Nashville Y’all

Another update … spent a week in a great airbnb in Music Row Nashville. Great location and free parking. This was our third visit to Nashville and it will not be our last. You can probably look through this blog and find earlier comments and pictures. Why do we keep going back – well, it’s my kind of town. Laid back, relaxed, great food, new things to discover, plenty of beer and all types of music – country and western (and other stuff too).

It’s pretty easy to get around, driving, uber, free bus in certain places and there is plenty to see and do. But don’t get stuck downtown where the honky tonks and people are – get out into the neighbourhoods such as East Nashville and Germantown, and make sure you visit the Vanderbilt area (walking from where we stayed), Music Row which is where all the music is made, and the Gulch which has some great places, including Lucchese boots where Jim was tempted but didn’t want to lay out about $1000 for a pair of boots – but I did get a great shirt with pearl buttons. Caroline, well she bought some more boots.

We hit the honky tonks for one night to catch a guy we have seen before – Joshua Hadley – great show. The honky tonks are great fun, cheap beer and music – and busy. Broadway is a party place where you walk the streets going from bar to bar and when a beer costs about $5 you can’t go wrong.

Also caught some music at Station Inn, which is one of THE places you should visit. It’s old and very original. Great band whose name escapes me but the fill-in guitarist for the night is blind and he was amazing.

We had some great food – three highlights: Hattie B’s hot chicken – how can chicken taste so good; Husk, which is more the fine dining and a top rated restaurant and also very good; and a new BBQ (for us at least) Martin’s and this was damn good BBQ, well worth the half hour or so in the queue.

Jim also had a few bucket lists in Nashville – cut a single at Third Man Records (Jack White’s label) and got on stage (for a photo) at the Ryman.

We also managed to catch up with a few work associates who were in Nashville for the special olympics torch run conference – this meet up also included getting into a free BBQ, drinks and music – great free night.

Nashville has not seen the last of me.

Meet me in St Louis

Easy drive from Chicago to St Louis and pulled up at our boutique hotel in the Delmar Loop area of St Louis (or University City as it is known) the Moonrise Hotel. This really was a great hotel with friendly staff, free parking out the back, a super rooftop bar, and easy walking to lots of restaurants and the park.

It was an easy drive downtown, which we did one day to catch a ride to the top of the St Louis arch. To get to the top you ride in these tiny pods – about 4 minutes ride up and 3 to get down. Reminded me of an alien pod. But the view up the top was really good, even if it was a little overcast. You have to do a bit of stretching to see out the windows as they are not large but there was plenty of viewing space and time as only so many can catch the train (8 pods at a time) every ten minutes. In a while this will be a nice spot as at the moment they are doing a few works – maybe have to catch it again another day.

Also in St Louis Jim was off to a conference with the International Association of Canine Professionals. Very good conference with some great speakers. Very friendly – for people and dogs. No special blogs on this but I will no doubt attend another year. Also picked up some great videos and other equipment – dog training is an expensive business/hobby – and Hank is still a rat-bag so he’ll be made to watch the videos.

We had a great meal at a new restaurant and highly rated Mexican – Nixta. The food here was truly exceptional. Only thing that spoilt the evening the food came out too quick.

Something that really could have spoilt that evening if we did not have an excellent Uber driver were some protests that started after a police officer was acquitted of murdering a black driver after a chase. The roads we needed to travel were blocked but she got onto Facebook and with a bit of local knowledge guided us through the back streets (which we would never have achieved) and to our restaurant door.

The protests continued and even came out to the area where we were staying – didn’t see any problems apart from a a bit of yelling at a service station and graffiti on the footpath – one shop had a few avoid this store because they are racists painted outside – not sure what the problem was there; and there were a few ‘black lives matter – blue lives murder’ chalked onto the footpath. But really, if it wasn’t for that and the very high police presence you probably wouldn’t have known when we were out – but we also didn’t stay out late either.

