All Sorts of Activity and a Little Tragedy on La Digue, Seychelles

When we hitchhiked one afternoon on Praslin (there was a three hour gap between buses that we hadn’t realized, so we decided to try something new), I mentioned to our driver that we liked the island of Praslin in the Seychelles even more than we had liked Mahe.  A native of Praslin, he assured me that once we got to La Digue, we’d like it even better than Praslin!  Each island got smaller, more remote, and more beautiful, he told us.  It didn’t take us long after arriving on La Digue to decide he was right!  In addition to several stunning beaches, we found plenty of additional fun and adventure.

 

L’Union Estate, La Digue

We had to pass through L’Union Estate to access Anse Source D’Argent – the most beautiful beach in the world, in my opinion.  There is an entrance fee required to walk through the estate, so we decided to spend some time there and see what it had to offer before going to the beach at the end.  It turned out it had a lot to offer!

We first walked through the La Digue Cemetery, which was a private burial place for some of La Digue’s first settlers in the 1800’s, the Mellons.  Mrs. Louise Mellon was the first owner of the estate.

 

Once upon a time, the main industry on LaDigue was coconut farming, and its center was the L’Union Estate.  Today, the estate still grows coconuts, and is home to a traditional copra mill.  (Copra is the dried meat used to extract the coconut oil.)  We watched a bull turn the mechanism that crushes the copra and presses it into oil.  After we watched some fresh coconut oil being made, the woman there bottled it up and sold it to us!

 

Watch the ox make us coconut oil!

Next we came upon the plantation house, so we took a look around, and marveled at the view from inside.

 

Soon we came upon the giant land tortoises we had heard about.  These tortoises were penned, not free like the ones we saw on Curieuse, which made us a little sad!  Our sadness turned to smiles quickly when we saw the piles of lettuce the estate had put out for us to feed them though.    (Even though one of the tortoises was quite snappy!)

 

The last area we came upon before finding the beach was full of plants, and our favorite was the vanilla.

 

 

Belle Vue

All of the tourist information we had on La Digue said we had to go here for the scenic view.  In fact, I believe we were promised “cardiac-arresting views from the terrace.”  Hmmm.  It was a good climb indeed.  At the top, however, we found a café, and a lot of clouds.  Luckily they started clearing as we hiked back down.

 

 

Anse Severe and the Sea Urchin Tragedy

“Anse Severe is a quiet spot, well suited for sunbathing and swimming.”  More false advertising?  It looked harmless enough, we thought, as we walked to the north of the island one morning and came upon it.  (We saw some interesting sites along the way.)

 

We had dragged our snorkel gear along, and despite warnings from the tourist office to go to several of the beaches only at high tide, we were determined to go.  Okay, true, it looked very shallow, for hundreds of feet out, and there were a lot of rocks for those hundreds of feet, but it had to get deeper at some point, right?

 

I started to walk out slowly, trying not to hurt myself on all the small granite rocks I was stepping on, or more likely by tripping over their slippery curves.  Elliott got ahead of me, and was apparently determined to prove he was adventurous on this morning.  All of a sudden, as he was getting ready to jump over a wave into a deeper part, I realized the rocks were about to turn into a coral reef, and thought better of this idea.  But it was too late – he had already made the jump!  “How are you going to get back?” I asked.

“Just ride a wave back up onto the reef I guess,” he said, shrugging.  “Do you think this was a bad idea?”  And just as he said that and started to ride his wave in, the same wave knocked me over on my back, onto those rocks.

Ouch.  Only his pain was much worse, as I could deduce from the screams and language coming out of his mouth.  It was a sea urchin sting, and my babio was in serious pain.  I tried to stand up to help him, only to realize that if I didn’t sit back down, I was going to faint from my own back pain and the site of his bloodied, swollen, black and blue finger.

At some point I was able to stand back up and walk back to the beach with him, gather our things, and go ask the woman at a nearby bar where to get help.  And during these few minutes it occurred to me that 1) we had never had a medical emergency while traveling before 2) we had no means to get anywhere other than our feet, and 3) I had not a clue about the severity of a sea urchin sting!

