I had a short visit and spent two nights in Nashville, Tennessee. I went there for training. No, I am not changing career to be a country singer. My training was about navigational bronchoscopy.
Even though my visit was brief, I still was able to see parts of Nashville.
Here’s Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
This iconic hotel offers guests all the excitement and energy of a music city like Nashville under one roof.
It has climate-controlled glass atriums with bending river, falls, fountains, rain forest and an extraordinary selection of dining, shopping and recreation options for a perfect getaway.
I also visited downtown Nashville and explored Lower Broadway, a major entertainment district well renowned for honky tonks and live country music.
Here’s Johnny Cash’s joint.
Below is Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk place.
The one with the tower is the popular Bridgestone Arena, home to famous country music concerts.
What is a Nashville visit without hearing a live country music band? So I did. I skipped the line dancing though.
However, the best part of my visit to Nashville is not even displayed in these above photos. For the best part of my trip was that I was able to see my best friend in college and medical school. He is now practicing near Nashville as a Pediatrician, and we have not seen each other for more than 20 years. We had a lot of catching up to do and two days was merely not enough.
In my last post, I already alluded that I went back to New York last weekend. Besides attending a program in honor of a retiring beloved Pastor, this trip also gave me the opportunity to visit my old stomping ground.
When we were in New York about two decades ago, we lived in “the Hamptons.” But before you think of that exclusive and ritzy place in Long Island for the rich and famous, I don’t mean that.
This is the Hampton I meant – Hampton Street in Queens, New York.
We lived in one of these apartment complexes.
My wife and I also visited “Ihawan,” one of the several Filipino restaurants in the neighborhood where we used to frequent before. We had a hearty (as in heart-attack risk?) breakfast here.
After breakfast, we walked to the hospital where I did part of my medical training. I even went inside and check out the place. There was much changes here since the time I left.
Then we hopped on the number 7 train of the New York City Metro. This line of train is on the top of the street instead of being underground, at least in this part of town.
We rode the train and boarded off here, the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.
People here are always rushing, and time seems to be incessantly fleeting in this place. Except for us now, as we had time to kill and just relax.
We then walked through New York City midtown and end up in Bryant Park. We were also in this place last December where our kids went ice skating. This place looks very different in the summer as instead of an ice skating rink, there is lawn grass.
We just sat down here and did some people watching. There were even some ballet dancers practicing at the park.
Then we headed down to Time Square area as we wanted to see a “new” establishment there. We heard it opened in October of last year. Was it an earth-shaking institution or such an epic landmark that it forever altered the face of Time Square? I don’t know, you tell me.
Perhaps we were just hankering for that certain taste of home. We were greeted inside by this happy guy.
That sums up our short visit to the city. Until next time…….
Pompeii is an ancient Roman city near the modern day Naples in southern Italy. On that fateful moment in AD 79, it was suddenly buried in 4 to 6 meters of volcanic ash and debris during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
The city remained frozen in time, concealed under ash and rocks until it was discovered by surveying engineer in 1748. With methodical excavation, evidence of a once thriving city was unearthed.
When we visited Pompeii several weeks ago, we were able to witness the ruins, as well as take a peek at a slice of ancient Roman life.
Photo below is one of the main streets, where horse-drawn carriages or chariots pass through. It is amazing how the stone-paved road is in very good condition.
Though the pedestrians, experts believe, walk on the sidewalk and use the step-stones (big stones in the middle of the road) to cross to the other side of the road. The reason why pedestrians don’t walk in the stone-paved road was that most of the time runoff water was flowing in the road as part of their water drainage system. Plus, sewage from homes also stream through it, and you definitely don’t want to step on that.
Below is an entry way to a well-to-do home. I was impressed on the intricacy of the mosaic art on the floor.
Here is a courtyard garden inside the largest home on the block. It was believed that this residence was owned by a prominent Roman of the ruling class.
Below is an ancient eatery or food vendor, perhaps like the modern day McDonald’s or your local carinderia. The holes in the ‘counter’ are where the pots or vessels containing food were kept warm by a fire underneath.
Here is their theater (next photo) where they watch plays and concerts. I wonder what shows they have then. Maybe “The Three Roman Tenors?” Or perhaps “The Phantom of the Colosseum?”
