Saturday, May 30, 2015

Memphis... Nashville... HOME... (Last Day!)

So... where was I?

OH... breakfast with Jerry Seinfeld - that's right!

So... up at at 'em; the usual time. Down to Capriccio for our usual breakfast. Arriving downstairs I asked the host to seat us within the section of our favorite waitress (Mia) and so of course... he did.


Seated next to a far corner table marked "reserved" we were served coffee, juice, and Mia took my omelet order. (Mary wasn't in the mood for an omelet and stuck to the buffet.)

So... after a few sips of coffee... a few sips of juice... I head up to the buffet. Just as I'm getting up from the table the host leads a party of three to the reserved table next to us. I actually pay little attention as my thoughts are focused upon what I'll be having as my first breakfast course...


After filling my plate I return to our table - still paying no attention to the three men seated right next to us.

I sit back down... my back to the "reserved" table... and just as I'm about to start shoveling food into my mouth, Mary gives me a "pssst" and whispers, "Billy; Jerry Seinfeld is right behind you!"


Without batting an eye I say, "that's nice," and begin to eat. I don't look behind me; instead, I notice that another couple a few tables away are staring in our direction - staring past me.


Next... I hear... the voice.


YEP... Jerry Seinfeld was eating breakfast right behind me!

Kinda neat! (Not the first time I've been in close proximity to a celebrity, though.) No one bothered Mr. Seinfeld. No autograph seekers... no requests for photos - at least while we were there. (And that's how it should be!)

Anyway... we finished up before they did and went back upstairs to our room. I blogged while Mary packed. (Showered... shaved... etc.)

We checked out of The Peabody just after 11:00 a.m. and drove straight back to our previous morning's frustrated attempt to visit the Danny Thomas Pavilion at St. Jude. UNFORTUNATELY... for the second day in a row... at the gate we were told that the Pavilion was closed for a private event.

Folks... I was pissed! They're still gonna get a donation... but... I'm gonna be sending a strongly worded letter addressed to Mary Anna Quinn (Chief Administrative Officer of St. Jude) expressing my displeasure - along with a check, of course.

Anyway... looking at it from a "glass half full" perspective this allowed us to get on the road to Nashville sooner - which we did.

Uneventful trip... got to Nashville around 2:30 p.m. and since the car wasn't due back (at the airport) till 6:00 p.m. we had some time to kill. Unfortunately... rush hour begins early in Nashville on Fridays and so our "time window" in which to explore wasn't quite as large as the numbers themselves seemed to indicate.

Again... following the theme of trying to catch up on our "list" stops... we decided we'd make another attempt to visit the Japanese Tea House - Two Ten Jacks. Well...


We arrived at around 3:30 p.m. only to be told that they didn't open till 4:00 p.m.

Next... (and this one was for my best friend Carl!)... we decided to make a quick stop to see "the glories" of the Opryland Hotel.

WHAT... A... FRIGGIN'... RIP-OFF...!!!

(Friggin' low-class Marriott...)


So... the hotel is massive...

(Check out the website!)

We arrive and find that not only is there no free parking...

(Even though it's a "suburban" hotel!)

...but that the parking actually goes from "20 minute grace" free entrance/exit to $23/day for anything beyond 20 minutes! (Friggin' RIDICULOUS!)

Still... we entered... I flagged down an attendant and asked "does the Hickory House (their premier steak house) validate," and she told me they do. So... I parked... and we went in to explore - planning to also drop in for a couple drinks at the Hickory House bar!


We explored... took a photo or two... finally found the Hickory House...


...only to find it closed.


Apparently (and I just checked the website - which is deliberately vague) they're (again... according to the hotel's own deliberately vague website!) "open for dinner."


No hours; just... "open for dinner."


So, anyway, at this point we decide we'd better "get the hell out of Dodge" so as not to be charged for overstaying our 20 minute grace parking. We would have made it... but the exit from the lot was all jammed up... ticket/card machines not working properly... one solitary attendant rushing from lane to lane, car to car, because everyone was getting stuck...

