Relax in Nashville Like a Local

Relax in Nashville Like a Local


Before moving abroad, I lived in Nashville from 1987-2014.   This year I plan to move back to Tennessee and the place I call home.  Most tourists come to Nashville for offerings in the  downtown area –country music, sports, special events–but for lazier days wandering urban neighborhoods like-a-local is relaxing and fun.  Over Thanksgiving weekend I had an amazing meal  in  East Nashville at Lockeland Table.  I had to try their Southern Girl Cocktail.  The Tennessean shows how it’s done here.   Two other favourite places I love to roam and relax are  Hillsboro Village where I did some Christmas shopping, and 12th South where I stayed a couple of nights before returning to the Caribbean.



At Pangea my daughter, Taylor, and I love to shop for clothes, purses, and other global goodies from Asia, India, and Central America.  We found unique Christmas gifts–an antique brass compass and magnifying glass, a book on Southern cocktails, a leather wristband band–and a necklace and earrings for ourselves.  Through the years I’ve loved birthday surprises from here–a book on literary lore, gift cards for vintage clothing or bedding.

And if you want to play around with a new look, stop by SEE.  Here truly all that is old is new again with retro- large- lens-a-plenty. I saw my eye doctor there and picked out new specs for a new year.



The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village

A holiday highlight was a mother-daughter day at The Belcourt which was closed for renovation when I was home last summer.  Although I missed this old familiar face , sinking into the seats of the historical hub of independent films felt like home.  The nonprofit first opened its doors in 1925 to show silent movies on the city’s largest stage, but its vital voice in the community rallied supporters to make needed structural upgrades and add a second floor for a third screen and classroom space for educational outreach. For steering its expansion/revival Stephanie Silverman was named 2016 Nashvillian of the Year.  Last fall in addition to the beloved weekend classicsnew releases,  midnight moviesSaturday family films, and offerings by Vanderbilt University faculty, local ladies benefited from Strong Leads: A Film Seminar for High School Girls, a six-week-after-school program on films about or made by women. And speaking of strong female leads…

Fans of Camelot, Taylor and I saw Natalie Portman in Jackie.  I’ve always had a thing for the Kennedy story–probably because  I remember though only four-years-old watching As the World Turns with my mother (I named my little sister after Penny, the main character).  When Walter Cronkite interrupted the program to announce the President had been shot in Dallas, my mother called her mother.  It was the first time I saw her cry.  The film focuses on the seven days after JFK’s assassination from Jackie Kennedy’s perspective shared exclusively with  Life magazine writer Theodore H. White.

Though heavy for the holidays, we appreciated the film’s honesty.   Portman’s performance, a raw and rare portrayal of a very real wife, mother, woman, pushes past previously guarded and gilded glimpses at the most private-forced-public of First Ladies. Today a new generation reads What Would Jackie Do?   inspired by her iconic taste in apparel, home restoration, and social graces.  As with many women of her era, it wasn’t her style to take charge of her life until after Jack’s death when she became the Leading Lady of his legacy and her children’s future.  Like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon, the story of King Arthur’s Camelot from the queen’s perspective, the movie is more interesting than the original fairy tale because–like many women–Jackie helped create it to protect the ones she loved.  Intelligent writing and exquisite cinematography merge historical details documentary-style with high art. The result is gut-wrenching. Although her prominent position exacerbated her tragedy, women who have lost children or raised them alone by death, divorce, or default can relate to how alone she felt.  Taylor was impressed with Portman’s portrayal of strength and loyalty.  She observed of Jackie’s tortured and tenacious planning of the burial: “She wanted the funeral to be perfect, but funerals are really more for the living than the dead.”  Portman is expected to be nominated for an Oscar and the movie for Best Picture.  It has already won Critics’ Choice Awards for Best Actress,  Best Screenplay and Costume design, and Hollywood is still abuzz about Portman’s Jackie-like couture on the Golden Globe Red Carpet.  If you are into history or empathy, see it no matter where; but if you can catch it at The Belcourt, bonus.

Other places locals like…

Fido  coffee/cafe 

Jackson’s brunch and drinks on patio (for specials like 1/2 off bottles of wine go here)

Cabana nightlife

Pancake Pantry for those who don’t mind a line and a long wait


Just a few streets away from Hillsboro Village is 12th Avenue South flanked by new high rise apartments, historical craftsman cottages, and locals’ long-time hangouts.


Once upon a time this building was a cheese shop where I took Italian lessons upstairs. Today it is Five Daughters Bakery, home of the legendary cronut–a donut/croissant hybrid that takes three days to craft.  Read about the adorable family behind the business here.





