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Nashville, Baby!

Nashville (1)THIS is what I was looking forward to from the first day when I realized that we were moving to Indiana by way of Ireland… NASHVILLE, baby! The appeal of living near the Indiana state border is that we can drive to several other states in two hours or less. Kentucky is just a stone’s throw away (perhaps literally, if standing in the Ohio river, where the border lies), and beyond Kentucky is Tennessee. It only takes 2.5 hours to drive to Nashville from our home in Newburgh, near Evansville, Indiana. We can also visit St. Louis, MO in about 2.5 hours’ drive. Southern Illinois is also an easy drive. If willing to add a bit more drive time… it’s about 3.5 to Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m absolutely thrilled to have so many interesting places to visit without having to travel far to get there – these are all inexpensive day trips! I’ll be photographing and blogging – come with me! 🙂

Today’s trip – NASHVILLE! This was a gorgeous sunny day on June 7. We’d had a highly stressful week and today was no exception. The air conditioning unit had stopped working, Brent found out that he didn’t get a job he’d interviewed for, and… well, I won’t share all the miserable details, but we had a choice to make. Do we sit at home and sulk, waiting for the A/C guy to call? Or do we make a different choice?

Well, I know what “Irish Natalie” would have done! I would have packed the family up for a trip to the coast. Now, we can’t do that here… the Celtic Sea may be calling me, but it’s too far away now. That doesn’t mean that we should resign ourselves to our former vacation-less adventure-less life of waiting, waiting, waiting, for permission to LIVE. I found plenty of free things to do in Nashville. All we needed was gas for the car.

Nashville (4)We crossed the Indiana state border within minutes… We were soon in Kentucky.

Nashville (5)WOOT! It didn’t take long to reach Tennessee! I couldn’t believe it! I’d never been to Nashville before. I’d been using the anticipation of this day as an incentive whenever I felt upset about leaving Ireland. I promised myself that we’d go to Nashville as soon as we could. Just because we were living Plan B, it doesn’t mean that everything I’d worked for was gone. My family was still together. What will we do with this time? Everyone had already gotten into a habit of squirreling away with their various gadgets – online talking to others while in the same house with the people we love. Lightning-fast Internet made that possible. Gone was the unreliable and worthlessly slow satellite connection we had in Ireland. In its place was fabulous speed to connect, connect, connect – with everyone but each other. Well, well… let’s unplug, shall we?

Irish Natalie is also a bit more… assertive…. passionate… and VOCAL than the old me. I had a proper meltdown and off we went. Some things are worth fighting for. As matriarch of the family I need to recognize when it’s time to get up in everyone’s grill. Oh, they were all smiles before we were even halfway into the trip. See? 🙂

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Nashville (7)Brent was feeling too tired… but look at him here, having fun already. He pushes himself to do work related things. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to do what’s even more important. Work and errands… who remembers what happens on a regular day? But when will we forget our first trip to Nashville? NEVER.

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Apparently we’ve reached “The Gateway to the New South”. Hmm, the more you know…

Nashville (9)It sure is a pretty drive through Tennessee!

Nashville (10)Almost there!

Nashville (15)WHEE! It’s NASHVILLE!!!! What a feeling, to see a place I’ve always heard about but have never been to. It’s like when I saw Tinkerbell at Disney World. Fairies DO exist! Wow.

Nashville (18)Oh yeah, it’s Nashville!

Nashville (19)We have arrived at our destination! It’s right up there… See the brown sign?

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Nashville (175)Nashville (176)There, you can see it now – Centennial Park… and YES, we are definitely seeing the Parthenon! This is supposedly the only real Parthenon in the world… (Why does it exist, and why is it in Nashville?) I’m excited about immersing myself in the beauty of this park. There are gardens to explore and the weather couldn’t be more gorgeous!

Nashville (21)First, let’s go on an adventure! The Parthenon awaits!

Nashville (23)Nashville (24)Nashville (25)Isn’t it magnificent? Let’s get closer, shall we?

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This is a photo op if I ever saw one…

Nashville (30)Oh dear, my legs are whiter than the concrete. And ditto for Cassie’s legs… sitting on the right. Hey, we fit right in when we lived in Ireland. Now I’m back to blinding people.

Nashville (34)Ooh, there it is!