We were literally stuck behind another driver caught up at one of the exit gates for five minutes! Meaning... when we finally got to the gate ourselves...


...upon reading the ticket the machine read "Pay $25.13 Daily Rate."

Ha! Like hell...!!!

I'll freely admit... I semi-lost it!

I beeped to get the attendant's attention and when she came over I told her in no uncertain terms that I'd be damned before I paid $25.13 for a "day's" parking when if it hadn't been for their faulty equipment I would have been out of there within the 20 minute grace period!

Believe it or not... she actually tried to tell me there was nothing she could do!

My reply? "GET ME A MANAGER...!!!"

After going back and forth for a bit she FINALLY opened the gate manually...


Folks... it's a friggin' SCAM. It's that simple. I'm a damned New Yorker and I've never seen anything like it - not even in midtown Manhattan! (Forget the suburbs!)

I may actually write a letter of complaint to the proper Tennessee state authorities! 


Anyway... by now it was around 4:30 p.m.; time to find some cheap gas to fill up the tank of the rental car.

(I'm gonna miss that car... that beautiful Impala...)

First, though... one last drink!


We drove around... nothing "spoke to me"... and then before we knew it we were in the city proper! So... we decided to revisit the Listening Room. (They make good drinks!)




ARE... YOU... FRIGGIN'... KIDDING... ME...?!?!


Oh, well... it seemed that the day was destined to be a bust... until...





We'd stopped to fill up the tank ($2.53 per gallon - regular) and had almost given up on finding a spot for a quick drink/bite when we passed a trusty ol' Waffle House...


My friends... it turned out... the PERFECT way to end our trip!

Yum... yum... yum...!!! And GREAT service! (The friendliest people on earth apparently all work at the Waffle House!)

Just a quick stop... maybe 20 minutes... but we got to eat not just our entrees, but we shared a KICK-ASS slice of grill-warmed pecan pie! (It was out of this world! And... our waitress gave ME control over the can of whipped cream!)


Folks... if there are any among you who have never been to a Waffle House... take it from me - "Mr. Leading Hotels of the World," "Mr. Fine Dining Is My Middle Name" - the Waffle House is the place to go when you're just not in the mood for Masa.


We were at the airport before 6:30 p.m. (for a 7:50 p.m. flight)... returned our beloved rental car... got a ride on a golf cart to the main terminal...

And the rest is pretty standard.

One thing I will say, though: I LOVE Southwest Airlines! (Not only are drinks just $5 - with a nice selection including Fat Tire and Leinenkugel Shandy - but after only one round... our flight attendant "bought me" another!) GREAT service!

Anyway... we're HOME...

Next stop... Congers, New York - my godson's Holy Confirmation! Church at 1:00 p.m. followed by...


Friday, May 29, 2015

Memphis (Day Three...)

Thursday - our last full day in Memphis - was action packed!

Following breakfast it was off to St. Jude to pay our respects to its founder, the late, great Danny Thomas.

The only slight monkey wrench in the plan: When we arrived we were informed that the Pavilion was being used for a private event (and all day/evening affair) and thus closed to the public.


(Plan B: We'll visit today - Friday - prior to heading back to Nashville.)

Next MAJOR tourist destination... the Bass Pro Shop!

(Nope... not kidding... not being sarcastic... haven't lost my mind; just check out the link!)

Folks... the store is set within the Nashville Pyramid!

Folks... I'm not kidding; put this on your bucket lists! We're talking Disneyesque; "''Outdoorsman' meets Universal Studio's Theme Park!"


Anyway... we spent a good hour wondering around there, and then it was off to Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken for lunch and libations!

GREAT fried chicken! Great fried pickles! Great fried green tomatoes! GREAT mac & cheese! Great "slaw!" GREAT "chess" pie! (And a fine selection of local bottled beer!) Oh... and GREAT service as well! Gus's is another "must stop" for anyone finding themselves in Memphis!

Next... back to The Peabody - time to hit the pool! (And the hot-tub!)