A good burger and St Louis specialty – toasted ravioli (deep fried ravioli – at Blueberry Hill, which was a great spot with good meals, cold beer, music and even a darts room – can’t go wrong there. Chuck Berry used to play there quite a bit and his statue is across the road. We also had some pretty good BBQ at Salt & Smoke.

St Louis is on Route 66 and if travelling that way you should stop and explore the neighbourhoods. We didn’t get as much exploring done due to Jim at the conference (which is why we were there in the first place and this was about 20 minutes from where we were staying) and the protests. A few people said they were disruptive even to the extent that U2 cancelled a concert because the police and security could not guarantee a presence.

Good stop and more exploring next time and make sure you grab something from Ted Drewe’s frozen custard.

Take me out to the Ballgame

Have now left Chicago and settling in at St Louis for a dog trainers conference – and beer and BBQ and beer. Will post some more pics of Chicago and maybe some stories but for this one we had a sporting choice of either a Chicago Bears game (that’s NFL football) or a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Whilst an invitation to tailgating at Soldier Field (that’s where hey play the football) sounded good and was tempting, the opportunity to see the current world series champions at the most famous baseball stadium – built in 1917 and rarely touched since – won us over.

Easy train ride, grabbed some tickets at the gate and not from a scalper – lucky it was not a sell-out (just) – and soaked up the atmosphere … and yes, there was atmosphere. A bit like grand final day here and this was the third game of the three game series against the Milwaukee Brewers (of which we saw maybe three fans out of about 40,000).

We were up the top but still great viewing and a great view across the pitch and an outside beer and hot dog patio that had good city views. And yes, it was old but still kind of comfortable. Great game and you got to know the crowd favourites and the drug cheat from the Brewers who was always booed. Had to have the hot dog and beer – no nacho hats. A really fun day (although it got quite cold in the shade) and the first time I’d seen baseball live – not cheap but that’s because you are paying for the stadium and team – you can watch the other Chicago team, the White Sox for a hell of a lot less – but why?

The Cubs lost (they also lost the series) but who cared – apart from the 40,000 cubs fans, the three Brewers fans, and me and Caroline.

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.

Continue reading

Charleston – mmmmmm

Left Savannah and headed north towards Charleston. Things I remember, not too much apart from fireworks – fireworks super stores, oh the memories. Anyways, we had four nights booked in downtown Charleston, right amongst the action. And while there was some good eating in Savannah, Charleston is known for good eating. There used to be a culinary school and when that closed the local chefs got together and created an identity aside from a culinary school identity.

Because the food needs its own blog, this is it – if you want to know more about Charleston (well, not really because that’s what Wikipedia is for) but maybe see some photos and my short thoughts, then that will arrive when I get around to it. We were in Charleston a week ago as I write this so my memory fades quite quickly.

Continue reading

UGA

Driving south east from Atlanta we headed through Walking Dead territory to our next stop, Athens Georgia. Most of Walking Dead is filmed around Atlanta and as we were taking quite a few back-roads (highways but they were like back-roads) it felt and looked just like Walking Dead territory – the trees, roads, railway lines, dumped cars and walkers (well, not quite the last two). But I think Ms TomTom was concerned as for about the first ten minutes or more leaving Atlanta all we heard from her was “keep left, keep left” – okay, okay.

This was an interesting drive away from the main freeways and through some interesting towns, none more so than one place where we had to slow as the car in front was herding a cow running alongside – not sure if this is how they always take their cow for a walk or whatever, but it was effective. And Athens was a real interesting place, in fact for an overnighter we enjoyed the little time we had. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

More beer … More beer

Sitting here in the Qantas lounge drinking a complimentary Allagash White out of Portland, Maine, and I think it is about time I tell you about the beers from the Portland we visited in Oregon.

brewvanaAs previously mentioned, Portland is known by many names one if which is Brewvana. Here’s a note from inside our lift.

I wondered how many of those 154 brewing companies I could sample the wares of over three days. Well, as it turned out, not too many. We did have to do other things in Portland as well. As earlier mentioned, Oregon is tax-free and there’s some pretty good shopping to do, even bought myself this and they shipped home to Australia for me.

