Nashville has always been on my list of most favourite cities and it was great to be visiting again after a 10 year gap, especially since my brother and sister-in-law now live there. We planned a 4 day visit to Nashville before we headed down to Colombia with the family. Nashville has long been known as a Music city with a vibrant country music scene and more recently emerging as a culinary destination.
I was excited at the prospect of eating my way through Nashville and decided on the first morning to burn some calories running around the beautiful Centennial park in the heart of Nashville.
We started off with breakfast at Biscuit Love known for their Southern-focused breakfast at their Gulch location. This place is so popular that we had to wait in line outside the outlet for about 45 mins on a TUESDAY MORNING! Tried a variety of their biscuit based breakfast and also some really good breakfast cocktails. Extremely satisfying and a must visit if you are in Nashville.
If you are a lover of hot sauce like me, a must visit is Pepper Palace. They are probably the biggest hot sauce store in the world and have locations all over the US. We visited the one at Opry Mills Mall.
Hot sauces, salsa, seasoning and rubs displayed all over with heat ratings on each! With more than 1000s to choose from made of different types of peppers from around the world and you can sample some of the sauces and salsa with nacho chips. Definitely a very interesting place.
While in grad school in the early 2000s, we had a Charlie’s Philly Cheesesteak outlet very close to our student accommodation in Columbus Ohio and seeing the same outlet in Nashville brought back old memories and ordered the Philly Cheesesteak. It tasted the same just like 12 years ago, nothing great to write home about though.
Nashville boasts of some of the best BBQ joints around with each one claiming to be the best in town. My brother, having lived in Nashville for 3 years now swore that Edley’s Bar-B-Que was the best of the lot so decided to check try it out for dinner. We ordered the rib platter, the pork platter and burnt ends platter. The ribs were literally falling off the bone covered in yummy BBQ sauce. The burnt ends were by far the best dish that evening.
On Day 2, we decided to get breakfast at another iconic breakfast joint called The Southern Steak and Oyster. Started the morning with a delicious Bloody Mary along with The Cuban which was pork tenderloin served with black beans, rice, eggs and Skillet Debris(this part brought in all the flavour)!! We also did not miss the famous fried chicken waffle called The Highway that was drizzled with pure maple syrup.
After a hectic day of mall shopping, the family drove to a small Taco shop called Mas Tacos Deli. This outlet was a food truck for many years before they decided to put together a brick and mortar outlet that looked like one was entering an old RV. Like most good places in Nashville, the line started outside the door.
Took us about 15 mins to reach the counter to order and got ourselves some really flavourful pulled pork tacos, beef tacos, fried tilapia taco and tamales all doused in a really great hot sauce called Valentina – all served on throwaway plates.
The tacos were made of good juicy meat with really fresh and crunchy onions, cabbage and cilantro. The whole setting made us feel we were eating in someone’s house and it was probably one of the better Taquerias I have visited.
The evening plan was to hit the touristy bars on Broadway! And I had distinct memories of spending many an evening at a great live country music joint called The Stage. But instead we decided to just bar hop and started the evening in a dumpy place called the Broadway Brewhouse.
Being full from the tacos, we shared a plate of Chipotle BBQ wings and ordered a round of a extremely potent, milk shake kind, sweet tasting frozen drink called the Bushwacker.
That put us in the right “spirit” for the evening with everything getting blurry after that. Ended the evening in a lovely speakeasy called The Patterson House in Germantown. This place had only cocktails and no food. The cocktails were listed from the easiest to the palate to the most complex. This place had some of the best cocktail I have had, with all kind of flavours right from sweet to bitter in one sip.
The next morning we took a 45 min Uber ride across Nashville to the “boondocks” to get to a highly rated deli that had the best pastrami called Mitchell’s Deli. The food was definitely worth the hassle of getting there (and also getting back with no cabs in sight for miles). The pastrami sandwich was served with Swiss cheese and we also ordered a roast beef with cheddar sandwich, all wrapped up in paper along with a pickle.
After all the American food, the family was craving for something closer to home for lunch and we went over to a highly rated (according to my brother) Thai restaurant that was set up inside an Asian grocery store called King Market in a strip mall.
Being a self-proclaimed Thai food expert, I was pretty impressed with the food, specially the fermented sausages and short ribs.
With an ambience that was very basic and a menu that had pictures next to the items, this place felt authentic. Our mains included a Pad Malaysian which had the Chinese sweet sausages, a green curry with pork, red curry chicken, stir fried greens with fried pork belly and a Laon dish made of bean thread noodles along with shrimp, beef and egg called the Dry Sukiyaki. Everything went down well with Singha beer. This was also the cheapest meal on our trip.
And that’s the lowdown on our culinary adventure in Nashville! Come back for more food and drink escapades!
