Fangirling – Nashville Edition

This morning I had the very difficult task of loiter about the Opryland Hotel. It was a hard job and took all of my tenacity to complete πŸ˜‰ KG’s conference ran until the afternoon so I was left waiting until she was ready to move on. I would think I had the easy morning considering I just lounged in bed, wandered around the gorgeous lush greenery scattered about the hotel and drank Starbucks in the Garden Conservatory Cafe but if you’ve read her post about her morning (The Hot List) you’ll see she was having a pretty fun time too.

When the conference was concluded, our bags were packed and we had checked out it was time to head downtown. We looked a little odd loading our suitcases onto the Wildhorse Shuttle but it was the most economical way to proceed. We didn’t care that it was normally just Opryland guests going on a day trip to the main part of the city, we were using it to get us from our high class resort to our next residence. I am, of course, speaking of the Nashville Downtown Hostel. If you had expected anything else you (a) overestimate our level of class, (b) under estimate our adventurous natures and (c) obviously don’t regularity read our blogs. It was only a few blocks walk from the drop off point (being the famous Ryman Auditorium) and was hardly as hilly as the trek we made with our suitcases in San Fran. We are now settled into a 4-person mixed dorm, although from the look of their stuff we believe both of our roommates are girls, and are prepared for four nights of hostel life. To prep for such a life we hit up a grocery store for snacks & easy lunch/supper food and a convenience store for liquor. This is after the hostel employees looked at us like crazy people for asking where the nearest liquor store was. “Um…there’s a specialty wine store up the street…if you need more selection.” “More selection than what?” “Than what you can get across the street at the convenience store.” It was like light bulbs went off above our heads…oh yeah, you can just buy beer absolutely anywhere in this country, not just from its own special store.

We needed an afternoon snack (also know as lunch if you believe in such a thing) so we headed out in search of live music, beer and bar food. We ended up at The Stage. This is a pretty iconic Nashville bar where many a country music legend has played. We had a drink, some jalapeΓ±os poppers & an order of spring rolls. It was serious deep fried goodness. While we ate we enjoyed the song stylings of a man and his band. I call them that because I don’t think I ever knew who they were…sometimes these performers don’t do a very good job of informing an ever-changing crowd of their name. It was an entertaining set though. The lead singer pulled off a wide variety of covers, from classics to current outlaw country hits. He created a stellar party atmosphere, especially when you consider it was the middle of the afternoon and no one in the bar was attempting to party.
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Otherwise we spent most of our day relaxing. We got our belongings organized in our rooms. We sat in the common area & blogged. We intensely listed out everything we still wanted to do in Nashville and systematically scheduled each thing in for the next 4 days. We made a light supper of cold meat & cheese sandwiches and salad. It was pretty chill. Spending time at this hostel is pleasant. We are pretty sure it is a converted office building. Our room has 2 bunk beds pushed against the walls of what would have been an office. It’s not a lot of space, but it’s clean and well laid out. Plus the fourth floor where we are bunking has beautiful hardwood flooring. There are small common spaces on the dorm floors, but they are designated quiet areas for just hanging out in to read, etc. (I use etc because I’m not entirely sure what else you’d use them for) the main common area is on the main floor and has an open concept. The check in desk, tv area, dining tables and kitchen are all in the same large room, which seems hectic but due to superior planning actually flows quite well. Everything is nice quality and has a new & classy look to it. Basically it’s still up there with San Francisco as a beautiful place to stay. It doesn’t appear to be as lively though. We’ll see how the weekend progresses, but so far people seem a little lethargic when out lounging and not eager to organize a big hostel-group drinking party.
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It was after nine before we even considered moving. KG looked at me and said “We should probably go do something, shouldn’t we?” “I guess so…although it feels like it’s already 4 in the morning.” Ironic…just a little foreshadowing being thrown in here… We decided that the night life is a huge part of the Nashville experience and we could suck it up and go out. Just because we felt sluggish now didn’t mean we wouldn’t perk up with some fresh air and alcohol. Not to mention the music. Instant Party: Just add Beer & Country Music.

