No Pandemic Traveling … But a Girl Can Dream

The Washington Post recently published a couple articles that may be of interest to those of us who are still staying home but wishing we weren’t.

The first, titled “Here’s what experts want you to know before taking a road trip during the pandemic,” is important. After noting that many people are considering road trips this year, the list begins …

  • Health experts are warning against road trips this summer
  • Pack PPE and other sanitation gear if you go
  • Limit stops and opportunities for contact with others as much as possible
  • Opt for wide open spaces to visit
  • Know the rules of where you’re going

Welp, health experts warning against road trips is a buzz kill don’t you think? It’s certainly what we thought about when we canceled our trip to Rhode Island for our grandgirl’s first birthday in late May. Gas stations, nights in hotels, restaurants we don’t know, and the small matter of a required fourteen-day quarantine upon arrival (since relaxed for folks from “open” states).

We strongly considered going in July but … no. We decided we’re going to be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. This, too, shall pass, and when it does, we’ll be the first folks you know over that bridge to Aquidneck Island.

The second article is of long-term interest. Titled “11 Ways the Pandemic Will Change Travel,” it starts with the hit the travel industry has taken. And it has. But those of us who have long been bitten by the travel bug will enjoy perusing this article, which covers:

  • Expect fewer crowds and experiences at tourist magnets
  • Airlines will have to balance safety and profit
  • Wary travelers will stay closer to home
  • Fewer travelers could mean more expensive travel abroad
  • Buffets out, temperature checks in when cruises resume
  • Relocation will increase demand for home rentals
  • Interest in private travel is here to stay
  • Small restaurants and bars may be decimated for good
  • In hotels, cleaning and contact-free technology will be top priorities
  • Loyalty programs will introduce new, temporary perks
  • Large events / gatherings will creep back with caution—if at all

There’s more than just the headlines here, so do read beyond them. And definitely have a look when you start to get that wanderlust kinda feeling. These articles will help you plan to go farther than the deck in your shady back yard.


A Word About Barbecue

Whole books have been written about what Southerners call barbecue, so it’s not a topic I’m going to tackle with any depth. But here’s a woman who did—as a graduate thesis at the University of Virginia, for heaven’s sake—so dig in. Quick mention: What you all do with a grill (“I’m going to barbeque some hamburgers”) would be confusing to a Southerner. We grill hamburgers and eat barbeque. 🙂

We Southerners do take our food seriously. Check out the Southern Foodways Alliance—an Institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. They’ve got a whole lot to say about barbecue. (So does Southern Living.)

Suffice it to say, sampling the local purveyors of barbecue is a MUST on my list of things to do in the South, and every neighborhood has its own favorite. I ran the preferred barbecue question up the Facebook flagpole, and came up with a recommended list for my out-of-town friends. (Top choice is on top.)

Available in Murfreesboro:

  • Slick Pig BBQ: Local to Murfreesboro.
  • Jim ’N Nick’s: A regional chain, but we like it, not least because everything is cooked fresh. There are no freezers at Jim ’N Nick’s.
  • Whitt’s: A Nashville chain. Whitt’s taught me about the deliciousness of coleslaw on a barbecue sandwich.
  • Famous Dave’s: A national chain and not always well run, but it’ll do and we generally like it. Located in Smyrna (10 miles from Murfreesboro).

Available in Nashville:

But wait—let’s talk about Nashville Hot Chicken too! It’s a thing, y’all. And if you like a little heat, you should check it out. OMG. Locals have been loving it for years.

Breakfast in Nashville

If you’re planning to visit Nashville, Tennessee, and you’ve never been here, you probably do what I do: Google. I’ve hit the interwebs for little trips to Asheville, North Carolina; Birmingham, Alabama; and Jonesboro, Arkansas (yep), just to name three. You can come up with all sorts of interesting things to see and do.

Restaurants are a bit trickier, in my opinion. They always look good online, but you never know. That said, here are two lists—“Best Breakfast in Nashville” and “The 12 Best Breakfast Spots in Nashville”—you can trust.

Recently I was planning a morning meeting with a client who had never been to Middle Tennessee. “You pick a place,” he said in an email, “and I’ll show up.” This is classic I’m-at-your-mercy stuff. When I asked him where he was staying, he indicated a hotel in what I’d call Midtown, and said, “I was told it’s within walking distance of some great parts of town.”

Nashville’s not so big that we couldn’t have chosen any restaurant on either of those lists at which to meet. But Midtown is a very nice part of town indeed. I worked in that very neighborhood for years.

So I told him, “Here are three Nashville institutions that have nothing to do with tourism, and I like them all.” Now I’m telling you.