Ireland was always on my list of must-visit countries and finally as a part of my 35 countries before I complete 35 years on this planet, Ireland became Number 35.
Along with my wife, we planned on driving around the coast of Ireland, starting in Dublin and going clockwise around the Emerald Isle. The basic plan was to drive around the countryside, do day treks over the cliffs, eat fresh produce that both the sea and land had to offer and of course, drink lots of beer and whiskey. After a short holiday with my folks in Colombia, we took a flight out of Bogota via Miami and London and landed in Dublin nearly 24 hours later, extremely tired.
We booked 3 nights at The Gresham hotel very close to all the touristy stuff. The evening we reached, we went down to the famous Temple Bar, an area where all the touristy bars were concentrated, filled with young Americans getting very very drunk. We went into a few bars and made the most amazing discovery of Dublin – the Guinness on tap was very different from what I had been served through my various trips and was actually very light and refreshing. I could easily down 5-6 pints and still have space to eat. Most bars in the Temple Bar area served pub grub and nothing very exciting. Each bar had a line up of at least 20 beer on tap and a 100 whiskeys to choose from, with some bars having their own whiskey distillery.
The city of Dublin is very young, full of bars and almost every bar we entered had a live band playing lively foot-tapping Irish music.
Dublin also felt like the capital of Hen parties and every bar in the touristy area had at least 2-3 hen parties at any given time. We did a bit of research and found a few non-touristy bars close to our hotel. The bars were packed at 6 pm and local Dubliners stopped over for a drink after work, all well dressed in work clothes. The crowd from the bars spilt over into the alleys around creating an absolutely fun atmosphere with the sun setting around 10 pm and the party going on till around 2 pm.
Dublin has an amazing food market held every Saturday in the Temple Bar area and we did go and check it out. Various vendors sold some amazingly fresh food right from the traditional Beef and Guinness pie to an Indian vegetarian food truck. I found a very interesting stall that served horse meat sandwiches called Paddy Jack. We quite took to the flavour of the horse steak while having a very interesting conversation with Pat Hyland, the owner about horse meat and it’s nutritional values.
We signed up for a Dublin walking tour and were taken into the historic past of Dublin, right from Dublin Castle to the famous manicured grounds of Trinity college. Dublin also has many art installations across the city and some interesting Graffiti walls that caught our eye.
A short 30 min train ride away from Dublin is the small town of Howth. On reaching Howth, we decided to do a trek that follows the coastline from the harbour in a loop. The trail took us through some breath taking views of Dublin bay, over sea facing cliffs and through a wild meadow that offered stunning vistas.
The walk was through what one might call passing through 50 shades of green on land and bright blue when you looked out towards the sea.
After a strenuous 5 hour walk, we got back to the towns harbour and found a quaint seafood place called Octopussy’s Seafood Tapas Restaurant and had the freshest oysters that were harvested probably just a 100 yards away and a platter of mixed seafood along, of course all of it washed down with great Guinness.
On our way back to the train station, I found a place buzzing with people called Leo Burdocks serving traditional fish and chips for over a 100 years to regular folks like me and celebrities such as U2, Lisa Kudrow, Ronan Keating, Kenny Rogers, Mick Jagger, Snoop Dogg and Justin Timberlakes’ parents among others. I ordered the cod and chips and I could still taste the freshness of the sea in the cod.
Rock of Cashel Jameson Experience
We rented a car from the Dublin airport and started our journey across Ireland. It took us a while to get out of Dublin and it’s confusing expressways and 30 mins later we were on our way towards the Rock of Cashel. This was one of the most spectacular historic sites we saw on our trip with the ancient ruins of a castle forming the centre of attraction on top of a verdant green hill. The castle grounds had many tomb stones, some even dating back to the 14th century, from which we could see fantastic views over the countryside. While we were visiting, the dark clouds overshadowed the sky and gusty winds brought an eerie yet tranquil feeling over the place.
An hour’s drive out of Cashel brought us to the small town of Middleton in County Cork. This is the home of my favourite drink, Jameson. Using my contacts with the company in India, I was able to get us into a tour of the Jameson Distillery along with a “VIP” tasting session (all at no cost, may I add). It was a great experience as far as I could remember before nearly stumbling out on all fours after a good amount of whiskey “tasting”. That evening, we stopped at a local fish and chips shop called C.F. Lennox.
Starting early morning out of Middleton, we drove a little over 2 hours south partly along rural roads to Sheep’s Head; a peaceful, unspoilt peninsula which has some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery. We parked our car in the parking lot and started walking along a trail that looped around the peninsula on a cold, misty morning with a light drizzle. Most of the trail followed over cliffs with high dangerous drops to the ocean. Of course, with a name like that, we saw many sheep along the way, though we couldn’t exactly call them friendly fellows. It was quite the lonely trail with us passing only 2 couples the entire time. A four hour trek ended back at the parking lot which had a quaint tea shop called Bernies Cupan Tae where we relaxed for a while with hot chocolate and scones.
