Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Nashville

Over the past six months I’ve taken several road trips with my mom, who is currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. We explore the South’s most charming cities––Savannah, Charleston, Nashville, Chattanooga––eating and walking our way through each one.

Lately I’m more conscious of how special these experiences with my mom are. In the past year or so I’ve come to understand the realness of what was for a long time an intangible, far-off notion that my parents won’t always be around.

There’s a period of your life when you’re very young and your parents don’t seem to age at all. I remember feeling like my mom was around forty-years-old for the first twenty years of my life––ageless, certainly older than me and my friends, but not old––and then all of a sudden she became 60, 61, 62...

My mom looks young––she has beautiful pale freckly skin and wild curly blond hair. Very few wrinkles line her face. Sometimes I wonder when her face will change and become the face of an old person. You know, the kind of face that you would describe as “elderly”. Does that happen gradually or overnight?

I’m cherishing our trips together. So far my favorite has been Charleston with its enormous pastel-colored mansions and romantic, tidy streets that make you feel like you’ve gone backwards in time.

Recently I visited my mom in Atlanta for 10 days, and we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Nashville. Our excursion barely lasted 24 hours, so I can’t claim to have gotten a deep sense of Nashville’s personality or what it has to offer. The day-long trip left me with the impression that downtown Nashville is like Times Square for country music, but you’ll find a lot of heart, charm and personality in the nearby neighborhoods.

The weather was gloomy; it drizzled all day Saturday, and Sunday morning was thick with fog. I’m sure Nashville feels very different with sun and blue skies, but the dreariness was somehow kind of nice, adding a veneer of sweet melancholy.

Here are my favorite things we saw and did during our 24 hours in Nashville:

Tried On Stiff, Stubborn, Lovely Denim at Imogene + Willie

In a wonderful instance of luck, the Imogene + Willie store was just a few blocks from Saturday's lunch spot (BurgerUp), to which we arrived after the four-hour drive from Atlanta so hungry we could barely keep up a conversation. The best part about lunch was the big bowl of fat sweet potato fries.

Imogene + Willie is a clothing and lifestyle brand known for creating high-quality denim. Their Nashville store occupies a former gas station whose exterior is slathered in white paint and has a big red cross––the brand’s symbol––swinging from a pole at the front of the building.

The inside of their store wears a rustic-country-Americana theme with a little bit of urban mixed in. Swaths of raw fabric hang from the ceiling, and they sell a medley of items including blankets, Aesop products, delicious-smelling bundles of incense and Warby Parker glasses. And, of course, denim. Raw, stiff, stubborn denim. The kind you spend at least six months breaking in and you hate every minute of it until one day it fits you perfectly.

In a video that’s shot like a 1970s rock-and-roll documentary, founder Carrie Eddmenson reads a letter she wrote to an early supporter who had reached out to her after the Eddmensons shared their dream of starting a denim brand with their friends online:

My family has been in the denim business for 22 years. I’ve worked in the family business for what seemingly feels like like almost the whole two decades. My hands and my husband’s hands are blue most all of the days. Just would hope that the gas station would become a destination for lovers of good denim and other treasures.

Here are a few stills from their video:

Admired Beautiful Objects at White’s Mercantile

A few blocks down on the same street is White’s Mercantil, a concept store with a mishmash of goods perfect for adding charm to your home or work space, from pumpkin-scented candles and faded copper-colored trays to porcelain pieces, oversized gold piggy banks and old-fashioned mens’ shaving products.

Ate a Family-Style Breakfast at Monell’s

Sunday breakfast at Monell’s was communal and indulgent. They sat us at a big table with other groups of hungry diners and fed us cinnamon rolls and biscuits with gravy. Once all the seats at the table were filled they brought out the main dishes: heaping portions of corn pudding, sausage, pancakes, baked apples with cinnamon, fried chicken and grits. Each plate was passed around the table so that everyone could serve themselves a helping (or two, or three).

Imagined Ourselves Living in An Adorable House in Germantown

Monell’s is in Nashville’s Germantown, which was the city’s first residential neighborhood. After breakfast we wandered around Germantown and gazed at the beautiful Victorian homes––sweet, simple houses made of brick or wood painted in muted, earthy colors. Most seem to have been built as tiny boxes and then extended backwards more recently as wealthier families moved in.