With no transportation, we had no choice but to start walking into town. We asked several locals – including a pharmacist, and everyone told us we needed the hospital. Needless to say Elliott was flipping out imagining them cutting open his finger to extract the embedded spines. Luckily after obtaining the advice of the hospital clinic on the island, we learned the sting would not end his life.  A little lime juice, along with much pain and suffering, and a few days time, would heal all wounds.  (You’re lucky we didn’t take a photo of the lot of spines in his finger!)

We eventually made it back to Anse Severe that day, and we stayed far away from the site of the sea urchin sting.

 

 

Bikeride and Anniversary dinner

On our last full day on La Digue, we did as the locals do, and took to bicycles.  We had an awesome, super-scenic ride around the north of the island, and then all the way down the road on the east side of the island, to its end.  We stopped at a few beaches on the way back, resting on the sand and frolicking in the waves wherever we could.

 

Wouldn’t you know it though – somehow at the end of the day we ended up back on Anse Severe?  With the help of a local this time, I found my way to an actual deep area of the water where I went snorkeling.

 

Elliott, scarred from events of the previous day, happily rested on the beach.  And later when it rained, we sat in the shallow water, taking it all in, treasuring our last moments of our last day on this wonderful island.

 

160a Heading home

Biking home after a great day.

That night was Erev (Hebrew for the evening before) our wedding anniversary, so we rode our bikes to Zerof Restaurant, where we had made reservations for a special buffet and live music.  To our surprise, the restaurant workers had gone out of their way to make this occasion special for us, placing white fabric covers with silver bows over our chair backs, and a vase of flowers (ginger!) on the table. But that wasn’t all; there were pink and silver hearts and confetti on the table, they brought us a complimentary bottle of champagne, and after dinner, a decorated, homemade anniversary cake!  It even had a huge sparkler/candle on top for us to blow out!  It was indeed special, and I’m not sure I can recall a time when complete strangers went so out of their way for us, without asking or prodding:)

 

173 This cake was fabulous (and handmade)

The next morning, on our ferry ride back to Mahe, we enjoyed a little post-celebration leftover cake.  It was our actual anniversary, after all!

 

Fun with Plants & Animals on Praslin, Seychelles

Praslin has a lot more to offer than just its beaches – see for yourself….

The Praslin Museum

This “museum” is less a traditional museum and more a very informative tour of a private estate featuring medicinal and endemic plants and wildlife of the Seychelles.  It takes a bit of bashing on sites like TripAdvisor, but we found it quite interesting and enjoyable.  Elliott’s favorite time was spent inside the fruit bat cage, and I enjoyed seeing our first Seychellois tortoises up close.

41 In the bat cave...er...cage

In the bat cave…er…cage

We saw vanilla and mango trees, I got to participate in coconut de-husking, and we even sampled some citronelle tea.

(Watch the live coconut de-husking here!)  We also saw a collection of traditional tools and musical instruments, stood inside a palm-leaf hut, and learned about traditional food preparation.

50 Traditional Seychellois kitchen

Traditional Seychellois kitchen

Curieuse Island

The 5th largest island in the Seychelles, Curieuse is just over 1km from Praslin and makes for a wonderful day trip by boat.  The island has a diverse history, including being “leased” to private companies for the production of vanilla, copra (dried coconut used for oil production), and livestock, and serving as a leper colony from 1829-1965.  It also contains many endemic and native plant species.

We went for the turtles; Curieuse is home to about 300 Aldabra Giant land tortoises, the largest in the inner granitic islands.

91 Lunchtime for the tortoise

Lunchtime for the tortoise

101 We're both cute!

Do we make a cute couple?

I f you’re like us and you can’t get enough of giant tortoises, check out the videos:
Elliott feeds a giant tortoise.
Stephanie feeds a giant tortoise.

After playing with the tortoises and feeding them lots of leaves from the plants right on the island (their natural food), we took a leisurely hike.  We saw many mangroves, land snails, and great views, along with another animal or two.

122 A bazillion land snails

A bazillion land snails

133 See the tiny Lemon sharks

If you look very closely, you’ll see the Lemon sharks!

At the end of the hike, we were treated to a beautiful beach (go figure) and a delicious local lunch.

