AmericanaFest – Nashville 2016

Nashville, home of the Grand Old Opry, fried green tomatoes, everything pimento cheese and once a year, Americanafest.

couponWe made our way to AmericanaFest 2016 on the company jet, enjoying our usual first class service with free drinks and all the peanuts we could eat for the one hour and thirty minute flight to Nashville.

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Hermitage Hotel

As much as we appreciated the luv’ly peanuts we were starving by the time we pulled up in front of our favorite place to stay, the beautiful Hermitage Hotel. We were curious about whose shiny new tour bus was parked across the street but I was anxious to get inside for “happy hour” so I didn’t spend much time thinking about the bus.  Imagine how sad I was when I found out that we had just missed one of my favorite things at the Hermitage, the cookie and lemonade happy hour. All I got was an apple.

We were all starving and an apple wasn’t going to cut it,

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Husk Restaurant

so we dropped the luggage and headed out for some home cooking at Husk. Crispy Chicken Skins, Alabama White Sauce, Johnny Cake, Pimento Cheese, Chipped Beef, Pickled Jalapeños, Hot Water Cornbread, Sliced Cucumbers and Raw Onion, Benne and Honey Lacquered Duck with Pickled Blueberries and Chanterelles and Crispy Pork Collar paired with Cornbread Purée and Greasy Beans awaited us at this restaurant located in a historic building on a hill overlooking the Titan’s stadium.

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Electric Nashville

During dinner we downloaded the Americana app to make our showcase planning easier, well as easy as it can be with showcases spread out all over town with one artist at the Mercy Lounge, one over at the Station Inn and one more at the Basement, all starting within thirty minutes of each other.  We did our best to get to as many  showcases as we could but would have done better if we could have gotten around more quickly. Reminder for next year, get jetpacks instead of a rent car.

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Jim Lauderdale & George Strait

 

The awards show was pretty terrific with appearances by everyone from Bonnie Raitt to George Strait to John Prine. The awards show ran three hours so we didn’t get to the first showcase until ten o’clock.

We decided that it would be best to hang out at the Cannery Ballroom since it has three venues in one spot. Very handy indeed for seeing as many artists in as short an amount of time as possible.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight but as I mentioned it is my favorite hotel so I like finishing my evening in the lobby, it smells like summer flowers and it’s the perfect place to wind down after a long day. Great people-watching too. Usually at leastwineglass one group will come weaving up the stairs after a very happy night out, those are the one who come over and ask us where we got our wine gunsbecause they can’t find anyplace open.  (We come prepared.)

Anyway, we like to spend the last hour or so in the lobby figuring it all out.

TCON the next day we made our way past the “Nashville” set that was being filmed on the same street as the Six Shooter Records party. Those Canadians put out an appropriate lunch (Nashville “hot chicken” sandwiches and Yazoo beer) for the listening party on the rooftop of the George Jones Museum. We got to see Ms. Whitney Rose who was as usual, delightful. Also got my first live listen to another Canadian – Amelia Curren, who I’ve been trying to get to Houston for several years. Thanks Six Shooter, we had fun.

peglegAfter a little nap we headed out for the music happy hour parties. We tried to make it to New West but got caught in a traffic circle so Siri changed our direction and took us to Razor and Tie Publishing instead.  We bumped into Steve Poltz as we were going in but lost sight of him in the crowd.  We decided to grab a bite before the next bout of shows so we walked around the block and tried out Peg Leg Porker for some great barbecue.

Again, we finished off our evening in the lobby of the beautiful Hermitage Hotel, Shane and TWWNCNBUIP with a bottle of wine and me with a bottle of Basil Hayden. I enjoy our midnight sippin’ parties.

We finally figured out who had the fancy shiny tour bus out front when we saw the Lumineers come home to the Hermitage after their gig.

All in all it was a great trip,  we got to visit with lots of new acts that we hope to bring to the Duck…(hint-keep your eyes and ears open for an Irishman.)

We heard the puppies really missed us..or maybe it’s that we really missed them, no matter who did the missin’ it’s really good to be home.

 

 

“The best lemoncello in Italy”

The first day in Puglia we were given the freedom to wander about the country, at least the country surrounding our hotel.

Starting the next day our hosts from VBT, Deborah and Juliano (native Puglians) had us awakened at TCOD (the crack of dawn) as opposed to my usual TCON (the crack of noon).

We had a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, homemade lemon pastries, and prosciutto accompanied by the very best cappuccino ever.

After installing my GPS on the handlebars, we were on our bikes by 8:30am (yes, as in morning!)  Each day’s tour follows a different route through the area. Some days we ride up to 30 miles and other days the route is only 29 miles.

Today’s ride was along the coast of the Adriatic Sea.

The name may seem familiar to you because Rocky’s wife Adrianne was named after this beautiful body of water and ever since the movie the area touched by the waters of the Adriatic has been a huge tourist attraction.

Debora (pronounced  the Italian way) told us this morning to just keep the water on your right side and you will not get lost. I proved her wrong but she was able to find me amongst the fishing boats at the pier.

The morning route took us through fields of cabbage (you could recognize the crop from the familiar odor) and fennel and celery. We cycled past vineyards planted with Primitivo grapes and orchards of olives and almonds.

As we passed through a particularly beautiful olive orchard, Debora stopped with me and pointed out that there are 14 types of olives grown in Puglia. I was fascinated, and told her that my favorite were the martini olives.

She gave me a quizzical look, then a smile, then rolled her eyes and continued down the road.

Just before we left the orchard she stopped again to show me how the farmers had strung plastic mesh under the trees to catch falling olives.

