Tag Archives: road trip

The South Trip #2: Alabama

14 Aug

After some fun in Nashville, we began on road trip through the very tip of the Southern US by driving into (and then out of) Alabama. If we hadn’t been in a rush to get to our next stop, I think we would have visited this interesting place: the UNCLAIMED BAGGAGE CENTER (link) – I had heard about it from travel blogs and Yelp, but unfortunately it was a little out of the way for us.

It was something like a 2.5 hour drive from where we were in Nashville to Birmingham, which I had visited briefly the year before and knew already where I wanted to eat: Urban Standard.

URBAN STANDARD (link) – I remember really liking the salad I had here on my previous visit, so we stopped by again. The vibe is super cool with a lot of interesting tables/chairs/light fixtures, plus a really vegetarian/vegan friendly menu. Somehow our orders got lost and while it wasn’t that big of a deal, the manager(?) was *super* apologetic and came by numerous times to apologize, update us, bring us free pastries while we waited, and then offered us free drinks too. A nice customer service gesture, definitely. I had a SERIOUSLY AWESOME vegetable gumbo (and a kind of too-spicy mexican hot chocolate cookie), B liked his cubano and strawberry cupcake, and we were on our way.

CHURCH STREET COFFEE & BOOKS (link) – I had visited a different bookstore when I had last come, so this time, drove out a little further (through a really nice residential area) to this cute little neighborhood of Mountain Brook. This cafe/bookstore is pretty small, but they had a really good selection of new/used books (paperback and hardcover) plus an anniversary sale going on (buy any hardcover, get another free or half off – I think?). Ended up buying GIRL ON THE TRAIN since they had it, and I was running low on vacation reading materials. BUT! To be completely honest, I had bookmarked this spot because of their so-called “breakup cookie” – which was huge, rich, chocolatey, and perfect for the drive down to Montgomery. Two thumbs up.

It was another hour and a half or so down to Montgomery, where we took a quick spin around the ALABAMA STATE CAPITOL (link) and the DEXTER AVE KING MEMORIAL BAPTIST CHURCH (link). Would have liked to take a tour at the church, but wasn’t an option the day we were there, plus it started humid drizzling/raining and you know that means we’re sticking near the A/C as much as possible… we also drove by the FIRST WHITE HOUSE OF THE CONFEDERACY (link) which was timely in a strange way, given all the protests around the flag.

And that was it! Not too much more planned in Alabama, and we had wanted to maximize our time in Nashville with friends, and then at our next stop – the seriously to-die-for beautiful Destin, Florida. Even thinking about it makes me want to fly out there right now and soak up the beach…

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The South Trip #2: Nashville, Tennessee

14 Aug

On our quest to visit all 50 states, earlier this summer we took five days to visit some friends who had recently moved to Nashville and road trip through a few other nearby Southern states (Alabama, the tip of Florida, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana).

My interest in Nashville was piqued by ABC’s show starring the amazing Tami Taylor (I mean, Connie Britton) (#texasforever), plus, lots of history (particularly around the music industry). We spent about a day and a half exploring the city so here are some of the highlights… and the things we *didn’t* do but had looked into!