139 On the beach at Curieuse

Another big draw of this island is Curieuse Marine National Park.  On our boat trip back to Praslin after lunch, we made two stops and did some great snorkeling.

153 Our snorkel spot

Our snorkel spot

Valle de Mai

194 Valle de MaiThe highlight on Praslin is most definitely its Unesco World Heritage SiteValle de Mai is literally a prehistoric palm forest that is believed to have remained virtually unchanged over millions of years.  It is home to six endemic palms, most notably the coco de mer.

219 Coco de mer

Coco de mer

Coco de mer palms grow naturally only on Praslin and Curieuse, and were once believed to grow in the depths of the sea (the English translation is “coconut of the sea”).  The female tree’s seed, heart-shaped and weighing up to 25kg, is the largest and heaviest of the plant kingdom.  Because its shape is reminiscent of a woman’s pelvic region, the seed once enjoyed a reputation as a coveted treasure in former royal courts.  Both trees and seeds are endangered due to parasites, fire, logging, poaching and theft, and are therefore highly protected.  The seeds may also qualify as the most expensive in the world, ranging in price from $200-$600!  Due to their low numbers, the number that can be sold is highly regulated, and a new tree must be planted for every seed that is sold.

195 Stephanie and a not-at-all-suggestive Coco de Mer

Stephanie and a not-at-all-suggestive Coco de Mer

The male tree is equally unique, with its phallic-shaped seed.

240 Catkin (male Coco de Mer plant)

Our guided tour felt like a walk through the “Garden of Eden,” and I’m not sure we’ve ever been aware of our smallness compared to this giant Earth.

244 At the bottom of Vallee de Mai

We felt so small!

Valle de Mai is also home to many animals…

222 These guys move too fast to photograph, but we did see them

The rare Black Parrot likes to be heard but not seen.  These guys move too fast to photograph, but we did spot them.

Other Sites & Activities on Mahe, Seychelles

The beaches on the Seychelles served by far as our biggest pastime during our three week visit.  But each island had more to offer, and we so we did take in a few sites and activities each week.

Victoria, Mahe
On our first night in Mahe (and the Seychelles) we were really tired.  We decided to let our bodies decide how much sleep they needed and forgo the alarm.  In retrospect, that *might* have been a bad idea!  We awoke at 2:30pm the next day, realizing we had slept longer overnight than ever before – a full 15 hours!  There was no longer time to do a day trip to a beach, so we opted instead to take the local bus into the main town on the island – Victoria.

Victoria was small and quaint with a few interesting things to offer.  Due to our late timing we only caught the tail-end of the local market, a much smaller version of the markets we have in Cuenca.  We enjoyed it nonetheless; we picked up a few items and then walked to the center of town, which is marked by a traffic circle and the Victoria Clock Tower.  Remarkably unchanged over the 100+ years it’s been standing, the clock tower is named after the same monarch for which the capital city is named.

 Then we moved on to the Bel Aire cemetery, a Seychelles National Monument.  It opened in the late 18th century and was Mahe’s first public burial ground.  It houses the bodies of the first French Settlers, including a “giant” who had reached the height of 9 feet 6 inches by his death at age 14, and Pierre-Louis Poiret, the alleged son of Louis XVI.  In 1862 many of the graves were buried by the great landslide (Lavalas), which only makes the place more interesting.  This place was amazing, with huge old deciduous trees mixed in with towering palm trees.

Last but not least, we walked through the notable Hindu Temple in town.

SeyTe
A few days later we went to the tea factory on Mahe. Tea is one of the primary agricultural exports of the Seychelles along with vanilla and cinnamon.

As luck would have it, they weren’t processing tea that day, but we were able to walk through and observe the equipment and machines at a discounted price. We did so, and came back with a lot of questions!  Our luck changed when a man who worked there overheard us, and offered to take us through again, giving us explanations at each phase of the process.  He even turned on several of the machines so we could see exactly how they worked!

123 The whole process

Hike to Anse Major
As we mentioned in our post on Mahe beaches, Anse Major was one that was only accessible on foot or by water taxi.  We chose to go on foot.  The hike was maybe an hour long, and went through forest as well as along many ledges with beautiful views – the ocean way down low to our right, and enormous granite boulders, “slides,” and “walls” to our left.

