Nashville: Part 2 (or How to Navigate the Gaylord Opryland Hotel)

At some point in the 90s, or maybe the early 2000s, I came to Nashville with my family. The only thing I remember about the city was our visit to the Opryland Hotel. More specifically, I remember going on the riverboat ride and hearing about the Presidential Suites that cost a few thousand dollars a night. I told my grandparents that when I got a job, I would treat them to a night in the suites. I have since gotten a job, but there has been no reason for them to return to Nashville.

This time around, we actually had a chance to stay in the Gaylord Opryland hotel. MAN this hotel is huge, and the whole place was a blur for us on the first day. But never fear, we figured it out, and I am here to tell you all about it.

First off, here is a map of the resort.

As you can see, there are five sections, one of which is the convention area. Figure out which section you are in (we were in Delta) and locate the elevator nearest to your room. You may want to get in the habit of using that elevator so that you’re not disoriented when you try to use a different one.

Once you figure out where your room is, make it a point to walk from your room to the Cascades lobby. Follow the signage, and make note of any landmarks. Then from there, do a loop of the whole hotel, going up the escalators towards the Garden Conservatory Skywalk, into the Magnolia section, past Fuse sports bar and Jack Daniel’s, into the Convention Centre, down the escalator to Delta Island (level 1), and through the Delta walkway to get back to the Cascades walkway. The whole place becomes a whole lot less confusing once you’ve walked around a few times.

When in doubt, go to level 2. You can access pretty much everything from that level, including the fitness centre and both the indoor and outdoor Cascades pools. You can either get to it through the Cascades guest room hallways, or through the Cascades skywalk.

Alright, now for some fun things that we did…

We took Andy swimming for the first time at the Opryland! We opted for the Magnolia pool even though it’s not as glitzy as the Cascades pool, because it’s in a courtyard and offers some good shadow coverage in the late afternoon/early evening. I did not want Andy roasting out there! Both Cascades and Magnolia have wading pools beside the main pool, so it was perfect for us. We didn’t have any swim diapers, so we coughed up the $5 for a disposable swim diaper at one of the Necessities stores inside the hotel (be prepared to pay some crazy markups for toiletries if you forget anything).

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We also got to enjoy quite a few things in the Delta section, including the 15-minute narrated riverboats tour ($9.50 if you’re staying at the hotel, $10.50 if you’re not) and part of the fountain show, which happens daily on the hour between 6 and 9 pm. We even built our own burgers at Stax! Suggestion? Get the combo if you’re going alone, but know that there are enough fries to share between two people!

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We really enjoyed our room, and Andy loved his little rollaway crib, so we made sure to spend some time in there as well! Remember, though, when you leave the room, to physically close the door. Unlike at most other hotels, the doors don’t always bang shut on their own, and I stumbled upon quite a few unsecured rooms. Better safe than sorry! (And speaking of safe, there’s a safe in the room, so use it!)

Last but not least, if you want to head beyond the hotel, options abound. There are free shuttles to the Inn at Opryland, Opry Mills, and the Grand Ole Opry (all of which are also within walking distance) and paid shuttles downtown and to the airport. Just know that it’s cheaper to take a taxi to the airport, especially if there’s more than one of you. And as for heading downtown, ask for the $25 flat rate in a taxi or take transit, like I mentioned in Part 1 of this Nashville series (The 34, which takes you downtown, also takes you past Kroger supermarket, where Andy and I went to pick up a few groceries for our days there).

So that’s the Opryland in a nutshell. Good times.

Nashville: Part 1 | Part 3

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Madison Square Music

I know chronologically we are all over the place in terms of our posting. I still have yet to mention anything about the rest of our time in Nashville or the first few days in New York. Nonetheless, I have a few spare moments on my hands right now so thought I would mention what we’re doing! Whenever we travel, we like to check out free open air events. Like we did in Houston, Boston, and San Francisco. There is no shortage of free outdoor fun in NYC, but this time around we decided to check out the free concerts on the oval lawn at Madison Square Park. (Believe it or not, I’ve never been to this park – home of the original Shake Shack) Underground Horns is playing today, so I am very much looking forward to it. Brass bands never fail to impress. Something we didn’t expect to see here, though, were the masses of strollers. 23 that I can see from where I’m sitting to be exact. And most prominently, the uppababy g-luxe. It made me question our decision to get a Maclaren Mark II. But then I looked at our storage. And our sunshade. And I remembered that our stroller is the lightest one out there. And I was put at ease that we made the right choice.

  Anyways. Music is starting. Til next time.

Addition: So we found out that the series is called “Above Ground”, because they featured performers from NYC’s subways! So cool!

19.

