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Nashville

36°9' 46" N 86°46' 54" W Nashville

Dec 11, 2014  –  by Maeva

As you can see from the huge gap on the map between New Orleans and Nashville, this was a bit of a drive. And I am quite proud to say that I contributed to the driving! After a night stop in a random city by the highway, we arrived in what they call the Music City, in the famous state of Tennessee. A road trip does come with a few complications unfortunately and we had to stop at a garage because of a weird noise and signal the car was making. After booking a spot for the next day, we headed straight to one of the typical music night bars of the city: the Listening Room Cafe. For a first taste of the city, it was more than ideal. The room combined food, drinks and a stage with extremely talented singers for the entire night! The concept of writer’s night in Nashville brings together passionate musicians to showcase their own songs in front of new audiences. We understood why so many aspiring performers move to this city to make it in music: they get to practice and show their songs in so many potential spots! In that one night, we first saw three young musicians taking turns in songs with their guitar. We then saw a really talented singer called Sabrina. Alone on stage with her guitar, she absolutely rocked it! Then two brothers who apparently were on The Voice US season 5 put on a show. And last but not least, the band Amber’s Drive simply killed it, bringing the entire room to life! They sounded like a new version of the O’Brother soundtrack. We quickly came to the conclusion that Nashville is pretty much the equivalent of New Orleans but the country version (with cowboy hats please.) So as you can imagine, the night was lots of fun and we even had our first valet parking – how very fancy.

The Listening Room Cafe
The Listening Room Cafe
Amber's Drive performing at the Listening Room Cafe
Amber’s Drive performing at the Listening Room Cafe
Maeva and the band Amber's Drive
Maeva and the band Amber’s Drive

The next day, well, was not as fun. It started with getting the car fixed, which not only lasted a really long time but cost an arm and a leg! When it was done, I was getting sick but we decided to go for a walk around town. We went to Broadway, where most of the bars and barbecues are lined up for people to enjoy some tasty meats and live music. What really impressed us in those streets is the fact that every single bar has a live music schedule from 10am to 2am, 365 days a year! Whenever we would enter one, there would be a band or singer on stage. How incredible is it to have a city where you can be certain to find live music any time, any day? Lots of these honky tonk bars are where some celebrity country singers started their career, like the Legends Corner, Tootsies Orchid Lounge, The Stage on Broadway.

Statue in Nashville
Statue in Nashville

We then headed towards the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which according to our guides was the thing to do in Nashville. After taking a look at the Walk of Fame, where we realized we knew nothing about country music, we started the visit in the museum. I suppose it is a fun museum when you have certain knowledge about country singers like Kenny Rogers and others (whose names I’ve already forgotten) – but we pretty much only knew Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Taylor Swift (no comment.) So the visit was not that fun for us in all honesty but we did really enjoy creeping at the stars’s cars – everything was not lost! My stomach was getting worse and worse which probably didn’t help – picture a zombie wandering through the exhibitions. Afterwards, Steph was starving so he picked Jack’s barbecue to pile up a couple of ribs and steaks.

Elvis Presley on the Walk of Fame
Elvis Presley on the Walk of Fame
The Walk of Fame in Nashville
The Walk of Fame in Nashville
Webb Pierce's car with guns from the back
Webb Pierce’s car with guns from the back
Webb Pierce's car with guns
Webb Pierce’s car with guns
Webb Pierce's car with guns front
Webb Pierce’s car with guns front
Will the circle be unbroken
Will the circle be unbroken
Will the circle be unbroken ceiling
Will the circle be unbroken ceiling

As Steph realized that I was really not feeling good, he kindly let us stay in a hostel for the night – a night in the car on a parking lot was maybe not the best idea! So he found one quickly and I was in bed at 6pm. Obviously, he wasn’t going to do the same! So he went and made some friends in the living room and they all went out to a bar downtown. When he came back at God knows what time, the smell of beer made it clear how much fun he’d had! He then explained he had gone to a Karaoke bar with a Swiss couple, an English girl and a Nashville cowboy where beers were $1! That ought to do it. We left Nashville the next day, I was still half a zombie so Steph drove and told me travel stories he learned from the night before with the hostel crew.

