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Nashville Day 2: "For the First Time"

CMA Fest is the largest country music festival in the world. It lasts four days. During the day are free concerts on various stages around downtown Nashville and each night, there is a paid stadium concert with numerous big stars. Concerts kick off at 10a each day. We were planning to spend most of our daytime hours at the Riverfront stage. Admission was free but new for 2022 was a VIP section called Riverfront Retreat. For an extra fee this section provided separate drink vendors with reduced prices, separate air conditioned bathrooms, and some chairs with umbrellas. We didn't quite know what to expect so we arrived around 830a for the 9a gate opening. We were early but that turned out to be a really good thing.

The stage was right on the riverfront and the grassy area just in front was first come, first serve, free admission. Our VIP section was off to the side on terraced hills. They had sold several hundred tickets but it looked like only about 50 umbrellas and maybe 100 or so chairs. Although we were there early, we snagged some of the last chairs available.

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Side view of stage
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Views across the river
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Each of the singers performed for 30 minutes with 15 minutes between each one. We planned to spend all day Thursday here. We were particularly excited about the first act - Jimmie Walker. Before he got started, Melissa walked around and explored while I saved our seats.
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The area containing the air conditioned bathroom trailers.
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Additional places to rest (without stage view), separate bar area, and misting fans.
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The grassy section starting to fill up.
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Some boats even pulled up to have a listen.
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After she came back, I left to get us some lunch. Unfortunately, I decided to do this right before Hardy came on stage and the place was filled to capacity. I had to muddle thru the crowd and wait in a long line but I managed to come back with some really good cheeseburgers and hand cut fries. We spent the afternoon listening to music and trying to moving our umbrella with the sun in order to stay as cool as possible.

We left before the final act of the day to walk around on Broadway before dinner. I made dinner reservations for 530p each day so we could make it to the stadium concerts by 730p each night. Broadway was a hot, crowded mess. Think Mardi Gras in the sweltering heat. Definitely not our scene. We arrived at Nashville Diner, a six story diner a block or two from the bridge we would cross to get to the stadium. We ate on the 4th floor.
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After dinner, we went to the lower level to have a pina colada at the counter which was a little weird. It felt like we should be ordering a milkshake instead. It wasn't the best idea to drink something so heavy before walking in the heat. We joined the crowd walking across the bridge to Nissan Stadium. We would come to love and hate walking across this bridge each night. There was a slight hill at the start then it flattened out across the bridge then slightly downhill after that. It was about a mile across by the time we reached our seats on the floor.
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The show started with the National Anthem and a flyover. The first act of the night was Shenandoah (each night the show was opened with an older country star). These guys were popular when I was in college in the early 90s. They did a great job opening the show.
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Next up was one of our favorites, Darius Rucker. He even sang a Hootie song!
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Then it was Zac Brown Band.
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Jason Aldean
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And the night capped off with Keith Urban who did a spectacular job.
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Keith walked thru the crowd to a platform stage on the floor during part of his set.
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The show ran until after midnight. We walked back across that bridge with the crowd and everyone descended on Broadway which was already crowded. We were ready for bed so we took off towards our condo which was about a mile walk along the riverfront. This would be the last night we would make this walk. It was very dark and very creepy. We felt alone and freaked out, especially when a truck followed us, honked, and then came back around. We were thankful to make it back and vowed to come up with another plan for the following three nights.

Posted by zihuatcat 00:34 Archived in USA Tagged melissa nashville cma Comments (0)

Nashville Day 1: Kickin' Off CMA Fest

Melissa and I had been waiting two years for CMA Fest. Originally, we bought tickets in January 2020 for the June 2020 festival. We'd even booked our condo for the week on vrbo. Then a terrible tornado hit downtown Nashville and took out the building where our condo was booked. So I found a new place and we were set. Then COVID shut everything down and the festival was canceled. The owners of the new condo offered us a free night if we rolled the booking over to 2021 so that's what we did and waited for the new year.

The new year came and the festival was again canceled due to COVID. Then 2022 rolled around and we were pretty hopeful since many other concerts we'd booked were finally happening. They finally announced the festival was on, we booked our flights, and were excitedly awaiting the line up to be announced. Then a couple of months before, I get an email from the condo management company stating they were canceling our reservation because the condo owner was no longer doing short-term rentals. I personally think that was a lie and they now regretted their decision to give us a free night and they canceled our reservation so they could re-list the condo and jack up the rates. Back to vrbo I went and of course, everything was much more expensive because the concert was delayed for two years and it was only a couple months away. I was able to find something reasonable I could live with and after booking, I realized it was the original condo we'd booked two years prior. They had rebuilt it after the tornado and it was back on the market. So it all worked out in the end.

