LAX

So all good fun must come to an end and these are the last few days of our USA 2015 vacation. We’ve had a lot of fun, new adventures, great food and drink, and ticked off a few more of the USA mainland States (still plenty more to go). And when flying back to Australia the choices of airport are limited and like everyone else, Los Angeles is generally the port of entry and egress.

Now, the first time we came to Los Angeles (many years back) we stayed a night in Santa Monica (very nice but getting bigger) and then where most travel agencies send you – Hollywood. You’d think Hollywood would be nice but it’s pretty much the pits and it put us off LA (and this is not an uncommon effect on people). Our later travels we came in via San Francisco or Dallas with a transfer only at LAX. But last trip we stayed a few days in LA with a car and away from Hollywood and really liked it. I never got around to blogging about that trip but it was good and we saw plenty and didn’t bother with Hollywood. So we decided on a few days this trip also. Again, away from Hollywood and not far from where we stayed last time – this time we were in Fairfax St straight opposite the Farmers Market and Grove Shopping Centre (upper class shopping with many films shot there – truly a nice experience). Our Hotel was probably our favourite – The Farmer’s Daughter – and we highly recommend this hotel and location. Great rooms, champagne on arrival, cookies and turn-down each night, perfect location, good restaurant (Tart) on site, friendly staff and a whiskey hour every night.

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KFC

Left Lexington, continuing along the Bourbon Trail for a shorter drive than usual to Louisville. This gave us the chance to call into Jim Beam distillery for some ockerising, well not really but the lovely lady in the on-site Fred’s Smokehouse (BBQ) said they have a lot of Australians at Jim Beam – who would have thought. Lovely premises, large collection of merchandise (which I could not resist buying at least something – pretty much what I did at all the distilleries we visited). Didn’t do the tour but I’m sure it was a good one. Something I forgot to mention in the last post was that our rental Buick (great car) got doored by some guy who was as big as four of me (and that’s big) but he was very apologetic – didn’t matter as I always fork out those extra dollars to get the rental fully insured. There’s been a dint in most of the ones I’ve picked up on our various journeys but never a problem – and no, I have never put them there, honest.

And so we ventured to Louisville and once again to the rear entrance of the hotel – why, why, why Ms TomTom? Right in downtown and a short walk to most of the action. First action was to the KFC Yum! Stadium – or at least a bar across the road for a bite to eat and a few beers and bourbon. It was college basketball night so it was pretty busy but once that started the bar crowd left us to dine. There are a few bars and others in this vicinity and Louisville is kind of divided into several main streets – we were just to the edge but everything was walkable from where we were. Not that many homeless or pan-handlers (beggars) except for one crazy who was ranting and I was quite pleased we got to the lights before he did. I did like one of Lousiville’s strategies to stop (discourage) begging is that at many of the traffic light poles there was a collection box for the poor – good idea. Couldn’t imagine this in Melbourne, they’d all be stolen.

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Asheville

Our next destination was one of our longer drives – east to Asheville NC, via Lexington so we could have some BBQ (worth the side track). Asheville was another of those foody choice destinations. We spoke to someone earlier (someone in the Steel String bar in Corrboro – good beer) and they described Asheville as a place known for food, beer and music – and that’s a pretty good trio.

It kind of reminded us of an inner Melbourne suburb with the hipsters and arty folk with the country feel of say a Daylesford or Katoomba in the blue mountains. It was really a surprise and we enjoyed all our time here, even if we we were out of town on a bit of a hotel strip (and it must have been a hotel strip for a while as there were some classic hotels out there). I did some driving downtown but another we caught Uber – we have found this great in America – fast, cheap, friendly, clean and they know where they are going. Big thumbs up Uber.

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Research Triangle

So, after a change into dry clothes, we headed north/east towards Chapel Hill through rain that at times was so heavy all we could see was rain and hopefully the tail lights of the car in front. But it didn’t last forever and after about 2.5 hours we reached our next destination Carrboro, which neighbours Chapel Hill.

We stayed at another almost new hotel in Carrboro which is kind of a bit of a trendy (??) neighbourhood adjoining Chapel Hill, which is the home of University of North Carolina – the Tarheels. UNC is most known for its basketball – Michael Jordan its most famous basket balling student (I’ll get to that later). This was a two night stay so we could have a look around, try some good food (North Carolina BBQ and anything else) and enjoy.

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Things go better with …

After another complimentary bowl of fruit loops at our hotel in Birmingham, it was time to hit the roads, travelling East to another State – Georgia. Destination – Atlanta, the home of coca-cola. Nothing of note for this drive, apart from the quite heavy traffic and close your eyes and hope you’re in the correct lane driving.

Atlanta is big, Atlanta has roads like a bowl of spilt spag-bog, Atlanta has traffic like Melbourne (doesn’t go anywhere) and it amazes me how they managed to get people to and from their Olympic Games. Luckily our hotel was not far from where we entered and in a pretty good street for restaurants, etc. Right across the road from the famous Fox theatre where a lot of top musicians play or have played. We never got to have a look inside but it was very nice looking and booked out for a wedding the weekend we there. Would no doubt be a good spot for a wedding, pity some of the guests were staying at out hotel – The Hotel Indigo, because they were a pain.