Snorkel / wildlife photos

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part III – La Digue

Welcome to La Digue!  This was the smallest of the three islands we visited.  It’s the third largest inhabited island in the Seychelles, but it’s still pretty small.  No cars!  Everyone gets around on bike or foot.  We loved it.  Here are the beaches on which we spent our time.

Village of La Passe on the east coast of the island – walking just outside of town at low tide.  This beach doesn’t even have a name that I could find, and it’s too shallow to swim, but the great views of Praslin are breath-taking.  One day we just sat on a log and ate our lunch while taking it all in.

View of Praslin from Village of La Passe

 

Grand Anse – A picturesque beach with huge waves and surrounded by large granite rocks.  Imagine long sweeping arcs of pristine white sand.  The big waves roll in from across the Indian Ocean and they are both wild and wonderful.  There are many warnings not to swim due to a strong undertow, but we were not the only ones in the water and in this (admittedly strong) swimmer’s opinion, the Seychellois are much more cautious about swimming than us Northeasterners!

 

From Grand Anse, you can take a leisurely hike to Petite Anse by walking across the rocks and following the footpath.  During the 15 minutes it took us, there was some beautiful scenery in the form of hidden pools, unlike what we saw on the beaches.

107b A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

107a A hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

How gorgeous is this?  Another hidden pool between Grand Anse and Petit Anse

 

Petite Anse – This is the Sister beach to Grand Anse.  It was raining when we got there but still beautiful enough that we decided to wait it out under one of the little palm frond shelters there.   Swimming here is also regarded as dangerous, but that didn’t bother us.  We stashed our things in a crevice between those famous granite rocks, and dove in.

110 We can (try to) keep out of the rain

We sat under one of these palm shelters to keep out of the rain

 

Anse Cocos – We continued on the path to get to this beach which is also accessible only on foot.  This beach is more sheltered; it benefits from a natural lagoon formed by granite rocks providing calm waters to swim in.  I believe it was low tide, however, and it looked… well… murky.

 

Anse Source D’Argent – This place is reputed to be the most photographed beach in the world, and it’s not hard to understand why once you see it.  It was my absolute FAVE of not only all the beaches we saw in the Seychelles, but in the world!!  It has soft white sand, clear turquoise water and huge granite boulders sculptured by the elements and time itself.   The very shallow waters are so sheltered by the reef that they actually felt HOT when we snorkeled.  I had to swim super far out to get to lukewarm, and finally somewhat cool water.

The one downside to this beach is that the only access is via L’Union Estate, which requires an entrance fee for non-residents.

ASA55 Low tide, Anse Source D'Argent

Low tide, Anse Source D’Argent

ASA70 Anse Source D'Argent

Anse Source D’Argent

ASA56 Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

Uh oh, another beautiful Seychellois beach

ASA69 Source D'Argent beach

Source D’Argent beach

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part II – Praslin

Mahe was gorgeous, but the moment we arrived on Praslin via ferry, I knew I was going to like it even better.  It’s smaller and definitely easier to get around.  We hopped off the ferry, onto a bus, and 15 minutes later arrived at our guest house.  That afternoon we were on a beach!

Anse Volbert – Also known as the Côte d’Or (“Golden Coast”), this beach has sugary white sand, crystal clear water, great views and the occasional friendly dog.  It’s a popular beach on the island but 1½ miles long so it never felt crowded.  Best of all, it was within easy walking distance of our lodging!

P19 A boy and his dog

A boy and his dog.

Anse Lazio – It is frequently called ‘the best beach in the world’.  Even on a cloudy/rainy day, it was beautiful.  Its fame has led to great popularity though, so it can feel crowded compared to other beaches.

P82 Back on shore

P84 Anse Lazio, Seychelles

Grand Anse – We learned firsthand that this is more of a town on Praslin that has beach along it.  There were lots of fishing boats in the water here.

P184 Oh look - no one here

Oh look – no one here!

P183 Drying fish on Grand Anse

Drying fish on Grand Anse.

Anse Kerlan – It was difficult to find public access to this beach as there were several private chalets along its side, but once we found it, we had it to ourselves for hours.

