Sunday, April 21, 2013

Nashville Trip Report - April 16 - April 21, 2013

I so much liked the new friends I met on my Alaska cruise last September that live in Nashville, I decided to add Nashville to my itinerary when I was going back to New Orleans in April.  I wanted to see them again and I've always wanted to see Tennessee so this seemed like a good plan.

I sealed the deal when I got a great airfare from Seattle for $127 (all taxes included)!  Unfortunately, it turned out that I booked the wrong date and it cost me another $129 to change the reservation to the correct date.  I rarely luck out on great deals, so this was just keeping it real...  :-(  I still haven't figured WHY I'm not meant to get great deals when traveling...

I also booked Bolt Bus to downtown Seattle for the cost of $14.  Right where the bus lets you off, a light rail train goes to Sea-Tac airport for $2.75 so that's what I chose to do.

I was really disappointed with my Priceline hotel booking too!  It was 3 miles from where I wanted to stay downtown, so it was a location issue for me.  I bid $75 a night and I just had to live with it.  I ended up with SpringHill Suites Nashville MetroCenter.  It was a 3-Star and I tried to book downtown...not 3 miles away from downtown as I never drive on vacation...My friends said it was not a safe walk to downtown either from this location and told me to take a cab...Priceline was NOT my friend for this trip.  However, if I didn't have friends there who said they would be my "driving bitches", lol, it would have been much worse...

Pic from hotel website

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013:

My Nashville friends had just sold and bought a house so their lives were "upside down" at the time of my departure.  I wasn't sure what to expect as I knew they were living out of boxes and it was a really busy, stressful time for them...they had told me they were trying to knock off a lot of stuff they had to do so they could enjoy themselves when I arrived...

I called a cab to the train/bus station about 6am to catch my 6:30am departure to Seattle. The bus got stuck because of an accident and ended up being an hour late.  Other than that it was an uneventful trip, except I broke a nail!  :( .  Flight left on time.  I arrived in Nashville about 10:15pm.  It was muggy (humid) outside.  I was sure I could hang my jacket in the closet for the duration of my stay.

Taxi to hotel was $32 before tip.  The flat rate fare ($25) does not include MetroCenter.  My room was nice and spacious!  There was a whole living room, kitchen area with micro-wave and fridge and computer desk.  Beds (I asked for a king but got two doubles) were super comfy with great quilts on them.  My view behind those curtains below was of the pool and a parking lot.

I ordered some wings & salad from Marco Polo's on Rosa L Parks Blvd (about what you expect for delivery) and went to bed!  It was a long day...

Wednesday, April 17th:

I awoke early to SUNSHINE but took my time getting ready.  I had a ticket for the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Studio B - RCA tour today.  I threw on some shorts though I was embarrassed how white my legs were but you gotta start getting sun, sometime.  I called a cab and got off at Puckett's for lunch.  $9 fare before tip.

I sat at the bar and got a glass of sparkling.  I decided on the "plate lunch" with two ($8.99).  Which means a meat, and two sides.  I chose the Southern fried chicken, mac & cheese and turnip greens.  Quite honestly, I'm in no hurry to have those turnip greens again though the chicken was awesome, perfectly crispy skin.  You can't really see but behind the turnip greens, there was also two mini-blini type pancakes that were sweet.  Not sure what that was about and I only had a bite...

I sat beside and conversed with an attorney who was on his lunch.  Our conversation was mostly about government bureaucracy of all things.  Very enjoyable nonetheless.  Bill was $23 after tip.

As I walked my way down 5th avenue towards the Hall of Fame, I was surprised at how many people on the street said hello or good morning to me, some even asking how I was.  Everyone is so nice and friendly in Nashville!  It is rare for anyone at home to ever greet strangers on a street.  I didn't like the humidity though!

I got to the building and it was quite a sight in itself!  Very nice inside, almost like an art gallery of sorts, which I guess you could say it is...

I picked up my three tickets which was for the museum, audio tour and Studio B tour, and then I headed off to see what Patsy Cline was about...I'm not really a country music fan, and I don't know any of the current artists today.  I like to look at Keith Urban & Blake Shelton but I've never heard them sing, at least not on purpose.  I do have fond memories of Johnny Cash growing up as a little girl with my dad and I've always liked him.  He also loved Waylon Jennings & Kenny Rogers so all that old timer stuff I do know kind of well...

That being said, the tour is so worth it even if you're not a country music fan.  It was money well spent and worth getting the audio for.  I picked the Platinum package for $35.