Next... (by now it was 5:20 p.m.)... happy hour at Automatic Slims - right across the street from us!

WHAT... A... GREAT... PLACE...!!!

Fine, fine, fine cocktails! An incredible list of cocktails - incredibly priced during happy hours at a mere $5 per awesome concoction!

(ADVICE: Folks... each and every one of you reading this NEEDS to IMMEDIATELY run out to your nearest liquor store and pick up a bottle of Crown Royal Regal Apple Whiskey (and some cranberry juice) and after mixing to taste (I'd suggest two parts whiskey, one part cranberry to start) start drinking! (Oh... by the way... use a shaker! Ice in the shaker - NOT in the glass!)

Anyway... after three MARVELOUS cocktails for me (and two for The Poops) it was time to hit the Rooftop Party at our hotel...


Again... folks... IT'S GOOD TO BE BILL...!!!

Such... a... fun... time...!!! REALLY cool! Definitely one of the highlights of the trip! Great band (Swingin' Leroy)...  great crowd... and $7/$8 drinks!

Well... after the party... after the dancing and singin'... time for a little snack! First stop... Local Gastropub for a pint! (Nice atmosphere... we sat outside. Mary and I both had Wiseacre brews.)



Ernestine & Hazel's for SOUL BURGERS!

Folks... these burgers we SO... FRIGGIN'... GOOD... that after eating one each... we each ordered - and scoffed down - a second!

And by the way, folks... this "dive" bar is the real deal! Not a tourist in sight except for us! Definitely a "working man's" bar - a shift worker's bar! (Serves food till 3:00 a.m.!)

Anyway... we finally arrived "home" around 12:30 p.m.

A great night's sleep... followed by breakfast (this morning) with Jerry Seinfeld...

Oh! But wait; that's a story for tomorrow's travelogue wrap-up!



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Memphis (Day Two...)

After an excellent night's sleep we enjoyed a wonderful buffet breakfast right here at the hotel (included in our package). Allow me to say... some of the best bacon I've ever had; kick-ass sausages as well; perhaps the best cheesy grits I've ever had... and eggs made to order - in my case with a side of hollandaise sauce!

Next stop... Sun Studio!

Folks... I can't recommend the Sun Studio tour highly enough! Simply amazing! (Amazing in a PURE way... not "flash"... not. glitz... just  old-fashioned respect and enthusiasm for the history and reverence for the music and its pioneers.


PLUS... FREE PARKING...! And beyond the free parking, a REASONABLY PRICED admission and INEXPENSIVE beverages including fresh made (and delicious!) malteds! (One of which - a chocolate - I enjoyed myself!)

Seriously... I simply can't say enough good stuff about the Studio and the tour! Our guide Rae was simply wonderful! (Tall and pretty as well as enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly!)

(Hmm... don't know if Mary's gonna be thrilled by that last remark... but... what the hell...)


To those of you who make it to Memphis in the future... DON'T MISS the Sun Studio Tour!

Oh... AND AS A BONUS... as already noted there's free parking... but there's also free shuttle service between Sun Studio and Graceland! (Yep... park the car for free... utilize the free shuttle!) (Just don't neglect to tip the shuttle driver! Everyone's gotta make a living!)

Next stop... GRACELAND!

So... we took the free shuttle to Graceland - a good 15 minute ride - singing (well, me, anyway) as we traveled (since the "van" had a monitor playing Elvis concert footage). The shuttle drops you off at the main tourism center - which is actually across the street from Graceland itself.

I won't go in-depth; suffice it to say that while expensive ($40.50 p.p. AAA rate) and commercial (the literally have four or five SEPARATE souvenir shops), the house... the property and outbuildings... the cars... the artifacts... the PLANES (two of them!)... 


...and of course being able to visit the grave site and serenity garden...


...made the "pilgrimage" well worth taking.


All told... after leaving our hotel this morning at 10:30 a.m. we didn't get back to The Peabody till 5:30 p.m.!

Anyway... in dire need of adult hydration we self-parked and headed straight to the local beer bar - The Flying Saucer... impressive tap selection and doubly impressive bottle selection.


