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Eating our way through Nashville

Friday, December 10th, 2010

The purpose of our weekend trip to Nashville was to see the Blackhawks take on the Predators at Bridgestone Arena.  We figured we’d spend some time in the honky tonks, too, listening to some live music.  But what we – or, I should say, I – didn’t expect was the abundance of dining options, and I definitely did not expect the food to be so good.

We stayed at the Sheraton in downtown Nashville and it proved to be the perfect location for a weekend trip sans vehicle.  It is walking distance to Broadway, which is where the honky tonks, bars, and restaurants are, and to Bridgestone Arena.  We arrived on a Saturday morning, too early to get into our hotel room, so we left our bags with the hotel valet and walked down to Broadway in search of some breakfast.  Our breakfast came in the form of live music and bloody marys at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, since no restaurants on Broadway were open, and none serve breakfast.  We waited until 10:30 when Jack’s BBQ opened up and, judging by the line, plenty of others couldn’t wait for the restaurant to open, either.  I ordered the beef brisket plate which comes with two sides; I chose macaroni & cheese and hot apples (it was all fat free, by the way).  That brisket was probably the best bbq I have ever had.  Perfectly tender, lean meat, incredible smoky flavor. From the array of self-serve bbq sauces, I went with the Kansas City, and it was a perfect match for my brisket.  The mac & cheese and apples were incredible, as well.  We visited Jack’s again two days later and did not have quite the same experience.  We all were quite disappointed with our food.  I ordered the brisket plate again (it was too good the first time; I had to), with mac & cheese and cream corn (both were delicious).  The brisket, however, was fatty and a little tough.  The employee cutting and carving the meat wasn’t the same guy from our first visit so maybe he had something to do with it.  Whatever the reason, I was seriously disappointed.  I’d still recommend Jack’s, though.  We might have just caught them on a bad day on that second visit.

Some other dining highlights from our weekend in Nashville:

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A day & a half in Boston

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Spending any time in Boston was not part of our original Cape Cod vacation plan, but neither were Lucia and Felicia.  Life and travel share many of the same principles, two being the ability to be flexible and the ability to adapt.  So when Felicia and Mom expressed how badly they wanted to spend some time in Boston, I had to fight my initial reaction of “no”, and listen to their proposal.  And it’s not that I don’t or didn’t want to see Boston; I figured since there is so much to see and do in that city, it warrants a trip of its own.  I didn’t want to be rushed and forced to hit all the highlights in a short period of time.  Furthermore, I had a hard time justifying any one of us paying for a hotel room on top of what I’d already paid for the condo in Provincetown.  Alas, I’ll do anything for my family, so they were able to talk me into leaving Provincetown a day early and spending our last day and a half  in Boston.

Felicia offered to pay for a hotel room for the night and found an affordable rate at a Comfort Inn in Woburn, just minutes outside Boston.  The woman working the reception desk at the hotel was extremely friendly and helpful, and was able to direct us to inexpensive parking in Boston (we still had the rental car and public parking can be expensive in Boston, just as in Chicago).  We parked in a public lot off Seaport Boulevard, near the World Trade Center, for $12.  Yes, $12 for the entire day.  That’s a steal.  Once we parked, though, we honestly had no idea where we were going, so we just started walking.  And we walked.

At the top of our “must see” list was Boston’s North End, that city’s own Little Italy neighborhood.  All we had was the tourist map given to us by the hotel employee in Woburn.  We were able to plot our route but the scale of the map was distorted so we weren’t sure of the distance.  Turns out, it’s about two miles from where we started to the North End, but it was an enjoyable walk and didn’t seem to be that far.  The route took us through what seemed to be Boston’s financial district, which is dotted with historical markers, so we stopped a few times for pictures and history lessons.  When we finally did make it to Hanover Street, the North End’s main drag, I felt as though I were taken back in time.  It looked and felt a lot like my neighborhood in Chicago’s Little Italy when I was growing up.  The first person we encountered on Hanover Street – this cute, little Italian man – greeted us with a “buon giorno”.  I was so happy that I almost cried.

Our first stop was Modern Pastry for some sfogliatelle – yum!  Afterward, we weaved our way up and down Hanover Street, stopping in the various shops, talking to some of the locals.  The North End also is home to some historical markers, stops on Boston’s Freedom Trail, so we had to take those in.  Another highlight was St. Leonard Roman Catholic Church.  It looks a lot like my parish church, The Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii; it really took me back.  We lit some candles and “talked” a bit to Santa Lucia (after whom my daughter is named), and made our way down to Caffe dello Sport for an Aperol spritz.

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Day trip to Martha’s Vineyard

Friday, October 15th, 2010
There are two ways to get to Martha's Vineyard: by air or by sea. Since I've neither unlimited income nor a private jet, "by sea" it was. At this time of year (late September), ferry schedules and options are ... [Continue reading this entry]

Where to go and what to see in Provincetown

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Provincetown.  We chose the city as the base for our Cape Cod adventure simply because it is one of the largest on the Cape.  Aside from that, all I knew prior to ... [Continue reading this entry]

How we ended up in a condo in Provincetown

Friday, October 1st, 2010
Provincetown is one of the largest "cities" (the word used loosely here) on Cape Cod.  Coming from Chicago and having never been anywhere else on the Cape, I figured staying in Provincetown would be a safe bet for us, that ... [Continue reading this entry]

My travel bucket list: Everyone else is doing it so why can’t I?

Thursday, August 26th, 2010
It’s not news to anyone that I like to travel, that I plan trips months in advance.  It’s what keeps me going; I can’t help it.  Some folks think I have traveled extensively – and I have.  I’m not ungrateful ... [Continue reading this entry]

Wild animal encounter (and why I am terrified of alligators)

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Every Thursday, I try to participate in Travelers’ Night In (TNI) on Twitter.  It’s in the middle of my workday so sometimes it’s difficult.  TNI basically is a global discussion about, well, travel (read more about it here), with ... [Continue reading this entry]

Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
During our brief visit to the Grand Canyon, we stayed overnight at the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn, right outside of the Park. We definitely recommend it to everyone we know; it is the perfect place ... [Continue reading this entry]

Brief visit to Grand Canyon National Park

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010
We spent only a day and a half at the Grand Canyon but it probably is one of my favorite places on Earth now. We all have seen gorgeous photos of the Canyon, and everyone has heard how magnificent ... [Continue reading this entry]

An inspiration to other families?

Sunday, March 28th, 2010
Lucia was not exactly 100% perfect on all three of our flights out to Arizona. On the first leg, which was Chicago to Minneapolis, she got a little cranky. She cried a bit but nothing too crazy. ... [Continue reading this entry]