A looooong day

Finally head hit pillow after about a nearly 30 hour day. Flight over on Qantas was good – can’t fault the premium economy and seats that are made for me. Smooth entry into LA – self-check the same as Melbourne and appears quicker. Then we had to exit and re-check as for whatever Flight Centre couldn’t on-check our luggage so that also cost us $25 a bag – no wonder no-one wants to check luggage. Some poor guy trying to get to the security check-in probably wished he did check-in as he got taken away for arguing. Oh, yeah some other dude got taken away at entry for whatever reason – bet he enjoyed his flight just to get sent back home.

Few more hours of sitting around charging phone at LAX – the Admirals Club was closed for renovation but we coped. And then checked our carry-on for free as overhead space fills with everyone who avoids the $25. Down the back, which is fine – buy food and Bud which was actually quite a nice ham and cheese sandwich and so pleased this was only about 4 hours because my donkey had had enough.

Big airport, long walk for luggage, back to taxi. Funny dude who had no shit of an idea where he was going. Didn’t believe us when he passed the hotel. And I’m sick of American taxis that won’t or can’t take credit card. Remember that one guys – happened last trip too but at least I had cash just for that purpose. For such a forward country you’d think card would be okay – unless you want your tip when you go home of a night.

Nice hotel, dinner at some other hotel Sabre. Was good, first of the different beer of the day. Then bed.

And away we go

Boarding in half an hour or so, sitting on the tarmac for ages afterwards, then hit the sky (over the kennels where Dusty & Hank will be) for about fifteen hours, followed by a five hour lay over at LAX before another four hours of flight to

Chicago.

Let’s see how I look in about 25 hours.

USA … again

Okay, so we’re off on another trip… and to the USA … again. Why do you ask – well, why not. We always find it enjoyable, interesting and lots of relaxing things to do. Relaxing if you call BBQ, beer, music and sights relaxing. We already have a few places booked – for instance Chicago we are booked in to see Hamilton; St Louis Jim has another conference and dinner booked for one night; Nashville we are going to Pilgrimage festival and dinner booked at Husk; Charlotte tickets booked for Jason Isbell. See, everything just falls into place.

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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Predators

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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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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Bourbon

After our detour to Tennessee to catch Jason Isbell we headed north, over the border to Kentucky for a few days, split between our first stop Lexington and our second in Louisville.

Kentucky is very famous for a few things, primarily bourbon and horse racing – and KFC. Lexington was our first stop and where a lot of the bourbon and horse-racing originates. It was like one large manicured race-track. The grass and picket fences broke up the mundane freeways and buildings. We just missed one of the largest horse racing events and I could believe how busy Lexington would be. As it was, we didn’t venture greatly downtown as this trip was about the bourbon trail.

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Something more than free

We left Asheville and were originally scheduled to head north/east towards Lexington, Kentucky but due to one of our favourites – Jason Isbell – having a show at Knoxville at the Tennessee Theatre we booked these tickets in Melbourne (it was a sell-out show) and fitted in an overnighter for nothing more than to see this show.

And maybe for one other thing – Dollywood …

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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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