Another four nights in Nashville, this time we stayed around the corner from our first Nashville stop (Aloft) at Embassy Suites. If you’re ever looking for hotels, Embassy Suites have larger rooms (suites, i.e. a bedroom and lounge), this one had microwave and fridge but best of all they have complimentary breakfast and cooked to order omelettes (and fried eggs and waffles) plus heaps of other breakfast goodies. I enjoy breakfast in America but having complimentary can be a money and time saver (most of our hotels on the down-leg had this option). The other thing you should look for is parking as this can be quite expensive (here was a cheaper option of $18 a night to self-park).

breakfast breakfast 2
However, this time around this hotel was also very busy. It is at the Vanderbilt University end of town (about half hour walk from Broadway and other such stuff) and they were playing football that weekend, there was also ice hockey (we went), the Titans were playing (American football) and conferences and it was weekend and Nashville is mad on a weekend. But the location for this hotel is a winner, they also have a free shuttle that will take you downtown or other places and we made use of that to get to the ice hockey.

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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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Cowboys part 3

Now this was to be the highlight of DFW – Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots at AT&T Stadium. This is American Football if you don’t know what this is. I know there are many who don’t like the game because it is so stop-start and they don’t understand the rules and they wear too much padding. But me, I reckon it’s a great game that can be won or lost in a blink of the eye (or about the length of the Stockyards parade in my earlier post).

I purchased the tickets quite some time ago through Ticketmaster ticket exchange where ticket holders sell their tickets for a price they set. This stadium is one the best in the world, this game was a highlight game (Patriots are the current champions with some the game’s greatest players and the Cowboys are a bit like Collingwood). Tickets were not cheap so I spent that little bit more and secured some seats in their club level – think Medallion Club at Etihad.

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Highway 101 – North?: Let’s Go Niners, Let’s Go

Left Monterey Saturday morning and headed north to San Francisco. This is the third trip to San Francisco so have done the touristy things before; however, I did ride the cable trolley on a different route than previously – and found more hills.

San Francisco is hilly – damn hilly. It is also quite touristy but also quite pleasant. I like San Francisco and would go back there just to do nothing (although Caroline loves the shopping). Only problem is parking – we had the car so had to pay for parking at the hotel at a mere $54 a night. And we complain about the cost of parking in Melbourne!

We stayed down near the ferry terminal, which has an excellent market area and is also accessible to the main downtown area of Union Square via shanks pony or the tram or trolley. Another Kimpton Hotel, this time the Harbor Court, which was another nice Kimpton with the wine hour and if you can be bothered, warm milk and cookies at nine. This was a good hotel, although the concierge we mainly dealt with was maybe not as good as others; however, he did warn us to take a coat to the 49ers game.

The 49ers game – that’s pretty much why we took a detour to head back north to San Francisco, just to go to a game of NFL. However, for the atmosphere alone, this is well worth the diversion. I got the tickets when in Melbourne and scored magnificent seats amongst the 49ers faithful (die-hards) seven rows from the front. The game was not great as it was very defensive but the atmosphere was electric, even if the only thing the 49ers shouted all day was Deeefence! And after the 49ers played a rather shitful offensive game (their QB had his worst performance ever) they were jeered from the ground just like Richmond after a loss.

It was also quite historical as this is the last season the 49ers will be playing at this home ground – Candlestick Park. It reminded me so much of the old Princes Park (almost a tear in the eye). No nacho hats but plenty of food options and at the ultra-huge mark-up options as in Melbourne. For those interested in nostalgia and can remember the MCG as far back as me, they also had a peanuts man who I reckon was so similar to the one from the MCG (except as an added bonus he also sold popcorn).

Our only problem for the day was getting to and from the stadium. It is a fair way out of town and the only real option is the bus. Getting there is usually a pretty good express run; however, it was also the day before Veteran’s Day (11/11) so the street was blocked for the veterans day march, which meant no buses could get through until after the march. This caused a lot of angst amongst those waiting, a group even hijacked a hotel shuttle. We waited it out – $4 return is good value on the bus and it was easy to get into the ground – bag searches like the G but also the wand. But getting home, well that had memories of leaving the old Waverley. Trying to find the end of the queue for our bus, then actually waiting for the bus. It took a long time and we were glad we brought the coats as it got effing cold out there. But anyway, we eventually made it on a bus, back downtown ready for an easy night with checkout Monday morning for a trip back down the 101 to Ventura.

Here’s a collection of shots from San Francisco and the football

And the Footy Season is Gone

Last weekend and the Hawks came through and won their eleventh AFL premiership, beating the first-timers Fremantle Dockers. Not an overly exciting game but it was football – or actually there was some excitement or maybe some groan moments. Freo just couldn’t kick a goal and the footballer voted as the one that most others want to hit – Haydn Ballantyne – just couldn’t do anything.

I was most disappointed as I had tipped Fremantle and Nick Fyfe for the Norm Smith. If Feo had won, Fyfe might have been a chance to bring home some bacon for me. But alas, the only pork I has that day was some excellent ribs. Pulled out the BGE and tried out a rib rack I scored for my birthday RibRackand it worked a treat. The ribs were excellent, and so were the dogs and so would have been the chillie but Sophia and Dano left that at home – another day, maybe. But something that doesn’t wait for another day was the Mountain Goat I chose from Dan Murphy’s. I went there to pick up a six pack and extras but came back with a six pack, carton, extras and key-ring. They had a tasting night with some specials – and I am a sucker for a special. I went for the IPA, after trying the Hightail Ale, Steam Ale, Summer Ale (bit sweet for me), and a special brew in conjunction with Brooklyn Brewery (fine establishment and great beer – visited there on our first trip to USA) Hopfweizenbock – not a quaffing beer for watching the footy, maybe with a nice meal (not that the ribs and dogs weren’t nice, just you didn’t need a knife and fork).

