Summer 2010…Staycation in Nashville…Stop #1

Summer makes me smile.

Summer is the center-cut, the heart of my year. It’s a time when life slows down…or thankfully, life-on-demand does. I savor the sounds of silence… no alarm or school bells. I loved my childhood summers. Still too much a kid, I embrace…ok, squeeze the life out of…the season that calls me to come out and play. On parole from the school cafeteria where I’ve eaten since I was five, I can do lunch like a grownup with old friends and new ones. I can write all day in my robe. I can see a matinee with my daughter or play DJ Hero with my son. Wonders on a whim.

Meanwhile, friends are asking, “So where are you going this summer?” Since 1992 I’ve done educational tours abroad with students. We’ve traveled to England, Scotland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Greece. I’ve been to Ireland with strangers who became friends. I’m blessed with Italian friends who are like family—opening their homes numerous times since we met one summer at a camp outside Torino where I taught English. Last summer, Giorgio traveled by train and boat from Milan just to walk around Venice for three hours. I was there for the first time with my mom and a group I led through Tuscany, then Nice, Monaco, and Paris. Last June I flew to meet two friends in Barcelona and wrote about the salsa scene there, then in July took my kids to California. Always scanning the horizon, I look forward to next summer’s trip to Southern Italy and Greece scheduled with school families and my friend since kindergarten whose moving back to the US from Africa.

But this summer my passport sleeps in the back of a drawer. No leaving the country unless money rains. Nashville’s Great Flood left a bathroom and garage walls to rebuild. Many I know will be doing staycations…due to the national economy and Nashville’s recovery. So in the spirit of making lemons into Lemon Thyme Martinis (a specialty of my friend Kim) and because I’ve always told my kids there’s too much to learn and enjoy to ever be bored, I’ll be sharing local treasures I’ve found on my quests for Fun in the Sun. We can bloom wherever we are planted.

If I’ve learned one thing from my Italian and Latin friends it’s that life is rich and should be celebrated. I grew up thinking that with the exception of milestone birthdays (like the Big 3 or 4-0) partying is for kids. Not so. Turning 50–something I dreaded for years–was one of the best birthdays of my life…a blast due to incredible friends and Latin dance. Who knew 51 would be even more memorable… more of the same plus my discovery of an amazing bakery, thanks to friends Pablo and Jonathan. If you have never tried a Tres Leches Cake (or even if you have), treat yourself to a tour of La Espiga at 4833 Nolensville Pike. Don’t wait for a birthday to taste something as beautiful as it is light and rich…the perfect dessert for any summer gathering. La Espiga is open Monday-Saturday 6 AM-9PM and Sunday 6 AM-7 PM. I’ll be there tomorrow…picking up a cake I ordered for a surprise party at Mad Donna’s. A friend is turning 40 and his friends agree attention must be paid.