Our flight didn't leave until 230p so around noon, Melissa showed up and Alex dropped us off at the airport. We had lunch at the airport (Campisi's for me and Mo's for Melissa) then took off about 30 minutes late. We arrived in Nashville around 430 or 5p. We got our luggage and headed for the taxi stand. We asked the driver if he'd take us to the grocery store and wait on the way to the condo and he agreed. We stopped off at a Kroger about a mile from the condo for supplies. This was the worst Kroger I've ever seen but it did the job. The taxi driver even did some grocery shopping on his own!

He got us to our condo and we hauled our luggage up to the third floor. Thankfully the a/c was on and set low! We had a view of the Cumberland River from the front.
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And a sketchy view of the railroad tracks from the back.
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Otherwise, just a normal, one bedroom condo.
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We had just enough time to put away food and change clothes before it was time for our dinner reservation at Oak Steakhouse. We called an uber and made our way there.

We started with a couple of cocktails.
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And some incredible bread we couldn't stop eating.
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Then it was on to steaks, brussel sprouts, and mashed potatoes.
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We were a couple of blocks from Broadway and we considered exploring to get the lay of the land but we were tired and needed to get up early. The uber back idea won out so we chilled watching some TV before falling asleep.

Posted by zihuatcat 19:53 Archived in USA Tagged melissa nashville cma Comments (0)

Seattle Days 4-5: Any Given Sunday

On Sunday, we got to sleep in a bit which was nice. After we originally booked this trip, I asked Alex if he might be interested in going to a Seahawks game while we were in Seattle. They were playing the Titans and neither of us cared about the teams but I thought it would be fun anyway. He mentioned this to his two football buddies and coincidentally, they had tickets to that very game. They were both taking their sons as a senior trip. Luckily, there were even tickets right in front of them still available so it was a done deal.

His friends and their sons were leaving Seattle right after the game so they checked out of their hotel and drove over to our condo which was in walking distance to the stadium. By walking distance, I mean about two miles. We figured this was easier than trying to drive and park. As we walked, other groups of people joined along the route so by the time we got to the stadium, our little group had turned into a big group.

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We had enough time to grab a round of drinks and see some of the Maclemore concert before the game.

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Then the opening ceremony began.

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I'm one of those people who definitely has to pick a side to cheer for. Since the Seahawks co-opted my alma mater's 12th man and the quarterback for the Titans was an ex-Aggie quarterback, I rooted for the enemy team. Our group was split 50/50 on this.

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The Titans were the definite underdog but somehow managed to tie the game up so that we went into overtime. They won 33-30 with an overtime field goal.

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it was pretty easy to get out of the game and we were lucky that the weather had been nice and sunny throughout. This changed as soon as we started walking back to the condo. We found ourselves in a Seattle downpour. After drying off a bit, the boys were hungry again so we went across the street to a Brazilian steakhouse called The Grill from Ipanema. It was a bit expensive but served its purpose. Alex's friends and their sons took off soon after to make their flights. We went downstairs to Belltown Pizza for one last drink and to finish watching the Sunday games then it was up to the condo to pack for our flight the next day.

We were up and out by 9a on Monday to get to the airport and return the rental car on time. On the way out of town, we stopped off at one of the stores on the waterfront so that I could get a t-shirt I'd seen there previously. About halfway to the airport, we realized that we failed to leave the parking pass in the condo with the keys. To avoid a $100 fine, I was able to get in touch with the leasing agent and promise to overnight it the following day. Otherwise, we made our flight and got home without issue from a trip that was unexpectedly much more fun than we imagined.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:23 Archived in USA Tagged alex seattle Comments (1)

Seattle Day 3: Watching for Whales

It was an early start today because we had to drive about 30 minutes north to Edmonds to catch our whale watching boat. It was an easy drive and we arrived around 9a for check in. It was only a little ways north but man was it colder here. We stood in line for about 15 minutes waiting to board the Puget Sound Express and the wind was biting cold. We were relieved to get on board and settled into the heated cabin. We sat on the front row right next to the starboard exit door. I wanted to be able to leap up and get outside if a whale was spotted. The boat had a cool radar system on a monitor in front of us that tracked our route and stats.
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After the safety talk, we headed out.
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I found a wind shelter on the starboard side to lean against the rail and take some pics. Alex opted to stay inside where it was warm.
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Not too long after leaving the marina, one of our passengers spotted an orca. We excitedly made our way to the viewing area on the top deck.
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This was a transient pod known to our crew. As a transient pod, they eat other mammals like seals, sea lions, etc. The resident orca pods don't eat other mammals. The pod is led by the matriarch which was the first whale sighted swimming alongside her youngest calf.
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Two of her calves from previous seasons were bringing up the rear.
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The second one. The crew was able to identify these whales based on fin shape and markings.
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We spent a long time watching this whale family before we let them move on about their business and we headed off in search of more whales. The area we were looking in was so calm it was almost eerie.
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Sure enough, we spotted a minke whale which are small whales with small dorsal fins.
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After leaving there, we traveled by an island that was loaded with sea lions. As we got closer to shore, they all started piling into the water.
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There had been a fire on the island recently and the top of it was still smoldering.
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By now it was time to return to shore. On the way back, we spotted a bald eagle hanging out on a log. You can just make him out by his white head in the center of the pic.
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We were lucky to have such great weather out on the boat. It was much warmer at sea than it was on shore. It started raining as soon as we returned. There was another line of people waiting for the afternoon trip. I felt sorry for them that it would be in a downpour.