But the footy is now over – draft and exchange period to look forward to and will Carlton make the finals on their own in 2014 – Go Blues. I can now cheer for the Ravens, but I doubt they will go back-to-back. And we’re off to the States again with tickets booked for the 49ers – should be good, so will the food, beer and sites – if they are open as I hear USA is closing down.

Did we really win?

So, the mighty Blues have made the AFL finals – did they deserve to be there? Who cares, the cards fell their way and they are in. Might only last a week but at least they are there.

Carlton has many traditional rivals, one they will be up against this weekend – Richmond; and the other gave up their spot in the eight through an attempt to better themselves through untested scientific experiments – Essendon.

Many say Carlton didn’t deserve to take Essendon’s spot – many hate Carlton and would say that no matter what. Maybe the Kangas were the better side and should have made it – but they didn’t, did they.

But it wasn’t easy for Carlton. They almost kicked themselves out of it – again. Essendon had the laugh when they came from behind to beat Carlton who had many more scoring shots but just could not get that ball through the big sticks. But that was all a snicker as Carlton came from nowhere to snatch the game against the Power. Carlton still couldn’t kick a goal, I felt like throwing stuff at the TV, but then came the last quarter and finally, Carlton kicked straight.

Great game. Bring on the Tiges this weekend – managed to get tickets (writing this there were only 427 left). The Blues have a good record against the Tigers but they were the Tigers of old and I’m not all that confident. But that’s what I thought last weekend, and a fortnight back when we came from behind to beat Richmond – and 1982.

Carlton’s comeback

Who Tipped the Card this Weekend?

I thought it was about time I did a football post. The AFL season is coming up to bye weekend and nearing the halfway mark. I’ve always enjoyed the football tipping and over the years have won a few dollars – others years it was good to make up the numbers. But what I have done a lot of is actually running the tipping competition to the extent that my old workplace name their tipping competition after me – what an honour (even better when I won money from it last year). It’s great to be remembered for something 😀

Footy tipping is about the only gambling I get up to – except maybe the Aussie tradition of a small wager on the Melbourne Cup (the first time I was ever involved in that was in grade 3 at school in Tasmania and the Melbourne Cup was one of the years highlights from the nuns at the convent, so much so that the nuns got all us little ten year olds to spend lunch money on a ticket in the sweep – such an effect on me I can still remember buying the raffle ticket and everyone was excited about a grey called Gunsynd, which didn’t win but was still a champion horse).

I used to like the dream teams but this year there was just too much thinking and the only thing that this has changed in my world by not having a team is that I don’t watch as many games or keep up with the news as I have no invested interest in how other teams and players are travelling (last year I was in three different competitions with four teams – that is too much thinking and rushing to the computer to make last minute changes).

And now comes the football. Started with the traditional Friday night of beer, pizza and Foxtel. Great TV game of the Saints v the Tigers and unfortunately the Tigers won. I have a bit of a soft spot for the Saints as they were my first team -well, when we were in Tasmania and not betting with the nuns I barracked for New Norfolk who wore the same colours as St Kilda and I do remember watching the 1971 Saints v Hawks grand final on the black and white Pye. Then we came over here and the first game I went to was Carlton v Fitzroy at the still not yet completed Waverley Park (now a housing estate) and we went with one of Dad’s friends who was a mad Carlton supporter and he said they were the team to follow – they won that day, and also won the grand final so he was right, and I’ve followed the mighty Blues ever since (but there is still a little St Kilda in there).

Then came Saturday – no live football as Saturday is guitar day. The Cats did nothing special in beating the Giants, the Crows beat Freo, and the Hawks thumped the Roos with Buddy Franklin back on track with a very fine 13 goals including one with two seconds to go.

And then came Saturday night – more Foxtel, beer and noodles this time as it is okay to follow-up with beer but two nights of pizza is a no-go. The Blues were on the box and the Blues I think never left Melbourne as they got a pounding from the Power. A few Carlton players need a pounding, however, there are only a few players left as those like Bower do not count as players – they are in the same category as ex-Collingwood now Docker Jack Anthony who was once again subbed off (maybe for the last time) as he used his head to try and mark the ball when Freo were still a chance.

Carlton were doing that well that I switched over to see the final bits of the Demons hanging-on to beat the Bombers – now that was good for football and very satisfying.

And Sunday saw another satisfying result with the Lions coming from behind to beat the top of the ladder Eagles, the Swans thumping the Dogs who I think stayed in the Qantas lounge just like Carlton the night before, and the mortal enemy Collingwood won again against the Suns, even with Gary Ablett having a record equalling 53 possessions – wonder who will get the brownlow votes.

Looking forward to another Friday night of beer, pizza and Foxtel with Carlton up against the Cats. I should really go to this game but it is cold and if Carlton play like they have been then I won’t have the opportunity to switch channels or go to bed. 😛