P189 My beach baby

Postcard perfect beach – Anse Kerlan

P192 A whole driftwood tree

This is one of my favorite photos we took in the Seychelles

Anse Consolation – This was the most difficult beach for us to get to, as we had to transfer busses in Grand Anse.  What we didn’t know is that the buses take a several hour break during lunchtime, and we happened to need our transfer right about then.  No worries – it led to our first real hitchhiking adventure (if we don’t count the one inside Haleakala National Park).  And we’re alive to talk about it!

Seychelles Stunning Beaches Part I – Mahe

For our 12th wedding anniversary last November, we spent three weeks in the Seychelles.  When we talk about our trip to the Seychelles, most people’s first question is, “Where are the Seychelles?”  The Seychelles, officially known as the Republic of Seychelles or more commonly Seychelles, is its own country.  It consists of 115 islands that lie in the Indian Ocean, 932 miles east of Kenya, in Africa.  If you know where Madagascar is, head north and a little bit east, and you’ll find the Seychelles.

Since few people we know had any idea of where the Seychelles are, it wasn’t totally surprising that we didn’t run into many Americans while we were there.  Did I say “many”?  I meant “any.”  In fact, at the Visitor Bureau on one of the islands, the woman working there just could not believe we were Americans visiting “for fun”; she was convinced we must be in working for the US government in some shape or form and stationed in Dubai, which is a common stopover on the way to the Seychelles from the US.

So your next question might be, what made us think to go there?  It took several ingredients.  For starters, any remote island beach destination sounds pretty great to us.  More specifically though, it was due to the fact that as a boy, Elliott had a stamp collection, and in it he had a few stamps from the Seychelles.  They really stood out to him, and ever since then, he’d wanted to go.  There was also the fact that we knew Kate Middleton and Prince William had honeymooned there; and if it was good enough for royalty, we were thinking it was pretty special!  (For those of you who are interested in this type of thing, it turns out other celebrities have been drawn as well, such as George and Amal Clooney, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.)  All of this wasn’t quite enough though, for as you can imagine, remote islands that draw celebrities can be very expensive to reach.  Finally, after years of telling Elliott his dream might very well never happen, the missing ingredient came along – a super-discounted airfare.

The Seychelles are mostly known for their stunning beaches.  I normally like to be surprised, but I did peek at a few photos of beaches on the Seychelles before we went, and I was immediately super excited.  We’ve been fortunate enough to lie on many a-gorgeous beach, but these appeared top-notch in my opinion!  So what makes them more beautiful than a beach, on, say, St. Thomas?  The islands in the Seychelles are either granitic (made of granite) or coralline (made of coral).  We visited three of the granitic islands: Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue.  And since these islands are all made of granite, it’s not unusual for the beaches to be edged by enormous, pinkish granite boulders.  To me, they *are* the beauty.

As we traversed the islands we went from big to small.  We started on Mahe, where it sometimes took hours on the bus to get to a destination.  We then went to Praslin, where an hour bus ride gets you anywhere you want to go.  We ended on La Digue, where there are no private vehicles, the most-used form of transport is bicycle, and if you’re hardy, you can walk just about anywhere you want to go.  We spent most of our time in the Seychelles relaxing on her beaches, so now I’d like to simply share their splendor with you, our readers.  Since we have so many gorgeous photos, in today’s post we’ll just cover the beaches of Mahe and Praslin.  Take a look, and be sure to check out our next post, which will showcase beach photos for La Digue.  If you’re a beach and nature lover, perhaps you’ll want to add Seychelles to your own bucket list.

Bel Ombre – We walked to this beach on our first day on the Seychelles.  We didn’t have much time as it was already late afternoon, and it wasn’t a fabulous beach at all by Seychelles standards.  But we loved it, and I had a blast swimming, and Elliott loved all the bats that came at dusk.

Beau Vallon – Famous Beau Vallon Bay, on the northwest coast of the island, has the major hotels and restaurants on the island.  We whiled away the better part of a day here.

Sunset Beach – A gorgeous beach beyond Beau Vallon that we could walk to; ironically, we couldn’t see the sun set through the clouds!

Port Launay Marine National Park – Lovely, horseshoe shaped arc with white sand and calm waters, known for its protected status and excellent snorkeling.