A few beers there and then back "home" to our room to shower, shave, and dress.

Next stop... Paulette's.

(Well... let me rephrase that. How'bout... "Not Paulette's?")

O.K. Here's what happened: Beautiful restaurant. Wonderful menu. REASONABLE prices (from our New York perspective). Here's the thing, though; in the same building... on the forth floor... there's a really cool cocktail bar/tapas joint. And... the piano player at Paulette's advised us (when asked) that if we could only fit in EITHER Paulette's OR "Terrace (at the River Inn"), then his advice was to forgo "yet another fine dining establishment" and instead opt for tapas and drinks overlooking the river and the lighted bridge.



And, folks... let me tell you... yet ANOTHER fine decision!

The view... setting... atmosphere... service... food & drinks... EXACTLY what we'd been looking for!


Who the heck needs Beale street when places like Terrace exist...?!?!

Anyway... things generally close up early in Memphis so by 10:30 p.m. we were sated and heading home.

It's now a bit past 11:30 p.m. and we're "home"... Mary's in bed... and I'm ready to join her the moment I post this.



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memphis (Day One...)

Well, folks, we're in Memphis now!

Woke up this morning... another wonderful breakfast at the "TD" House... more swimming... more hot-tubbing; we hit the road around 12:30 p.m. and after a three-plus hour drive we arrived at our new "home away from home," Memphis' famous Peabody Hotel!

Exerting a wee bit of the irresistible "Barker charm" upon the lovely young lady at the check-in station helped to secure us an 11th floor river view room with all the comforts of home... PLUS... a TV in the   (as well as the big screen TV in the main room).


After a member of the bell staff brought up our luggage we headed up to the roof to enjoy the phenomenal view and await the arrival of...


...the Peabody Ducks!

(It's good to be a guest at The Peabody!)

After "greeting the ducks" and exchanging pleasantries with the... er... "Duck Master"... we hit the bar - The Corner Bar - for a few happy hour cocktails (for me; Mary had one beer) and more pleasantries - these ones exchanged with our bartender and our fellow dru... er... customers.


Next... to the pool! (A beautiful indoor pool - "Roman Bath" style motif! Separate hot-tub. Weight room. Cardio room. Full spa.) The pool water temperature wasn't quite as warm as I prefer (say 83-87 degrees), but it wasn't frigid. I'd say it was perhaps 80 degrees. Once you we actually fully in... well... it was pleasant enough.

We spent perhaps an hour at the pool before heading back upstairs to our room to shower and dress for dinner. Tonight's lucky winner of the "Where Will Bill and Mary Eat" sweepstakes... Folk's Folly... supposedly the finest steakhouse in Memphis.

It WAS damn good! I had the dry aged special and Mary had some fru-fru concoction that was also pretty good...

I won't list our whole meal; suffice it to say that from drinks to appetizers to salads... from bread to entrees... Folk's Folly met my expectations. And although it was our most expensive meal so far... I felt - feel - that the quality of the meal and the general experience of dining at a restaurant such as this easily justifies the splurge.

After dinner, but prior to returning to The Peabody, we decided to detour to Beale Street.


Touristy. Tacky. And frankly... it smells bad. (Beale Street at  night smells like Bourbon Street (New Orleans) in the morning.




We saw it... we walked it... we can now cross Beale Street off "the bucket list."


Back to The Peabody... another quick "cool down" shower for me... and...


BED TIME...!!!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nashvville (Day Five...)

Well, well! A couple nice responses to these "vacation posts!" Thank you Michelle... thank you, Carl!

Monday was a rainy day - which just happened to fit our itinerary perfectly! Ya see... Monday was "Museum Day."


Yep... after yet another scrumptious home-cooked-to-order breakfast here at the Timothy Demonbreun House (complete with "real" cappuccino and house-made sausage) we were off to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum!

Was the Hall of Fame/Museum all it's cracked up to be? Frankly... and I write this with mixed feelings and some regret... no.

