When the year began, I made a goal that I was going to be blogging every week. I had quite a few written up and ready to go but life handed me a devastating card this year and I needed to step away. I feel like every week has been a battle as I’ve been processing my emotions post-miscarriage. I’ve been up and down emotionally but this week I finally got to get out, step away, and have fun, which I haven’t done in a long time.
This past week, I had the honor of going with my best friend to Nashville to celebrate her 30th birthday! And even though I gave Sarah a “Happy Birthday Grandma, It’s Better to Be Over the Hill Than Buried Under It” Birthday Card to start her day (she’s a huge “Friends” fan, I swear!), she still let me hang out with her for the rest of the week. Seriously, she had to forgive me after the gluten free birthday cheesecake (from Lilac Pâtisserie in Santa Barbara) I bought her for the plane ride with a sticker labeled “Mama’s Little Bakery, Chicago, Illinois” (also a Friends reference…can you tell we’re obsessed?) and the cheese plates I made for us complete with tasting notes and truffle honey. It was a foolproof plan.
All jokes aside, it’s time I talk about the awesome reasons we love Nashville from the music scene, the gluten free food, and the shopping!
Music: All Day, Every Day
I feel like every time I visit Nashville my brain wanders off into this dream world where I envision myself on stage singing. I absolutely love soaking up the energy of the musicians and seeing them perform with such passion. I will admit, this time around, I felt that a little less by some of the bands we saw which was disappointing. There was definitely a range of people out there on stage: from the duo who’s passion for music has clearly wavered, the singer who’s online following has boomed (and while still friendly enough, not nearly as personable as they once were), the band with the singer who thought she was Ariana Grande, and the two person duo who were singing with so much love you could see they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else but right there, in that moment. While I’d love to talk about all of these bands, I’m only going to talk about the highlights! First and foremost, next time you’re in Nashville, go watch the performing duo Michael Lynch and Andrew Lipow. You will not be disappointed. They were entertaining as both musicians and as people. By far the most charismatic artists we saw up on stage, they weren’t afraid to take risks with songs they hadn’t prepared (“Circle of Life” by Elton John and “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston come to the front of my mind), and they were always playful with their banter and jokes, allowing themselves to be freer on stage to experiment and just enjoy the audience. They sang songs beautifully from Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, and even performed Britney Spear’s “Baby One More Time” and Shania Twain’s “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”. There’s a reason we kept following them from gig to gig over the course of three days and why we’ll follow them around next time we’re in town. Go see them on your next trip, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Other talented musicians we saw that deserve a shoutout include Jamie Baxter, a country singer and guitarist playing solo, and Greg Pratt who performed this time around with a very talented fiddliest. I’d warn you about who not to see but I never got the name of the bizarre Ariana Grande cover band. If you find them, you’ll recognize them by the mini fan set on the stage to blow the girl’s hair back while she awkwardly dances making thrusting motions and sings while the, at least six piece band, plays far too many sounds behind her. I still don’t know what was happening on that stage but it was definitely a memorable experience, for better or for worse!
As a singer, and a former small business owner, the hardest thing for me to watch are the moments when these talented singers are singing to an empty bar or are playing request after request to in the end not even receive a tip from those very same customers. In a town where music is the heart and soul of the community, it’s hard for me to see the lack of appreciation by most of the visitors, who are honestly too drunk to remember what they heard that night. I’m not much of a drinker, so for me, listening to the music and watching the performers is the reason I come to Nashville. It was wonderful to vicariously feel their passion on stage and inspiring to see them working so hard to reach their goals. A part of me will always watch and daydream about being up on that stage too, as it always flashes me back to a time when I was recording my own songs and dreaming of what could be.
For those of you going to Nashville to listen to the music, hit the bars on Broadway for the first shows from 11am-2pm. You’ll be rewarded with a practically private show, front row seats, and amazing singers. If you’re looking for a good sized crowd as well, go for the 2pm-6pm shows where more people are out but most aren’t rowdy yet. There tend to be families out as well at the earlier hours so you may get to see some adorable kids bobbing to the songs or as we saw, moon walking and dancing up a storm to the music. If you love to get drunk, or you just want to people watch like Sarah and I did, the 11pm and after crowd is incredibly entertaining to watch. You’ll have everything from middle aged women stretching and twerking on the dance floor because they are drunk out of their minds to 20somethings howling and fist bumping into the air and drunkenly flirting with each other. Or, my favorite moment, the 75ish year old women we saw, double fisting beers and dancing with 21 year old guys on the dance floor at midnight. Seriously people, where can I get her energy?! I’m not kidding. Sarah and I spent every day being in a gluten-free food coma, feeling exhausted because we stayed out past 10pm, and drinking tea. Yes, Sarah somehow turned this proud card carrying tea-hater into a tea-aholic in Nashville, which is clearly not the normal type of -aholic that Nashville encourages. Yup – I almost have to wonder if we were the 75 year olds sitting there and that woman was the 29 year old and a Freaky Friday moment happened. All jokes aside though, Nashville clearly has a time and a place for everyone and anyone from dancing toddlers, bouncy college kids, double beer fisting elderly, and the “we’re too tired from working and/or being parents” 25-35 age group that was always the ones sitting down and suddenly daydreaming about being 75. Raise of hands anyone?
People Watching Tip: If you’re in town on a weekend when the crowds really come out, visit Savannah’s Candy Kitchen on Broadway. Not only do they have great tasting chocolates and treats, they have a large window by the entrance. We waited 30 minutes for our Uber and just stood there watching people as they swigged mini bottles of alcohol, danced in the middle of the street, cheered and waved at us while walking by, and most of them almost walked straight into the lamp post because they were too drunk or too busy looking at their phones (or a little of both!).