Last summer when I stayed in the 12th South area,  I couldn’t get into bartaco for dinner.  Crowds spilled out the doors and draped over the patio walls waiting for a table, so my sister, niece, daughter and their guys met there for lunch instead.  The food was fresh, the music fun, the atmosphere relaxed–much like beach bars in Samana province of The Dominican Republic where I was headed the next day.  The baja fish and sesame ribeye tacos, corn, guacamole and sangria were excellent.  My only regret is not trying the black bean salad and a mojito, but I plan to be back…

So fun to have Andres and Emily, our “Texan tourists,”and Penny with us.
Taylor, Ben, and me

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Borrowed from Five Daughters Bakery for Two Sisters & Two Cousins Below


Sprinkles cupcake ATM...every neighborhood needs one.

It was nice to finally check out Draper James,  Reese Witherspoon’s place.  The southern girl is from Nashville so this one is the flagship store.




Below is my friend, Carol’s home, where I stayed last summer and last week when in town. You can book her upstairs suite with a separate entrance on AirBnB here.  Just off 12th/ down the street from Five Daughters Bakery and Mafiaoza’s Pizzeria, it is central to all Nashville offers including her southern hospitality.  While her home is now a quiet retreat that stays booked most of the year, back- in- the- day I danced under the stars at many-a-salsa-party in her beautiful backyard.

Separate side entrance to suite–see Air BnB link above for all photos




A reader’s paradise above and below


Ms. AirBnB, Carol, and our friend, Kim


Places locals like…

Frothy Monkey–one of the coolest coffee shops in the city

12 South Taproom  A recommendation from Carol for live music and fresh oysters (on my Next Time list)

Epice–I’ve had dinner here twice and love lingering over their delicious Lebanese food at marble tables on the patio

Urban Grub–large round booth to gather friends left of bar; best grits in town; oysters and craft cocktails their superpower

Staycation in Nashville…Fond Farewell

Staycation in Nashville…Fond Farewell


One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.–Henry Miller

I’ve always enjoyed staycations in Nashville, my home for almost thirty years.  After two years of living in Morocco, I am in town for the summer, and, as friends said I would be, stunned by how much this It City has grown.   In a week I move to The Dominican Republic–this time with my daughter who  wants a new adventure, too. Thanks to Omni Nashville–the premier location for enjoying downtown  — we had a perfect celebration as Taylor bid her birthplace a fond farewell for now.

Nashville, voted #1 for Girlfriend Getaways by Travel and Leisure, draws women of all ages with its southern hospitality, great food, shopping, and entertainment.  Here females have fun and feel safe whether gathering for bachelorette parties or mother-daughter escapes. Opened in 2013,  Omni Nashville is within walking distance of Music City’s best–its 800 guest rooms and 54 luxury suites offering a gorgeous place to relax before or after a big night out.   It shares multiple levels with The Country Music Hall of Fame ,  is next door to the Music City Center, and a short walk to The Schermerhorn,  The Tennessee Performing Art CenterThe Ryman,  Johnny Cash Museum (Taylor and I are big Johnny and June fans),  Ascend Amphitheater and world-famous Broadway.


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Soon to be TWO Southern Girls Gone Global


When the carriage driver assumed we were tourists and asked if we wanted a ride, Taylor said, “I wish.”  I said, “Let’s go.”


Photo provided by Omni

We loved our room with its amazing view.  After checking in, we took a short walk and had a delicious and relaxing lunch at Country Music Hall of Fame’s  Bajo Sexto recommended by Nashville and others.



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Back on the Omni property we visited Hatch Show Prints, a Nashville institution.








Rotated from Country Music Hall of Fame are costumes worn by icons–one that brought back memories from my childhood of the Harper Valley PTA.


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The Five and Tenn stocks local products from  Jack Daniels to Goo Goo Clusters, from Col. Littleton leather goods to Lucchese boots.

Forgot something?  Like going to the general store, you can find what you need.



Barlines is the Omni’s live music and sports venue.  With the hearTV app inside or on the patio patrons can stream live audio from any TV in the restaurant from their own iPhone or Android.

Onsite is Bongo Java–Nashville’s oldest coffee company.  Taylor was impressed with the playlist here and throughout the hotel.


The Omni brand prides itself in designing each hotel to reflect the character and culture of each host city.  Local artwork was chosen to represent the multi-genre world famous music scene that is Nashville.

The Ryman

Though we had hoped to use the pool, the weather didn’t cooperate, so after exploring we decided to take a nap before our night on the town.


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Relaxed and rested, we headed toward the lights of Broadway for music, dinner, and a last look for awhile at an amazing city.







The next morning I was given a tour by Tod Roadarmel, Area Director of Sales and Marketing, and his team to learn more of Omni Nashville’s story.



We headed to Kitchen Notes, The Tennessean’s 2016 TOAST Reader’s Choice Awards as one of the contenders for the Best Sunday Brunch.  If you’re a local or tourist who has fallen in love with their biscuit bar or brunch, today is the last day to cast your vote here.