Anse Major – We had to hike to this beach, but that’s what made it extra special.  As if the hike itself wasn’t rewarding enough… there was a secluded beach at the end!  And there was plenty of great snorkeling too.

M186 Lovin' life

Lovin’ life.

Takamaka Beach – Stunning, picturesque beach with beautiful golden sand and impressive palm trees, as well as the Takamaka trees that give the beach its name.

M233 Down at the end

Down at the end.

M234 My rock!

Elliott climbs his rock…

M237 A spiritual moment

and has a spiritual moment.

Barbecue Country

We had celebrated Stephanie’s birthday bash in two out of three planned cities, but I swear this last one was just as much, if not more, for me.  But, we’ll get back to that in a bit.

Music City, USA!  Aka… Nashville, TN.  Sounds perfect for me right?  But…what if I’m not a Country Music fan? It was clearly time to broaden my horizons.  Stephanie started me off with a trial by fire – a night in the Opryland hotel.

Wow, this place is huge. With just over 30 million rooms, it’s one of the largest hotels in the country. (Okay, 2888 rooms.)   It’s so big that the outdoor spaces are actually indoors, as the view from our balcony will show.

05-complete-with-balcony

After dropping our stuff, we went exploring.  There’s a canal in the central promenade area where you can actually take an indoor boat tour.  So we did.  Then we browsed around the shops.  If I was a country music fan, I would have been in heaven.

Stephanie had stayed in the Opryland Hotel eons before she met me, and she wanted to recreate the experience for me.  That experience included a Dancing Waters show.  We arrived at the right time, but after 30 minutes of waiting around, it was clear the waters would not be dancing.  There was no announcement, no apologetic hotel employee, nothing.  This wasn’t even the only incident like this.  Earlier in the afternoon we had decided to check out some of the live music happening all around the hotel.  Not being country fans, there was exactly one band we wanted to see.  We headed over to the restaurant on the schedule to find that it was closed – again with nothing to let us poor, hapless guests know.

Now, we aren’t the types to complain about things, but the lack of dancing-water-light show was a real disappointment to Stephanie, so we headed to the front desk, and found a manager.  She was very apologetic.  Even better than that, she refunded our parking fees, our gondola ride (18 bucks), and even my Moon Pie.  Extra Bonus: Despite what the manager had told us, subsequent Dancing Waters shows went off without a hitch, and we were still able to enjoy the experience!  The day was saved.

For dinner we went to the Jack Daniels restaurant on site.  We don’t usually post pictures of food, but this was fan-freakin’-tastic Southern cooking.  More importantly, Jack Daniels would factor heavily in to the future of our Nashville visit.  So feast your eyes on our feast (feastly). Man, I’m getting hungry.

One night was enough in the oh-so-points-expensive Opryland, so for the rest of our visit, we returned to our roots and went couch surfing.  Our host, Steve, was great, and pointed us to all sorts of things to see and do in Nashville.  He lived walking-distance from Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack – the original pioneer of Nashville Hot Chicken. What is hot chicken?  It’s basically friend chicken that’s been doused in hot sauce before its fried.  It was totally worth the 45 minute wait!

Some of the other Nashville highlights we enjoyed were the hip Five-Points district, where we had had some most delicious $5 slices of pizza, and Centennial Park.  Built in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, the park contains a full-size replica of the Parthenon.  Inside is an art museum and a display of items from the Expo.  There’s also a nice lake to wander around, and fun swinging chairs that Stephanie loved.  We swung a LOT over our time in Nashville.

Remember when I said this part of our trip was perfect for meee?  After a few days in Nashville, the whole reason for our trip there was about to unfold.  We had timed our trip to coincide with the Annual Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.  We took a beautiful drive through rural Tennessee to Lynchburg – about 1.5 hours from Nashville.  Before getting our grill on, we toured the Jack Daniel’s distillery.  Now Stephanie and I aren’t big drinkers, and we never drink straight spirits, so it was even funnier that I had insisted on taking the version of the tour that included a flight of five different types of JD to sample.

The tour was really interesting.  Every drop of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is produced right there in Lynchburg.  Things we saw included making charcoal from sugar maple wood for “mellowing,”  the original natural spring that still provides all the water for the distilling process, and the famous oak barrels that are used for aging.