After walking 2nd Ave and Broadway we settled on Tootsies Orchid Lounge. The bouncer had done the “Ladies come in here” non-sell that seems to work on us so well. Tootsies is a Nashville institution that we intended on visiting at some point so this was as good of a time as any. The cramped but lively bar is wallpapered with signed photos of all the classic country music greats. When the Grand Ole Opry was situated in the Ryman Auditorium the artists used to finish their set, walk out the back door of the theater and into the back door of Tootsies.
We were luck enough to snag 2 seats at the bar. The place was already squished standing room only but we’d entered as the on stage talent was changing so we also hit the changing of bar patrons. We came in for the new act as the previous owners of our stools left with the last singer. Once on our thrones we kind of just held court while the people around us changed. We made all sorts of random friends as they drifted past, some just for a few minutes but many who kept coming be to pay us a visit as the night progressed. One fellow thought KG should dance with him even though she repeatedly insisted she was good. Multiple old men (and we mean 50+…sorry dad but I’m counting that as old) stopped to tell me how pretty I was. A group of studio musicians alternated between kinda fun, kinda creepy and kinda fun, depending on the time they’d stop by. A super drunk but totally harmless business man kept awkwardly flail-dancing in our vicinity, much to our entertainment. Basically we had a steady stream of randoms to keep us amused.
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But the real entertainment of the evening was that evenings entertainment. The band that played from minutes after we entered the bar until close was spectacular! This group of gentlemen had everyone singing, dancing and having a kick ass time. Orio and the Goodfellers are born entertainers who ran through the best party-playlist of requests and inspired fangirl reactions from this prone-to-fangirling duo. We made our request when we tipped the band: something Canadian. Anthony Orio, the lead singer, promised us he’d choose something good. We ended up getting a 2-for-1 deal when he first proudly stood on the stage and belted out Man I feel like A Woman by Shania Twain, then had the whole bar rocking to Bryan Adams’ Summer of ’69. After that we got a kick from his random Canadian shout-outs.
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As we were now the bands biggest fans we ended up staying right till close…which came a bit sooner than expected when there was a fight upstairs and the police helped the bouncers clear the bar. Staying was aided by the acquisition of 2 new friends, Hostel Friends! When we’d been relax earlier two young men had been playing pool across the common area. Now they spotted us across the bar. Staying at the same hostel always equals instant friends. We tried to educate this Australian & Argentinian pair as to what were the best country songs and enjoyed the company of some other excited travelers.

When we left the bar it was pouring rain. We ran back the hostel trying to duck under store front canopies and into covered doorways…well the others did at least. I, on the other hand, tried to jump in as many puddles as possible and make the most epic splashes my rain-soaked companions had ever seen.
Once back at the hostel we played pool while we dried off. Everyone bonded over travel adventures, stories from home and cross-continental shared interests. Time flies by when your having fun and we finally crawled into bed at 4am. What can I say? We’re party animals πŸ˜‰

Love & Luck,
Kris

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It’s nicer than Slanty House!

Hello Vacation! Yes, it has finally arrived. KG has been doing so many fun things this week (you can read about them over at Yukon Girl in the World), meanwhile this has been my view:
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I shouldn’t complain. I learned a lot and got a free flight to San Francisco. Plus I saw a few cool things. We had a free night on Wednesday and I was able to venture into the city to hang out at the wharf. All the detail of that can be found at the end of KG’s Trains, a Crab and the Buena Vista post. I also drove through the Stanford campus and to some of the technological hotspots in the area. Although neither looks quite as cool as the Google Headquarters, I scoped out both the Facebook and Apple campuses. I loved the sign outside the Facebook compound…no label, just a big “Like” thumbs-up…and the address…1 Hacker Way.
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I had to head into the office Friday morning (we did mock sales presentations) but was back to the hotel before KG had even finished packing up. After checking out and struggling through refueling the car we headed for the airport rental car return. I was not brave enough to take my Impala over the San Francisco hills…that just seemed far too stressful! Instead we will be pedestrians for the weekend. After struggling through car return (we are semi-professional strugglers) I totally outsmarted the airport train system. KG is a little weary of trains right now, having had some wrong station, wrong time and missed stop issues during the week, so she was willing to ride the entire loop in order to go back one stop. This was not acceptable to me! So I shuffled her out and onto a reverse direction train! Yay me!

The closest BART station to our hostel was on Powell St. This is right at the cable car turnaround, so there were hordes of tourists crowding the sidewalks. It was then about a 20 minute uphill-while-pulling-suitcases walk to the hostel location. I’m totally making it sound worse than it was; it was one of the smaller hills and we strategically took the less crowded streets. Our hostel is a usahostels hostel…how many times can I fit “hostel” into one sentence? Check it out here. You may notice from the photos that it looks very nice. They are not facetious, this place is awesome. Our room is a fine-sized 4 person dorm. The bathrooms are clean and the kitchen is amply supplied with dishes/storage space. Every bed has a plug in & light beside it and each person gets a locker with another plug in inside. That’s 2 double-plugs per person! It’s totally unheard of in the hostel world! Does anyone remember the posts where Justine & I described sitting in hostel hallways while our phones charged because that was the only power point in the whole building? After 4 months of hosteling in Europe I feel qualified to say that this is a top-rate facility.
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KG was a little hesitant about the whole hostel thing, as this was her first time. What was her reaction? “It’s nicer than Slanty House” which was the nickname of the house she lived in for 2 years (on & off) in and after university.