Hello from the Big Apple! After a few days in Music City for Kelvin’s work conference (no, he does not work for Cydcor…who also happened to have their conference at the same place) we are now in one of our favourite places for family vacation! We had a crazy early flight yesterday morning but we discovered that Andy is much better on morning flights than on afternoon flights. He slept lots and was very smiley. 

Also, for some reason, he didn’t poop the entire time we were in Nashville. I think it’s because it was crazy hot and he wanted to conserve. Now, we knew that when he finally decided to poop it would be a really messy one. But, we didn’t think he’d do it on the plane. Right after takeoff from Atlanta to JFK, I felt it. And then I smelled it. And that seatbelt sign couldn’t have come off soon enough. I took him to the bathroom (where the change table was a flat board that came down over the toilet) and braced myself for the job that lay ahead. It was a big one, and I ended up bringing a naked (other than his diaper) baby back to the seat because his onesie was no good anymore. Oh, the joys of parenting. 
Anyways, the week was spent in Nashville, and Andy was the prized possession. Instructors and staff from all over came to Kelvin and I, asking for a chance to hold him and telling us how precious (and how chunky!) he was. He took it all in, turning on his charm when necessary. Everyone enjoyed it. 

When I have the time, I’ll finish up parts two and three of our Nashville series, then commence with some posts from NYC. As Kelvin has intimated in his Instagram posts, we are reconsidering going this whole trip with just the carrier. Andy starts to get fussy in the afternoon and we end up carrying him. We may decide to buy an umbrella stroller today.

Well, we are currently on the ferry, waiting for it to depart for Governor’s Island. Never been before, but excited to visit! More later!
  
Oh, and one last thing – my sister introduced me to this game on google maps. Super fun.

Nashville: Part 1

We’re in Tennessee! It was quite an arduous task getting here (multiple flight delays and missed connections), but it was sweetened by getting bumped to first class. Did you know they have real glassware in first class??? And you can just ask for snacks and drinks whenever you want??? WHAT. Priorities, clearly. Anyways, I digress. Andy was a little bit less cooperative this time on the plane. Still not crying during landing and takeoff, but he cried at other times more so than last time, and with a more robust cry at that.

We arrived a few hours behind schedule, but it didn’t really matter anyways, because our only plan was eating at the hotel. We stayed at the Inn at Opryland (we’re now in the big Gaylord Opryland resort!) and ordered room service. I’ve never really had room service before, so I was excited. This made up in part for the fact that I was a little sketched out that the rooms were exterior access. We ordered wings and a pulled pork sandwich. It was glorious.

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Early this morning, we headed over to the resort so that Kelvin could get going with his countless meetings and meals. Meanwhile, Andy and I went off in search of a bus. We had to ask around, but we finally figured out that the 34 picks up at the Magnolia Canopy. It takes about 30 minutes to get downtown if you’re going express. And it only costs $1.70/ride! I knew I was going to be riding the bus quite a few times today, so I got an all day pass ($5.25 for unlimited rides). The bus was relatively on time, but as luck would have it, we only made it a few more stops before the bus broke down. Thus, Andy and I spent about 45 minutes sitting at the Gray Line Tour bus depot waiting for the MTA to send another bus. Highlight of the trip? After Andy ate, i was burping him without a burp cloth (fail), and then I heard a high school student behind me say “Uhh, your baby spit up.” It was all over my arm, and his clothes, and part of the carrier. That was a bit of a scramble…We finally made it downtown around 10:30 (almost two hours after we left), and our first order of business was getting tickets for a tour that day at Hatch Show Print (more on this later).

After all that was done, we waited for what seemed like a very long time at 6th and Commerce to catch the 7 to Pancake Pantry! This place came really highly reviewed, and it did not disappoint! There was a line up, but it moved pretty quickly. Plus, I got to meet some really nice people! I ended up ordering the sweet potato pancakes, and I all but inhaled them, thus the lack of picture of the actual pancakes. They were insanely fluffy with a full cinnamon flavour. Good thing I ordered that glass of milk to balance it out. Oh, and make sure to use that cinnamon cream syrup (but don’t put too much, or your pancake will literally fall apart).

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By the time we finished, there wasn’t much time before our tour at Hatch Show Print, so we hopped on the bus and headed back towards downtown. This place was the COOLEST. I loved learning about the history of the print shop in all its iterations and seeing the presses at work. Andy was not impressed with being in the carrier (he had been in it for quite some time by that point) and so he caused a huge scene. Not cool.

