travel to Copenhagen and Hamburg, Germany. And, stay tuned for March 2018-hint: African Safari!
Love & Nashvillian sweet dreams,