Nashville (36)The art on the building is just amazing!

Nashville (40)This really IS Nashville! Ran into a young hopeful staging a photo shoot at the Parthenon… She plans to shoot me her promo details so I can give her a plug (I invited her to). Sweet girl, and certainly beautiful – I wish her all the best!

Nashville (41)Ooh, now this appeals to me! I wonder how many movies have been filmed here…

Nashville (42)Look at the ceilings! This is still outside the building. There are (paid) tours of the interior, but we didn’t plan to do that, which is good because we’d arrived after it closed anyway.

Nashville (43)Beautiful! I love these colors together.

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Nashville (47)Aww, me with my best friend… husband Brent Thomas. Our 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in February 2018. I’m planning to throw myself a party. I expect him to come as my date. 🙂

Nashville (49)Another picture of me with my husband… Notice my necklace? Those are shells from Ireland. I picked them up at the beach in Dingle and near Cork. The earrings are a gift from my daughter Cassandra, I think from last Christmas. Thank you, Savannah for taking these wonderful photos of us parents!

Nashville (51)Meanwhile, our regular photographer can’t be bothered… Nicholas is busy taking pictures of…

Nashville (52)Well, of course… it makes sense that if you are in Nashville, Tennessee for the first time in your life, and standing directly across from a Parthenon, the most compelling thing to photograph extensively is the skid loader at the construction area. His comment? “It won’t be there tomorrow.” That kid fascinates me.

Nashville (54)My two girls…. Savannah and Cassandra

Nashville (59)I love this shot!!! I should frame it.

Nashville (178)Savannah, your smile always makes me happy!

Nashville (62)Oh there’s the boy… I guess he’s finally decided to visit the Parthenon!

I’m ready to see the gardens…

Nashville (69)Oooh, ahhh! The flowers reinvigorate my soul!

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Nashville (73)I want to drink it all in!

Nashville (72)Everything is so beautiful! I’m going nuts with my camera… I had to wade through hundreds of photos to pare them down to a reasonable stash for the blog!

Nashville (83)Do they pay the ducks to amuse the tourists?

Nashville (84)Pretty!!!

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Nashville (88)Cassie enjoying the beautiful Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville (89)Brent and Savannah looking at the water… we saw a variety of critters: turtles, ducks, pigeons, swans, fish

Nashville (90)Passing by the Parthenon from the other side

Nashville (91)Nashville (92)Brent and Savannah leaving waterside area… our day trip is ending… but we haven’t seen the gardens yet

Nashville (94)Ooh, swans! (pretty, but I’m glad they’re staying over THERE… me and swans have a history…)

Nashville (95)Glad to see he’s enjoying himself… Just after he took these shots he spent a great deal of time photographing a squirrel.

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I’m rather proud of that shot, with the bird perfectly framed inside the tree branch.

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I love how the sun has cast shafts of light in front of the bridge.

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Nashville (103)Back to the water front…

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Nashville (110)This bird wasn’t cooperating with me… I was trying to capture the shimmery colorful area on the back of his neck.

Nashville (111)It was so bright and beautiful… had to wear sunglasses most of the time, and even then it was hard to take it all in

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Nashville (115)Savannah shares my love for flowers… she can’t resist photographing them.

Nashville (116)Wow, she looks so much like me here.

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Nashville (118)Happiness is seeing a single delicate rose, perfect in every way… knowing how hostile the environment can be and how greatly the odds are stacked against it surviving… Shouldn’t it have a torn petal, a stripped stalk, or a pitted leaf? Yet there it is, a beauty for us to discover. This pink flower lives by rising above the thorns, reaching for the sun.

Ah… getting out for the day was a very good idea! What a difference perspective makes!

Nashville (121)Be the roses.

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Nashville (126)There’s my Cassie girl! She’s always loved a swing.

Nashville (127)Brent sneaking in a phone call… so busted.

Nashville (128)LOVE!!!!!! This beauty will get me through the whole rest of the month!

Nashville (130)OH MY! I’ve landed in Munchkinland! I’m half expecting adorable townspeople to come out and sing to me. Where’s my big lollipop?

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Nashville (133)OK, this is getting outrageous! So much color!

