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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nashville or Bust!


Anniversaries are such grand occasions. The hubs and I make it a point to celebrate our anniversary every single year with a mini-vacay (i.e. a trip), despite the fact that it is 6 days before Christmas. This year was no different - except for the fact that it was the BEST.ANNIVERSARY.EVER! Last year at this time we took a family trip to Florida, which was a supa-fun-time that I wouldn’t take back for the world. However, that particular anniversary was spent with kids in tow, eliminating an element of intimacy. It was still great though. But this year... Nashville, Tennessee. Music city, baby. The story of this trip’s inception can be found in my post entitled  Hiatus, Part Deux - Where Have I Been?
I have made a couple of trips to this glorious place in the past, but none like this one. The first time was on my senior trip - which might have been quite some time ago - and my second time in the 90s with a gal pal of mine. Hubby has been there once, but he was young. He doesn’t really remember anything about his time there. I remember quite a few things, but little did I know, I didn’t get the Nashville experience either time I was there before. By that I mean I didn’t have the rockin’ sockin’ fanfreakintastic time then that I did this time.
My in-laws lent us their Volkswagon Bug to travel in so that we’d get better gas mileage. And that we did, my friends! That little sucker trucked us along with gas mileage coming in somewhere around 40+ mpg. Very nice, considering our gas guzzling SUV gets roughly half that...on a good day! The little silver bullet, or “Sassy” as we jokingly called it, added character to the road trip.
We left work a little after 11am and headed East. Six and a half hours, 320 miles, four quick mart stops, two traffic jams, a wrong turn & one latte later we rolled into our hotel parking lot. As we got off on our exit, we saw the lights of the Opryland Hotel, along with a sign that said “Rockettes this way.” In case you didn’t read the inception post, I’ll catch you up: Many anniversaries spent in Branson. Badly wanted to see Spirit of the Dance Christmas Show. It never happened. Show exists no longer. Hubby surprised me with tickets to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular! THE Rockettes. The NYC ones. Yep, those girls. With their legs and their kicks and their fabulousness.
But I digress. The sign said Rockettes this way. Sounded simple enough. We asked the hotel for a 7:30 shuttle. Seemed logical to assume we could be shuttled over, considering the show was basically across the street and the shuttle van sat untouched out front. The front desk clerk said they wouldn't take us because the shuttle only runs to the airport and some other location (which she referred to as Point B). Really?! What a waste of a vehicle payment. Our show is literally up the street about ONE mile. Still, they would not take us. This sparked aggravation in me, hence beginning a sequence of irritable and unfortunate events. We got to our room and housekeeping had turned off the air (I suspect 3 days earlier judging by the sweltering feel of the room). We cranked the air up to high, the temp down to 60 & began to get ready. As all women know, it is not fun or easy to get ready in the midst of sweat. To combat the heat, I was running the hair dryer a few seconds, then darting to stick my face in front of the vent, then back to the hair dryer, back to the vent, curl one piece of hair, vent, curl, vent...you get it. Needless to say, this slowed down the process and made me even more snippy. And so began the insidious cycle of outfit changing. The night turned into something from an episode of Friends. The episode titled “The One Where No One’s Ready.” If you’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, you may need to brush up on your Friends. The tension mounted as it got closer to 7:30, our planned time of departure, as our show - like Ross’ event - started at 8pm. On my 2nd outfit change my ever-impatient, but normally stoic, husband actually said, “Please just GET READY!” Like Rachel, I reacted with a modicum of hostility. We finally walked out the door of our hotel room at about 7:42. We drive the one mile to the lighted street with the aforementioned sign. As that seemingly single-lane road crested, we see all sorts of turning options and no more signs. We pick the most well-lit street. We park. We run across the huge parking lot - me in my stilettos - to the lobby of the Opryland Hotel. We both got a sick feeling upon entering to find nothing but casually dressed people toting luggage. It was then that we realized we were in the wrong place. It was dark, we didn't know how to get where we were going, there was moisture in the sky and puddles on the ground, construction everywhere...it was no surprise we were in the wrong place. However, we thought - or rather hoped - maybe there was some sort of pathway  from the hotel lobby where we stood to the Opry House, so we had to find someone to help us. I very rudely interrupted a shoe sale in progress inside a boutique to ask where the heck we were supposed to go. The stunned salesperson and patrons, after getting over the initial shock of my audacity, were eager to help. Although it was hard to absorb anything they said after they, with a seemingly heavy heart, said we needed to get back in our vehicle and then turn......that’s about where our eyes glazed over and we scampered off like the roadrunner leaving only a cloud of dust. Hubby walking as fast as he EVER had while using very descriptive verbiage, me jogging along in my stilettos, sequined purse flying open, a gentle mist falling from the sky, both of us sweating profusely (or so it felt), curls falling out of my hair. It was tragic. We go where the kind hotel ladies told us to go. It turned out to be a dark, lonely street that was not the right street. I'm guessing in our haste we must have missed some vital information in those directions we didn't listen to. Luckily a family was strolling along the sidewalk and was able to tell us where to go... sortof. After a large and winding circle through construction and closed streets, we parked. As we walk to the entrace, someone exiting told us it was much colder in there than he expected. Cold? What the?!! Another sinking feeling. As we get closer, we see a sign that says Madagascar On Ice. Holy mother of Marty & Melman, we were at the wrong place AGAIN! At this point (8:05ish), I break the news to hubs that I’d read that if you walk in late, you may be asked to wait until intermission to be seated so not to disturb others. I’ll let you use your imagination as to how he responded. Therefore, I responded in kind. Again with the power walking, the stiletto jogging, the purse opening, the hashing out of the night thus far, the mist. Whoa, it was not a pretty moment. Shameless and dastardly. However...the light at the end of the tunnel. Across the parking lot stood our destination. The clouds parted, the Christmas lights gleamed, and we reached the majestic steps of the Grand Old Opry House after an arduous journey there. Already adrenaline-packed and in B mode, I was well-equipped to make sure we WERE seated, in the event they tried to make us wait for intermission. But luckily I was able to keep that one in my arsenal, as the usher seated us right away with a smile on her face telling us to enjoy the show.  Ahhh the first glimpse of a cool down. We made our way to the front row balcony seats we had carefully chosen, thinking they would be the best view in the house (we were right, mind you). I stepped on a foot with my heel, nearly knocked off someone’s jacket, then sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. In an instant, the music grabbed us, the leg kicks mesmerized us and all was right with the world. Within 20 seconds, all was forgotten. The splendor and marvel of the show made the previous couple of hours a distant memory. Before I knew it I was teary-eyed with joy, my husband’s arm was around me & I got the sweetest most sincere kiss ever. And so began a series of scenes involving all sorts of remarkable entertainment, concluding with a live nativity scene and the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. Touching and moving to say the least. I hated to see it all end. The show was opulent & grandiose. Literally the best show I have ever watched in my entire life. And I'm being for real here. Simply AHH-MAAAA-ZINGGGG! We left hand-in-hand feeling as blissful as newlyweds.


