For our next trip to Nashville (or Austin):
NYTimes March 2017:
NASHVILLE — The novelist Ann Patchett, who lives in this city, has said that she brings out-of-town visitors to two places: the Parthenon, the replica of the ancient Greek structure in Centennial Park, and United Apparel Liquidators, or U.A.L. as devotees know it. Both are temples of a sort.
The small clothing chain has three stores in the Nashville area. The flagship is also in the city, in a strip mall of no distinction, half-hidden between a nail salon and a Chinese takeout place. Ms. Patchett took the author of “Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert, shopping there one day last year, and during a literary talk that night, they dished about the Christian Dior flats that Ms. Gilbert purchased.
“They were so beautiful,” Ms. Gilbert told the audience, “I was licking them in the store.”
Better still, Ms. Patchett noted, the designer shoes were “10 percent of what they had once cost.”
Technically, U.A.L. belongs to the booming retail category known as off-price. But where discounters like Nordstrom Rack and T. J. Maxx have a bargain-basement atmosphere and leftover-seeming merchandise, U.A.L. feels like a designer boutique. Imagine walking into Jeffrey in New York or Fred Segal in Los Angeles and discovering it’s having an everything-must-go fire sale.
Filed under Nashville, Texas
Also had breakfast with an old friend who grew up in Austin at a friendly hippie dippie place, Bouldin Cafe, in an old house in First Avenue just west of south congress in a neighborhood full of small gentrified houses and new modern homes squished onto lots where other small houses presumably once stood. The neighborhood reminded me of East Nashville, full of interesting activity and creative types. It was a fun neighborhood (albeit a little hilly) to explore by bike. I was dying for something cold to drink when I came upon this funny guy in a giant lemon, really, who was selling “cups of happiness.” And so they were! Cute name for his business too “Austin City Lemons.”
At the Austin airport, I passed a good live band playing on a stage in front of an open air bar that was packed with travelers. Couldn’t get a seat. shades of south by southwest. I foolishly volunteered to check my luggage at the gate (since the plane was so full) and as a result went home from the Des Moines airport without my bag. Thanks American Airlines (it did arrive today).
When I was last in Austin, about five years ago, my friend (and Austin social director) Pat took us to The Continental Club which was swinging on Saturday afternoon, full of lively two-steppers dancing to some band or other. This time we went to the sister (brother?) of the Continental Club, C-Boys, a little further south on South Congress. An old grey bearded guy Paul Oscher, who “played with Muddy” (as in Muddy Waters) was on the small stage with about four other musicians, playing a mean blues guitar and a small collection of dancers, including one particularly eccentric heavy set guy doing what looked like early Martha Graham improvisational modern dance. (he and his partner were later seen at a table by the bar molding globs of what appeared to be play dough around their spent beer bottles. No danger of Austin losing its weirdness, it seems.
On the weirdness front, the strangest sight during my bike ride along the river/lake today was a man who as I approached him was indeed completely naked. Except for what could most accurately be described as a penis pouch. Reminded me of Fire Island in the 1970s, when my little sister, then in grade school wrote this short letter home: We went to fire Island. I saw a naked man. love Jill.
The bike ride, by the way, was a great way to see the city and easy pedaling on my borrowed 3 speed from the way nice Hotel San Jose (which for some unknown reason did not charge me for the bike, as advertised; this on top of upgrading me to a suite priced over twice what I was charged.) I was sorely tempted to swim in Barton Springs, a huge spring water fed natural pool that appeared to be carved out of the river/lake and was open on a muggy day of on and off rain. I also stopped at the Whole Foods, the first ever, and it was indeed impressive. I particularly enjoyed riding along some ramps that are built into the south bank of the river/lake, past egrets and ducks and geese and an amazing collection of turtles crowded onto a log in the water.
In the “it pays to ask category” I give you this short tale. After one night in a room overlooking busy South Congress street and the immortal Continental Club across the street (which I would rather visit than sleep, or try to sleep, across the street from) I politely inquired if there was a quieter room available tonight. and here I am in a beautiful quiet suite at the rear of this super stylish rehabbed motor court, upgraded to boot with no additional cost. Thank you!! After a long work day here, this is a very nice place to land. Only problem is I may not want to leave. And I have plans with an old friend tonight.