WHY...?!?! WHAT'S THE PROBLEM...?!?! Well... in a nutshell... it's too damn big... too damn excessive... too "monument to the grandeur of the city" with more of an "institutional" feel than a laid back down home "country" feel.

(Those who have been there... you'll know what I'm talking about.)

The building... and the "presentation" of the exhibits within... simply "overwhelm" the memorabilia.

(At least that was my take...)

In short... I found the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum" to be too impersonal... too "commercial"... too... er... "marketing focused."

Am I glad we went? YES! Did they have some neat stuff - including a few "cars of the stars?" Yep! Would a smaller, less flashy, more "authentic"physical homage to American Country Music "play" better to fans such as myself... absolutely. (Hey... just one man's opinion!)

After the Hall of Fame/Museum it was off to the Patterson House for cocktails. Hard to find (but worth it!), we arrived at 4:30 p.m. - only to find that they didn't open till 5:00 p.m.


So... we decided to simply drive around and explore. We discovered "The Gulch" and "Music Row" (where the various studios/labels are headquartered) and eventually found ourselves stumbling upon the area where our Monday night restaurant is located. Anyway... rather than go back to the Patterson House (we figured we'd hit them for post-dinner cocktails) we decided to go to "our" restaurant early and have a drink at their bar prior to our 6:00 p.m. seating reservation.

Monday was "French Night." Our destination? Table 3. Folks... (what can I tell ya?)... yet another inspired choice!

YES... this place is sited at a mall. NO... the location does not distract from the food, service, and atmosphere! Dinner was excellent! The prix-fix salads were wonderful and the entrees were sublime. (Yes... "sublime"... it's one of them thar "college words.") Mary had coq au vin and I had trout almondine. (And back to the salads... their Caesar dressing... OH... MY... GOD! And my beet and goat cheese salad... YUM!)

As for dessert...the restaurant has an attached cafe/marketplace. After dinner we simply went next door and purchased a house-made lemon-ginger sorbet (which we ate sitting on a bench outside) and a slice of pineapple-coconut tart which we took with us and plan to eat today (which is Tuesday as I type) while on the road to Memphis.

Post-dinner... the Patterson House... set up like a speakeasy... VERY upscale... a true cocktail lover's cocktail bar where not only are the drinks handcrafted - but so are the ingredients... from syrups to bitters!

After a few cocktails there we were off to 3rd & Lindsley for live music... only...


We ended up NOT spending time there after all...


Here... allow me to backtrack. On the way to 3rd & Lindsley I was pulled over by a cop.



It was the damn GPS's fault - I swear!


Anyway... this place (3rd & Lindsley) is a bit hard to get to and the GPS directions were...


Let's just say "less than perfect."

Anyway... the officer was real nice. We explained why my driving might have seemed a bit... um...erratic.. and he "got" it without batting an eye - and without even asking if I'd been drinking!


He of course ran my license, but obviously we were tourists and he himself volunteered that getting to 3rd & Lindsley is a bit tricky. After giving us proper directions he wished us a good night and we were off to continue our night.

Here's the deal though:: When we got to 3rd & Lindsley, parked, and went in... we were greeted with the words, "How do you wanna pay the cover - cash or card?" Moreover, it turned out the cover was $20 - PER PERSON!


Sorry 3rd & Lindsley! All due respect... I'm not paying $40 to see some band I've never heard of - even IF the waitress at Marche Artisan HAD given us the head's up!

So... back to the car... Plan B - The Listening Room.

GREAT PLACE! Free parking... no cover... excellent drinks... but unfortunately we hit it just as the band was finishing up. Live music for ten minutes... a cocktail for me and a beer for the Poops... and that was that.


Since it was "only" around 10:00 p.m. and it WAS our last night in Nashville we figured we'd hit downtown one last time. Monday night... even Memorial Day Monday night... it was kinda dead. (Comparatively!) Even Acme was closing up just as we arrived! Anyway... we were both pretty sated by this point and since I wanted to get up a bit earlier than usual the next morning so as to enjoy the pool and hot-tub after breakfast we decided to call it a night.