The property has 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space.  Above is one of two ballrooms where wedding receptions are held.  Below, bridal parties and other guests can choose from many services at Mokara Spa.  Locals can also book spa days which includes use of the outdoor pool, named as one of the Top Ten Pools of 50 Omni international hotels.

Photo provided by Omni


Photo provided by Omni



Within a year of its opening in 2013, Omni Nashville was ranked #4 of US Hotel Meeting Spaces.  Here  from the band stage to the boardroom creativity is ubiquitous.  When Tod asked Gibson to donate guitars to be used in the conference room, he didn’t expect to receive pieces played by B.B. King, John Lennon, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons.








At Bob’s Steak and Chop House patrons include Reba and Vince.




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Photo by Omni
On my tour I imagined a bubble bath with a view in the Johnny Cash Suite.




I remember the night Keith Urban was hanging out on Demonbreun.  He set down his drank and took the stage.  One day I hope to run into his wife, Nicole, who shot the Queen of the Desert in Marrakesh.

Distance gives fresh perspective, bringing life into sharper focus.  With our eyes filled  with the wonder of tourists and our hearts with the love of locals, I said hello again to a town I’ve missed and will always be a part of me as Taylor said her goodbye.  Nashville was a great place to raise my children…a place that gave us all roots and wings.

Thank you, Omni Nashville, for a wonderful stay.  As always, the opinions here are my own.




My Marrakech: One Year Here

My Marrakech: One Year Here

PicMonkey Collage

All we know about the future is that it will be different… So we must celebrate the changes. Because, as someone once said, everything will be all right in the end. And if it’s not all right, then trust me, it’s not yet the end.

— Dame Judi Dench as Evelyn, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 

I’d said goodbyes. Hard ones. The kind that make you wonder why you started this journey in the first place.

Dame Cindy McCain, A Move to Morocco

One year ago I stepped into a Marrakech life.  When I left in August of 2014 I was on overdrive; I couldn’t–wouldn’t–slow down to absorb painful goodbyes.  Grief, of course, later hit full force, but I was blessed to be with my kids Christmas and again this summer, reminding me of a bond that isn’t daunted by 4,000 miles.  We spent a perfect last day together before I flew back and they prepared to return to school.  My son suggested Cummins Falls which Travel and Leisure named as one of America’s Best Swimming Holes.  Its near his school, so after we ate at El Tapatio  and stayed at his apartment.

Cummins Falls, TN
Cummins Falls, TN
Photography by Cole McCain


The trek there is by river and very slippery. Getting there was a challenge since the sign said “Downriver Trail” and wound up and away from the hole before taking us down. Park rangers ran everyone out an hour before the park closed to give us time for the climb out.

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We climbed to the falls–they went all the way up while I tried not to fall–then we jumped (ok, I slid) in and swam back.  I’d forgotten how beautiful Tennessee Parks are.  It was a day I’ll never forget.

I feel blessed to live in a town that tourists will return to in their minds when work and life gets stressful  as their “Happy Place.” When I’m stressed by the “real world,” I go to Happy Places in Marrakech, too. Literally.  And I look forward to finding more.

Jardins de La Koutoubia
Manzil La Tortue
La Mamouna
La Mamounia

I’m so thankful for a year of adventure, beauty, and relationships in this new, exotic land. I came to write, teach, and learn. To find joy in the journey without and within. To grow stronger and lean heavier on God.

I knew when I cried every time I watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I was meant to try life abroad.   Likewise when I finally saw The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel this summer I wailed at the words:  “You have no idea what you’ll become. Let go because that’s when the fun starts. There’s no present like the time.” The first four months I’ll never forget.

I will never let my children go. Or my mom or sister or anyone I love. I carry them in my heart, stay connected on Skype, will see them every chance I get and plan to live near them again.  But with God’s help I am letting go of other things that hinder an abundant life…fear, worry, regret. The illusion and tyranny of control. Of having an exact idea of what my life should look like.  Of having an opinion on what others’ lives should look like. Despite all the travel,  I’m learning to be still and to be grateful for the past, the present, and the future–whatever it will be.  Over the last year I’ve feathered my nest in Marrakech and look forward to all that Year Two holds.

My “Blanket Guy”–Mustapha Boukad of Chez Mustapha, 25, Rue dar el bacha, sidi abdelaziz, Marrakech Medina GSM: 062 29 82 41

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Arabian Nights given to my dad by my grandmother, Mama Lou, who took me on my first journeys abroad via her rocking chair.
Arabian Nights given to my dad by my grandmother, Mama Lou, who took me on my first journeys abroad via her rocking chair.