Afterward we found a funky little sports bar to go have a late night meal. Scoreboard is known for its Hot Chicken & BBQ, however I opted for the Philly Cheese Steak and homemade fries. It was delish and it totally hit the spot. I recommend! Dinner conversation was pleasant and uplifting. All-in-all a fab ending to a superb night! Except for the getting ready part  ;)

Day 2 began with the most amazing breakfast. Thanks to a recommendation from a friend (Shout-out to Lindsey) we ate at a little out-of-the-way place called Noshville, where we noshed on some fantabulous food.The atmosphere was so charming. Oh how I yearn for places like this close to home. From the whimsical waitress who said “It’s a great day for a Mimosa” to the peculiar little old man fulfilling his busboy duties in his shimmery Santa hat...who - God bless him! - happened to be a Veteran. And let’s not forget the Christmas decorations & the pickle ornaments hanging from the light fixtures...

I had the most scrumptious pancake I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, alongside bacon, eggs, a potato knish & marble rye toast. Delectable!


It was the breakfast that made the world go 'round! I might have uttered the words, “Shut the front door” after my first bite of pancake. This quaint little joint serves a breakfast that is the cat’s meow. I will return!
After that meal, we drove around just looking around. We visited the beautiful 333 acre Vanderbilt campus, where hubby was able to cross off yet another school in his quest to have his picture made in front of all SEC football stadiums.