It’s an authentic New York–style delicatessen. I can remember when it opened, which puts that event in the mid-’90s. The food is very good, service is fast, and the place is always busy. There are other locations but this was the first. Opens at 6:30am.

Pancake Pantry
OK, so I do think the tourists may have heard of the Pancake Pantry—it’s very close to Music Row, so you never know whom you might see in the dining room. True Nashvillians, though, are circumspect when they find themselves sharing the same air space as a country music celebrity, and you should be too. Put that phone down. Opens at 6:00am.

Provence Breads & Café
Established 1996 right across the street from the Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro Village, Provence has breads and pastries baked daily. And their chicken salad sandwich on cranberry wheat walnut bread is to die for. Opens at 7:00am.

So you’re fixed up for Midtown now. If you’re going to be elsewhere … Google. And good luck. 🙂

Best meal of the day. :)

Best meal of the day. 🙂

Forward Planning for the Renaissance

Gerry has been sending me little items he comes across for months now, because—yes!—I have another trip planned. Flights are booked! Hotels are booked!

And one thing you’ve got to do on a trip is eat. The experience can be a little catch-as-catch-can when you’re in a place you don’t know well, but I’ve been eating in Ireland for years. Kids, the food is good. I’ve been talking about the Irish restaurant renaissance for some time now. Patrick Comerford’s been talking about it ’way longer than that; I always check to see what he’s got to say about restaurants.)

But I was delighted to see the New York Times has finally caught on, saying visitors to Dublin will find a “restaurant renaissance.” I loved watching this video, seeing places I’ve been to, hearing accents that are so familiar to me. And while Gerry felt vindicated when one of those interviewed said, “No great conversation ever started over a salad,” I just laughed. 🙂

There are three restaurants featured:

Brother Hubbard Café 
Forest Avenue Restaurant
The Green Hen

I’m working on a post with mini reviews of all the places I like here at home—chain restaurants (national and regional) as well as locally owned, though I usually prefer the latter. One of the interviewed restauranteurs in this piece mentions his small café is “an antidote to the big chains,” and that’s exactly the sort of place I’m interested in. Local. It’s as good a recommendation as you’ll get when you’re traveling.

The video doesn’t stop there. There are three venues* featuring drink too:

Guinness Storehouse
Fallon & Byrne Specialty Food Shop
Against the Grain Craft Brewhouse

I have so far resisted seeing the Guinness Storehouse but will admit to a longing to see Dublin from up high—the Gravity Bar on the seventh floor. (The only other rooftop venue in Dublin that I am aware of is at the Marker Hotel in the Docklands area.)

I’m starting to get that pre-trip anticipatory excitement: my trip—to attend a niece’s wedding—is just two and a half months away. I’ve listed these places on my itinerary-in-progress as places we might try. If you’re planning to be in Dublin soon—and I think some of you are—watch the video, follow the links, and see if you get your anticipation buzz on too! 🙂

NOTE: I’ve written a little bit about eating and drinking in Ireland already. Click here.

*And sandwiched between them, features on the National Museum of Ireland and Christ Church Cathedral.


Christmas in Paris

I couldn’t resist posting this, which a friend passed on to me with the comment, “How I wish this were my dilemma—what’s open in Paris this week?

Holiday alert! The vast majority of Paris restaurants will be closed from before Christmas until after the New Year …

I’m the sort of gal who likes her cozy little family traditions on holidays. But I’m also the sort of gal who isn’t afraid to, say, fly to England for Christmas (because that’s when Jesse would be able to go). On that very trip, we also visited France (though not Paris), so we got a taste of small-town France at Christmas too. I’ve also spent a Christmas at Tybee Island, Georgia, with the whole family in a beach house, one in Honolulu, Hawaii, in the late ’60s (oh, there’s a post for you!), and a Christmas in Phoenix a couple years ago with my son, who had a lot of gigs and couldn’t leave town.*

So if you’re the sort of person who might be planning a special holiday trip to Paris, you’ll want to read up here. The website is called Paris by Mouth, and features—you will have guessed—Paris restaurants, wine bars, bakeries and pastry shops, wine shops, chocolate and candy shops, ice cream shops, craft cocktails, craft beer shops, craft beer bars, “decent coffee” (their term!), and specialty shops. In Paris. Did I say that already? 🙂

I’ve added it to my blogroll, just in case you need to refer back. I hear April in Paris is nice too. 🙂

* It was interesting to add that all up, I think. I wouldn’t have guessed I’d spent even four Christmases away from home. How about you? Have you ever had a destination Christmas? Tell me about it in the comments!