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After the shop portion of the tour, we moved into a classroom to learn a little more. We also got to make our own print, though I’m not a fan of its blue and orange colour scheme. If I could do it again, I might ask just to have the print on plain paper so it’s just the one colour. I perused the store for quite a while after the fact, and picked up a few prints. We got a discount too for going on the tour!  IMG_1118

By this point, we were pretty pooped. Andy needed a break and so did I, so we headed down to the waterfront in search of a nice shaded place to lay out the blanket. I stopped into Southernaire Market to pick up a berry medley and an iced tea, and off we went. We walked and walked but alas no shady spot was to be found. We ended up taking the free Music City circuit bus to the Bicentennial Mall. After perusing the Farmers’ Market, we plopped ourselves down near this sunken terraced courtyard and hung out for an hour or so. What did I learn about Andy today? He gets HOT. So it was crucial for us to spend some time where he wasn’t in the carrier. IMG_1131

My phone was close to dying by now because of all the google mapping I did, but the Visitors’ Centre saved the day! I went to the one at Bridgestone Arena, and they have a charging station and two iPads for internet access! So key. I stayed til closing (at 5:30).

Plans were made at this point to meet Kelvin for dinner, and so we took advantage of the little pocket of time we had before he was slated to arrive, and we walked all the way out to Crema, on Hermitage Blvd. I ordered myself a Cuban, and man that coffee was ridiculously delicious. And the place was really hip. So hip that they didn’t have a change table (fail). Changing of the diaper happened outside on the grass, behind the building, by the dumpsters (#sketchy). I picked up a few pounds of coffee as souvenirs, and then walked the 13 minutes back downtown. IMG_1138When Kelvin finally arrived, with some coworkers, we headed to Jack’s BBQ for dinner (I know, it’s not the best BBQ, but we wanted somewhere downtown). After a quick stroll to burn off some of those calories, we returned to the hotel.

Apologies for the brevity of the last few events, but it’s 1 am here, and I am super tired. Forecast tomorrow is looking like thunderstorms. If this is the case, I’m staying at the hotel. It’s big enough for days and days of exploration.

Good night!

Nashville: Part 2 | Part 3

18.

Our once lazy little munchkin is starting to take initiative! He is actively grabbing for things now, and he has been going to town on some of his cloth books. I am starting to think that it’s time to move him up to more interesting toys – things that will encourage his exploration more. Maybe things that move? Or things that make noise? Perhaps he will like my recorder.

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He’s also turning into quite the chatty kiddo, especially in the mornings. I have absolutely no idea what he’s saying, but I do try to affirm his vocalizations with the odd “Oh yeah?” and “Mm hmm”. Should I be doing more to encourage this behaviour?

He falls asleep quite easily now at night, often in really strange positions. Earlier this week, he slowly made his way out of view of the monitor. We found him at the foot of the crib, perpendicular to where he was, with his little feet barely inside the crib. Last night, he managed to rotate 45 degrees and fell asleep clinging on to one of the crib slats with his right hand and with one little foot sticking out. Part of me really wants to take pictures of this, but his room is pretty dark, and I have zero desire to wake our munchkin up with a flash.

Today, for the second time since Andy was born, we left him with grandma and grandpa so that Kelvin and I could go out on our own. We headed to nearby Gananoque for the matinee performance of Pirates of Penzance at the Thousand Islands Playhouse. We absolutely love this little playhouse (I mean, you can dock your boat there and watch the show…how sweet is that? Now if only we had a boat…and a license…) and always enjoy the time that we spend there. This show (which closed today) was particularly special, because the Artistic Director adapted it to take place in the Thousand Islands!

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We are heading off on Monday for 10 days in the US so packing really needs to begin. Alas, Andy has outgrown almost all of his shorts, and we need to buy new ones and do laundry before I can really think about packing. This will be our longest stretch away with the little guy. Keeping my fingers crossed that it will all be okay, and that we will last without doing laundry!

And an update from my end – success was had with both the library board and the Awesome Kingston grant! I anticipate my first board meeting in September, and our edcamp team now has money to work with through the July micro-grant from the Awesome Kingston trustees. Yippee!

On the flip side, I also had a mini meltdown this week due to a deep dissatisfaction with my current fitness level. I had been deluded to think that I was doing okay, when truth be told, I was eating like crap and not working out remotely enough. Motherhood is not all rainbows and lollipops, I’ll have you know. Part of this meltdown involved a run at 12:30 am, after which I did not stretch, and for which I am now paying the price. Hotheadedness never pays. Anyways, my in-laws are thankfully coming with us on this trip, so grandpa is available for short babysitting sessions when gym visits need to happen. I am infinitely grateful for them.

And now, to clean my main floor…

Teaching Well

For quite some time now, I’ve been following Maureen Devlin’s blog. She’s an educator from Massachussetts (going on 30 years of teaching next year!) who posts often and challenges me to really act on what I value in education. I have had the privilege of actually connecting with her on twitter, and I know she will continue to push me (and so many others) to become a better educator.

