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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

New Orleans

29°57' 4" N 90°4' 18" W New Orleans

Dec 10, 2014  –  by Maeva

We finally made it to New Orleans, one of our most anticipated stops! We arrived in the evening and went straight to the famous Cafe du Monde to finally taste their world famous beignets. Sipping on some cafe au lait and hot chocolate while devouring these delicacies was the best reward after the long drive of the day. You can’t escape covering yourself from top to bottom with their powdered sugar but it’s more than worth it! We then walked around very quickly to take peak at the famous Bourbon Street, but it was absolutely freezing that evening. Like most people, we thought we’d find warm weather in Louisiana but it turned out to be one of the coldest places! We then spent the night at the BMC (Balcony Music Club), definitely THE place to be for an evening in New Orleans. As soon as we entered, we were grateful for PG’s advice to go there. The band was Eudora Evans & Deep Soul and they were simply incredible. Beautiful jazz music through trumpets, saxophone, guitar and drums coupled with Eudora’s breathtaking voice and presence: welcome to New Orleans. This is where you realize the true musical and lively vibe of the city. Steph tried the local whiskey cocktail Sazerac and I stuck to pineapple juice, being on driving duty for the evening. After the incredible show of the first band, a second one came on, The Abney Effect – never had we seen that many musicians on one stage! We listened to their energetic jazz symphony for a little while before finally calling it a night. We spent the night on a pretty sketchy Walmart parking lot which was everything but reassuring. Waking up to a sunny and warmer day sure was a good reward.

Steph and the beignets
Steph and the beignets
Maeva blowing the sugar on beignets
Maeva blowing the sugar on beignets
Maeva after eating beignets
Maeva after eating beignets
Eudora Evans and Deep Soul at the BMC
Eudora Evans and Deep Soul at the BMC
Eudora Evans at the BMC
Eudora Evans at the BMC

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The Abney Effect at the BMC
The Abney Effect at the BMC
Trumpet player at the BMC
Trumpet player at the BMC
The Abney Effect singers
The Abney Effect singers

We then spent the entire day walking around the city, getting to discover the French quarter and street vibe of beautiful New Orleans. It started with a warm coffee in one of the oldest bars in the U.S. In there, everything is wooden and seems crooked. There was even a man practising the piano for later, which was ideal as we were slowly waking up. Just like in Austin, this bar showcased pictures of all the celebrities that had been there – Tarantino sure knows his way around cool American bars! As we continued our walk, we stopped a few times to listen to the talented street musicians playing their own jazz songs and bringing the city to life. One of them even had a tap dancer! We also checked out lots of cool voodoo and skull shops as well as colourful and vintage decoration shops. Out of nowhere, we spotted an incredibly colourful store which turned out to be a hot sauce store. We got to taste all kinds of flavour and did not leave empty handed! Although the French quarter is amazing, the city is still recovering from the consequences of the terrible hurricane Katrina. Lots and lots of homeless people are unfortunately wandering around as they have lost everything.

Maeva in the old bar of New Orleans
Maeva in the old bar of New Orleans
Old bar of New Orleans
Old bar of New Orleans
Man statue walking dog
Man statue walking dog
Jazz band in the street in New Orleans
Jazz band in the street in New Orleans
Hot sauce bar
Hot sauce bar
Cool mural in the hot sauce bar
Cool mural in the hot sauce bar
Jazz performers in New Orleans
Jazz performers in New Orleans

New Orleans is famous for two things: music, of course, and food! You already got a pretty good introduction with the beignets – but we figured it was necessary to try a lunch specialty as well. So without hesitation we stepped in Acme, the Oyster house. Sitting at the bar, I tasted their renowned oysters – both the fresh ones and the charbroiled ones. The latter is their specialty, and consists in oysters with cheese, garlic and different herbs grilled on a barbecue. Delicious! Steph went for their seafood gumbo, but did fight his dislike for oysters to try these. Not so bad! We continued our stroll to try to find CD’s of the band we’d heard the night before, without luck, but did find some old school carriages and mansions on our way.

Seafood gumbo in New Orleans
Seafood gumbo in New Orleans
Fresh oysters in New Orleans
Fresh oysters in New Orleans
Charbroiled oysters in New Orleans
Charbroiled oysters in New Orleans
Street performers in New Orleans
Street performers in New Orleans
Balcony Music Club in New Orleans
Balcony Music Club in New Orleans
New Orleans colours in the street
New Orleans colours in the street
Old school house and carriage in New Orleans
Old school house and carriage in New Orleans

As our day around New Orleans was coming to an end, we knew that one day we’d have to come back for Mardi Gras – where it seems the costumes, the atmosphere and the music are absolutely incredibly unique. We’ll be back.

 

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