The Commodores football team was on the practice field getting ready for their upcoming bowl game, I suspect. After watching that a few minutes we headed a few blocks over to check out a couple of stores. After a walk through the awesome Apricot Lane (which I didn’t know was located anywhere other than Branson) we went in a place called Two Old Hippies

What a pleasant surprise. LOVE that store. Could totally go broke in there. Bought a Christmas gift for a dear neighbor. Browsed until we’d looked at everything in the store. Absorbed the spirit of peace, love & rock n’ roll. Walked on, refreshed & inspired.
Next we made a stop at Urban Outfitters, located our dinner destination & headed downtown. We had planned to begin with a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Oddly enough, I - not an avid lover of country music as a whole - was more pumped about it than my hubby, who listens to country music WAY more than I do. When we found out it was going to take nearly 2 hours to tour, we talked ourselves out of it. Considering the brief duration of our trip, we could not justify spending 2 hours of our day in one place. Therefore, it’s on the to-do list for our next trip! We continued to walk around downtown. We perused Broadway & 2nd streets to visit local shops and soak up the culture, as well as the abundance of live entertainment.
Lunch was at Piranha’s on 2nd. First, let me say that I am SOOOO NOT a fan of fried pickles. The only ones I’ve ever even mildly enjoyed are the ones from Hooters, and even those can’t get me hooked enough to eat more than 4 or 5 at a time. But oh my how the tides have turned. I don’t know what sort of abracadabra culinary love potion they put on those pickles, but lawwwd have mercy they are mouthwatering!

As was my juicy burger with jalapenos...


I really just can’t say enough about the calibur of this burger. I am not a fan of restaurant burgers because they typically are made from frozen patties, and my palate tends to reject them. Except, of course, the burger-on-the-go type fast food fare. And even then...! Anyhoo, if I’m going to sit down and be served a burger I expect a notch above a Quarter Pounder. And that is exactly what I got. Only it was far more than a notch above. It was a big juicy monumental hunk of meat that was simply to-die-for. A table away, a couple of dudes had ordered a very curious looking burger that caught my eye. It was called a donut burger. Oh Emmm Geee. Just take a gander at this...

I was compelled to cross the lines of proper etiquette and disturb them for a picture. They were more than happy to oblige, as they were doing the exact same thing. Donut burger photography. Who knew. The guys said they'd been there the day before, reluctantly tried the donut burger, and loved it so much they were back for more! The plan was to go back for lunch Thursday before heading home in order to experience what can only be referred to as an unexpected treat. Unfortunately, mother nature put the kibosh on that plan! Another addition to the to-do list for next time.
After lunch we continued our sightseeing downtown until it was time to go get ready for dinner. The getting dressed process went a lot smoother than the previous night’s fiasco. Since the hotel’s lame-o shuttle policy put a kink in our transportation plan, we searched for other means. We had no intention of driving downtown in the dark, unfamiliar with the lay of the land, taking on the hassle of searching for parking 2 or 3 times which would either lead to jacked up parking fees or dealing with one of those contraptions known as [high-maintenance] meters. Therefore, we took the bus. That was an experience in itself. It wasn’t bad at all, just different than what we are used to. The $4 ticket sure beat the heck out of a $25 cab fare. After a trip to the downtown transit station and a 5 block walk - in a different pair of stilettos - to the bus stop on the route that would get us to our restaurant, we were there. Sambuca Nashville.
This beautiful restaurant pleased me before I even entered the front doors. As the hostess walked us to our booth (not just any booth), I see a vase of flowers awaiting us. Hubby, not lacking in the romance department, had called a local florist prior to our trip and ordered flowers to be delivered to me at the restaurant the day of our reservation. So there they sat. I must say it was a bit of a tear jerker. But back to the booth. It was a half-circle with a tall seat made of black leather with a tufted back. There was a cute little throw pillow thrown in for good measure. It may sound unusual but trust me, it fit the ambience nicely. The booth was partially enclosed by dark sheer curtains pulled to each side. The lighting was very dim, consisting of candlelight and not much else, except for stage lighting. The dinner entertainment was jazz musician Ben Graves. This music was absolutely perfect for the mood. The climate was a perfectly flawless mix of elegance, style, class & sophistication beyond compare. Is it obvious I was smitten with the cosmetics of Sambuca?
On to the food.
We started with Grilled Garlic Cheese Bread. Yeah yeah I know. It sounds like a simplistic dish for such a fancy shmancy place. But rest assured, that menu contained nothing of the simple sort. Nothing. Our main motivation behind this starter was the size of the dish. We certainly did not want something large enough to ruin our appetites. This bread did not disappoint.


Next came a Caesar salad, my personal favorite of the green leafy variety! It was fantastic. 


The meals. Ohhhh the meals. Mine: Lamb Chops seared and topped with a five-pepper mint jelly, served with smashed potatoes and asparagus. This wasn’t just any ordinary meal. My taste buds all but verbally thanked me as I enjoyed this delightfully lavish spread. 


His: Chili-Rubbed Scallops on risotto with smoked tomato cream sauce. There was also nice sized pieces of asparagus on the side. I am not particularly enticed by scallops, therefore I cannot attest to the yumminess of this meal. However hubby assured me it was pretty  darn “delicious!” 


