Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Nashville, Tennessee 2014 -- Day 2

BTW, when I say "Day 2," I'm not counting our first travel day. Deal with it, or do some mental math. On-the-fly. Your choice.

Thought I should say something.

Day TWO begins with another neighbourhood walk. This time through Historic Edgefield.

It's a pretty amazing place. Large yards, grand pillars and chimneys everywhere. We tried to go to the highly rated Sky Blue Cafe but, on a Sunday morning with 20 churches within a 5 block radius (I'm not joking), people were bursting out the doors, the wait list was huge and I couldn't even find an employee to talk to. 

I was disappointed. Then, a botched google search for "pancakes" lead me to Bagel Face Bakery. I was worried as Wendy and I approached the door. It looked like, possibly, an old laundromat had been converted to a dining room, or something. Walking in, I could hear a groovy bass-line that I recognized. A good sign...
Bizarre Bagel Face Bakery Mascotts
Inside, 20kg bags of flour stacked on randomly placed pallets, table tops made from cabinet doors and a sorry looking bunch of misfits having breakfast. From tattoo'd bikers to soccer moms to post-church grandmothers. What they lacked in numbers was made up for in diversity. The friendly staff in the kitchen looked like juvenile detention rescue cases with dreadlocks, shavings, piercings, bling and make-up in a rastafarian/punk/goth mashup. I was in heaven!

Just enough of a good thing
Wendy got a bagel with cream cheese. Sure. I was a little more adventurous and had peanut-butter, banana and honey on a pumpkin/cranberry bagel. The peanut butter was as thick as the thickest thick thing you could fail to come up with a simile to describe. Maybe thicker.
After two nights, it was time to check out of our house and into the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. More on that in a bit. Shortly after Ubering our way to the hotel through heavy football induced traffic (Titans vs Giants) Brad and his $9 car came to our rescue for a little more city exploration.

Our Uber driver, Misty, was a talker. She insisted we go to a cupcake store in German Town(map). We decided to have lunch first. Monell's was another odd eating experience. We were ushered into a large, dark, dining hall with tables seating 10-12 and told by our matronly hostess to put away our cell phones. Brad, Wendy and I were seated with 6 strangers and brought dish after dish of southern comfort food and told "pass to the left!"

  • scones
  • corn bread
  • some sort of white gravy
  • green beans and lard
  • corn pudding
  • asparagus casserole
  • mashed potatoes
  • pulled pork
  • fried catfish
  • fried chicken
  • meat loaf
  • pecan pie
  • 3 kinds of iced tea

Obviously, I could only eat half the items they brought, but I was stuffed, none-the-less. Don't know how Wendy or Brad managed it. As you might imagine, we thought we'd let dinner settle before ordering the cupcakes that we had come across town to try.

We went for a long walk in Bicentennial Mall State Park. Google reminds me that "this 19-acre plaza tells the story of the state's history through plaques, tours & water fountains." It really did. More importantly, it contained a giant granite globe for me to climb on.

After a couple of hours of walking, climbing steps, sliding on bannisters and rolling down hills, I was really ready for cupcakes. 4pm. Naturally, the store had just closed :(

So I did what I do best; I smiled at the girl mopping the floor and made a puppy-dog face as I pressed my nose into the glass of the door. Suddenly, the Cupcake Collection was no longer closed. Wendy was more than a little irritated by the success of this transparent manoeuvre. But, hey, CUPCAKES!
Delta Island
Back to the hotel. I don't know what to say about the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel. I've never been to anything quite like it. Huge. Beautiful. Opulent. Excessive. Captive. I don't know... There is a map of it here.
Besides People and Plants, this was the only other life
Whoa, Christmas Tree. Whoa, Christmas Tree...
Elevator Action
I expect there will be more photos of the hotel tomorrow. I may not be able to escape.

The G+ photo set is still here and growing... Newest ones are at the bottom.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Nashville, Tennessee 2014 -- Day 1

When will disaster strike?
Okay, so the whole reason I was able to come on this trip with Wendy was because of the horrible flight problems that we had with Delta when we travelled to San Francisco, last winter. With serious arm twisting, Delta conceded to give us several travel vouchers each and with even more arm twisting, were convinced to allow them all to be used on the same future trip.

Wendy, on the other hand, is being paid to fly to Nashville to present on Purposeful Professional Learning at the Learn Forward 2014 conference. On the whole, it should be a pretty cheap vacation... for me ;)

So, the flights? Surprisingly, no problems. Everything ran about on time and the airport was busy, but sane. There was a bit of confusion when, on the second flight, we weren't seated together. A kind woman who was on her own, offered to let me have the seat beside Wendy. After what happened with our San Francisco flights, this was definitely the most uneasy part of the trip for me. I know that Wendy can't have a good trip if things are out of control. So far, so good.

Our first 2 nights imbedded near 5 points
omelette with smoked cheddar and pickled turnip--WOW!
It was dark and rainy when we arrived in Nashville... but at least it wan't snow! I used Uber for the first time to get us from the airport to our Airbnb home. It was a quick, pleasant and cashless transaction. LOVE IT!!!

Our Airbnb host, was not home, but left us instructions how to get into the house and work her smart TV. I "had" to hop the back fence (no side gate). Could have walked around the block into the alley, but seemed unnecessary. Did I mention it was dark and rainy? I was very heroic. Wendy says, "lucky nobody called the police."