I haven’t had much time to explore but did enjoy a BBQ pork sandwich at Jo’s Good Food, next door and dinner with some work colleagues at Vespaio, a welcoming Italian restaurant also on South Congrss. Also fun to browse in a few of the vintage shops and boutiques and cowboy boots stores here, although most seem pretty pricey. look forward to exploring a bit more tomorrow before my flight home.
I knew the NYLO hotel on NYC’s Upper West Side passed muster when I got a thumbs up email from my brother, who also decided to stay there and had arrived at his room before we did. The hotel turned out to be a real find, especially for $120 a night ($151 with tax). The room was small, as expected, but well appointed, huge bed, comfortable linens, edgy but not too edgy furniture, art, light fixtures, clean and streamlined bathroom. Not too noisy at night even though we ended up with a room overlooking Broadway when I had asked for a presumably quieter interior room (my brother’s room got no traffic noise). I found out NYLO stands for New York Loft and the Texas-based hotel chain has outposts in Texas, Warwick (near Providence) (RI) and soon Nyack (NY). Good to know!
Remarkably, the restaurant my uncle had chosen for dinner turned out to be connected to the hotel. It’s called Serefina and it had good affordable Italian food (I had good bolognese, pizza etc). Monday morning we went for coffee and pastries to Irving Farm, a little basement cafe on 79th just south of Broadway (there are several other Manhattan locations). After a quick visit to Zabars for bagels to take home to Iowa (I still miss H&H bagels) we walked across the park to meet my aunt at PJ Bernstein, a good deli on third ave near 71st street (that’s their cheese/meat plate above).
Our flight home from Newark went well despite a few stressful moments when we inadvertently left the subway station at 34th street and had to figure out where Penn Station was – above ground – and drag our suitcases through throngs of people at 5 p.m. At the airport, we somehow ended up again in the TSA pre-screened category but it didn’t make much difference this time around. We still had to stand in the same long line and take out our stuff and even take off our shoes (hrrummphhh). A guy in line ahead of me said that TSA pre-screened only really produces perks at Newark if you’re passing through Terminal C (we were in Terminal A). Whatever…I was just happy we made it to Newark with ample time to catch our flight – and it left on time and we got home on time! Love that direct flight!
It’s 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday and my daughter is finally home from Tucson, which she left at about 9 a.m. on Monday. First her Tucson-Dallas plane had mechanical problems which meant she missed her connecting flight in Dallas to Des Moines. Then once in Dallas, she waited for five hours, and then six, and then maybe 7 (I lost track) for her 8:30 p.m. flight to Des Moines – which was finally cancelled at close to 10 p.m. on a stormy night. The usual chaos ensued as people scrambled to find seats on later flights and a place to stay overnight. My daughter was entitled to a free hotel – since it was initially mechanical problems that got her in this mess, not the weather – but she was told the hotel would still cost $93 with a voucher and since she was rebooked on a 7:40 a.m. flight, she opted for a cot in the terminal. What fun. Not.
We were worried she wouldn’t get out of Dallas this morning – since it was still stormy there (and not quite as stormy here in Iowa, although last night several strong gusts knocked down trees in our neighborhood). But after an hour delay – which i found out was due to another mechanical problem – they took off into the stormy skies and safely made it back to Des Moines. Phew. But not sure we’ll be flying American agaom – far more mechanical problems on this bankrupt airline than I’m comfortable with. And it took ages to get someone on the phone to rebook the ticket – twice. (Although the people I finally got on the line were very patient and helpful given my flashes of anger and exasperation.) And people in bigger cities wonder why it’s such an ordeal for us small city folk to fly. Connections are a big part of the problem.
My stepdaughter is looking for suggestions for a trip to Austin, Tx. I only spent a day there a few years ago but here’s what I’ve got:
– the funky old Hotel San Jose – right across from The Continental, a great music club we did manage to visit during our 5 hours in Austin. Another one of her hotels that sounds fun is the Hotel Saint Cecilia. This is all along South Congress, I think, which is a fun area.
– one-of-a-kind bbq restaurant, Kreuz market in Lockhart, Tx., aka the self-anointed BBQ capital of texas, (a short drive from Austin…but there are plenty of places in Austin too. http://www.kreuzmarket.com. You order the BBQ by the pound in a room so smokey it made my eyes burn, then take your brown paper-wrapped meat into a much less smokey room where you eat it – without sauce or a fork, as I recall. And you’re supposed to eat it with crackers (we chose bread) and red cherry pop.
– The original Whole Foods downtown. Supposed to be amazing.