Mad for Marrakech style
Mad for Marrakech style
Sahara green pottery, handmade chair, vintage Berber wedding quilt


From my amazing trip to Russia

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Sometimes my Happy Place is a Marrakech riad,  an Italian vineyard, or a Spanish beach.  But after this summer I’m more likely to go here for escape… watching Jurassic World or Better Call Saul with Cole… watching Game of Thrones with Taylor… skating on river rocks with them both…laughing at dinner with my mom and a movie we sneaked off to see, then eating caramel and chocolate pies in her living room from The Woodshed…taking walks and rides with Ella… talking with my sister over coffee in her backyard…spending July 4th weekend with our families at the lake.

Mom and me at Logan's
Mom and me at Logan’s

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Jeff and Penny’s backyard–beautiful.

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In The Alchemist Paulo Coelho says there are obstacles to fulfilling our personal calling, which he calls “the path that God chose for you here on Earth.” He says whenever we are filled with enthusiasm, we are on track, but many choose to never take that first step toward fulfilling their destiny.  He says two obstacles are 1) “We are told from childhood onward that everything we want to do is impossible.”  I can honestly say my mom has never told me any goal is unreachable.  She has supported me throughout my life in every way possible.  2)  “We know what we want to do, but are afraid of hurting  those around us.” This has been my greatest fear. But I agree with the author: “We do not realize that love is a further impetus, not something that will prevent us going forward. We do not realize that those who genuinely wish us well want us to be happy and are prepared to accompany us on that journey.” My children, family and friends have supported me for which I am so grateful.  Without the support of Taylor and Cole or my mom caring for Ella and encouraging me, I wouldn’t be here.  It meant SO MUCH to me last year when they and my friend, Moni, came to visit.  Having friends here helps, too.  This week was the birthday of my friend, Kate.  Her cake was amazing!


The author also says many never make a move (try on a dream) because they fear defeat.  Fear of defeat hasn’t been an obstacle for me because if my family is ok, I’m ok. Also  I remember God brought me here and enables me to do whatever I’m meant to do.  I’m glad when we do fail or others fail us, God makes beauty of ashes.

Just before my first international school interview in Boston in 2014 (which was in the Caribbean, not the desert) I read this in Hosea: “I will allure her to the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards and make the valley of trouble a door of hope. She’ll sing there as in her youth and as a young girl fresh from Egypt (captivity)…I’ll neither leave you or let you go. You’ll know me, God, for who I really am.” Happy Anniversary.


My Nashville

My Nashville

My Nashville
My Nashville (from top left) Union Station by the Frist, Cheekwood’s Fall Festival, Chukkers for Charity, Boots on 2nd Avenue, Fido in Hillsboro Village, Conexion America’s Cooking Classes (row 1) Parthenon, Titans Stadium, Nashville Ballet, Bellcourt Theater, Radnor Lake, Batman Building (row 3) Hispanic Heritage Month, Percy Priest Lake, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Italian Lights, Stones River Greenway, CMA Fest, (row 4) Southern Festival of Books, Nashville Film Fest, Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, McNamara’s, Jackson’s, Pangea in Hillsboro Village

Roots and wings. Nashville has and is (for me) both. This progressive place with a legendary past is the 7th fastest growing city in the US. Friends told me of new restaurants and music venues, of more traffic in the year I was away, but I was still surprised by all the change.

Growing up in Kentucky, I romanticized Nashville and its icons.  As a six-year-old in the ‘60s my “imaginary friend” was an imaginary husband—Elvis—and I still remember watching the Johnny Cash Show with my dad on Friday nights long before I’d go to concerts at The Ryman where it was taped. Walk the Line is one of my favorite movies—a love story of a Bad Boy reformed by a woman, her family, and faith. When asked for his definition of Paradise, Johnny said of June Carter Cash, “This morning, with her, having coffee.”


If you are fans of Elvis and Johnny, too, local artist Cindy David’s guitar pick earrings are my pick for cool souvenirs/ gifts. She sells them at festivals and gift shops (Nashville Airport, Frist Center, Omni Hotel, Nashville Symphony, and Cheekwood), or you can contact her at  I brought back a pair for Johnny.

When writing in Nashville for Examiner and Hispanic , I highlighted local events that defy Music City being put in a box—


performances at the Nashville Symphony, TPAC, Nashville Ballet, Vanderbilt Presents, and Nashville Film Fest. I also appreciate all that once defined Nashville–putting the town on the map–like live music on stages at the Ryman, the Bluebird, Grand Ole Opry, Bridgestone, BB King’s…in bars on Broadway, Demonbreun, and Nolensville Road…and at outdoor events from Ascend Amphitheater to Chukkers for Charity.  Today Nashvegas, Buckle of the Bible Belt, a community as diverse as sweet tea and Jack Daniel whiskey, brims with tradition and progression; local, global, and local-gone-global happenings receiving Presidential recognition.  Nashville is a place offering something for everyone explaining its popularity as a tourist destination and place to live.