After touring the facility, we got to sample the product.  They gave us tiny cups with maybe a quarter shot in each one.  After finishing all the ones Stephanie didn’t like, I had a total of about a shot and a half.  This was enough to get my head pleasantly spinning.  (Did I mention what a lightweight I am?)  We did find that we liked the Tennessee Honey, so we set off to the requisite gift shop to buy some.  Ironically, Moore County where Lynchburg is located is a “dry” county, meaning that alcohol cannot legally be sold.  Somehow, Jack Daniel’s is allowed to sell you the bottle, so if some of their product happens to be inside it, well, that’s just fine with the authorities.

Good thing the Barbecue was just down the street, as I was in no shape to drive.  (Just Kidding.)  We learned that in order to blend in with the crowd in rural Tennessee, your clothing must fall into one of the following categories: Harley Davidson, mossy oak camouflage, or Alabama Crimson Tide.  All kidding aside, the barbecue was a lot of fun, and had been on my hit list for almost 20 years.  In order for a barbecue team to be invited to compete, they must win a state championship of at least 25 competitors.  This is an extremely prestigious event that featured over 100 grilling teams from all over the world.

At the Barbecue, we met up with Stephanie’s Aunt & Uncle.  Gail and Bob live in Huntsville, AL, which is about as close to Lynchburg as Nashville.    Even better, Stephanie’s Aunt Gail knew someone on one of the barbecue teams.  We went over to say hi after the judging was over, and were treated to some of the best Gol-Durned brisket I’ve ever had.  We found out later that their team came in 8th place.  Not too shabby!

Back in Nashville, I couldn’t escape it any longer.  It was time to go listen to some country music.  We headed to downtown Nashville and the Honky Tonk Highway.

This stretch of Lower Broadway is one country bar after another, and the bands there all work for tips, so there are no cover charges.  You’re free to wander in and out of different venues soaking up as much of Music City as you like.  Now, I feel about as at home in a country bar as I did in the principal’s office in elementary school, but I have to say, I had a really good time.  We saw some fun acts, and I found myself getting into it and wanting to stay longer than either of us thought we would.  We even came across a horn band comprised of kids called Pelican 212, featuring mini Blues Brothers as the front men who were R-O-C-K-I-N’ the street.  My favorite, though, was the last act we saw: a country/rockabilly crossover featuring a stand-up bass player.

VIDEO: Countrified G’nR
VIDEO: Pelican 212
VIDEO: Truck Drivin’ Man – Rockabilly Style

One day to go, so we went to Monell’s for lunch.  This place is similar to Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House in Savannah.  You are seated with whomever enters the restaurant at the same time as you, and you enjoy family-style dining as plate after plate of amazing Southern cooking is passed around the table.

After consuming my body weight in killer food, we worked it off at Shelby Bottoms park where we went for a long walk and a short nap before renting bikes and taking in the scenery.

Our last night in Nashville, and we couldn’t leave without seeing some more live music.  Our couch surfing host, Steve, is in about 30 bands (Okay, 6), and his glam band, Lipstick, was playing that night.  Before we got to see him play, though, we had to suffer through the God-Awful opening act.  Remember in back in high school the stoner/metal head guys who thought it would be cool to form a band?  Well this was them.  The first thing they did was proclaim that they played “HEAVY F–KIN’ METAL!”  Seriously, these guys were a caricature.  Here’s a pic to sum it all up:

125-heavy-f-kin-metal

HEAVY F–KIN’ METAL!

Lipstick was pretty good, though.  It’s always fun to watch a band and go “Hey I know that guy on the bass!”  It was a good thing we were there, too.  One of the people they depended on to open their set was AWOL, so I got to fill in as mad-scientist dog, Dr. Woofenstein.

VIDEO: The awful metal band (spoiler alert: sucky cliche enclosed)
VIDEO: ME as Dr. Woofenstein
VIDEO: Lipstick

I *knew* I loved barbecue.  I had never even heard of the Opryland Hotel.  And I was pretty sure I hated country music.  But in the end, the 3rd city in Stephanie’s Birthday Tour turned out to be a huge hit!