My weekend road trip to Nashville with friends started a little something like this:
Torrential downpour en route, because why would we want it any other way? Nevertheless, we got from ATL to Nashville in just four (RENT soundtrack-filled) hours.
We arrived in time for an al fresco lunch at hotspot Fido (the line wrapped around the restaurant approximately three times), followed by local boutique-ing. Some of my favorites were the vibrant bedding options at Pangaea, above.
Also spotted: street art that attempted to make the sweet Nashville streets look just a little bit menacing. It didn’t quite work…
Thanks to my travel agent (just kidding, it was my friend who diligently did research for our trip), we spent our afternoon at a free outdoor concert at Centennial Park, part of the Musicians Corner series. Thrilled to soak up the sun after hours in the car, we happily plopped ourselves down on the warm grass while we listened to twangy tunes. Even better, the concert had food trucks and crafts stalls, so we sampled ice cream and tested skin scrubs while we listened. I got to wash my hands in a Pumpkin Spice Sugar Scrub, so I guess dreams really do come true.
Post-concert we made our way to Vanderbilt’s campus to check out how their digs compared to ours. With the sun setting, the red brick buildings and lush green quads proved pretty stellar.
Then, because we were getting hangrier by the minute, we made our way straight from campus to a highly recommended hole-in-the-wall for Thai food. The Smiling Elephant was the kind of place you’d never consider walking into if you saw it from the road (sorry). But with a 45-minute wait, we had a feeling it’d would be worth it. Everything about it was authentic, from the clouds of steam billowing from the piping pots in the kitchen to the oh so complete hot sauce selections on offer. The pad thai even had a note next to it on the menu: “Don’t expect your typical American pad thai.” I opted to share their classic noodle dish with tofu, as well as steamed veggie dumplings with a friend.
With full bellies, we made our way to the hotel to get ready for a night out on Broadway, a wild street with no shortage of bars (all with live music), crowds, and neon lights galore. Thankfully we had some native Vanderbiltian friends to show us the ropes. Needless to say, it was a night.
And what night is complete without a morning-after recovery brunch? We committed to the whopping 1.5-hour wait at Tavern for a much deserved midday meal, where we sampled everything from salted caramel pretzel pancakes to kale salad and “white trash hash.”
All those eats were followed by more window shopping, some oohing and aahing at a pumpkin / squash patch we stumbled upon, and a (mistakenly-made) visit to the Gaylord Opreyland Resort and Convention Center. Key words: convention center.
For the record, we went to the resort after we heard it boasted impressive botanical gardens. Instead, we found a most massive man-made I-don’t-know-what. Indoors, hotel guests floated in a boat on an artificial river… It was sort of a mall and sort of a hotel and sort of creepy. We weren’t such fans. So, we plopped down on “riverside” benches in an attempt to ease the previous night’s, ahem, effects, and then promptly left.
Bonus points: I was lucky enough to have family members (from NYC, no less) coincidentally staying in Nashville on the same weekend as I. When they suggested we meet for dinner at “industrial-chic” Rolf and Daughters, I did not object. If you can’t tell by the snapshot of the eatery’s bread game, complete with thick, chunky sea salt and seaweed (!) butter, the food was pretty on-point. My other favorite plate from the meal consisted of shaved radishes layered with creamy stracciatella cheese and topped with crunchy toasted farro.
Fast forward about 12 hours. With a car trip ahead of us and a need for nourishment the next morning, friends and I headed back to Fido for a full breakfast before hitting the road once again. We all ordered the same hearty parfait bowl — Greek yogurt topped with a generous serving of granola, strawberries, bananas, dried cranberries, walnuts, and honey — before pulling out of Nashville.
Because we couldn’t bring ourselves to return quite so quick, we Googled up an orchard to stop at on the way home. We made our way through Ellijay, Georgia, where we passed some 15 orchards before arriving at this one, B.J. Reece Orchards. We spent time picking the best of the best, sampling dirt-caked varieties both familiar and new (Ever had an “Arkansas Black”?), right off the ground. A far better pitstop than a gas station and a sweet end to a travel-packed 48 hours.
Special thanks to my stellar travel buddies for the show tunes, the R or G game, and the occasional scheming.