The Romans also have public bath houses. The photo below, believe it or not, is a sauna room. A wood-burning furnace outside sends warm air under the raised floor to heat the room.
Next is a sample of their wall art. Much nicer than the modern day graffiti, I would say.
They also have some sort of sports complex. The facility below is a training ground for gladiators.
Below is Pompeii’s town plaza. At the backdrop is Mount Vesuvius, which is considered an active volcano up to this day, though the last time it erupted was in 1944.
As we walked around the ruins, I have noticed that there were lots and lots of pillars.
I supposed these columns that are still standing today, are testaments of a once proud and prosperous city, and what it stood for. Sorry, pun intended.
Italian cuisine is one of the best among the world’s cuisine. It is one of the most popular and most copied type of food as well. And where can you find the best authentic Italian food? In Italy of course!
When we visited Italy last month, we covered most of the country, from the northern region, with cities like Milan and Venice, to the central region which is Tuscany, including the cities of Pisa and Florence, and to the southern region, in Rome and even down to the Amalfi coast.
By the way, we avail the services of JDC Private Tours when we were in Italy, that’s why we were able to visit so many places and packed so many activities in such a short period of time. I was more than happy and have only compliments of their business.
Part of our trip of course was sampling authentic Italian food. Their cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and south of the Italian peninsula.
Overall, the Italian foods that we ate, from the ‘street’ and on-the-go food to the long sit-down fine dining with 5-course dinner, (one evening we’re treated out by a friend from Rome and we ate dinner for almost 2 hours!), and from the appetizer like bruschetta, to the dessert like tiramisu, were all very good. It was really a delightful gastronomical experience.
Here in the United States, when we talked about Italian food, we think mostly of pizza and pasta. However, many of the “Italian” food we have here are somewhat modified to cater to the American taste.
For instance, when we went to one local restaurant in Rome, there was a note in their menu that says, “we don’t serve spaghetti with meatballs, fettucini alfredo, and lasagna.” That was interesting. Perhaps that’s all the American tourists order, and to the locals those were not even really authentic Italian dishes.
To say that Italy have many kinds of pasta, is an understatement. After all it is the mecca of pasta. But one thing peculiar is all their pasta are served “al dente.” Meaning it is really firm, teetering to raw, that you have to bite and chew it before you can swallow.
Another thing is that the Italian pizza is not served pre-sliced. They give it to you as a whole piece, fresh from the wood-burning oven, and they give a fork and a knife for you to slice it yourself. I heard that when they first introduced pizza in New York City long long time ago, somebody had the bright idea of serving it by the slice and made more money from it. Since then pizza in the US is served pre-sliced.
In one restaurant we went to in northern Italy, I was impressed on how many types of sauce or variation they have for pizza. The menu had 3 pages just for pizza! And Hawaiian pizza? That’s not even in the menu, because as you can surmise, that’s an American version of an Italian dish.
As a Filipino who grew up in Manila, I also have a different concept of an Italian dish. My favorite is the Greenwich pizza, which I understand is a Filipino brand of pizzeria. Furthermore, I used to think that spaghetti always have a sweet-tasting sauce, just like how my mother prepares it, which is close to the taste of spaghetti in Jollibee, the largest Filipino chain of fast-food restaurants.
When I migrated to America more than 20 years ago, the first time we dined in an “authentic” Italian Restaurant in New Jersey named Trattoria, I was a little surprised that the spaghetti tasted “sour.” In fact me and my wife looked at each other and said to ourselves, maybe the sauce was spoiled as it tasted different. That was an ignoramus moment for us.
Back to our tour of Italy, we landed in Milan airport and stayed in Milan for two nights. On our first day, we were so tired and jet-lagged that my son and daughter went to sleep without having dinner. But my wife and I, despite being tired, felt the hunger pangs and so we went out to eat.
Since we were in the heart of the city of Milan, there were several decent restaurants around our hotel. In fact in our hotel itself was a good ‘ristorante,’ but my wife and I wanted to explore the city. And lo and behold, just walking two blocks from where we were staying, we found what we were looking for.
We were excited as we enter the restaurant. Then we ordered our very first meal in Italy. I understand that you cannot go wrong if you order pasta in Italy, and that’s what I did. I ordered spaghetti. And when I tasted the spaghetti, it was all what I envisioned. It was good.