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Legend-upon-legend, Hatch Print, Nashville

Moviemaker Alberto Fuguet was also drawn to Music City. While Artist-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University, he wrote and filmed Musica Campesina. The film explores the immigrant experience of Tazo, a Chilean who comes to Nashville seeking a career in country music. In a scene with the lead (played by Pablo Cerda) I’m a desperate housewife who offers him iced tea but serves Jack Daniel.  Fuguet described Tazo as a “fish out of water” which I better understand now living in a different culture.  Many days I feel like a mermaid in Marrakesh.

My month at home went too fast to see all the new places I wanted to explore and visit all my old haunts. Below Taylor, Cole, and I played tourist downtown on 2nd Avenue and Broadway.  Acme Feed and Seed has live music, reasonably priced food and a rooftop for taking photos.

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Johnny Cash and Billy Graham, most famous preacher of my time. I still remember my Mama Lou watching his Crusades.
Johnny Cash and Billy Graham, most famous preacher of my time. I still remember my Mama Lou watching his Crusades.

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Also on Broad is the Frist Center.   We celebrated a Big Birthday of my friend, Cheryl, there where The Long Players had people dancing in the grass under the light of a big, blue moon.


Union Station


Emily, far right, is our pro photographer and grabbed great shots and footage of that night. Today is HER birthday. Happy Birthday, Em!
Loved the Birthday Dinner at Cheryl’s pick, Adele’s–fun new restaurant in the Gulch.

Below is the video Emily made celebrating Cheryl’s 60th Birthday and what a “Young American” looks and acts like.  Also check out travel videos from Emily’s adventures on her Vimeo station, My Open Road.

Nashville is a dancing place.  On my 40th birthday I was doing country line dance with my sister and friends at the Wildhorse Saloon. Since my 50th I salsa.  It was so good to get back to Suzy Wong’s House of Yum to fuel up for lemon drops and Asian Wonton Nachos, then do “Free Dance Wednesday” where Tonya Miller still faithfully hosts Salsa Night weekly at Play.

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Though there are so many places to go, things to do, food to eat, I have to wrap up because I’m getting homesick. For a fix of Italy I love Bella Napoli near Belmont or Coco’s Italian Market in West Nashville.  Urban Grub on 12th South has oysters and great grits. And in my neck-of-the-woods, there’s the Hip Donelson Farmers Market for home-cooking-for real like the spread my sister and brother-in-law made for my farewell dinner.


I went to McNamara’s, named “One of the Best Irish Pubs in America,” with my friend, Theresa, then Cole while home for the corned beef and cabbage and band, Nosey Flynn.  For lighter fare there’s Phat Bites‘ Chinese Chicken Salad, Broccoli Salad, and Greek Salad and Cinco de Mayo in Hermitage and Old Hickory for a reward after a long walk on the Greenway or just because.

On a Cinco run


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Finally, events I miss most in Nashville are Fall Festivals. Hope you can make one or all!

Italian Lights Grape Stomping

Italian Lights

Wine on the River


Southern Festival of Books

Celebrate Nashville

Cheekwood Fall Festival

A music mix that’s Nashville…

East Nashville’s Bounty and Backyards

East Nashville’s Bounty and Backyards

And in another backyard in one of my favorite neighborhoods, East Nashville, I enjoyed summer with a supper my friend Beth cooked from her garden.  The Mississippi girl filled her table on that hot July night with cool salads, grilled corn and shrimp that tasted like a Southern Living spread.  A really good soul, her accent and easy way soothes mine. Many-a-memory was made at her house—like an incredible birthday party she gave me–and times we met there before salsa events.




Beth should write recipes for Southern Living magazine. Seriously.
Beth should write recipes for Southern Living magazine. Seriously.





April, our newlywed
Cheryl, the Birthday Girl


And just a few blocks away are two other sweet spots.    A couple of years earlier, I helped Kim pack up her home on Manchester as she moved to make a new one with Andy in Franklin. We’d celebrated birthdays there, too, starting at her house and carrying them–cake-in-hand–to share at MadDonna’s just around the corner where once-upon-a-time all my friends (many I met there) danced salsa to Funtopia’s tunes bi-weekly. Likewise, at April and Jason’s, we’d celebrated holidays together and the marriage of friends, Mayuresh and Madhavi.

At Kim’s on her birthday
At Kim's on my birthday
At Kim’s on my birthday
Madhavi and Mayuresh's Wedding Party
Mayuresh and Madhavi’s Wedding Party

Like Malasaña in Madrid and Camden in London, East Nashville, named one of the 12 Coolest Neighborhoods in America, is a center of all-things-hip. Dog rescuers, foodies, artists, cyclists, craft beer enthusiasts, coffee shop dwellers and vintage shoppers call 37206 home.