We made a few shopping stops on the way back to the condo but it was raining pretty hard and we were tired from being up early and all the orca excitement. We continued watching our Netflix show "Clickbait" until dinner.

In walking around the neighborhood, we passed by a small Italian restaurant called Limoncello several times. I was able to get a same day reservation and it was the best meal of the trip. Each day, the chef makes all the pasta from scratch and it's first come, first serve.
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The kitchen was open to the restaurant so we were able to watch the chef making all the dishes.
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I started with an appetizer of various cuts of ham and salami, parmesan cheese, olives, and really tasty breadsticks. The app was so simple but a bite of each item together was the perfect taste.
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For dinner, I had the beef ravioli.
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Alex had the halibut.
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We were so impressed that Alex told everyone we would come back the next night and we probably would have if our plans hadn't gotten derailed.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:16 Archived in USA Tagged alex seattle Comments (0)

Seattle Day 2: All the Tourist Stuff

We woke up to a rainy, dreary day (it's Seattle after all) but that didn't stop us from getting started on our day. We suited up in our rain coats and walked the mile or so down to Pike Place Market. We were really excited to try out some of the recommended foods.

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The first place we came across was Beecher's Homemade Cheese. It was 930 in the morning but you can eat salmon mac and cheese from this place any time.

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They were making the cheese on site.

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Alex was in cheese heaven and bought several of their handmade cheeses and we split a grilled cheese.

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We left there and went into the main part of the market where we came across the famous fish throwers. They entertained us for a bit and I bought a shrimp cocktail made with huge, fresh shrimp.

I really wanted one of these giant, chocolate-covered donuts but I knew that was going too far.

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We walked around for a while, taking it all in.
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The last bite we could handle was a breakfast pastry for me and an apple filled pastry for Alex from Piroshky Piroshky.
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Before walking back to the condo, we walked down to a store Alex wanted to visit. It turned out to be both entertaining and sad as we witnessed a homeless man getting kicked out of the store because his pants were so ripped that his entire butt was hanging out. He wasn't very cooperative but he finally left before it got too ugly. We walked the mile back to our condo and picked up the car. Alex had a COVID test scheduled for noon (required for the football game on Sunday) and it was too far to walk. Since we had the car anyway, we drove over to the Space Needle complex where we planned to spend the rest of the afternoon.

The first stop in this area, which I was really looking forward to, was the Chihuly Museum. I just love this kind of blown glass and I've wanted to see his work for years, since I missed his exhibit in Dallas.

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Many of his pieces have an ocean theme.

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I have a thing for anything octopus.
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This was the ceiling of an entire room.

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Other of his large scale installations.
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There were also installations outside in the gardens, some with views of the Space Needle next door.

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I was excited to see that the gift shop actually had smaller Chihuly pieces for sale. That excitement quickly disappeared when I realized that the cheapest one was about $8K. I bought a $50 replica instead.

From there we went to the Museum of Pop Culture. This wasn't as interesting as I thought but it was ok for an hour. There was lots of memorabilia related to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Jimi Hendrix as well as movie memorabilia.

These were all the hoverboards from Back to the Future.

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And the props used in the Blair Witch Project, a movie that scarred me for life.

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The final destination of the day was a trip to the top of the Space Needle. Neither of us really cared that much about doing this. We've both been to much taller buildings but it didn't seem right to go to Seattle and not do it. So up we went.

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By now it was late afternoon and we'd spent all day out and about with lots of walking. We were tired so we went back to the condo to relax before dinner. We started watching "Clickbait" on Netflix which would become our Seattle series.

We did make it to our dinner reservation at 8 at Umi Sake House.
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We had a nice dinner before stopping off at the pizza bar for a nightcap and to pick up calzones for the next day's lunch.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:10 Archived in USA Tagged alex seattle Comments (1)

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