In case you are wondering what restaurant we went to for our first Italian dinner?
It was Jollibee!
(*Jollibee opened in Milan last year, and was the first ever Jollibee branch and only one so far in Europe.)
When we talk about Italy’s countryside what comes to mind are the picturesque rolling hills and bountiful vineyards of Tuscany.
And there’s no better way to tour this scenic place than the iconic Italian way – riding the Vespa or the Fiat. Well, you could do it too with a Ferrari convertible but that would cost you an arm and a leg.
During our visit to Italy we did the Tuscany Vespa Tour. (This is not a sponsored article though I would gladly accept even a free pizza if they offer.) Some of us rode the Vespa scooter while some of us rode the classic small Fiat car. I did the Vespa.
We picked up the Vespa and the Fiat from the tour’s office parking lot. After a brief tutorial, as I have not ridden a motorcycle since more than 25 years ago, I became more comfortable of riding it. I was at least confident that I would still be alive after the tour.
Then off we go!
Our first stop was at a local vineyard.
After parking our motorcycles and cars, we toured the place which includes wine tasting. I am not really into wine, but they had prepared free pasta lunch too, so I was more than happy. Plus I don’t think indulging in wine and riding a motorcycle afterwards was a good idea.
I even saw a black cat at the winery. Was it a bad omen? Should we not continue on our trip? Nah!
After the vineyard tour, we were back on the road again.
Our next stop was a quaint town. We parked our vehicles and walked around the small town. Here we tasted free samples of truffle spreads, different kinds of cheese, and balsalmic vinegar offered in the local stores. Their balsalmic vinegar tastes good that it rivals the sukang Iloco (being a half-bred Ilocano, I’m still biased for the sukang Iloco).
After hitting the road again, our last stop was an old fortress. Its medieval courtyard was transformed into shops and eateries. There were no sword-wielding knights nor jousting tournament though. The closest we had to a battle were tourists jostling to buy the ever popular Italian gelato. Of course we had some too.
Overall, it was a really fun ride. You may think that this small scooter is under power, but it is not. Yes it is not as muscular as the Harley-Davidson, but this Vespa Sprint model with its 125 cc cylinder can still fly through the Tuscan hills.
It was a swell experience to fly the Tuscan roads with the sunlight on my eyes, wind on my hair (even though I don’t have much) and bugs in my face. Wait…..what?
Actually “flying” has a double meaning here, as this includes the flying insects that may hit your face as you zoom through the hills. I must be in a state of exhilaration with my mouth wide open that one insect hit my teeth. Good thing I was able to spit it out.
Italian bug tasting? Not included in this tour.
From the roads of Tuscany,
(*All photos taken with an iPhone. Thanks to my unofficial photographers who took some of the pictures. A shout out to JDC Private Tours, who made our tour of Italy such a pleasant experience.)
Silo|ˈsīlō|: a tower or pit on a farm to store grain.
Silos are a common sight here in Iowa. Since Iowa is mostly farm fields, they are part of our landscape. Yet, when we went to Texas, we toured a silo. What we visited was not an ordinary silo though. In fact it was a popular destination.
As you already know, we went to Texas two weeks ago for a medical mission (see previous post). But we were still able to squeeze some time for a side trip.
After we landed in Fort Worth, Texas and were on our way to our hotel, we saw many road signs that lead to Waco, Texas. My wife asked our Uber driver how far Waco was from Fort Worth, and he told us that it was about an hour and fifteen minutes drive. My wife got excited.
Waco, Texas has been known in the past for some disturbing events. Some even correlate Waco to Wacko, which means Psycho. If you don’t know the history, it was about a cult led by David Koresh who had his followers live on a ranch in Waco. However, it was later put under siege by the government authorities in 1993. The compound was set ablaze, leading to several deaths.
My wife was not excited to see Waco for that. Fortunately, Waco is now known in a more positive light thanks to the popularity of Chip and Joanna Gaines. This couple became famous due to their HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” where they converted many rundown houses in Waco into beautiful dream homes.
The “Fixer Upper” show ended, but this couple has engaged in some other business of their own. They had bought a property in Waco that has a rundown silo, and they turn it into their own store, making it their most notable project to date. It is officially known as the “Magnolia Market at the Silos.” It is rustic, yet chic. Like a blend of steel and flowers. This property is now a tourist destination.
