Sunday, October 29, 2017

Wine, Opry & Brunch with a Drag Queen...must be Nashville

Actually only one of those things was synomous with Nashville for me until my recent visit...and it wasn't wine or drag queen.  Claire and I headed to Nashville for a girls weekend.

Claire found us a nice place through VRBO in East Nashville which is pretty cool section of town that is up and coming.  We were a little early to check in so we walked over around the corner to Batter'd & Fried for some lunch.  Was so great to just relax and enjoy a nice afternoon dining alfresco (something we don't get to do much of in Charleston until the heat and humidity break). It's a good neighborhood spot that serves bar food and sushi...and pretty good beer.

Our original plan for the night was to take the Nashville Pedal Tavern around SOBRO but the torrential down pour that started an hour before the tour and lasted several hours made us rethink our plans.  Since we had already hit Kroger for wine earlier, we decided to order pizza and see what we could catch on Netflix.  Grease, Xanadu, She-Ra & He-Man and Austin Powers the Spy Who Shagged Me provided hours of entertainment.  We laughed as we thought about how we would have NEVER been caught at home on a Friday night when we were in college or even into our 30's...age definitely makes you wiser!!

Saturday brought sunny skies but cold temps...luckily we were prepared.  Around the corner from our place, was Marche Artisan Foods which we heard was a great brunch spot.  The reviews were spot on and clearly it was a local favorite as the place was packed.  
During our Netflix marathon the night before, we decided we should probably figure out our plans for Saturday afternoon and stumbled upon a wine & food pairing at Belle Meade Plantation. Luckily, they still had two spots available for Saturday afternoon so off we went.  Before the wine tasting, we toured the home and grounds.  Fun fact: every winner of the Kentucky Derby for the last 25 years can trace its lineage back to Belle Meade.

Here are some pics from the grounds as photography was not permitted inside due to most of the furnishings being orginial to either the house or period (18th & 19th century).

Original Belle Meade Plantation Home

In the original home, it was considered fashionable
to paint the wooden walls and stencil them.

Slave Quarters

Dairy House

If you are ever in Nashville, I highly recommend the wine & food pairing at Belle Meade.  The sommelier was fantastic and they offer VERY good pours and refills.  The winery brings in grapes from the best producing places in the country and does the production just outside of Nashville.  They have three really sweet wines that come from Tennesse fruits as well. We tried five different wines paired with meats, cheeses and chocolates.

No trip to Nashville would be complete without a little live music so we headed to Broadway for some BBQ and music before making the hike out to the Grand Ole Opry.  The Opry used to take place at the Ryman Theatre in the heart of downtown but in the 80's they moved it out to its current location which is about 20 minutes from downtown and the surroundings feel like you're in a theme park sadly.  The show was good but honestly don't think I would do again if I return to Nashville.

Lots of great finds occurred during our Friday marathon...though the wine could have had something to do with it.  While trying to find a brunch spot for Sunday, Claire found Suzy Wong's House of Yum Drag 'n Brunch.  We went for the show but to our surprise, the food was really good...both had chicken 'n waffles.  Though we were tempted by their version of a fish bowl punch (we had reminisced the night before about our the fish bowls at LuLu's Bait Shack in Atlanta...or at least what we could remember from those nights!), our better angels won out and we just stuck with coffee and Bailey's. 

Vanity was our performer and she was fabulous!  We were there for about 2 hours and she would come out every 30 minutes in a new outfit.  Each time she would pass, we would comment about her perfume which smelled so good.  After our pic, we finally asked her what it was and she told us it was Fairy Dust by Paris Hilton. "I know Paris Hilton, right?  But girl, I'm telling you I love it and my Drag Mom turned me on to it.  You can get it on Amazon for like $8."  Good food & company, a show and perfume advise...what more could a girl ask for on a Sunday morning?!


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cheers to another great AOH trip!

Once again, the AOHs had a great holiday and made some new friends.  Funny story...on our day in Jamaica, we met this fun couple from South Dakota.  Two nights later, we hung out with them at the Schooner Bar and said we'd meet up with them again the next night.  It occured to us as we were heading to the bar our final night to see our new friends, we had absolutely no idea what their names were!  As soon as we saw them, all four of us said "what is your name?".  Our new friends were Billy and Rebecca from South Dakota.  They were so much fun and Andy called us his back up singers as we knew the words to every song he would sing.

So a few tips if you ever take the Oasis of the Seas.  

First, go through a travel agent to book the cruise as they can get some great deals for you.  Kelly is awesome if you need a reference just let me know.  

Second, download Oasis of the Seas app.  This is a third party app...RCL really needs to get up with technology!  The app has a list of all the bars, entertainment spots, restaurants, etc as well as deck maps.  Because it is a third party app, it is not personalized so you still need to keep up with your dinner and show reservations.  Again, RCL really needs to get into the 21st century with their website and app.