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Birmingham, Alabama

Leaving Nashville in the mid-morning for a casual drive south down the highway (one of the very many) to Birmingham, “Sweet Home” Alabama (which is on the big sign when you cross the border so not just something from me). Good fun getting used to opening the correct door but maybe not as much fun as remembering to drive on the right side of the road. This is actually not as hard as one may consider and it only becomes tricky when turning but doesn’t take long to pick up (also the fourth time I’ve driven over here).

BBBBQBBBBQ ribsBirmingham was only two and a bit hours away so we decided to call in for some BBQ on the way – as you do. We made a detour to Decatur and called in for some lunch at Big Bob Gibson’s. Not bad either, although most BBQ is pretty good (except I kind of got a bit crook that day, must have been the coleslaw or potato salad – not the ribs).

The Chief helping out

The Chief helping out

Made Birmingham easily and our room was ready for check-in. Birmingham was a rich source of iron ore and important during the early years of industrialisation and railroads. It later became a bit of a boom city and was coined the ‘Magic City’. More importantly, Birmingham was an important city in gaining attention for civil rights in America and worldwide attention. If you have any interest at all in civil rights, then you should visit Birmingham.

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Nashville in October

An early morning trip from our downtown Dallas Hotel to the airport. Dallas airport is big – you gotta know which terminal to get dropped at. We wanted terminal E, unfortunately an Australian E sounds too much like an American A – or an American A means a few more dollars when all along it was American E. Learning experience, taxis and airports = money. This extra few minutes also added to what we thought would be ample time at the airport to “why don’t you have more people checking bags”. Our we would have time to grab some breakfast at the airport ended up being no time for nothing. The flight out of Dallas was fine with AA, except as we are not their frequent flyers we get whatever seat allocation is left which means I was close to the front and Caroline was in the last row. Not too much of a problem except we again had no time for nothing at our interchange at Charlotte and our terminal being nowhere near the one we landed at. Again a very nice flight this time on American Eagle.

Landed at the very peaceful, laid back, relaxed Nashville and yes, went for the taxi + airport, which was actually very good. We were staying in the Vanderbilt area, which is about half an hour walk from what Nashville is renown for – honky tonk bars and country music. We’d done Nashville before so didn’t need to hit the bars – we could stay up our end of town, which is the university end of town so plenty of bars of its own. Our hotel was the Aloft which is a hipster kind of place and very nice – that nice the maid did not even take our tip. But the barmaid did add a couple of beers to our tab which I’d already paid cash for – she was very apologetic and the jack daniels pour made up for it.

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I feel stupid and contagious, here we are now entertain us

Nirvana.

Going back through the weeks when in Seattle we visited the EMP museum, which is near the base of the space needle. This museum is about popular culture but its main focus is music. It was one of the places we wanted to visit and is also maybe not a mainstream tourist mecca, like the space needle, which has a base made from souvenir shops and even a busking pan flute band with ponchos and CDs.

The EMP was quite enjoyable – if you have any interest in that kind of thing. As well as permanent exhibits, they rotate through exhibits. Current exhibits for our visit were all great: Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, the lure of Horror movies, icons of Science Fiction and worlds of Myths and Fantasy. Something for everyone – the music diehards or those interested in two people/band that changed music; and the horror, science fiction and fantasy nerds. And you should have seen the sic-fi and fantasy nerds – they were literally wetting themselves and some were even disputing the fact that some dagger from Lord of the Rings was the actual one.

We started off going through the history of guitars – the music is very much guitar orientated. This was good, especially if you have any interest in guitars. We used the iPods they give you to listen to the displays and music but gave up after a while otherwise we’d probably still be in the history of guitars hall. Great to see the old guitars. Then moved on to the two key exhibits: Nirvana (excellent) and Jimi Hendrix (maybe not as good but still great).

Then we hit nerdsville – starting off with sic-fi and what I said about some people wetting themselves was not far from the truth. These people knew everything about the weapons on display, the costumes on display, the dalek on display, anything that was on display. This moved into horror, which I am a bit more a fan of and for things like Jason’s mask from Friday 13th, or the Alien and Terminator, and clips from films where they discuss why the films were as good as they were, like the Exorcist – made me kinda want to wet myself.

Then the myths and fantasy and as I mentioned above, there was a group there that knew more about the exhibits than the museum displaying them.

This was a really interesting museum, with a good cafe and some good merchandise. Very interesting architecture as well.

Here’s a few snaps and also some of the space needle. That’s kind of interesting but we didn’t waste money going to the top as the fog would have meant nothing more than an expensive ride in a lift. If you go to Seattle, go to a club to listen to the music, go on a ferry, visit the Pike Place market, see the eye and if interested go to the EMP. However, we have rated that maybe Seattle is not high on the revisit list but we are pleased we did visit.

And still plenty posts to come …

And There are Museums in Nashville

Another must see is a visit to the Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Old Opry originated. It’s quite an interesting history built in 1892 by Captain Tom Ryman whose original intention was to run the preacher out of town because he was affecting his business of alcohol and gambling but instead listened to one his sermons that influenced him so greatly he built the preacher a tabernacle instead.

We did the backstage tour of the auditorium which is still used for performances and was voted as the best music venue in the world for accoustics. Really interesting history, particularly the part where they were going to pull it down but instead it was sold to Gaylord Industries who restored it for $10,000,000.

You can’t go to Nashville without a visit and it would be a great venue to see someone perform so if you do decide to visit, check online to see who and when (tickets sell-out almost as soon as they go on sale).

The guitar and clothes are Johnny Cash’s and June Carter’s – Caroline would not allow me to get on stage for a bit of Johnny Cash Karaoke.