Ive been a fan of many restaurants in this neighborhood for years–Sky Blue Cafe and Marché Artisan Foods for brunch, Holland House for fancy drinks by a fire,  Eastland Cafe for Happy Hour,  Batter’d and Fried for seafood, and Jeni’s Ice Cream for a quick dessert.  But the places I return to most have great food and fresh air– big backyards, patios, or decks.

Eastland Cafe Lemondrop
Eastland Cafe Lemondrop

At Rumours East I sat and sipped many-a- summer with friends under twinkling white lights and the throbbing golden glow of fireflies.






Mad Donna's
Mad Donna’s
Last night we all made it to MadDonna's and Rumours
Last night we all made it to MadDonna’s and Rumours East

Next door, my shirts are still selling at Chuck Beard’s bookstore, East Side Story. I love hearing about his latest projects and live events as he continues to create and promote locally made art, books, and music.

out front

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Should you want to stay in this community which is well connected by bus and just across the Cumberland River from Nashville’s iconic 2nd Avenue, Chuck and his wife, Emily, may have a room for you.  They love meeting people from around the world and rent their master suite on AirBnB. Amazing hosts, they’ll provide a heap of Southern hospitality and point you to the best new finds in the area.

A special treat this summer was dinner out with my sister, Penny, and our cousins, Sonjia and Sheila–granddaughters of Uncle Sonny whose farm I’d tried to visit in Kentucky.  It had been years since we’d seen each other and catching up under the big trees in The Pharmacy‘s beer garden was so good. If you want American fare– specialty hot dogs, old-fashion soda fountain drinks, and burgers voted #1 in Nashville the last two years–this is a good pick.

My hot dog buried in sauerkraut
Sheila, Sonjia, Penny
Ok, so I had the beer this trip, but I did the Creamsicle with my kids on a previous visit. Highly recommended.
Ok, so I had the beer this trip, but I did the Creamsicle with my kids on a previous visit. Highly recommended.

At Rosepepper Cantina a group of friends and family bid me bye before I moved to Morocco.  I didn’t realize I was saying farewell to Mexican food for a year.  Good food and then there’s their maragaritas.  Josiah makes the best in town.   Here’s how he does it.

In Morocco I do get locally grown tomatoes year-round, but I hate that I missed this year’s Tomato Fest.  It was voted “Best Festival” by The Nashville Scene readers the last six years.  To learn more about other East Nashville happenings like the Grassy Knoll Movies and Farmer’s Market, go here.  And if you want to know a secret to remember come July 4, 2016… don’t fight the crowd at Riverfront to see Nashville’s famous fireworks display.  My son and I once spent hours trapped in traffic in a parking structure when the smoke cleared.  In East Park across the river you’ll have the best view in town without hassle. Rather than sweating shoulder-to-shoulder, you can spread a blanket or kick back in a lawn chair and enjoy freedom.

Tennessee Backroads…Natchez Trace and Loveless Cafe

Tennessee Backroads…Natchez Trace and Loveless Cafe


My life is a Tale of Two Cities…both tourist towns.  At Nashville’s center, 2nd Avenue, I rubbed shoulders this summer with girl gangs in shorts and boots out for barbecue and beer.  In Marrakesh’s marketplace, Jemaa el Fna, I rub shoulders with girl groups in harem pants and sandals out for a bargain and mint tea.  But sometimes the best stuff is found on country (or desert) backroads.

Though Sundays when I was growing up and picnics with my kids meant fried chicken, the last few years I’ve rarely eaten anything fried. But when on my layover in Madrid on the way to Tennessee I almost opted for KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) over a tapas bar, I knew it was time to go home. I missed biscuits and gravy.  And like I said in my first Southern Girl Gone Home post, I dreamed one night of bacon.  I’ve never eaten country ham other than at Christmas, but I couldn’t wait to taste it again. While home I porked out—literally–particularly at a place considered a national treasure.    I’m ashamed to say I have been in Nashville since 1987 and never made the trip to the Loveless Café.  Since only home for a month, I decided to check out the place People Magazine says the country ham is “the best in America” and USA Today calls “the real McCoy of Southern cooking,”  Bon Appetit gushed, “On a scale of 1 to  10, my breakfast came in at about a 14,” and Martha Stewart crooned, “It was the best breakfast I’ve ever had.”  And, of course, there’s the wall of fame– country music legends making claiming the food is iconic.


The Loveless began as a private home hangout in the 40s where folks gathered in the living room and danced on the hardwood floor.  By 1951 Lon and Annie Loveless were serving chicken and biscuits to travelers on Highway 100 from their front door; they then added 14 motel rooms.  The rest of their history is here and check out their world-famous “Biscuit Lady,” Carol Fay Ellison making biscuits on the Today Show.





