spontaneously planned (nashville)

This past weekend Husband and I packed up and headed to Nashville, TN. It was not a long trip by any stretch (drive down Saturday, drive back up Tuesday). But it was something that we were both looking forward to, because we hadn’t been on a vacation in over a year. I especially knew that I was going to love this getaway after an overnight in Ohio back in March felt luxurious.

Since we’ve been head over heels for Montana, our trip to Nashville had come without much planning on our part. Husband had been there before, so he knew a few sights we might want to check out.

Before we get started, can I please once again expound on the virtues of booking with Priceline? We spent $65/night for a $200/night room with a KING sized bed. OMG, YES. We both slept for a knocked out, uninterrupted 9-10 hours every night.

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Saturday night we grabbed some amazing BBQ at Rippy’s, watched part of the Hawks game, wandered around downtown, and then finished off the night with drinks and UFC at a college bar. It was a great combo of seeing the downtown area, going somewhere a little touristy, yet also experiencing local flavor. And while I appreciate everyone trying to make it big, can I just say that it was quite uncomfortable to have someone shaking an empty beer bucket at you, trying to get tips, while you’re eating? I mean seriously. If you’re good, I will go up and tip you, please don’t beg.

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There’s something cheesy, and yet appropriate about all these lighted signs downtown. I could feel the touristy schtick, and yet it was okay, it was fun. We went to Broadway Saturday and Sunday night, and whoa. Completely different experiences. One night was crazy and lots of groups and bachelorette parties, and the other night Honky Tonk Central closed the top floor early because of the lacking crowd.

Sunday night we didn’t do dinner because of a late lunch, but we did get an appetizer and drinks at Bosco’s. Then we went over to HTC for more drinks and the Spurs/Heat game. I think we watched more sports and drank more this past weekend than we ever have as a couple. When in Rome, I suppose?2013-06-17_1371429568

About 45 minutes after this picture at Bosco’s, I was standing next to a gutter drain staring down at our car keys while Husband went back to the restaurant for help. Oh yes, there was panicking and trying to not panic and dialing 311 only to find they don’t rescue people on Sundays. Thanks to the restaurant manager and a passing jogger (who’d just moved from Schaumburg!), we retrieved the keys in under fifteen minutes. Oh, and Husband isn’t allowed to hold anything of importance ever again. Remember how he dropped the camera in the lake at Disney World? Yeah. NEVER AGAIN.

Our daytime activities were a bit scattered. We planned our Sunday activities during breakfast that morning. Oh, it’s supposed to rain on Monday? Oh, the horse back riding is actually a trail and you have to supply the horses? (I still haven’t learned that when Husband wants to do something, I need to verify that it’s actually the real deal.) The zoo and Belle Meade plantation in one day it is!

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This is our third time feeding lorakeets, mainly because it’s cheap and it never gets old having a bird alight on you to eat out of your hand. Even if he does starting nipping your fingers because all the nectar’s gone. The Nashville Zoo was nice, if sparse on animals and long on walking. We got to pet armadillos, see a birds of prey show, and their meerkat exhibit was top notch. I love meerkats, and I always appreciate when a zoo gives them exactly what they need (plenty of space and freedom to dig their homes).

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The Belle Meade plantation was beautiful. It’s worth the money to get the tour inside the house, otherwise you can only wander around the property and while there are ‘exhibits’, it’s not as much fun. I found the reviews of the place funny, because so many people complained that there was too much family history in the tour. Ummmm … that’s why you’re there! To hear the story of the family that lived on the plantation and the horses they bred! I really liked it.

Monday we woke up to a cloudy, humid day where we … had no plan of what to do. We didn’t want to go to the  Opry or Hall of Fame because they were both really expensive, and since it was supposed to storm we didn’t want to go to the Parthenon. So we stared at each other for a few minutes, and then I looked up the Tennessee website. I found an aquarium in Chattanooga two hours away. It was a really big drive, and I was afraid Husband was going to veto it because we had to drive home the next day. But happily, he agreed to it (mostly because we didn’t really have a lot of options).

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The scenery was beautiful on our THREE HOUR DRIVE. Yeah, apparently people in Tennessee freak out super bad at everything and drive with a lot of caution on the highway. We got stopped in traffic because there was an accident clear on the other side of the highway, and then about a half hour from Chattanooga everyone decided they needed to slow down to 20 mph at every turn. But finally, we got there!

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These are really blurry photos of a very awesome penguin exhibit. They had a variety of penguins, and they had the glass set up so you could go ‘eye to eye’ with the penguins as they swam around. TN Aquarium also had a multilevel tank with mucho SHARKS, a butterfly exhibit, and opportunities to pet sting rays and sturgeon. The aquarium is actually two buildings, so you go into one for all the ocean and exotic animals, and another for river animals. The river part sounded boring, but actually had a lot of giant, unique fish as well as an ability to see both sides of the tanks. I wish I had taken a picture of the set up because it was very cool.

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Even though I love the Shedd Aquarium (beluga whales FTW!), I really loved this aquarium as well. They had a great selection of animals, the layout was good and easy to follow, and they had a high number of interactive displays. My only negative takeaway was at the stingray tank; they were not educating people on how to best pet the stingrays. Stingrays, like all animals, can get nervous by sudden splashes of water and the random appearance of things in the water. Unlike the rays at the Brookfield Zoo, who love to be petted because they are used to it and people are taught are to do it right, I felt like the rays at TN Aquarium didn’t want to be petted because there were so many kids splashing and plunging their hands in the water. The worker overseeing the tank actually said The stingrays don’t really want you to pet them. Then WHY do you have this exhibit? So there was that, but overall I would definitely go back again.

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After the aquarium, we were kind of at a loss of what to do. The trip up so long that we didn’t want to go back after just a couple hours, and downtown Chattanooga has the aquarium and not much else. Luckily we found a bike share, and so we rented a couple bikes and pedaled around downtown, including their pedestrian bridge, and just took in the amazing scenery surrounding this town. I wish I had taken a picture on the bridge, but at the time I was like, ‘I’m in the moment! No pictures!’ so … yeah. Ha. But it was really great to get that exercise in, even HILLS! Oh, hills. I don’t think I’ve gone up a hill on a bike in so long.

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Our last night in the hotel, we talked about the ride home. It was going to be a rough ride home — almost seven and a half hours in the car is no picnic, especially after spending five hours in the car the day before. I knew I had seen a couple zoos on the way down on Saturday, and so I looked them both up to see their value. One was mostly about Australian animals and looked more like a tourist trap than a zoo. The other was Louisville Zoo. We agreed that since it’s on the border of Kentucky and Indiana, it was serve as a good ‘rest stop’ for our drive home. And so we went.

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It was probably one of the best zoos I have ever been to. They had amazing, large exhibits for the animals to roam through. Their bear exhibit rivals Great Bear Wilderness, but a lot of their other attractions (train, lorakeet and giraffe feeding) were either closed or only once a day, which was weird. They did have a super nice splash park in the zoo, though, that was free with admission. It was pretty fancy and had a lot of spouting sprinklers and such. We spent about three hours there and it was the perfect exercise break for long driving day.

Even though our trip was short, we had a really great time. I’m extremely lucky to have Husband, someone who will take an unexpected adventure, even if it means an extra drive or an unplanned detour. He is always willing (after a few questions are answered).

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