Wandered Around the Wonderfully Gaudy Gaylord Opryland Resort

On our way out of town on Sunday afternoon we stopped at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It’s a ridiculous, gaudy, overdone hotel, but in a good way. Its nine acres of indoor gardens are surrounded by hotel rooms with a white-brick facade and iron balconies painted in black. The experience of being in the hotel oscillates between whimsical and theme park-esque.

A bit of history: The Opryland Hotel opened its doors to guests on Thanksgiving day in 1977. The hotel was originally built to support the Grand Ole Opry, a fixture of Nashville country music, and it now has nearly 3,000 rooms.

Stopped for Lunch in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is the halfway point between Nashville and Atlanta, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch. We went to Grocery Bar: “A chef-driven grocery store that empowers the home-cook and unites a neighborhood around deliciously simple food”.

In addition to selling groceries they serve lunch platters, sandwiches and desserts. I ate a delicious blackened chicken and my mom had a salad, then we both had flourless peanut butter cookies for dessert.

We were only in Chattanooga for about an hour, but I loved its energy and can’t wait to go back. While hunting for food we passed a lot of industrial brick buildings repurposed as restaurants and apartments, and on our way out of town we took a quick drive through the quaint Bluff View Art District.

Things We Wish We’d Had Time to Do

Packing List: Essentials


 

Everything You Think Will Be Different

A couple weeks ago I came back to Mexico City after spending four months in the States. It’s strange and unsettling how easy it is to forget the details of what it’s like to be somewhere.

The details are what make you fall in love with and feel at home in a city, but once you leave they are also what fade away the fastest. The overall feeling of what it’s like to be in a certain city lingers and turns into nostalgia––sometimes making your chest cramp up or your gut stir when you think about it for too long––but the little things that make your day-to-day life in a place unique and wonderful dissolve into abstraction.

Here are some of the details I had forgotten:

  • The thick smell of sulfur that hits you when driving back from the airport

  • The beautiful doors of the houses in San Miguel Chapultepec

  • How it feels to wake up next to my boyfriend

  • How good fresh tortillas are

  • The dreary, wet afternoons during rainy season

  • What mole tastes like

  • How cheap it is to buy fresh vegetables at the markets

Tavi Gevinson, one of my heroes and probably my biggest girl crush, talks about the possibility of forgetting the deep feelings you have for things—songs, pictures, colors, each other––in a play she is currently performing in (I swiped this quote from a recent New York Magazine article on Tavi; I haven’t seen the play).

JESSICA: … Everything you think will be different, and the way you act, and all your most passionately held beliefs are all gonna be completely different, and it’s really depressing.

WARREN: How do you figure?

JESSICA: Because it just basically invalidates whoever you are right now. You know what I mean? It just makes your whole self at any given point in your life seem so completely dismissible. So it’s like, what is the point? […]

It’s like when you find an old letter you wrote that you don’t remember writing. And it’s got all these thoughts and opinions in it that you don’t remember having, and it’s written to somebody you don’t even remember having ever written a letter to.

WARREN: I’ve never found a letter like that.

JESSICA: Well I have. Like, a lot of them. And it just makes you realize that there’s just these huge swaths of time in your life that didn’t register at all, and that you might just as well have been dead during them for all the difference they make to you now.

I think she’s talking about memory and growing up, but I’ve continued to have this experience of memory and identity throughout my 20s, whenever I make big life changes and all of a sudden I realize that my current life is so vastly different from what I was doing a few years ago. I guess these big shifts in who you are, what you believe, where you live and how you go about your day happen less as you get older, but if you have a penchant for reinvention and travel then they might always be a part of your experience of living.

That’s what’s so fun and comforting about writing, photography, blogging, social media––anything that lets you document your life. You can always look back and remember who you were a week, a month, a year or five years ago, even if everything is different.

Detail of a building in colonia Roma Norte

Detail of a building in colonia Roma Norte

Blue tile from a building in Roma Norte

Blue tile from a building in Roma Norte

Blue house in Condesa (my very favorite blue that you don't find in many other places outside of Mexico)

Blue house in Condesa (my very favorite blue that you don't find in many other places outside of Mexico)

The Traveler’s Dilemma: Love in A World Where Everybody Is Always Moving

As our world—and the concept of what a typical career looks like—become increasingly global, crossing state lines and even oceans multiple times to build a new life seems more and more like the norm, especially for people in their 20s.