Nashville (143)LOVE

Nashville (146)A bird flying over a perfectly idyllic scene

Nashville (150)Well, it just lacked a little something before…. Why not add a butterfly?

Nashville (157)Don’t keep your eyes on the ground…. remember to look UP too. This beauty is in a tree.

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Can you tell that the sun is lower in the sky? We better wrap things up.

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We can’t see it all… We never even made it over to the art gallery, or to the other side of the park! We’ll have to come back again a different day.

Nashville (170)One last lingering look…

Nashville (173)Goodbye, Nashville, we love you! We’ll see you again soon!

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Homeward Bound!

IMG_5950All was quiet at the Shannon airport. In the morning we’d leave Ireland for the United States.

IMG_5975IMG_5985Morning has risen! Time to go.

IMG_5986IMG_5989IMG_5990IMG_5994The Shannon airport isn’t exactly a happenin’ place! The State-side airports would be teaming with noise, people, courtesy cars blitzing by, neon lights, fast food restaurants, and even vendors hawking their samples and frequent flyer offers. Yes, it would soon be a carnival of travel madness. But this morning’s airport was nearly desolate.

IMG_5995Nicholas, Savannah and Cassie (seated) – me standing, messing with my jacket

IMG_5997IMG_6001Cassie watching all of our bags at the Shannon, Ireland airport

IMG_6004Brent, getting antsy for the international flight

IMG_6024Wow! Where IS everybody?

IMG_6034IMG_6036They told us we could move around to any seat we wanted! Our family spread out so that we each had a row to ourselves. WOOT!!!! Oh how I hate, hate, hate to fly… I didn’t expect THIS! I squealed and said, “This never happens to us!” YIPPEEEEEE! The long flight that I dreaded and never wanted to face again was made infinitely easier by having all of this space!

I don’t fear flying. I hate being TRAPPED! I’m easily claustrophobic and I hate sitting in one place for too long. Because I had a whole row to myself I was able to change seats as often as I wanted to.

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IMG_6053I see Aer Lingus over there… that’s the airline we flew in on from London to Cork. It’s a pretty plane, they have that going for them. Notice that we didn’t choose to fly that airline again. I’ll leave it at that.

Seeing that plane reminded me of our horrible experience flying from Minneapolis to Chicago, then from Chicago to London, and then finally on to our windy and turbulent (WE’RE GONNA DIE!) landing in Cork, Ireland. At this point I’m sitting in my comfy seat on American Airlines, happy that I’ve made a different choice this time around. We eliminated the third flight altogether. We’re avoiding London and going straight home to the United States, where we are CITIZENS, free to move around without passports! From our first airport we’ll move on to a second, and that’s where we’ll stop. We’ll stay in a hotel and DRIVE the rest of the way to our final destination. Two flights, not three. It should help with the jet lag, it should cut down on the security/customs/etc. stress, it’s somewhat less expensive, it should shorten travel time so that we can manage sleep better…. That was my thinking…  And I was right! 🙂

IMG_6040I guess it’s time to go… he’s giving the signal!

IMG_6059I sat in the window seat when I wanted to look out or try to sleep. I put my stuff in the middle. I sat in the aisle seat when I wanted to watch the in-flight movies. The first movie was really interesting, about a self made millionairess named Joy (which is my late mom’s name so I felt that was a sign I was being watched over on the flight… I also hoped that it was lucky, meaning that I’d soon have greater success in my own entrepreneurial ventures). Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro.

They also showed us new TV shows that NBC was promoting. I’d like to see more of Superstore – hilarious! It stars actors from Drop Dead Diva and Ugly Betty. Funny stuff, pretty clean. I see that the episodes are available for streaming online. We’ll watch it for family TV nights (we have teen and young adult kids though, so don’t go by me if you are looking for shows for younger audiences — also, I tend to be fairly liberal with entertainment).

They also showed the modern Karate Kid movie, starring Will Smith’s son. Hmm, well, I watched bits of it, but I decided to try to sleep during that one. My daughter Savannah was jazzed by this selection though. I’m glad that this movie was shown.