We went for an early morning stroll and found a really pleasant bakery for breakfast... Bella Nashville.
The coffee was quite good and the bread was spectacular. Great way to start the day. We picked up some fruit and yogurt from a local grocery store, dropped it at our house and walked into downtown Nashville. I was enamoured of the charming, run down brick houses, shamelessly bright paint and cobbled sidewalks.

Wendy thought perhaps I was rose colouring things a bit...
Famous saying: "Don't judge a community by the dead fauna."
I had heard that Nashville is considered the "Athens of the South," but hadn't realized that it may also be the "Mordor of the South." The downtown skyline sports a good imitation of Barad-dûr.
Eye of Sauron overlooking the Cumberland River
Brad and Simone decided to meet up with us for a couple of days, which we thought was pretty sporting of them. We met them at a highly (over)rated coffee place downtown. Crema looked pretty great inside, but felt a little too "hipster." Many beards. Much plaid. Plenty laptops. I don't know what my problem is. Just a little too polished for my taste.

Brad rented a car for $9/day! Kind of makes all our walking seem idiotic. Anyway, we drove out to Belle Meade Plantation, paid for a tour of the Mansion and walked around the grounds. Sadly no photos allowed inside. Although, if you watch Downton Abbey, you won't have any trouble imagining.
Belle Meade Manor
The original homestead
Wendy is dismissive of the gardener's abilities
Family Mausoleum.
There were lots of great things to look at, but Wendy was disappointed. The tour focused heavily on the families that owned the plantation (and would gradually shape early Nashville), but other than obligatory mentions, pretty much ignored slave life. No slave quarters restored. No record of their daily lives. There were 8 different Victorian Christmas trees, though. Each representing a different decade in the life of the house and the evolution of North American Christmas.

We had supper at The Wild Cow, a vegan place. The food was adventurous in the ingredients department, but sadly, a little bland. However, it was really nice to have the pick of an entire menu, rather than just salads and sides.

What? Oh, the weather. This time of year, the sun is setting around 4:30pm (though it rises at 6:30am) and the daytime highs have been 10-15 degrees C. May I continue?

We spent the evening wandering around the state legislature, touring the Tennessee State Museum and enjoying the "Athenian" vibe.
War Memorial Auditorium A.K.A. Minas Morgul of the South ;)
Well, some of us enjoyed it. Brad complained that "this sort of architecture is all over the US and what makes Nashville so special?" I asked if Newport News had a full scale Parthenon (Which I hope to see it on Tuesday). Check and Mate.
Legislature Building Decked out for Christmas
Wow. We kind of did a lot today... About 15,000 steps for anyone who cares ;)

Here is my Google+ Photo Album of Nashville (this will continue to grow throughout the trip)

Friday, December 05, 2014

Fall Update 2014

Wendy and I are leaving for Nashville today. I'll start posting about that in a few days. Today, just a little update for those of you who are either far flung or have been too busy to catch up since my last mountain trip. As a disclaimer, many of these pictures have already appeared on G+ or FB.

We did a family photo shoot at a couple of locations on the river bank. There was some grumpiness and hard feelings (aging parents and teenage girls have some body issues, in case you were unaware), but mostly we had a great time.

There were Halloween shenanigans...
Wendy is a genius when it comes to Value Village shopping. Months ago she found me some great felt boots. They were the basis for one of my favourite costumes ever. Sure, you say... Mike as a pirate, how novel! Get over yourselves. Yes, I could have (and have in the past) whipped up a costume for free. However, this is a costume that required some effort.

Boots - Felt VV find -- $5

Pants - Lululemon. I wear these (or their doppelgangers) EVERY DAY. So comfortable. I could go on, but it's a little embarrassing how much I love these pants. -- $130

Belt - VV -- $2

Shirt - Commissioned from a friend in Meadow Lake in 1999. Modeled after my wedding shirt -- $35

Jacket - Used woman's coat from VV. It was way to large and the sleeves were too short. I had to take in the waist (the belt really) add some fancy cuffs, add interfacing to stiffen the collar and throw on some extra buttons. -- $20 (30% of that is buttons and Jodi let me use a half meter of some awesome fabric for the cuffs).

Hat - Cheap costume hat. Looks far better than it deserved. Wendy glued a little foam on the inside to make it fit better -- $5

Sword - This was an impulse buy, but I just love it. I have a couple of sparring swords already, but not really anything befitting a pirate. Fortunately, Cutting Edge (facebook) had this wonderful combat ready, PVC, basket handled sabre -- $100

Just in case you think this was the only dressing up I did this fall... think again.
I am a "lost boy" through and through...
Leora and Anwyn have finished up with volleyball season and Anwyn is on to basketball. Leora had to forgo more sports since debate and playing Dorothy in Walter Murray's version of The Wiz kept her insanely busy.
Scarecrow and Dorothy get an education from the Tin Woman
Fortunately, they found just enough time to hang out with their father at the Western Development Museum's Festival of Trees. I was quite fortunate. The library paid me to tell some adventure stories to the kids at the Peter Pan Pajama Party. Anwyn was the Christmas fairy and got to help Tinkerbell sprinkle pixie dust on all the children. Leora was Peter Pan. She came on stage and had a bit of a sword fight with me during my storytime. It was great fun and I felt exceedingly fortunate to have the opportunity to perform with them and to see how wonderful they are with children.