The Bluebird Cafe
Our other musical stop this trip was at The Bluebird Cafe. While our last trip out we visited the Grand Ole Opry, which is such a fun visit to see artists new and old, this time around, we instead got tickets to go to this intimate cafe full of people intently listening to every word sung. We were there for an In The Round Session with grammy-award winning songwriters who told stories about their songs and lyrics before singing and taking turns. My favorite story was from Ashley Cleveland about her song “Henry Doesn’t Care”. She once received a long letter from a fan, critiquing and giving his advice on her entire album, however, his biggest comment was that he wanted to get the number of Henry from this song because he sounded amazing and unlike anyone he’s ever met. He wanted to meet this amazing person who just doesn’t give a **** about anything and everything rolls of his back, never hiding who he is. As she read the letter, she looked over at her 1 year old son Henry as he was smashing spaghetti into his face and told him he had his very first fan.
Listening to the stories of these songwriters was so inspirational as it reminded me that you really can write a song about any experience in the world. I feel like writers block always comes from those moments when we either try to close off our emotions or shrug things off and minimize our experiences. It was really exciting and motivating to hear from these artists. I can’t even express how wonderful this experience was for me…you’ll just have to get tickets and see for yourself!
Gluten Free in Nashville
This was our second trip to Nashville together (and my fourth trip in the past two years) and we had to go back to some of our favorite gluten-free haunts in town. Our first stop was at Mellow Mushroom (located on Broadway in Downtown). Not only could we enjoy our delicious pizza with an array of toppings to choose from (hint: go for the bacon, it’s a-m-a-z-i-n-g), they also have live music because its on Broadway and pretty much every place on Broadway has live music. We heard a great musician here on our last trip. This time around the music was still enjoyable but nothing that really stood out. The bands are always rotating around town though so there’s a good chance we were just unlucky! Our other lunch discovery around town was at Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge (also located on Broadway). We sat down at Luke’s to listen to the singer we had heard a year before at Mellow Mushroom, Gregg Pratt, and we honestly weren’t even expecting to order food. Most places on Broadway don’t have a lot of gluten-free options and I assumed this wouldn’t be any different. I was pleasantly surprised to find they had gluten-free burger buns and a lot of burger meats to choose between including beef, salmon, chicken, and elk. I jumped at the elk burger and it was delicious. The fries however share the same deep fryer as everything so order a salad with your burger instead if you have celiac! Our brunch spot of choice was at Red Bicycle Coffee & Crêpes (located in Germantown). It’s gluten-free heaven here with a huge selection of savory and sweet crêpes to choose from. Sarah went with the Sweet Cinnamon Roll Crêpe with sugar, butter, and a cream cheese sauce, while I opted for a savory Maple Bacon Crêpe with apples and cheddar. We both enjoyed ours thoroughly and went back for round two a couple days later.
For dinner, we ate at Mangia, a casual Italian style restaurant (located in Berry Hill). The assortment of options was mind blowing (and delicious), however the portions are huge and the food somehow kept us full for two days straight. Seriously, we ate almost nothing the next day we were so full. I don’t even know how that’s possible but all I can assume is that we’re not used to eating fried foods and we ordered WAY TOO MUCH to try. Lets face it though, when you’re gluten-free and you see mozzarella in carrozza (a fried cheese sandwich with garlic bread), arancini (stuffed rice balls), led zeppole (vanilla ricotta donuts with chocolate ganache and caramel), cannoli (with ricotta cheese and dipped in pistachio), and more on a menu, all sense of reason goes out the window and you just eat it all. So we did. And we have the next full day and the look of being hung-over for two days straight from our food coma to prove it.
Our final and favorite food destination was at House of Cards (located on 3rd Avenue in Downtown). Arriving there was a little tricky, as the restaurant is designed as a hidden speak-easy underneath the Johnny Cash Museum. Once we were inside, we ordered our dinners. The waiters informed us of our gluten-free options (which included most items on the menu!). We couldn’t take photos of the food because photography is not allowed once inside. However, I loved my Winter Citrus Salad and the Grilled Rack of Lamb (cooked to a perfect medium rare) with celery root purée, while Sarah thoroughly enjoyed the Duck Fat Braised Pork Belly and the Wild Mushroom Truffle Risotto. We loved our meals so much we came back two days later. After dinner, we got to see a very entertaining magic show and then walked around the restaurant where magicians were rotating around performing magic tricks in front of the customers. All around, it was a wonderful and magical night we will never forget!
Shop Til You Drop!
After we got stuck in Nashville for two extra days because United delayed our flight home, we had to go shopping for extra clothes to keep us dressed for those following days. Everything online pointed to The Gulch as a big shopping area. We weren’t blown away by the amount of options in the area and we’re truly surprised that this is known as the big shopping hub. However, we did find some clothes in Kittenish, a super cute boutique by Jessie James Decker, as well as at Blush, a chain boutique. Overall, there weren’t too many shops to choose from and we only spent an hour or so walking around and trying on clothes. Our favorite destination for shopping turned out to be 12 South. This easily walkable strip is home to a handful of boutiques and Instagramable wall murals. We discovered some great finds at Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James, as well as at Emerson Grace and Moda Boutique. For some more necessities, we eventually found ourselves at the Green Hills Mall, located about 20 minutes outside of Downtown.
We really had the time of our lives in Nashville. I’m so happy to be home but I also can’t wait for our next girls trip…because lets face it, this trip was AMAZING and clearly has to become an annual vacation for us. Till next time, Nashville!