For the Studio B tour, they take you over on a bus to Music Row and over to the studio.  I believe he said RCA made it for Elvis.  Got to hear some great tunes and listen to some funny stories.  Willie Nelson's bus was parked out back beside the studio too and a lot of people got excited about that.

Willie's Tour Bus

Then back to the museum so I could finish my visit.  I loved this picture below of Waylon Jennings.

One of the exhibits

About 4pm, my friend texted that he would pick me up outside and referred to himself as "my taxi bitch".  He stopped in the middle of the road in the turning lane, jumped out wearing his scrubs (just left work) and shouted, "Hey Hoser, come on over and give me a hug!".  Now, that's what I call a welcome greeting! :)

We caught up and headed to the Music City Bikeway Greenways walk.  His wife was there to greet me too with a hug while he changed in the car and then we headed off to do our walk.  We walked about 2 & 1/2 miles and it was really nice.  I enjoyed it a lot!  (Everyone said hello to each other on the walkway too).

Then we went over to their house for some homemade salsa, guacamole & chips and a cocktail before he took me back to my hotel so I could get ready for dinner.  I took a cab and the driver had trouble finding it.  Cost $15 with tip after he did find it.  It is in the same place as Patterson House.

Dinner was at 8:15 at the Catbird Seat.  I had to make my reservation online exactly one month in advance at midnight to score it.  And what a score it was!  I believe there is only 32 seats in the restaurant.  You have to hold your reservation with a credit card and if you don't show up they will charge you $75.  Dinner was $100 and ten courses with two amuse bouches served.  The value was unbelievably worth it and I don't think I've ever had a better meal dining out than this.  5 Stars totally!!! 

As I walked in the door, all I saw was an elevator.  A few seconds later, a very pretty girl walked in and asked if I was Christine?  Then she told me I smelled good and took me up the elevator to the dining area.  :)

After I was seated, someone came over and told me about the amuse bouche which was a savory Oreo cookie that was comprised of Porcini mushrooms & Parmesan cheese.  After that one bite, I knew I was in for something good...

I chose the first level wine pairings which was $40.  The sommelier always brought the pairing before the food was served and explained the drink beautifully.  Some pairings were just amazing bringing the food to life even more.

They don't allow flash photography in there, so I had to doctor up my pictures and some courses I could not save no matter how I tried.  I just have a cheap camera and it is what it is.

Below is the first course which is a scallop cone on the left, bacon, egg & cheese in the middle and their take on "hot chicken" which is a Nashville thingy.  Amazing - every bite just sang music in my mouth and I'm not kidding.  I was so surprised and I couldn't wait for more!

The second course below was the Albacore tuna featuring citrus, chilies  cilantro, basil and sea beans.

The third course below was Asparagus with egg yolk, Iberico ham, caviar, potato/onion crumble, chive blossom and Cloumage cheese.  Wow!  It was just getting better and better.

The chefs prepared everything in front of you.  It was so interesting to see all the intricacies that went into preparing each dish.  About this time I started talking to two guys beside me who were Nashville locals.  Charlie (21st birthday) who is a country singer, and David who does humanitarian work.  Very nice, both very into food and both very fun to talk with.  Our courses ended up meeting up and we dined together for the rest of the evening.  It made the night much more fun.  I also met another couple on the other side of me and Diane (also local) and had an interesting time also chatting about the marvelous food.  Below is my view of how the chefs looked while "getting it done".

Next dish below is my first fave of the entire night.  It was titled "Halibut" with smoked Carabinero red shrimp (which was the best shrimp I have ever eaten in my life!), ramp sauce, snap peas, bbq leeks and carrots.  This dish was heaven.

I couldn't get a good picture of the rabbit dish which was next.  Below is my second fave of the night.  It is a Veal tenderloin done sous vide wrapped in chard with oyster agnolotti and potatoes, parsley & lemon.  We thought these were little raviolis but we all agreed that they were to die for!  I have never eaten pasta that good.  I was in bliss, pure bliss.  (All the pairings were helping that too!)

Below is course number nine which was called "Egg" with maple bacon, custard & thyme.  Mmmm bacon.

There was a last course of a bourbon dessert which was incredible too.  They asked us if we wanted after dinner drinks so I bought Charlie & David a Corsair Rasputin whiskey shot (only $5 each) and we made our final toast and cheers to each other.  

