Sunday, 21 May 2017

Great weather and two rides – to Westerham and the Tatsfield Churchyard

Outside of Westerham on the ride home, Saturday 20 May 2017
When I opened my eyes I got a shock. It was light outside. I simply can't get used to the fact that summer has simply arrived unannounced. It seems like only yesterday that it was dark in the mornings and that slippers were needed as soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs. The sunlight was filtering through the curtains and I started to consider black-out drapes, like those found in Alaskan hotels during the summer months, making it possible to sleep in a place where there's only four hours of night time. I remember once sitting in the bar of the Anchorage Hilton at 2330hrs and it could have been 1100hrs instead.

It was Saturday morning, I remembered, and immediately recalled how last week at this exact time I was still three hours away from Heathrow Terminal Five in a jumbo jet, seat 32C, on a BA flight from Dallas Forth Worth.
Outside of Westerham on the way home, Saturday...
I hadn't been cycling for two weeks and was in desperate need of the exercise, so I jumped out of bed, changed into my riding gear (jodhpurs, red hunting jacket and knee-high, polished boots) and headed downstairs to make breakfast (two Weetabix, grapes, blueberries, banana and raspberries topped with some natural yoghurt. I also made myself a cup of tea – no sugar).

All week has been strained due to slowly fading jet lag, but I'm fine now and a decent ride on the bike is just what the doctor ordered.

I unpadlocked the bike and headed out along the usual route, meeting Andy at the green where we decided to ride to Westerham (a 22-mile round trip) where, we discovered, preparations were underway for a summer fair. A smallish group of people, including the local Rotary Club, were setting up display stands as Andy and I sipped tea and munched biscuits, our bikes resting against the park bench on which we were sitting.

Fortunately a horse arrived meaning no shots of gravestones. Pic: Andy Smith
We sat there until just before 0900hrs watching other people work and then mounted our bikes for the arduous journey up the hill. When we were back at the green we vowed to meet on Sunday, although we hadn't discussed the destination other than to say we might go to Westerham again (just like in the good old days) or even the trusty old Tatsfield churchyard, always a good sunny day destination.

On Saturday afternoon there was a bit of rain here and there, but nothing too depressing, and now, on Sunday morning at 0654hrs it is another bright day, just like yesterday. In fact it would be fair to say that this weekend has been the best in terms of the weather so far this year. I'm sure things will get even better as the summer progresses, but right now it's the best to date. In fact, today is the best day of all.

We met on the green at the usual time and decided to head for the Tatsfield Churchyard – the fast way. For some reason we couldn't face Beddlestead Lane. Andy was complaining of tiredness and there's little worse than the slow way to anywhere when you're feeling a little under the weather. We haven't been to the churchyard since 10 September last year (click here for more).

Last week Andy rode to the lakes...
When we arrived we talked about politics and the forthcoming election, we chatted about photography and social media and then set about taking photographs of a white horse grazing in an adjacent field before heading home again.

Ultimately the theme of our conversation was futility, which left us both feeling a little futile on the return journey. I was thinking about the sad inevitability of Theresa May being in Number 10 for the next five years and on top of that I was considering the world of social media and its futility, not to mention the futility of gardening, which I would be engaging in later in the day. The futility of gardening, however, is a little nonsensical, a bit like saying that shaving is futile. Yes, the grass grows back and so does the beard, but at least while you're keeping grass and stubble at bay there's a general tidiness about the situation. Unkempt grass and an unkempt beard don't exactly add up to anything positive and rather reflect neglect and apathy. A bit like my hair over the last week or two. After about eight weeks it gets a little straggly and I start to look like the Toecutter from the early Mad Max movies, but for some reason it takes me an age to get around to visiting the barber. I made it yesterday, however, and now I feel clean cut again and ready for what the world might throw at me.

Sunday's weather was bags better than Saturday's. For a start there was no rain, but there was also plenty of warm sunshine and it's still shining now at almost 7pm.

Our ride home retraced the outward route. We followed Clarks Lane towards Botley Hill and then turned right and rode straight down the 269 heading north towards Warlingham where we parted company. When I reached home I chilled for a bit, then had a shower and then went into the garden to mow the lawn. The original plan was to do both front and back, but a rogue sycamore tree had to be dealt with and after I'd cut it into pieces and placed it in the brown cart so kindly provided by the local council, my enthusiasm had waned.