A few trees were left without the mesh and these olives were left to just fall onto the ground.  Debora turned and looked me in the eye and said, “These olives are for ‘dirty’ martinis”.

I could hear her laughing as she road away.

Giuliano and Debora recommended a local taverna in Monopoli for a “typical” lunch of fresh seafood and salad. We passed onto a narrow cobbled street that looked like every picture of an Italian village that you have ever seen in a movie.

The lane was so narrow that only bicycles should have been allowed, but no,  Italian cars were zooming past as we strolled.

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The taverna lunch was a great recommendation, the fish was caught that morning and after lunch the owner presented us with “the best lemoncello in Italy, made by my wifa.”

After arriving back at the Masseria we did what the Italians do and enjoyed a nice nap before our wine and olive oil tastings.

Making noodles and drinking prosecco …

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We were still awake after 26 hours and quite hungry so we joined Val (a fellow cyclist) for brunch at our Masseria Torre Maizza Hotel restaurant. After lunch, I insisted on a short nap before exploring the area and ocean around the hotel. Some of our cycle mates advised against this nap plan of mine, “Just tough it out ” I was told. “N0, I’ll be fine!”, says I.

Twenty three hours later…I awoke  just in time for breakfast. Perhaps, I should have listened.

As we were finishing breakfast the next morning our hosts told us that there would be a cooking class at 10:30 am where we could get hands on experience of cooking a “typical” Puglian meal. “Sign me up!” I heard myself say.  TWWNCBUIP concurred.

Soon we were  rolling flour, water, and some other stuff into a round dough wheel which we filled with chopped mozzarella, cherry tomato, basil and made ‘typical’ panzerotti and drank prosecco, we rolled more dough laid it on a wire ‘guitar’ and made noodles and drank prosecco. We chopped onion, tomato and other stuff and made bouillabaise and drank prosecco, or at least that’s the way I remember it.

After the feast we met with our VBT leaders for instructions on biking and Italian biking hand signs (not the ‘typical’ Italian handsigns).

We took a 6 mile “warm up” trip out to the Roman ruins near Egnazia and the VBT staff were kept busy with flat tires and chasing down some unnamed cyclist. There were several (okay, so maybe it was just one) cyclist who had trouble recognizing the markers for turns and several times had to be rescued and returned to the route.

In spite of my dose of Ambian and covering my head with a blanket….

I still could not sleep, so between meals I finished my book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” then watched a little Italian T.V. and tried to finish the crossword puzzle, which was difficult for me as I don’t speak much Italian, yet. Once we finally landed in Roma we were directed to Terminal B which was about a mile away from were we stood. We needed to stretch our legs so that worked out fine and we soon  found ourselves at the opposite end of the airport boarding a bus which was to take us on the next leg of our journey-a short flight to Bari. We were met outside the airport by a”Welcome VBT” sign and driver in a nifty Mercedes van. The welcome sign offered the only English words we would see or hear until our arrival in Brindesi at the reception area of our picturesque hotel Torre Maizza. The whitewashed stone rooms manage to be simple and elegant at the same time. Our room has a patio that opens onto a golf course and lemon grove. The air smells like lemons and you can see the Adriatic from our porch. Are the Adriatic and the Mediterranean the same and are they Oceans or Seas?

While out exploring the property I found myself  being a little skeptical of the amenities when I discovered this stash of bicycles. Are these ours to use for the next six days?  

And something tells me there will be orange juice for breakfast. I am just  wondering what Italian breakfast will be.  Hope it’s pizza and eggs!

I had no idea that I needed these..

I didn’t even know they existed. But now that I am going on a road trip to the villages of Puglia, I don’t think I can live with out them. These new shorts along with my new under-the-shirt-hidi-pouch to conceal my newly issued passport (Delta said that my old one not only had expired and the picture showed someone with hair) and the RFID wallet to protect my electronic stuff from unsavory characters in the airports that want to steal my identity (don’t you just know everyone wants to be me?) or my credit card number, or they could be trying to electronically capture my shoe size right out from under me.

 

We’re taking a Very Long Airplane Ride

all the way to Italy. That’s in Europe. That’s right – THE Europe. And when we get off the airplane we’re going to have to ride bikes all the way across the size 8 million and a half boot.

Apparently I’m a little too tall to fit in the fancy Italian sports cars. Stay tuned for notes from the road, chronicles of TWWNCNBUIP’s quest for the perfect Chianti, pictures of the Romans, the Corinthians, and maybe even pretty ole me holding up the leaning tower of Pizza…double pepperoni and onions…with a Zantac for dessert. The adventure starts in a couple weeks but as of right now i’ve got a mini toothbrush, a roll of good old fashioned American toilet paper and a spanking new iPad 3 for documenting my adventures from the road. With any luck at all CB will be tutoring me on the finer points of blogging on the shiny retnia display for your vicarious adventuring.

We will be taking this trip as a romantic couples adventure as CB and ALICAT have movies to make, Graham has dishes to wash and Garret has many many cocky monkeys to knock from their roosts with irate avians. With the peace and quiet that this solitude affords, I plan on sipping my lattes (they do have lattes there right?) on what I believe is called a Piazza while I watch the girls on Vespas go by while TWWNCNBUIP searches out the nearest bocce ball bookie.

We are pretty excited to be making this excursion and I’m sure that my on the road chronicles will inspire you to sign up for our MMD European Vacation 2013. Until then, you’ll just have to trust that we’re finding and all the best cafés, vineyards and meatballs that Italy has to offer while taking plentiful notes punctuated with stunning, high resolution iPad pictures.