Below is the menu they give you with your bill which also included all the pairings, click on the picture to see it better:

The bill was $197.10 for me which included tax and 20% gratuity.  I think it was worth every penny.  I asked one of the staff to call me a cab and Diane kindly offered to drive me home if I wanted to wait.  I told her I'd just drink more so paying the cab was probably about the same.  I thanked her very much for the offer though.  It was just after midnight!!!  A FOUR HOUR dining experience.  I skipped out of there all the way to the taxi.  Fare cost $10 this time pre tip. When I got to my room, I saw the maid left me a thank you note for her tip!  I have never encountered that in any of my travels.  I basically fell to bed with a thud as I was exhausted! One of my best vacations days EVER!

Thursday April 18th:

I actually didn't sleep that long or well, just that thing about being in a different bed even though it was comfy.  My friends were picking me up at 11am so we could head to Prince's Hot Chicken.  I had read this is THE place to get it and neither of my friends had ever been!  We got there just before 11:30am and got in the line up.  The ladies from the 'hood, standing in line asked me why I was taking pictures and were amused when I told them about being a visitor from Canada and read that this is the place to get hot chicken.  They wished me to have a "great Southern time".  People are so friendly in Nashville...seriously, what's up with that???  (I loved it!)

Trying to figure out what to order...we decided on a whole chicken for $18 and because they said they wanted theirs HOT, I agreed.  In hindsight, because a whole chicken was in four pieces I would have probably asked for one piece to be medium.  It arrived...

It certainly looked good, but OMG, HOT doesn't describe it.  My friend saw that after I took the first bite he knew he had to go back and order me MILD.  I couldn't eat anymore.  My senses were shocked beyond belief without any pleasure.  I found nothing enticing about every sense in my body saying, "this is wrong - stop immediately!".  :)  

The mild piece of chicken was awesome.  We had some potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans and lots of water!  The place is a divey, dirty, dirty, dive...that's the best way I can describe it.  It was an experience to just sit and enjoy a meal there.  I'd eat it again, but never HOT and my friends also agreed...I can't even imagine what their EXTRA HOT is my friends said, the HOT chicken is nuclear!

Next we moved onto the Farmers Market.  This was a little disappointing (empty looking) but I found out later that it doesn't get into full swing until the weekends.  

We walked over to the garden area and then by the State Capitol and then decided to have a drink over at the Germantown Cafe before our NashTrash tour.  

Then we were ready to board:

All I can say is if you are in Nashville, you should do this tour!!!  I never laughed so hard in a long time.  The sisters below are just fabulous performers and I absolutely LOVED this tour:

Afterwards, my friends dropped me off to my room where I just worked on the trip report and tried to get caught up...(I suck at this unless I do it daily!)  I just got the Catbird Seat dinner part done before they were ready to pick me up again to go to "All day Happy Hour at Holland House" and we had a reservation.  That was a good thing because the place was packed.  They specialize in craft cocktails as well.

Two of us started with Sazeracs (getting ready for New Orleans, I was) Another friend of theirs met us and we had a great conversation and ordered all the  HH menu items which were $5 each, as was the wine...I enjoyed the fried okra and the catfish with mash the most I think.  We stayed two or three or four(?)'s all a blur really, though I loved our evening immensely!  :)  It rained though.  :( 

We got back to my room and listened to some 80's tunes (courtesy of drunken me), had another vino and then called it a night.  Plans were the same, "taxi bitch" would be here at 11:00am tomorrow.  I caught up on the trip report, talked with my son on the phone and then crashed just after 1am.

Honky Tonk Friday April 19th:

Loveless Cafe was on the agenda this morning though my friends were running a little late.  Neither of them have ever been here either so that was a bonus.  I finally got a semi-normal sleep and got 8 hours.  They picked me up  about noon.  We were all starving.  However, when we got to Loveless, we were told it was an hour wait.  So we strolled around the shops.  I bought some "Goo Goo Clusters" and "Moon Pies" for gifts.  It was downright cold today!

We were finally seated.  It was hard to decide but I finally went with the crispy pork chops and hashbrown casserole & egg whites (to be healthy, lol).  

Below is the famous biscuits they start you with.  Peach , Strawberry & Blackberry preserves accompany them.  They are good biscuits and so are the preserves.

Below is my breakfast with white gravy which was rather thin.  I thought it would be thicker but it was still tasty.  The pork chops were amazing, as was the cheesy hashbrowns.  Did not finish but had to force myself to stop eating though!

Below is the Country Fried Steak which was also served with the same white gravy.  These are not little meals.

We waddled out content and stuffed and it really felt like nap time but we headed on to Belle Meade plantation.  It was only a short drive away.  I had a groupon that  included a wine tasting at the end.

The tour of the house was good.  The host had a good sense of humour and the stories flowed nicely.  No photos allowed inside.  I learned a bit about the Thoroughbred horse Iroquois which I found interesting.  There's some fine genes in that family.