By the time we were organized and heading out to explore our roommates hasn’t arrived. We decided to leave thea note, hoping they’d join us in some nighttime debauchery. This became a whole thing… You can read about the note at Welcome New Roomates!! and it’s origin story at Is reverse stalking a thing??.

We decided to walk to Chinatown. It’s not far from our hostel and is an obvious choice when approaching dinner time. The San Francisco Chinatown has a couple of major claims to fame. First, it is the first North American “Chinatown.” Established in 1848 it became an important place for people to retain their heritage. It became so important that this iconic portion of the city now draws more visitors annually than the Golden Gate Bridge. Second, SF Chinatown has the largest Chinese population outside of Asia. The population of the area is over 100,000. We entered through the dragon guarded gates. Actually I’m lying…We entered by side street and had to back-track in order to do it right.
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We chose our supper location on a recommendation. On Tuesday KG had toured around with a business contact of her mom’s and he gave her lots of tips on where to walk, eat and visit. Apparently after laborious study he had deemed Great Eastern Restaurant as the best choice for authentic cuisine. He did not steer us wrong. We ordered the dinner for 2 with an addition of chow mien, not because we didn’t think we’d have enough food but because we really wanted chow mien. Our dinner for 2 could have probably fed 4 . The plates just kept coming with more and more yummy goodness. Check out the parade of mouth-watering food photos:
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We were hoping for some post-dinner coffee to perk us up before the epic evening we had planned. We needed to be on Broadway at 8:30pm so we charted a course in that direction while keeping an eye out for a coffee shop. We found a Starbucks a couple of blocks from our final destination, but after setting up our spot we were informed they were set to close in 5 minutes. What? It wasn’t even 6 yet! A search of my Starbucks app told us that out of the 5 Starbucks in our general area only 1 was open past 6pm…and it was only open until 7:30. Naturally we headed to that one and again set up shop. It wasn’t open as late as we would have liked but it would get us close to party time πŸ˜‰ This time we actually ordered and got to work on blog posts, trip research and post card writing. But an hour prior to close they threw us out! Ok that’s a little dramatic, we were asked nicely to leave. The only Starbucks to be open “late” and it was closing early? A Yelp search told us we could find one other coffee shop that was open “late” (aka 8pm). The Brioche Bakery & Cafe was an adorable little place with delicious chai lattes…and an inexplicable 7:30pm closing time this one time only. Despite our break time being a coffee shop tour we managed to get some blogging done & posted.
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As a weird side note, while sitting in the last coffee shop a group of cyclists went by. I know you’re picturing 10 to 15 people, but I mean like a hundred…and some of them naked. There were many just normal folks, but also some in costume, a multitude of topless people and couple naked as the day they were born…it was very odd.

Because we were out on the street with an hour to spare we decided to take part in one of my favorite pastimes: sitting on stairs in public places. The stairs in question were actually the side walk of a street running up a hill so steep that people couldn’t be trusted to walk on it simply as an incline. It was a lovely perch for killing time before The Beer Olympics! Such an epic thing to be doing with our evening! My Olympic dreams would finally be realized! Basically it was the best possible way to spend our night and we had an amazing time. If you want to know what shenanigans ensued KG is covering it over on her blog…Please right now go check out The Beer Olympics because it is chalked full of hilarious, ridiculous and random stories πŸ™‚

Love & Luck,
Kris

Hello New Roomates!!!

Hello New Roommates! We are so excited you have joined us in our room at the San Francisco usahostels hostel. Unfortunately we had to leave the room before you arrived…there’s just so much to see here!…but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to meet and hang out with you! I realize we will have time over the next 1 to 4 nights (depending on how long you are staying…we leave Tuesday) but we wanted the bonding to begin tonight. Right now we are exploring Chinatown and finding a great place for supper, but later we have a super duper fun plan we would love you to join in on: Beer Olympics!
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As the poster says, it’s all sorts of fun beer-related games and only a 20 minute walk away! Here’s how you get there:
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We will be there for registration at 8:30pm. It gives lots of time to make the walk…although I don’t know what time you arrived… We will likely be on Team Canada, as the poster says they group you by where you are from. Maybe you’re Team Canada too…but don’t worry we’ll like you even if you’re not. There is a photo of us below so you can find us when you come…we took it today so we would be wearing the same thing…so convenient!
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See you later Roomies!
Kristin & Kristin