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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)

St. John Days 6-7: Salty Time at Salt Pond

This was our last full day on the island and I wanted to go to a "different" beach for snorkeling. By different, I meant not one of the North shore beaches that was easy to get to. I wanted to go to Salt Pond. We did get a little lost trying to get there but eventually found our way after asking directions from a nice lady sitting in her yard. Salt Pond has very little shade and no facilities but the worst thing about it is the half mile walk from the parking lot to the beach. It's downhill getting there so we didn't know how bad it was yet.

We arrived about 1030a and found a spot with as much shade as we could (which wasn't much).
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Oher people were able to get their tents to work. We didn't want to carry ours since we weren't sure we could get it standing.
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It was really hot so I immediately got suited up for snorkeling just to cool off. I snorkeled all along the right side of the bay.

This guy had a friend and I followed both of them for a while.
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Trunkfish
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I could have snorkeled for much longer and I would have liked to explore the left side of the bay after a rest but I didn't want to leave Melissa by herself in the hot sun for too long.
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We did our usual lunch thing, trying to eat up any remaining food so it didn't go to waste. By 230p, we were hot, hot, hot so we decided to pack it in. That walk back to the car was uphill and brutal with having to carry all our junk! We were thankful for the great a/c in the Jeep.

We spent the rest of the afternoon packing things up for our departure the next day and then got dressed for sunset dinner at the Terrace. We made our last walk down that hill into town for dinner and were seated on the waterfront terrace.
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Shortly after, we had a quick rain shower which brought out this rainbow.
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Melissa ordered a beet salad with grilled shrimp. I was a little tired of seafood at this point and ordered the hanger steak with a beet side salad. It was surprisingly really good!
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The sun was setting as we finished our dinner.
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We also wanted one last BCBBBC from the Beach Bar across the street so we got one to go. It helped ease the pain of having to walk up that hill again to get back to the condo since Chico was all tied up. We finished our packing, finished our Netflix, and called it a night.

The next morning we were up pretty early and at High Tide by 9a for breakfast. We had a nice breakfast by the water and were able to make the 1030a ferry back to St. Thomas. No problems on the flight home.

I have a feeling St. John might require a return trip some day.

Posted by zihuatcat 23:02 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

St. John Day 5: Trunk Time

Whenever you see pictures of St. John, you most often see a picture of Trunk Bay. It seems to be the most recommended beach on the island. For these reasons, I honestly wasn't that excited about it. Experience tells me it will turn out to be overrated. This was not the case. It was totally worth it above and below sea. We arrived around 930a and got one of the last two parking spots. Despite that, the beach didn't look crowded.
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We found a spot with as much shade as we could get and got ourselves situated. I enjoyed the view for a while then suited up and hit the water for snorkeling.
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Lizardfish on the bottom.
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Parrotfish.
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Doctorfish.
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Suddenly I swam into a huge school of small silver fish grouped together in all different sizes. They went as far as I could see. These were the smallest.
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Then there were some slightly bigger.
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I popped up to see what was going on topside and caught this pelican at the right time.
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Flat needlefish near the surface.
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There was a lot to see and I had been gone for a long time at this point. I thought Melissa might be getting worried. As I started my swim back to shore, I followed a stingray for a bit.
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I lost sight of him and another appeared shortly.
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After getting back to shore, we broke out the cooler and had lunch.
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We had to leave the beach a bit earlier than usual today because we were booked for a sunset sail leaving late afternoon. We stopped off at the Trunk Bay overlook on the way back to town.
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After getting cleaned up, we called Chico and he dropped us off at the boat docks in town. Normally, I don't like these large catamaran rides. I would prefer something with less people. But we found a spot off by ourselves next to the captain and really enjoyed the trip. They collected all our shoes and drink orders before leaving the dock.
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We headed out at a pretty good pace.
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The building in between these two hills is Windmill Bar where we watched the sunset last night.
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It was very hazy out so our sunset was pretty hazy as well.
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The cruise lasted about an hour and a half. After getting our shoes back and docking, we walked over to Lime Inn for our 730 dinner reservations. Lime Inn only offers a four or six course price fixe menu. We opted for the four course and started with drinks called Hunter's Passion, a mix of mango rum, pineapple juice, passionfruit, and coconut cream.
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Despite the four course requirement, Melissa only wanted three.

Bubu salad
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Rum ribs
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Key lime pie
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I wanted all four courses, of course.

Tuna tartare
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I don't remember what this dish was but it was good.
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Lobster risotto
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Brownie a la mode
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We were stuffed after such a large dinner but the restaurant had a cute adjoining shop we wanted to explore. We waddled throughout the store, made a couple of purchases, then made our way to Beach Bar. We thought we might have a drink but decided we were too full and tired and we wanted to continue watching our Netflix series. Chico to the rescue again!

Posted by zihuatcat 22:59 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

St. John Day 4: Keeping it Dry

After a couple of days in the sun and water, we thought it was time for a dry day. We tried to sleep in but no luck. I guess we were falling asleep too early every night. We drove the Jeep into town and found a place to park near Mongoose Junction. Then we walked down the waterfront to Cruz Bay Landing for some eggs benedict with crab cakes.
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We stayed in town for a few hours, hitting most of the shops. We bought some little things along the way as well as some metal photo art. Our condo was full of this same artwork of turtles, donkeys, and beach scenes. I purchased a donkey and a beach scene and arranged to have both shipped home to the US. When we had our fill of shopping, we retreated to the a/c for a bit to catch an episode of our show. Towards the late afternoon, we made our way to Windmill Bar, high up on a hill to watch the sunset.

With drinks, of course.
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We were joined by a couple of younger women who both worked at the Ritz Carlton on St. Thomas. They took the passenger ferry over to have a night out on St. John. They were fun to talk to and it was interesting to get their perspective of living and working in the islands.

After the sun went down, we were starving, so we made our way to town to try and get a spot at Beach Bar. There was a huge line - people waiting for a table and for to-go food and drinks. While we were waiting outside, we encountered the well-known Greenie, a homeless person known all over the island. Our leasing agent had warned us about him but said he was relatively harmless. He came up to us, speaking incoherently. When we ignored him, he slapped my arm twice, very hard. The cops were already at the bar responding to a prior issue but they didn't do anything about the incident. We were able to get away from him so I let it go. Shortly thereafter we got our seats at the bar.

It took an excruciatingly long time to get our food and drinks. There was a huge group of young tourists taking up half the bar, monopolizing the kitchen and bartenders and being overall obnoxious. I was getting very hangry but finally Melissa's nachos and my buffalo thighs appeared. As soon as the hangry wore off, we got a BCBBBC to go and caught a ride home with Chico.

Posted by zihuatcat 22:57 Archived in US Virgin Islands Tagged st melissa john Comments (0)

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