The slave quarters are below:

And then it was onto the wine tour.  I must say this is the worst wine tasting I have ever been to.  They were horrible!  We could barely get the sips down but they only gave you one glass so we had to plug our nose and swallow it all in one gulp!  No one drank the last one after tasting it - these were all SWEET wines.  The first one was ok and drinkable and it was the Carriage house white.  The last three were red muscadine, racing silk red and blackberry.  We escaped quickly and finished touring the grounds.

We went for a drive to their new house in the 205 (zip code) and had a look.  It was wonderful and I have never seen a lawn so big, ever.  They dropped me off at the hotel and said they would be back at 7:30 so we could head downtown.  They were going to stay over and we were going to cab downtown to the Honky Tonks.

They arrived a little late but we made it downtown just after 8pm.  Our cab was waiting for us.  Met a couple of their friends and off we went.  We started off at Robert's Western World.  Crowded, great music and lots of fun! 

After awhile my girlfriend & I went to Jack's for some BBQ.  You stand in line and order, then pay, much like a cafeteria.

I chose the combo which included three meats and two sides.  I chose ribs, texas sausage and brisket with baked beans & potato salad.  That with a Corona beer came to $20.05.  The combo is below and I enjoyed every bite!  Better than any BBQ I can get at home, that is for sure!!!

Then we moved onto "The Wheel" and below was our view for the rest of the evening.  We closed the place ending with Patron tequila shots.  

This is L'il Dude at the Wheel.  (Long story, but I had to put him in the report).

We got back to the room at 3:30am.  The Mr. went and crashed immediately.  The Mrs. and I had a glass of wine and went down for the count at 4:15am...

Saturday, April 20th:

9am came very, very quickly and then all three of us had to be ready and leave in an hour.  We made it out in an hour & fifteen.  We were meeting a family friend of theirs at Germantown Cafe to have a drink before brunch (where no alcohol is served).  We had very yummy Bloody Marys.  We were first in the door at 10:30am.  

Then we walked over to Monell's for brunch.  It is served family style so were seated with a party of eight making it a table of twelve.

Below are a couple of the dishes.  I really enjoyed the grits, bacon & sausage which is basically all I ate except I ate more chicken again.  I've certainly had my fill of Southern Fried Chicken this week too!  They serve ice tea & coffee.  Other dishes were biscuits & gravy, corn pudding, pancakes, fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and apples (like apple pie without the crust, my friend ate these three times while I was here.  I just thought that was weird!).

The waiting area outside.  We waited for just over a half hour.

After brunch my friends drove me back to the hotel and we departed ways.  I was sad to say good-bye but I'll see them again so it was an "until next time" good-bye.

I went up and caught up on the report but didn't nap before my Grand Ole Opry show in the evening.  I was running on fumes.  The tour was through Grayline and they arrived ten minutes earlier than stated so I left and after a LOT more pick ups we were on our way with a full bus.  

I didn't get any good pictures of the inside/outside of the Opry and there wasn't much time, only about fifteen minutes before the show so I grabbed a concession snack and a glass of wine.  I was surprised how big the auditorium was.  

I enjoyed the show.  Many performers played that I didn't know.  Sir Cliff Richard even showed up (I know I know him but I just can't remember why or what song).  I did recognize Billy Ray Cyrus (the mullet!), Vince Gill and Charlie Pride.

He played Achy Breaky Heart and wasn't hard to look at.

Charlie Pride looks great for being 77 and still sounds good!

Charlie got his twenty year anniversary recognition for being in the Grand Ole Opry and then sang "Kiss an Angel Good Morning"

I got turned around leaving and then ended up lost on the opposite side of where I should have been.  I had to ask directions three different times and then got caught in the throngs of people all leaving.  I was the last one back to the bus so of course got a round of applause.  I'll blame it on my lack of sleep.  :)

Luckily I was the second stop off the bus coming back.  Went up and packed pretty much everything up and hit the bed - finally!!!

April 21st:

Got up early, finished this trip report off and now I'm off to New Orleans for a week, where my itinerary is double of what Nashville is...I'm exhausted thinking about it all.

I had a wonderful time in NashVegas.  My friends here are just great people and showed me such Southern Hospitality I will always feel indebted to them.  I am truly fortunate.  I hope to return it to them down the road.  The Music City exceeded my expectations and was a real pleasure to visit.  I think you need a car to see it properly so I'm glad I had locals with me.  My one regret was not having time to see the Ryman Theatre.

I sure hope I return here, but for now, I'm on the road again...(I know it was a bad pun)

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