With rain beating down after our trek we started driving along the coast towards Kenmare, heading towards Doolin.
At Kenmare, we decided to drive around the ring of Kerry, the most popular tourist driving loop in Ireland.
We could not stop anywhere along the ring due to the heavy rains and continued driving towards a small town called Tarbert where we got onto a ferry with our car and crossed over an estuary to Kilmer on the other side and continued driving towards Doolin. Reaching Dooling around 7 pm, we checked into our Bed and Breakfast called Doolin House run by an old couple. They recommended we walk up to a pub nearby called Mc Dermatts for dinner. As usual, we stuck to Guiness in a really packed pub and had a good meal of Seafood Chowder, Sirloin Steak with Bacon and Cabbage.
The next day, the owner of the B&B cooked us our first Full Irish Breakfast of the trip – sausage, eggs, bacon, black pudding and beans. With all the energy from breakfast, we started the Cliff walk along the Cliffs of Moher. It was a 15 km walk starting from Hags Head to Doolin town on a beautiful day. This walk starts at sea level and climbs to the highest point of 750 feet and then brings you back to sea level. The entire walk offered spectacular views of the Aran islands, Connemara and the coastline of County Clare. We carried sandwiches along with us for lunch. It took us a good 6 hours to complete this walk pausing every few steps to take photographs of the stunning views.
The only way to experience the best of this walk is to completely avoid the overcrowded and touristy visitors centre and do the entire 15km walk. It is an easy hike for anyone with a basic level of fitness.
After the walk, we drove towards the town of Liscannor about 30 mins south of Doolin for dinner at Vaughans Anchor Inn, which has been rated one of the best seafood bars in Ireland, for some really good seafood. I definitely recommend this place if you are in that area.
Horn Head, Co. Donegal
We embarked on a long 5 hour drive towards Horn Head, one of the northern most points of Ireland, stopping over at Galway for an Irish breakfast. Galway looked like a very picturesque town and we wanted to make it a point to spend at least a few days here.
On reaching the town of Dunfanghany, we turned off the main road and drove about 5 km to a secluded Airbnb home we had booked earlier.
This was one of the most beautiful places in the world we have visited with the home situated on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, far away from any other human and in the company of hundreds of sheep.
The home had a view to die for and full glass front for us to be able to sit on some real comfy chairs and watch the ocean. We had to go to Dunfanghany for our meals while also exploring the wild countryside of this beautiful area. The nicest people in the world probably live in Dunfanghany and we had many a conversation with the local shop keepers of this little town who were so welcoming.
We drove up till where the road ends and climbed a small hill. The wind was so strong that it would have definitely blown a small dog away. The wind swept land had a beauty to it not seen elsewhere. Dunfanghey also had a beautiful beach which we couldn’t enjoy since it was always drizzling and cold while we were there.
We drove across County Donegal into Northern Ireland, expecting a huge wait at the border for document and passport checking, but surprisingly, there was absolutely nothing of that sort and we realised we had crossed over to NI when the GPS started giving us distances in miles. We headed straight to the largest attraction in NI, the Giant’s Causeway. The place was filled with tourists and, if you ask me, nothing really stood out to make it such a big attraction. We spent an hour there dedicating more time to the souvenir shop rather than the attraction itself.
We drove half a hour in the opposite direction to a little town called Portstewart, their claim to fame being that one scene from Game of Thrones was shot at the beach in this town.
The main agenda behind driving the opposite direction was to have lunch at place called Harry’s Shack on the beach. This place is definitely worth checking out if one is in that area and they have some extremely fresh seafood and a constantly changing menu.
We then drove into Belfast and dropped off our car at the airport car rental facility. Belfast is a beautiful city with a troubled past. The scars of the past make it a very interesting destination for travellers.
This is also the city that built the ill-fated ocean liner The Titanic and has multiple attractions revolving around the same including a surprisingly interesting Titanic Experience gallery.
I enjoyed it and that says a lot since I am generally not the type to spend hours inside a gallery or museum.
Belfast is an extremely young city with a huge population of people in their 20s and 30s. The bar scene is very vibrant and the city is littered with beautiful graffiti on every available wall.
One of the highlights of my Belfast visit was the visit to the St George’s Market, open only from Friday to Saturday. There were a lot of stalls with local produce and small pop up restaurants around this indoor market including the Belfast Bap Co and the Cuban Sandwich Factory, both of which served some amazing food.
On our last day of our 2 week long trip, we went for a wine dinner at Mournes Seafood Bar. This was a great way to end the amazing trip around the island with some really good seafood sourced from the waters around Belfast and top quality Irish beef.
And with that ended our fantastic adventure across Ireland – One that saw even more fantastic food and of course, a lot of Guinness!