It was not in our initial plan to go to Waco, but my wife, who is an avid fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines, could not resist the chance to see this place. In order to visit Waco from Fort Worth, we had to rent a car. Going by taxi or Uber would have been impractical as it would be too costly, and riding a bus would take us several hours – a time that we didn’t have.
When we went to the car rental, we were told that the only vehicle available since we did not have a reservation, was a large pick-up truck. That did not stop us. We drove that big truck to Waco and readily blended-in as Texans. Everything is big in Texas!
My wife could not contain her excitement when we reached the Magnolia Market. Needless to say, we did not leave that store empty-handed.
Besides the home décor store, they also have a garden, a seed supply store, and several food trucks selling gourmet sandwiches, interestingly flavored ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade and much more.
In that market, they also have a bakery that sells some rather tasty cupcakes. The bakery was so popular, that the line snaked long outside the building. A sign in that bakery states: “A balanced diet is a cupcake in each hand.” Of course we tried some of those bake goods too.
Even though we were there for only a little more than an hour, we felt gratified. We spent more time driving than the actual time we stayed there, but it was still worth the effort. For one thing, it made my wife happy. And that was more than enough for me.
Nestled between the upper and lower peninsula of Michigan is a place where time stood still. The Mackinac Island, located in Lake Huron, is a popular tourist attraction due to its certain appeal. This place has undergone extensive historical preservation and restoration and is considered a National Historic Landmark.
I have heard of this place from a partner of mine when we moved to the Midwest more than a decade ago, but it was only recently that we were able to check this place out.
Mackinac Island is only reachable by a ferry from either Mackinac City or St. Ignace. These are fast hydro-jet ferries and only takes less than 20 minutes to get into the island.
As winter can be brutal in this part of Michigan, most businesses on the island, hotels included, are only open from May to October. Though there are residents that stayed on the island even through the winter.
Visiting Mackinac Island is like walking back in time, as houses and buildings are mostly built from the glorious era of the past, or at least they are made to look that way.
The island is not only for history fans but also attract nature lovers. There are lots of beautiful sights to enjoy, either cultivated or natural.
Tourists who visit Mackinac Island are called “fudgies.” I believe the reason for this is that the island has several fudge stores, and all of them offer free samples. So the tourists definitely take advantage of this, us included. But we also brought some home, as we felt obliged to buy after sampling a lot of them.
One of the most unique feature of the island is that there are no cars here. All motorized vehicles are banned on the entire island since 1898. There are only three motorized vehicles in the island: an ambulance, 1 police car, and a fire truck. So to get around, you either walk, bike, or take a taxi. Of course the taxis are horse-drawn carriages.
When you’re on the island, time is not an essence. People here take their time leisurely. And even if you are in a rush, you cannot hurry the horses. The horses rarely trot, and most of the time they walk. They don’t gallop. If you’re a fast walker, it may be even faster than riding the carriage. As I said, time here stand still.
Horses rule the island. They have only one physician in the whole island, but they have three veterinarians available here. So you know where their priority lies in this place.
One of the down-side of having many horses walking the streets, is that the roads are littered with their manure.
The smell is undeniable and sometimes can be overwhelming. But there are many people employed here as a “pooper-scooper.” They even have a mechanized street sweeper or cleaner. Of course it is also horse-drawn (photo below).
Beside the horse-drawn carriage tour, another faster way than walking, to tour the island is to go biking. And that’s what my family and I did. The whole island is only 8 miles around, though there are some steep hills that may be challenging to ride up.
One of the most iconic place in the island is the Grand Hotel which opened its doors way back in 1887. As the name implies, it really is grand. It even has its signature horse-drawn carriages available for their patrons.
This hotel has hosted many presidents, dignitaries, and famous people in its existence. Even if you don’t stay in this hotel (as it is a little pricey) you can still tour it for a minimal fee. It remains one of the most visited place in the island.
The hotel is also known in the popular culture as this is where the classic movie “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour, was filmed. The film is about a time traveler who fell in love with someone in the past. They chose this location for the obvious reason that the hotel have not changed much even in the passing of time.
Overall, we really enjoyed our trip to Mackinac Island. Even though we are not time travelers, perhaps we can be considered as such, as we felt like we visited the “past.” And we definitely fell in love too from something in the “past.”