Third, buy the Deluxe drink package! If you plan to drink a speciality coffee in the morning, at least 3 cocktails during the day, a glass of wine at dinner, a speciality coffee after dinner and a few bottles of water throughout the day (highly recommended as it is so easy to get dehydrated), the package totally pays for itself.  Another great feature of the drink package is you can try drinks you might not normally try.  There were many drinks I'd try and after a sip or two move on to the next one.  Make sure to check to see if they are offering a promo that includes internet.  

Fourth, buy at least one internet connection per traveler.  The ship is very large and if you and your travel buddy are not with each other all the time, it is great to be able to text. Remember to turn off your roaming on your phone once connected to the wifi to avoid any international charges.

Fifth, pass on the spa.  In addition to being about 50% more expensive than land based spas, the spa lacks the amenities to which we are accustom (ie, no robes, slippers or quiet rooms) and the therapists are just average.

Sixth, make sure to reserve your dinner and shows in advance of boarding. While you can show up for the shows 15 minutes before they begin for any open seats, you will not get the best seats.  If you don't make dinner reservations, you have to stand in line and wait for a table to become available.  Who wants to waste time standing in line or getting bad seats?!  Plus if you have that drink package, you can score a great seat and enjoy a couple cocktails before the show begins.

On a separate note.  If you send postcards when you travel, check out this app...Touch Note. I always send postcards to my parents, my nieces and a few other friends when I travel.  While this is relatively easy in the US, outside the US it is quite challenging.  First you have to find a postcard, then you have to find a place to buy a stamp because most places that sell postcards don't sell stamps, next you have to find a place to mail the postcard because most places that sell the stamps don't accept the postcards and finally pray the postcards actually arrive.  All of this ends up costing around $6 per postcard.  

With this cool app, you buy credits (I buy in 10 credit increments) and the cards end up costing about $1.80 each and this includes postage!  You create the cards on you phone and with a few clicks, the postcards are sent and arrive in about 3 days.  Here's a few postcards I sent from this trip.  This is a total game changer for me when traveling!

Until next time...happy travels!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Mayan Ruins & Chocolate in Cozumel

Ola from Cozumel! With every stop we make, it gets progressively hotter and more humid. Holy do the locals do it?!  I thought we had heat and humidity in Charleston but the Caribbean in August is miserably hot and humid.

Today we are headed to San Gervasio (Mayan ruins) and the Mayan Cacao Company.

San Gervasio is where the Mayans worshipped the goddess Ix Chel, goddess of fertility. Because this was a place where people came to ask for life, there were no Mayan human sacrafices made on these grounds.

We made a little stop at El Mirador (Lookout Point) and then we were off to the Mayan Cacao Company.  We learned a little bit of the history of Mayan chocolate making and got to sample some really delicious chocolate and frozen chocolate.  The frozen chocolate was particularly welcomed because did I mention it was H.O.T.?!?!

Back on board we had a few cocktails before dinner and tonight's show, Frozen in Time. Its an ice show based upon Hans Christian Andersen's stories. The costumes and skating were quite remarkable.  We stopped by the Schooner Bar for a night cap (or two or three or...) and sang along with Andy.  

Tomorrow is a day at sea as we make our way back to Port Canaveral.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Love in Jamaica...but we never heard any reggae

Greetings from Jamaica!  Today we arrived in Falmouth where we had high tea 1700's style at the Good Hope Plantation.

Although the plantation was established in 1774, it did not get the name Good Hope unitl later in the 18th century when Johh Tharp became the owner.  Mr. Tharp's slaves gave the plantation its name as a tribute to him for being such a good man that gave hope to people.  While John Tharp had over 3,000 slaves, he was known for being a good and fair man.  When slaves would run away from other plantations due to the poor treatment, he would take them in and protect them from their previous owners.  Good Hope was orginally a sugar estate and grew into a village to support the workers after emancipation.

Cedar Shingle Roofs
when the shingles get wet, they expand and therefore
no water gets into the house

In his later years, Mr. Tharp had rheumatism so he installed a bath tub.
The tub was leadlined and unbeknownst to him, lead was poisonous
and the tub that was meant to heal him actually sped up his death.

On the drive back to the ship, I sat shot gun to the driver.  The roads of Jamaica are pretty bad and he told us he was a PHD...pot hole dodger.  You know how everyone in Jamaica says "no problem man"?  Well that's because in Jamaica there are no problems...just situations.

I have always heard that if you go to Jamaica to stay at the resort and do not venture off the grounds.  From the sights we saw on the drive from Good Hope, I can understand why.  It is truly amazing the dichotomy between the tourist spots and where the locals live.

After the excursion, we walked around the market and picked up a few little trinkets for ourselves and folks back home.  Total tourist trap but some cute purchase nevertheless.