EAT/DRINK
*THE PHARMACY (link) – First meal in Nashville and it was pretty solid. Burgers, fries, lots of beers (and shakes/malts/sodas) on tap, really fun atmosphere with a huge patio – reminds me a lot of Austin. I think it gets crowded — we came at a weird hour (like 3 or 4pm on a Saturday) and no wait to sit at the bar.
*PRINCE’S HOT CHICKEN SHACK (link) – Late night “snack” after watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry. The chicken itself I did not try (vegetarian!) but when they say spicy, they REALLY MEAN IT – so be careful how hot you go! The coleslaw/fries/sides were all great. Note that the neighborhood feels a little sketchy at night, and you have to wait quite a while for your food, so just keep that in mind and don’t be dumb!
*LAS PALETAS GOURMET POPSICLES (link) – Was so looking forward to this, especially given how hot and humid it was while we were there. They have a lot of different kinds, some of which change seasonally. I really liked my plum popsicle, but I heard the +cream ones were better.
*CRACKER BARREL (link) – Our friends really like Cracker Barrel and we had never been, so we went and had a really good meal. The store itself is a lot of fun – SO many distracting toys and contraptions and things to buy (I can probably find something to buy almost anyone as a gift there) and while the wait was pretty long, the food came out pretty quickly and it was yummy – particularly the biscuits.
*SUSHI O SUSHI (link) – For our last meal, wanted to stay close to home so Went to a nearby Japanese (owned by Korean) restaurant (funny how these exist everywhere!). The service was friendly, the food was pretty good (not any better or worse than other Korean-owned-Japanese restaurants we’ve been to). I had a teriyaki veggie plate which was huge but yummy, and I also really liked their miso soup, which is a pretty good barometer of quality.

Places we didn’t get to try…
*HATTIE B’S CHICKEN (link)
*BISCUIT LOVE BRUNCH (link)
*TOOTSIE’S ORCHID LOUNGE (link)
*LOVELESS CAFE (link)

SEE/DO
*GRAND OLE OPRY HOUSE (link) – Even though we’re not really country music fans, I felt like we had to do *something* authentic while in Nashville, and watching a show at the Grand Ole Opry was it. There was a show the night we got in, and once they announced the performers (usually a week before or so), I was happy to see I recognized two names: Clare Bowen who plays Scarlett on the Nashville TV show, and Vince Gill, who married Amy Grant (of CCM fame). The format is really interesting and they covered a large variety of types of country music, and I ended up having a lot of fun. It definitely got more fun as the night went on, and we did some country music Spotifying the rest of the weekend based on the songs/artists we had liked. Would recommend it! (Note: parking is pretty difficult so plan for that)
*THE PARTHENON (link) – Had to see this lifesize replica of the Parthenon… funny because a friend was actually at the real Parthenon at the same time so her pictures showed up on Facebook and … well, this does look similar, if not much newer and cleaner! Mostly took pictures, didn’t bother with the inside/downstairs museum.
*HATCH SHOW PRINT (link) – I thought this was pretty cool, and if we had timed it better, could have done a tour of the actual press/printing operations. We bought a couple of prints for the gallery wall i one day will put up…
*PARNASSUS BOOKS (link) – And can’t skip at least one independent bookstore while in Nashville! There weren’t any author events while we were in town, but really liked the selection (so much good YA!) and actually had a lot of fun reading the press pieces they had put up on the walls about the origin of the bookstore and how significant it was for the city (Ann Pratchett co-founded it when she realized the entire city was going to be without an independent bookstore)
*BLUEBIRD CAFE (link) – Didn’t have time to wait in line for a show (they do first come first serve seating for some of them) so just took a picture – but the Nashville fan inside of me was happy we could stop by! It definitely looks different – more like part of a strip mall — than what I had expected though.

Places we didn’t get to try…
*COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME (link) – Right next to Hatch Show Print, but didn’t make the time… I did hear they had a Taylor Swift exhibit I would have loved to see!
*RYMAN AUDITORIUM (link)
*TENNESSEE STATE CAPITOL (link)
*OLIVE & SINCLAIR CHOCOLATE (link) – Chocolate factory tours!! The timing didn’t work out (they have limited slots) but hear it’s interesting and delicious.
LOGISTICS
*NASHVILLE AIRPORT (BNA) (link) – Love any city that Southwest flies into, and I greatly appreciate when you don’t have to take a shuttle or tram or vehicle of any kind to get to the rental cars – it’s just a covered walkway away.
*HERTZ (link) – Good enough. Not every company will let you do one-way rentals, so I usually book through Costco, then will track via Autoslash to see if I can get a better deal. Ended up with Hertz, and while we didn’t have any problems, they didn’t really have a selection of cars, which is always a nice option

From Nashville, we drove in and through Alabama, so more next!