Hostel buddies at the Karaoke Bar
Hostel buddies at the Karaoke Bar 
Nashville Hostel
Nashville Hostel
Nashville Hostel patio
Nashville Hostel patio

Hello Cowboy

30°16' 2" N 97°44' 35" W Austin

Nov 26, 2014  –  by Maeva

When we looked up the directions from Moab to Austin, Google Maps said it would take 19 hours. Okay then… The road was actually a little scary that evening because it was extremely dark, a single lane in the middle of nowhere with the speed limit of 75mph (120km/h.) We were definitely afraid of animals crossing the road so we were constantly on the lookout for movement ahead of us. We stopped to sleep at a Walmart in Albuquerque (New Mexico) and we woke up really early and really cold. There was snow on the road as we kept going and when we decided to check the temperature, we realized it was -14 degrees (7F). There had been no transition for us, we had gone straight from summer to winter in a split second!

Snow on the road to Austin
Snow on the road to Austin

After a day of non stop driving, we finally arrived in Austin in the evening. Too tired to do anything, it was Happy Meal and straight to sleep! Just like the kids. The next day, we went to the outlet store in the morning and instantly caught up on our lack of shopping over the past 2 months! North Face, Nike, Adidas at crazy prices, say no more! Once we were done, we were obviously starving. We first drove to the famous Franklin’s Barbecue. Obviously they were sold out. They open at 11am and are so popular that people show up at 8am to start lining up. They wait up to 4 hours in order to get to eat there. The girl who explained this to us said that the wait was part of the experience: “Some people come with camping chairs, blankets, games. It’s almost like camping!” Okay… When have we ever waited 4 hours outside in the cold to eat? Never.

We then picked a Tex-Mex location that had good reviews and where we would actually be able to eat right away! We ended up at El Rancho’s (check) in a cute hacienda like restaurant. You know the saying that everything is bigger in Texas? Well it’s true when it comes to food! We found ourselves with a huge amount of food on the table, everything looking more delicious than the other. After 3 bites I think we were already full, but the fajitas that we got to make ourselves from meat still burning on the plate were just too delicious to stop. When we were officially full (and I was half asleep on the table), we got the rest in a box to go.

Matt's Famous El Rancho Austin
Matt’s Famous El Rancho Austin

It was then night time and a Friday night, so we knew we had to do what a real Texan cowboy would do to go out. We went to Broken Spoke, a family owned bar celebrating their 50th anniversary. Entering this place was like entering a new dimension: cowboys, girls wearing santiags, very very old school haircuts (the ones you wouldn’t think are even still possible to get today) and a Texan cowboy singing country music and yodeling at the same time. I was still in a bit of a food coma so I asked the old lady at the bar for a coffee, to which she replied with a stunned expression on her face: “You want coffee?! There’s the beer menu here!” In the bar, there was a cool room called the Tourist Trap, which obviously lured us in. It is a collection of photos of the owner with all the celebrities that visited this bar from Clint Eastwood to Tarantino to Robert Rodriguez to Robert Duvall. 50 years in business, 50 years of photos. We also got to see two-step dance lessons given at the back as youngsters arrived for a dance night dressed in their boots, cowboy hats and mini skirts! I even got to take a photo with the cowboy owner, please admire the diamonds on his shirt.

Broken Spoke
Broken Spoke
Clint Eastwood photo at the Broken Spoke
Clint Eastwood photo at the Broken Spoke
Dolly Parton photo at the Broken Spoke
Dolly Parton photo at the Broken Spoke

Maeva and the cowboy owner of Broken Spoke

It was still relatively early in the evening so we decided to move to another typical Austin location for a night out: Dirty 6th. Now, this one is a little less old fashioned and gathers all the young people of Austin into one street full of bars. We started with Buffalo Billiards to play some pool. Obviously, I lost – in my defence, Steph has practiced many times and is too mathematical to be beaten. We then randomly picked another bar for a few drinks. There was live music from a super friendly guy named Joe Vega who could play a huge list of songs upon request, right there with his guitar and microphone. Steph picked “Escape (Pina Colada)” as we’ve been listening to it a lot from our Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. It was lots of fun, especially as we got to watch a few birthday girls who had had a few too many drinks dancing in the middle.

The next morning, we passed by in front of Franklin’s to see if people were really THAT motivated for barbecues. And it turns out they are! It was early on a Saturday morning, it was raining, it was cold and a huge huge line was just waiting outside the restaurant… O-kay. We went to Spider House Cafe instead for a warm drink in a warm and cozy coffee shop. With an eclectic decor, a hipster setting and lots of vintage furniture, the place is perfect for good coffee and good conversation. You can never get enough of artsy and kind of weird places with a unique charm like this one!