Post meal: As I am a “professional” taster of cheesecake, it is no surprise that I ordered none other than a Cheesecake Sopapilla, the only cheesecake-focused dessert offered. Folks, this is no ordinary sopapilla. This is creamy sweet deliciousness in a pastry shell topped with cinnamon and sugar, drizzled in chocolate & trimmed with pieces of fresh fruit. Goodness gracious it’ll make you wanna slap your mama...and maybe even your grandma! *Interjection: I don’t really mean that, Mema!* But boy was it ever-so-nummy! Our attentive, knowledgeable & polite server arranged for this sweet treat to be on the house for the happy couple. Not only that, but the pastry chef went to the trouble of writing Happy Anniversary in chocolate. Mmmm. Doesn’t get much better than this...
Off to hit some hot spots. Tootsie’s in PCB was definitely a treat, so our goal was to visit the original before the night was over. It just didn’t happen and here’s why.
We started out at Wildhorse Saloon, another GREAT recommendation (shout-out #2) from a friend...


The entertainment in there was super. Phil Vaught’s If Her Lovin’ Don’t Kill Me needs to be on the charts because it’s off the chain! Unfortunately we only got about 30 minutes of him (some original music, some covers) before it was a wrap.  We moved on in our journey. Next stop, Cadillac Ranch. This was a recommendation from my brother. And a good one, indeed. The Springs (check 'em!) was playing there. Most entertaining band I have ever watched outside of a major concert. Five guys, five personalities, five entertainers! We were so into them that our live entertainment tour ended there. We stayed until the last song, then stayed a little longer for autographs, a picture & a purchase of 2 CDs. My prediction: they’ll be signed before 2012 ends. MARK.MY.WORDS. You heard it here first. Here's me with front man, Stewart.


Our night came to an end. The buses had concluded their routes to our area. We caught a cab. He turned up the radio for us. We made the most of a 20 minute cab ride back to our hotel. Great night!

I love this man! Please overlook the banged up pickup in the background, for which we did NOT notice until the next day. What a sore spot in the picture!


We woke up in no hurry to get out of town because, as I said, I just HAD to have a donut burger for lunch. But as luck, or lack thereof, would have it our time before rain moved in was limited. We headed back downtown to grab some grub. We walked right by this old vintage-looking Dollar General. I found it so cute that it scored a pic AND a place in this blog post :)


For breakfast/brunch we chose Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant. Don’t let the name fool you. By grocery, I don’t mean milk, bread & Lucky Charms. It’s more like specialty/gourmet sauces, jellies & such. I was able to find a glaze I can't find around home. This place also dished up some exceptional food. I suspect that it, along with Noshville, also serve a mean lunch and dinner. Focusing on food eaten before lunch, though. I ordered the country fried steak platter with a side of grits. Look closely at the grits. Amongst the fabulously melting butter, you can see a bit of a shimmer. That is raw sugar. Such a lovely condiment. So much more appealing to the eye than white sugar, and a higher nutritional value. It's about to be my new thing!


On the flip side, my better half ordered a sausage burrito, enjoying every bite. He raved endlessly about this made-to-order treat from the chef. And about the biscuit. He's not much a biscuit eater, but this was no run-of-the-mill biscuit. I will agree with him on this one. That was one impressive biscuit!


We both had the most excellent meal to begin our day.

As we left Puckett’s, the rain had already begun to fall. So much for time spent downtown (and a donut burger) before heading home!


We had a few more gifts to buy to completely finish up our Christmas shopping, so we got on down the road out of the rain and made a stop in Jackson, TN. While there, we went in the Old Country Store in the Casey Jones Village. What an eccentric little throwback to “the good old days.” This gift shop had an eclectic variety of offerings. There’s no way to put it into words. Anyone traveling through Jackson, TN would be wise to make a pitstop here. What most amazed me was the candy. Lots and lots of candy. Take a peek at what I captured. The first shot is of the fantastic little retro soda shop inside the store. Below that - a cornucopia of sugary goodness.  It’s not just the barrels of confection you should notice. Don’t miss the candy in the jars, on the next row, on the beam........






See what I mean! Such a delightful little store with an endless supply of saccharine indulgence. Decadence in a barrel.
I can’t say enough good things about this trip, or about Nashville. So I’ll just cut it short. Did I have a great time? Heck yes! Is this town full of good times? Without a doubt! Will I go back? My sister & I have already begun the planning. One word for this trip? Epic. Wait, are we over that word? Ok, I’ll go with Winning!
Now to work on that to-do list...

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