When Taylor, Cole and I were told the wait was an hour and forty minutes, we almost bolted, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We waited only and hour and I was a little disappointed because I was having a great conversation in the Shimai gift shop with owner Becca Ganick. She loves meeting people from all over the world  who stop by.  The restaurant is open 7 AM-9 PM Monday-Friday.  We were there on a Friday at prime lunch time; to beat the crowds it’s recommended to visit Monday-Thursday 7-9am, after 2pm or  before 6pm.  Or stop in on a road trip on the Natchez Trace as I hope to do next time.  To plan it, festivals, sites, and Bed and Breakfasts along the way are listed here. It’s amazing what you can learn on backroads.

We did breakfast at lunch time (so Taylor and I tried the Blue Moon Cocktail–there actually WAS a blue moon when I was home)  but you can get lunch or supper as well. See menu here.




While Taylor and I had breakfast, Cole chose a dinner classic--meatloaf.
While Taylor and I had breakfast, Cole chose a dinner classic–meatloaf.


Be sure to try the GRITS–even if you aren’t a “Girl Raised in the South.”  And after the biscuits, you may want to pick up a package of their biscuit mix. I hauled mine back to Morocco…if only I could have brought the ham, too.  And if you want to try one of their recipes, I recommend the Fruit Tea Punch–especially those of you who drink only hot tea because In the south, “sweet tea” on ice is a staple, Banana Pudding with Homemade Wafers (especially if you don’t have “store-bought” wafers), Loveless Pecan Pie, or their signature Elvis Pie.  And please, all you southern cooks, leave your favorite variations and other favorite recipes in the comments for Yankees ( people from “up north” or anywhere not southern US) to try.

Shelling beans by the bird dog over sweet tea…my mom tells the story of my dad buying a bird dog, Queenie, with an entire week’s pay when she was expecting me. Later he bought another one, Ben Hur.


Loveless 2

Happy Birthday to Me…Thanks for the Memories

Happy Birthday to Me…Thanks for the Memories

 After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life…There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.

–Sophia Loren, named “The World’s Most Naturally Beautiful Person”one month before she turned 72

On the eve of another one, here’s to friends who taught me over the past few years to celebrate every birthday in a big way. Thanks to pals and family for making rich memories in my 52nd year. You danced, laughed and cried with me through the good stuff and the growing pains. Thanks to you and my God for loving me–especially those times when I didn’t love myself.

My son became a senior, my daughter an adult. I’m not excited about an empty nest, but I’m working on it. That and a lot of things. But for now, what is is enough. I have plenty of candles to light the way. Happy Birthday to Me.

Birthday…Kim made Tres Leches Cake and gang gave me dancing shoes 🙂

Party at Kim’s before Mad Donna’s

Kim calls this one “Salsa Barbie.”

The gang goes to the Nashville Film Festival to support me on the Big Screen, then Musica Campesina begins its world tour…

Film Festival Party

Then there was the Classic Coup World Tour thanks to Rawsam, Emily, and Dehan…

Rawsam takes Road Less Traveled across US, Canada, Central & South America, Middle East
Emily takes Road Less Traveled to Africa
Dehan wears Rebel Reads From Alaska to Europe
Sherry Sifers Coyle wrote: Just wanted to let you know, dear friend, that without the Romeo and Juliet books you provided for my seniors this year, they would have graduated never having read a Shakespeare play. And. . . without having read the play, one of my students would have never had the chance to take first place today in a local Shakespeare speech competition. Love ya’, Cindy 🙂 My students in Nashville Skyped with Sherry’s students in Quito about love and parents after reading R and J together.
Classic Coup in Gulch’s Nashville Clothing Company

Cole in lead role of Our Town
Cole’s junior prom
Mom with Cole
David Sandoval teaching salsa to my students on World Culture Day
Italian cooking class with Paulette

Taylor starts new job
Lake…Kyler and Cole
Tubing with my sister, Penny
Left lake to get story on Rumba at CMA Fest
Examiner Article on Rumba at Chukkers for Charity Featured as Top Story in Arts/Entertainment

So honored to have been part of Moni and Ale’s big day

Thanks to Emily for making reservations and beautiful pics. The fancy photos are hers.
Beach Buddy


Summer Reading to grade
Cole does Tennessee Tech campus tour and is sold.
Cole’s senior pic

One of Kenny and Sheyla’s parties…link to featurette I did for Alimentum magazine

Emila at Cindy D’s luau
Italian Lights…dancing on grapes
Chilean Independence Day

Spoke in Carole’s Belmont University class on Southern Festival of Books and Classic Coup

My Girl

Yuri Cunza of Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce presents Journalism and Community Award
Students recite Shakespeare wearing Hamlet tees

Cole rocks pre-K


Thank you, Paulina, for inviting me to see you become my fellow American. You said you waited 18 years and I’ll never forget your tears of joy.

“I Will Survive” serenade at Pablito’s
Getting by with a little help from my friends… thanks for the advice and the love…

And this birthday at Beth’s…Thanks Emily for video and gang for another celebration.