American Airlines kept feeding us! I have NEVER had that happen on a flight before – they actually gave us so much food that I was getting too full to eat! And… the food was GOOD!!! Our whole family liked it. AA had great entertainment, comfortable (compared to other coach seats that are much worse) seats, fast and efficient service, and overall just a pleasant experience for our very long flight back to the United States. I wish we’d flown American the first time around. If we have to fly in the future, I’ll choose American Airlines again! This is high praise because I truly hate to fly. Of course, the flight had a lot of empty seats which helped greatly, so keep that in mind.

Well, we’re off – AIR BORNE! Nicholas took all of these amazing photos. He actually took many, many more – I had to choose from hundreds of from-the-plane photos to share!

IMG_6086IMG_6087Leaving Ireland…

IMG_6088IMG_6089IMG_6090IMG_6091IMG_6092Ireland is already far away.

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Nicholas must have taken these at a different time from when the light was hitting the wall on the right. Near the ceiling, in the aisle, the light cast on the wall in such a way as to make a gorgeous cross. I mean, it was so vivid, it looked like something you’d see in a church. It wasn’t real – it was an illusion brought on by how the light hit the wall, but it sure looked like I could reach out and touch it. It stayed on the wall for about two hours. I found it comforting. We’d be ok, one way or another… I figured we were going to Heaven or we were going home. Nothing to fear either way, right? And aren’t those kind of the same thing, Home and Heaven…? Ah, well, I was jet lagged already and I hate to fly. What kinds of thoughts do you think I’d be having? Fortunately I was kept distracted by the in-flight entertainment and the food they kept giving us!

IMG_6117IMG_6118It’s about a seven hour flight – a bit shorter than the route we took on the way to Ireland… we’re appreciative of the faster flight time – AND the pilot was ahead of schedule! We’d arrive early… Meanwhile, there were fabulous views. Reminder: you can click on pictures you want to see bigger.

IMG_6126We were flying lower sometimes and could see glorious landscapes, mostly coastal.

IMG_6132IMG_6133IMG_6135IMG_6140Notice that plane in the distance? Nicholas managed to capture a shot of ANOTHER plane flying alongside us!

IMG_6145Don’t worry, it wasn’t close… but it’s not something we’d expected to see.

IMG_6154Looks like we’re in outer space here… or time traveling, like in my fictional detective series!

IMG_6158Someone said this is Cape Cod, I think…

IMG_6159IMG_6160IMG_6162IMG_6164IMG_6165IMG_6168IMG_6170IMG_6183IMG_6194IMG_6199Look at that, he captured a SHIP on the ocean from the plane!

IMG_6200Oh, going back up… well, that was a teaser! When I saw all of the landscape I thought our flight was ending already.  No, not yet, but we were getting closer.

IMG_6202IMG_6231Ooh, AMERICA! There we are…! Soon we’ll be landing in the United States!

IMG_6232IMG_6233IMG_6234IMG_6235Are you looking for clues? Anyone know where this is yet?

IMG_6236IMG_6237IMG_6238IMG_6239IMG_6240IMG_6241IMG_6242IMG_6243Don’t have it yet? Keep looking, soon it will be obvious…

IMG_6244IMG_6245IMG_6246IMG_6247IMG_6248IMG_6249IMG_6250IMG_6251IMG_6252IMG_6253IMG_6254IMG_6255The girls said that they knew it was America when they saw baseball diamonds!

IMG_6256Know this city yet?

IMG_6257IMG_6258IMG_6259IMG_6260IMG_6261IMG_6263IMG_6264IMG_6266IMG_6267IMG_6268IMG_6269IMG_6270IMG_6271IMG_6272IMG_6273IMG_6274OK, this next one will give it away

IMG_6275IMG_6276IMG_6277IMG_6278IMG_6279Uh, I don’t know what this is about… perhaps they didn’t expect someone to take photos of it via an air plane… probably nothing to see here folks, right? National Guard station maybe?

IMG_6280IMG_6281IMG_6282IMG_6283Ah, we’re landing now. WHEW! The long international flight is over!!! We’re back in the United States!

IMG_6284IMG_6285IMG_6286IMG_6287IMG_6288IMG_6296Hmm, I hope our luggage makes it to the next flight and all arrives OK… [This is what’s known in the literary biz as “foreshadowing“]

IMG_6298IMG_6299IMG_6300We’ve landed! That’s me in the front (red blur) and Cassie behind me in the green trench coat, coming off the plane. Just one more flight to go!

NEXT POST: Driving Home!