Wanderlust, exciting job offers and a desire to soak it all in pull us towards new cities, countries and continents. But relationships are not always so eager to adapt.

For those of us who thrive on travel and new experiences, the typical idea of what makes a great relationship (stability, togetherness) hasn’t caught up with our idea of what makes an exciting life and career (diversity, adventure, growth, authenticity).

For a while I thought it was a problem with me; that I was the only one moving thousands of miles away and disrupting my relationships. But I looked more closely at my friends and people I admire and saw others making the same decision: to leave love for a great career opportunity, or simply to build a better, more dynamic life. 
 
What happens if the other person follows you? When does the resentment settle in? I can imagine it creeping into the small, pointless fights couples have from time-to-time. Suddenly me not wanting to go to a party turns into a fight about how my partner is always the one doing stuff for me that he doesn’t want to do, and not the other way around. 

The subtle undertone being that he moved to a new country just for me.

Then again, if you decide to stay together and have a long-distance relationship, the person who got left behind starts to resent the person who did the leaving—it hangs over every late-night Google Hangout and fuels the bickering that surfaces whenever you visit each other.

More and more it seems that relationships require a global mindset and a willingness to not see each other for a few weeks at a time. WhatsApp, Skype and email replace dinner conversations and long weekend-mornings in bed together, at least part of the time.
 
The truth is, I’m more okay with this kind of relationship than any of my partners have been. I kind of like the idea of a few weeks apart followed by a few wonderful weeks with the person I love. I think it gives us the freedom to live independently for a little while, to focus on our ambitions and passions, but with the comfort of knowing that love is just around the corner. 
 
A while back I read an article on Medium by a successful entrepreneur who lives between New York and London. She talks about life between two cities, and what it’s like to have a partner in one of those cities—basically a part-time relationship, although it’s never really that part-time because the other person is always on your mind, right? 

While reading the article I thought to myself, “Wow, she’s lucky. She’s found someone who is okay with having a relationship with a woman who doesn’t always want to stay in one place. They seem to be making it work.” 

Is it realistic to think that we can find a partner with a tolerance for distance—do we just have to look harder—or did this women get really, really lucky? Or, maybe making it work is more difficult than she lets on. 
 
The way I see it, there are two possible scenarios: couples become more open to not always living in the same city, and they build relationships that involve both time apart and time together. Maybe at some point one person moves for the other, and then vice versa, but they agree to accept being apart some of the time in order to pursue their dreams.

(Apparently there’s an actual movement around this type of relationship called Living Apart Together.)

Conversely, they prioritize being together (in the geographical sense) over their careers and dreams of experiencing other parts of the world, and they each vouch to move for the other whenever necessary, or they simply decide to stay put no matter what opportunity comes along.

I’ve done it twice now. A little more than four years ago I left a boyfriend in New York City to move to Mexico City. We tried to make it work for a while, but we just kept fighting. He was immensely unhappy in a long-distance relationship; I, on the other hand, was okay with it. We broke up, and eventually I fell in love with someone in Mexico. 

Then, four months ago, I took a temporary break from Mexico to chase happiness, better health and more clarity in my career, with a plan to return to Mexico in the Fall and build a life that allows me to go between Mexico City and the U.S. Again, this drove a wedge between me and my partner. Again, I chose my career and personal well-being over love, at least temporarily. 
 
Why? Because relationships don’t exist in a bubble, untouched by the circumstances around them. No matter how deeply in love with someone you are, if you find yourself in a city or job that just aren’t working for you anymore, sticking with them so you can be with someone is going to damage the relationship eventually. 

Here’s what I’d like to know: Will it ever stop feeling like a choice between one thing and the other? Maybe it’s a matter of finding the right person—the romantic in me wants to believe that when a relationship is truly right, there will be times when my partner follows me and others when I compromise and follow my partner, but the compromise won’t feel like a loss because we are both 100% committed to building a life together. Of course, togetherness will mean physically being in the same place some of the time and living apart some of the time.

Or maybe there will always be a tug-of-war between love and location.

For now, I’m waiting anxiously for relationships to adapt to the reality of how many of us live life: moving to new cities or continents to chase our dreams, sometimes setting up shop in more than one city at a time, never settling for apathy, seeking to balance loving relationships with personal fulfillment and refusing to accept that you can’t have both.