I recently discovered her Summer Study site, and though I am not teaching in the state of Massachussetts, the pillars of their Education department still resonate with me. I plan to work my way through the 33 elements of teaching excellence and post my thoughts here.

As Maureen always says…Onward.

17.

Despite being sick all week, Andy has been such a trooper. His hacking cough and ridiculously congested nose haven’t kept him up too much at night (so thankful for this!) but he is a little bit more lethargic than his usual self. We’ve spent the week in Toronto and will be attending some weddings this weekend, so he’s had quite a busy schedule! Though it’s always nice to be away, it’s also made me realize just how much I enjoy being at home in Kingston :) Also, I realized that I never want to have a sick child when I’m away from Kelvin.

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One thing that I miss so much about living here (other than Sun Sing See) is having a piano. We can’t fit a piano into our current home due to lack of wall space, but it’s definitely something I hope Andy will come to love. We made sure to get lots of piano time in this week. At this point, I think Andy is just ambivalent towards it.

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When we went to the doctor’s on Monday, we weighed this little guy, and he is sitting at a whopping 17 lb 4 oz. What a little chunker! But as much as we rag on him for being so chubby, we love that he’s as sturdy as he is. He’s starting to really push the limits of his travel crib, though. We have the mini version, and I think Kelvin is seriously considering getting the full-size. We shall see.

IMG_0969-1As motherhood becomes more real to me (sometimes I look at myself holding Andy in the mirror and I can’t fathom that he is actually our child, and not just a baby that I’ve borrowed from someone to play with…) I find myself seeking out blogs written by mothers. This week, I stumbled upon Chriselle Lim’s blog, and I was so touched by her candidness with the ins and outs of her pregnancy and the first few weeks. I will never be as chic as her, but I can definitely appreciate what she is doing and how she is balancing her work responsibilities with her motherly duties.

Two pieces of exciting news on my end:

1) I had mentioned two weeks ago that I had sent out some applications. Well, on the community front, my name was forwarded on to City Council for recommendation to our local library board! I absolutely love our library and what they’re doing (which I talk about briefly in this post) and am so excited for the possibility of being part of the team that sets its strategic vision for the next few years! There is talk of a new branch being built in a neighbourhood that is dear to my heart, so what a wonderful time to be involved! (On the professional front, I didn’t get the position that I applied for, but a new position has opened up which I think is much better suited for me, and I will be applying for it before it closes at the end of August!)

2) I am planning an edcamp in Kingston this fall and I recently applied for a micro grant through Awesome Kingston (so many applications lately, it seems). I heard from them today and we’ve been invited to pitch at their next pitch party! It’ll be happening in just under a week (Thursday at 7 at the Marine Museum) and if we are successful, we will get $1000 for our project. I’ve been following Awesome Kingston for quite a while and have wanted to plan something wonderful that they can feel proud to back. I hope this is that something wonderful :)

And last but not least, for something random: I want to pick up some sweet leggings from this Toronto-based company.

16.

This has been a really busy week! And Andy has become a very busy baby. He has suddenly decided that rolling is his favourite thing (second only to putting anything and everything in his mouth) so I need to watch him pretty much all the time.

Early in the week, we headed to Lake Ontario Park for Mom&Tots with our some ladies from our church. The Queen’s Barefoot Players were there as well doing a rendition of Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Probably over the heads of most of the toddlers we were with, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. So did Andy.

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This Wednesday was Canada Day, and so we continued our annual tradition of going to Fruition Berry Farm for some strawberry picking! The parking lot was muddier than the field, but we were very happy to have our rubber boots on nonetheless. Kelvin was wearing Andy so he had a bit of a harder time with the picking, but we are still enjoying our harvest!IMG_0892 IMG_0897

Andy is also getting much better at sitting up on his own! He lasted in this pose for almost 6 seconds (as opposed to the usual 1.5 seconds)!

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Then on Thursday we went to the Pan Am Torch Relay at Fort Henry! One of my coworkers actually ran a leg yesterday here in Kingston. What an honour!

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Now, remember those berries we picked on Wednesday? I found this recipe for Strawberry Basil ice cream (the only two fresh food things we have an abundance of in our home right now), and used this method to make it without an ice cream maker! I definitely used too much of our ice cream mix so the consistency is weird. Plus I forgot to put the rock salt in with the ice before had everything nestled in, so my ice melted…but still! i am really happy with how it ended up. And now I have an idea of what we can do to make it better. I enjoyed it this morning simultaneous with #nt2t. Andy was still sleeping.

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On a not so happy note, our little guy is starting to teeth. We need to get him more teething toys.