Dancing on Grapes

Dancing on Grapes



Kim and Mayuresh

Last Saturday was as good as it gets. A year ago my friend, April, invited me to Italian Lights, calling me back to my first love affair with a culture. Check it out here: This year, I invited a gang and I was back in Italy again. I spent hours at table exchanging stories, laughs and food with friends I’d met through my salsa world, Kim K, Dorothy, Jose, April, Jason, Emila, Tricia, and Mayuresh; my sister, Penny, and brother-in-law, Jeff (It was his birthday!); and Kim R.

I’m often asked how I became part of the salsa world in Nashville, a global community who loves Latin dance. My response in short: Italy where I first learned to just BE.

I’ve written other posts on why I love Italy…how it all began one summer when I taught English there. I’d gone with students-in-tow in 2000, 2004, and 2009, each time loving sharing with them places both ancient and beautiful—Venice, Rome, Florence, Capri, Naples, Sorrento, and Pisa. But it was 2005-2007 when I met, then stayed in homes of Italian friends, Antonio, Anna, Fabio, Antonio, Vilma, and Georgio, that I learned firsthand how to live La Dolce Vita. Still framed on my daughter’s wall is a picture of her dancing with Antonio at my surprise birthday party in Torino. She says in just one visit Antonio and Vilma were like grandparents to her.

Meanwhile, Kim Roberts was spending summers with friends in Spain, sometimes doing weekend trips to Italy. We met in an Italian class, sharing a love for travel, the romance languages, and the passionate people who speak them. I liked her instantly as she burst into the first lesson, swishing a bohemian skirt with stories of dancing till dawn with some girlfriends the night before.

Kim admitted that she’s a closet expatriate, that she ached the first time she left Spain. I understood and confessed I felt the same way the first time I flew out over the Italian alps. In Spain and Italy we love the way meals last hours over good wine and interesting conversation. We’d both said, “When I’m there, I finally feel more alive. In a strange way, I feel I’m home.”

Though we’ve never been to Italy together, our simultaneous travels bonded us. In the early fall of 2007 I was on the shores of Lake Como while she was on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Like Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, we found through travel joy, serenity, adventure, and relationship. But in 2008 when our slim bank accounts prevented our escaping by the usual flight plan, we were forced to embrace what Gilbert says is the main point of her book—that to change our lives, we don’t have to go far. We just have to shift. So our gypsy souls resolved to refocus. Like Dorothy, we would stop chasing rainbows and find contentment and happiness in our own backyard. We had to find what Kim calls, our people…those who seek joy and find it in a celebratory culture right here in Music City.

And we did…first in folks like Patti Nelson of Italian for Fun and later in the Latin dance community. More on that later… Off to make potato salad for today’s Chilean Independence Day Celebration and a trifle for the Hicks’ Copacubana party. For some serendipity, check out my tribute to Latin culture and the Hicks’ house parties, just published on Italian chef, Paulette Licitra’s award-winning food journal, Alimentum. Ciao!

Staycation #10: Music Under the Magnolias

Spend summer under the magnolias at 2010 Jazz on the Lawn presented by the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society and Belle Meade Plantation.

The series started strong last Sunday, June 13th with master trumpeter Rod McGaha. His band consisted of saxophonist Rahsaan Barber, bassist Jerry Navaroo, pianist Jody Nardone, and drummer Nioshi Jackson. Though the temperature was hot the band kept it cool with the fan favorites and new material. The crowd pleasers were toasted by water bottles free-for-all and stemware of the hardcore picnicking pack.

Belle Meade Plantation is located at 5025 Harding Pike. The concert is held ‘round back by the Carriage House. The gates open at 5 PM where tickets are sold, and the concert goes from 6-8. Lawn chairs and coolers are welcome. Cost is $10 for TJBS Members and $20 for non-members $20. For more information on performers below, discounts, and season passes, check out See lineup below.

Sunday, June 27: Stacy Mitchhart—Blues Favorite of Bourbon street Blues and Boogie Bar and B.B. King’s.

Sunday, July 11: Dana Robbins—Contemporary saxophonist who has worked with legends ranging from Aretha Franklin to Barry Manilow.

Sunday, July 25: Moe Denham All-Stars—the “undisputed Master of the Hammond B3 Organ,” he’ll play jazz and blues with Rahsaan Barber, Jim Williamson, Bob Sabelico, & Robert Bond. (I saw Moe for the first time last Wednesday at the French Quarter playing with Rahsaan Barber’s Trio Soul. Obviously talented, he’s also quite the character.)

Sunday, August 8: 3rd Coast Vocals– a four- part vocal ensemble in the school of The Manhattan Transfer playing jazz classics and original pieces.

Sunday August 29: THE FABULOUS WOOTENS – “Nashville’s royal family of music” and a favorite of last year’s series are sure to rock the season finale.