But I thought I’d have to try a few beers. What I have not included in this list is the six-pack of mixed stubbies from Whole Foods – $1.99 a stubby if interested. So, I only had time for beers from six different breweries but a total of 20 different beers.

Continue reading

Backtrack – Keep Portland Weird

Seems like weeks ago when we were in Portland, which was where we started our driving trip, so I thought I better post some snaps and other such ramblings.

Portland was a pretty good place, easy to walk around, bike friendly (not that we went for that), good food, plenty of weirdos (some real weirdos, others on their way to the next G20), skateboards a plenty, a few beggars (some homeless, others very doubtful), trams, full of craft beers, not much hustle and bustle, pretty laid back (make that very laid back), polite, traffic but not like California traffic, food trucks, and best of all – tax free shopping. There are only four States that do not add tax to food, drink, shopping, etc. one of these is Oregon. The prices of the goods do not rise to compensate so it is a bargain place for buying and eating and drinking – woo-hoo!

The Vintage PlazaWe stayed at a nice hotel downtown – the Vintage Plaza, which is another Kimpton Hotel with the hosted wine hour – and because Portland is known as Brewvana there was also beer on tap – woo-hoo! Something some may find strange, nearly all USA hotels are pet friendly so here at the Kimpton they were most welcome with their own drink bowls during wine hour.

This was the one place where Caroline had mapped out several eating locations and we were not disappointed, eating at some really great places and also some snacks at some really great places, such as Voodoo Doughnuts. This place is a Portland legendary doughnut shop where people queue out the front to buy a doughnut – although many buy many and even many more. I liked the fat kid and his Mom in front of us who was going through the revolving glass display cabinet (we are talking multiple doughnuts here, not just your stock-standards) and I’ll have one of those and one of those and one of those and … you know the story. Then came Jim’s turn, but you can only eat so many doughnuts before feeling sickly ill so we went for a small selection – two of the classics the voodoo doughnut and the maple log and bacon. I tell you, maple syrup and bacon are a match made in heaven – maple icing and bacon and doughnut are what they eat in heaven.

maple bacon Voodoo doughnut

 

 

 

 

 

Portland is also known as Bridgetown. There is a river through the city (the Willamette River) – a bit like Melbourne. But at least in Portland they have more than one bridge. The city is also quite old – or it has that appearance – and the bits we were in seemed very safe. Although the old town where the doughnuts were may be a bit dodgy at times because that’s where all the missions for the homeless were. they also have a great garden along the river and running/walking tracks. Here’s a few shots of Portland –

Did I mention that Portland is the home of the food truck? These are just making a good start in Melbourne but in Portland they are everywhere; however, I don’t know if they classify as a truck because many in the downtown  area are permanent fixtures in a parking lot rather than a truck that can drive from place to place. The other interesting thing with the food trucks is that there is no seating, like you might find in Austin, but there is a park or somewhere to sit in the close proximity. So, as well as eating some fine dining we also had to make room for a food truck. I went for the BBQ and Caroline went for something healthy. There is so much variety that you could have something different every day and not have the same thing for a few months. For instance, in the location we went to there are 52 trucks.

I said Portland was bike friendly – they have had number plates (for cars) dedicated to bikes. And there are bike racks and bike lanes, and like many of the cities, bike racks on the front of the buses.

bikes bikes2

 

With the food trucks and fine dining we also went to a great place for breakfast – The Original.  In fact, we went there twice because first time round Jim went for the stock-standard and Caroline had some interesting polenta cakes and honey-maple bacon –

carolines Jims

But what drew us back was not just the good food but Jim saw the Elvis Sighting on the menu and couldn’t resist – french toast, bananas, roasted peanuts and bacon – mmmmm Elvis

And just because I have uploaded them, here are a few more random shots from Portland. More catch-up when I get around to it. Off to San Francisco for the NFL tomorrow (Saturday).