Nashville: Part 3

When I was little, I was a little obsessive with keeping track of everything I did on vacation. In fact, the trip Kelvin and I took to Boston last year was the first time I didn’t write in a journal. Now that I am trying to recount our vacation, I am seeing how valuable those journals were (and we only got back from our trip last week)!

I’ve shared about our trip to Nashville in Part 1 and Part 2, and now here is Part 3.

After a few days of hanging out closer to the Gaylord Opryland (and a visit to Opry Mills essentially right next door), we headed back downtown for one more day. One thing we really enjoyed about taking the bus downtown was knowing that when it pulled up, Billy would be in the driver seat. Even though we only took that bus 3 times, we felt this strange connection to Billy (maybe it had something to do with the 45 minute bus breakdown on day 1). On the day we went to the supermarket, he told us he’d be looking out for us on the return trip! The bus also had regulars, like the lady who was always there on our 9:45 pick up, chatting it up with Billy, a towel slung over her left shoulder.

Our first stop was Cumberland Park (accessible via the Shelby Street pedestrian bridge). Nashville is seriously upping its waterfront game, and if Andy was just a little bit older, he would have LOVED this place.

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Seriously, it was like all of Nashville’s children knew to come here. There was this busy splash pad area, beside which was an astroturf wonderland called The Hollows. For children who preferred not to get wet, there was a bouldering wall and little play area. There were definitely some preteens and teenagers there enjoying the park alongside these little rascals. And let’s be honest, I totally wanted to play too. Now there is the mark of a well-designed park. Fun for all ages!

Afterwards, we headed back across the river to have lunch at Pinewood Social. If I were to ever start a business, I would want it to be like this place. Part hangout, part bar, part restaurant, part bowling alley, this place was the best.

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I had a grilled cheese that was out of this world, and Andy had some respite from the beating sun.

Because of some roadwork, our bus ride to the Ryman took quite a while (just you wait, we really hit a homerun today with the Nashville tourist spots!). A friend had suggested that we check the Ryman out, so we did, and it was such a fascinating thing to be able to hear about its glory days, neglect, and revival. I had read online about the 11-minute “show” that played before the self-guided tour, and it did not disappoint! We didn’t stay too long here, though, as we wanted to get a rest in at the park.

So we were headed to the West End on the bus (3 or 5 will get you to Centennial Park, where as the 7 will take you down 21st Ave south of Vanderbilt campus) when we passed by the Frist Centre. Yet another spot on our must-see list! We had originally intended to come down again the next day, but then I thought “Oh, why not just see it today” (I’m very glad we did, as we ended up staying at the hotel the next day). We hopped off the bus, walked the long block back to the centre, and got our tickets. Now, we had opted not to bring the stroller with us, so Andy had been chilling (really, cooking) in the carrier the entire trip. but this place provided strollers for free. WHAT. It was the best thing ever. We explored Italian Fashion and postcards and contemporary art. They also have this awesome section called ArtQuest where you get to make your own art. There were a ton of kiddos in there, though, so I opted not to create art this time around.

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I really did not want to leave the Frist, due in large part to this stroller, but alas, it was time to go. We caught the bus again and headed to Centennial Park. This was the site of the 1897 Expo, and home to the world’s only full-size replica of the Parthenon. Random, yes, but still quite an amazing sight. Andy and I took a little stroll around the park, then settled down for a nice rest. Two things that were nice around the park: (1) These oversized swings dotted the park for people to sit on; and (2) Plaques along the trail explained the history of the park. I’m all about merging recreation and learning :)IMG_1388We hung out at the park for a good 2 hours probably. Then we walked through Vanderbilt campus and ended up in a line for Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. This too came recommended by a friend, and Kelvin said it was some of the best (if not the best) fried chicken he had ever had. It was thoroughly enjoyable. Just so you know – counter service, expect a line.

The next day was our last full day in Nashville, topped off with Kelvin’s work gala dinner. Then an early morning flight to our next destination (for Kelvin’s true vacation): New York City!

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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

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

11.

This was one of those weeks during which I was reminded of God’s sovereignty and goodness in our lives.

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Andy had his 2-month check-up (a little late, yes…) on Wednesday, and this big boy is in the 97th percentile for weight! At our appointment, our doctor had trouble getting his red reflex, which is a test they do to make sure that optically everything is okay with your baby. She told us not to worry, and referred us to the ophthalmology department at one of our local hospitals. Worst case scenario? He has something called retinoblastoma and he will need surgery to remove his eye.

Naturally, that’s one of the last things you want to hear from your physician.

It’s times like this that we are so thankful for the people around us who support us, encourage us, and most importantly, pray for us. We sent messages and emails out right away to let our small groups know the situation. This was at around 11 am. God works in amazing ways, including placing great friends in our life (including one who is a resident in the ophthalmology department!), and by 1 pm, we were seeing the paediatric specialist at the hospital. We praise God that Andy is indeed okay, and at the same time, we are also reminded of the inevitability of one day having heartbreaking circumstances to deal with.

While I was waiting for the ophthalmologist, I got talking in the waiting room with a couple from Brockville whose daughter was born quite premature. She was 3 months old and had just been released from NICU. For the last few months, they had been staying at Almost Home, a local charitable organization that provides “a place of comfort and respite for families whose children are receiving medical treatment in Kingston area hospitals”. My heart goes out to families in that position, and I’m going to find out more about the organization so that I can nominate it at our next 100+ Women Who Care meeting.

Beyond this, Andy is sleeping for about a 6-hour stretch at night, which is marvelous for me :) I finally get a chance to rest in the evening and do things, like write this blog post. And read. I love reading. I went a little crazy last night and requested about a dozen books from the OCT library. I’m looking forward to receiving them.

On the note of PD, this is the last week of a MOOC that I’m taking. I completed the assignment and posted it for feedback on a discussion thread…but didn’t submit it. Super fail. Especially because that process is worth 45% of my grade. I was seriously bummed on Monday (like super grumpy and angry at myself), but I attempted to right my wrongs by submitting my final assignment for another MOOC that I’m taking (which ends next week) about 5 days early.

I’m also beginning to plan for our trip to Nashville (should we rent a car?). Suggestions for restaurants to try and places to visit would be much appreciated.