Franklin's barbecue Austin
Franklin’s barbecue Austin
Cool graffiti in Austin
Cool graffiti in Austin
Spider House Cafe
Spider House Cafe

 

Westport with the buddies

46°54' 13" N 124°8' 2" W Westport

Sep 29, 2014  –  by Maeva

Waves in Westport
Waves in Westport

After our quick stop in Seattle, we started driving towards Westport for a surf weekend with our Vancouver buddies: Lyndon, Elyse and Will. Steph and I arrived in Westport in the evening, just in time to go and take a quick look at the waves at dusk. It confirmed that some surfers are just insane, going out there when it’s pitch black. I mean, a) you can’t see s***t, b) others can’t see you, c) rocks, d) sharks.

We then picked a campground, called “American Sunset” please and proceeded to the making of our very first campfire! Ain’t no camping without a man-made fire. Obviously, we have been sticking with Sam’s incredible technique, the DIAMOND! And for our very first camping meal, well, rice and tomato. It was meh – we have now discarded this from the list of potential dinners.

When we woke up the following morning, two tents and a car had popped up right next to us – Elyse, Lyndon and Will had made it around 2am. The first one to get up was (and most likely always will be) Steph with his brain turned on surf mode. We all enjoyed a little coffee and oatmeal, well, almost all of us. Apparently our camping oatmeal (oats+water+sugar) wasn’t appealing for everybody – go figure. After a quick stop at the surf shop we were on the beach, all suited up under an incredible sun and ready to face the ocean with our boards.

For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea for me to follow Steph and Will, the experienced surfers, out at the back. I would regret this choice minutes later. When I saw the size of the waves that were rushing towards us, I thought “F-u-c-k.” Now I don’t want to get into too much detail about what happened next, ahem, but it was a combination of near-death experience, under water washing machine and complete panic. Now that was from my point of view. From Steph’s: “Oh, maybe that was a little too big for her.” Luckily, Steph wasn’t too far and got me back to the beach safely – my hero!

As you can imagine, I stayed on the beach for a little while, appreciating my new found gratitude for being alive. Am I dramatizing? Depends who you’re talking to. In my defence though, everyone admitted that those waves were insane. Nevertheless, the rest of the day felt like a perfect and carefree vacation in California. A big hot dog barbecue, chilling in the warm sand and walking along dike rocks to watch surfers battling against mother nature. We got to enjoy a superb sunset perched on those rocks, with the perfect lighting to combine surfboards, wet hair and the sea.

barbecue in westport with friends
barbecue in westport with friends
barbecue and sauces in Wesport with friends
barbecue and sauces in Wesport with friends

Look at ‘em boys!

Lyndon and Will playing bad boys at the cars
Lyndon and Will playing bad boys at the cars
Surfer boy Steph checking the waves
Surfer boy Steph checking the waves
Lyndon and Steph looking at the waves in Westport
Lyndon and Steph looking at the waves in Westport
Lyndon and Elyse watching the waves in Westport
Lyndon and Elyse watching the waves in Westport
surfer on wave in Westport
surfer on wave in Westport
Steph and his surfboard in the sunset
Steph and his surfboard in the sunset

One of the best parts of camping? Evenings spent around the fire. Lyndon proved to us that he too was a real man by building a fire in a matter of minutes, while we were enjoying our second camping dinner – rice, peas and salmon – which was wayyyy better. We then roasted marshmallows, some more than others. Yes Lyndon, I’m talking about you, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to light it on fire and let it burn until it turns completely black!

“Look at the stars,
Look how they shine for you”

Stars in the sky in Westport
Stars in the sky in Westport

The following day was quite the opposite with a mix of clouds, sand storm, cold and aggressive waves. Even our car decided to tease us with our first battery breakdown. Uh oh. Later, the men proved once again they were men by facing the freezing ocean while us girls opted for chit chat under a blanket on the beach. Which quickly turned into chit chat under a sea of sand. And yes, Elyse and I tried to open a cider bottle with a broken surfboard fin. Yes, I said tried.

Elyse trying to open cider with surfboard fin
Elyse trying to open cider with surfboard fin

Weekends go by quickly, and it was time to take off again. But not before enjoying a bucket of ice-cream. It may not always be a good idea, but we have to try and follow Steph’s golden rule “When you’re on vacation, you need to have ice-cream everyday otherwise it’s not really a vacation.” Something Will has definitely adopted!

Friends on the table of Westport eating icecream
Friends on the table of Westport eating icecream

Thanks for joining us Elyse, Lyndon and Will, we had such a great time and can’t wait to see you guys in your or our next adventure!