A few words about the Specialized Rockhopper. It's now roughly six months old and while I'm tempting fate by saying I've yet to have a puncture, it's the truth. The bike's been performing well, but recently there's been a strange noise in top gear, not dissimilar to the noise made by a handful of small plastic bearings being shaken gently in a tin can. It's not affecting the performance of the bike so I'm not too bothered about it.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Conversations...

Nick Knowles
Bob: “So, you’ve bought a new car…”
Peter: “Well, not new as such, it’s about five years old.”
Bob: “What did you get?”
Pete: “Nissan Note.”
Bob: “Ah! Yes, he was so good in 48 hours.”
Pete: “You what?”
Bob:48 Hours. Nick Nolte.”

Pete: “No, Nissan Note.”
Bob: “Oh, sorry mate.”
Pete: “Not a problem."
Bob: “You been watching the golf?”
Pete: “No, but I do like a bit of DIY SOS on the Beeb.”
Bob: “With Nick Nolte?”
Pete: “No, Nick Knowles.”
Nick Nolte
Bob: “Oh, sorry. Shame you’re not keen on the golf."
Pete: “Only a little bit.”
Bob: “Jack Nicklaus, he’s good.”
Pete: “Ah yes, especially in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Bob: “Eh?”
Pete: “The movie about the nut house, Ken Kesey novel.”
Bob: “Yeah, I know, but it wasn’t Jack Nicklaus it was Jack Nicholson.”
Pete: “Really? I was always told that he somehow managed to balance both roles: acting and playing golf.”
Bob: “Not sure about that. Are you still listening to the Beatles?”
Pete: “Now and then.”
Bob: “Never liked them myself, not keen on that Jack Lemmon bloke.”
Pete: “John Lennon."

Jack Nicholson
Bob: “It must be hard trying to balance two careers: being a Hollywood actor and part of the songwriting duo that was the Beatles.”
Pete: “It was John Lennon, not Jack Lemmon. Jack Lemmon was in that movie with Marilyn Monroe.”
Bob: “Wasn’t she Boy George’s mate?”
Pete: “No, that was Marilyn... and he was a bloke.”
Bob: “Well, what about that John McCartney bloke, he had it tough. Being kidnapped by those terrorists in the Middle East and having to spend a load of time in a cage with that Tom Waits, can't have been pleasant.”
Pete: "Wasn't that why the Beatles split up?"
Bob: “Not entirely sure, probably."
Pete: "It was John McCarthy, actually, not McCartney.”
Bob: "But he was in the Beatles wasn't he?"
Pete: "Who?"
Jack Nicklaus...
Bob: "John McCarthy."
Pete: "No, he was the one in the cage with Tom Waits. It was Paul McCartney who was in the Beatles"
Bob: "With John Lemmon."
Pete: "Lennon."
Bob: "Yes, John Lennon. He wrote that Mull of Kintyre and all that?”
Pete: “No, that was Paul McCartney and Wings."
Bob: "I didn't order wings, can't stand the fuckers!"
Pete: "Fancy a pint?"
Bob: "Of milk?"
Pete: "Nah, fuck off!"
Bob: "Who's eaten your potatoes?"
Pete: "You 'ave, yer nosher!!!"
Bob: "Takes one to know one, son."
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!!!"
Bob: "Fuck off!"
Pete: "He says it all the time..."
Bob: "Oh does he?"
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!!"
Bob: "Give it a rest, nob cheese!."
Pete: "Here's Johnny!!! On the 18th at Augusta!"
Bob: "Don't believe a word of it! Piss off!"

Friday, 12 May 2017

In Dallas...Fort Worth

The flight from Knoxville to Dallas was pleasant, although I felt at one stage prior to take-off that the plane might disintegrate before it reached the runway. The American Airlines plane, probably a Boeing or an Airbus, I never looked, shuddered on every turn and squeaked and clanked its way to the strip but eventually took off without incident and I later enjoyed a cup of tea and a small bag of mini pretzels mid-flight. Around one hour and 40 minutes later we started our smooth descent into Dallas Fort Worth, through the cloud and on to the tarmac. I took the Skylink to terminal D and now I'm close to gate D15 from where I'll depart this great country en route to London Heathrow Terminal Five.

We had some rain last night in Nashville, but guess what? It was warm rain. Never experienced that before. I was in the Tailgate Brewery enjoying the old Peanut Butter Milk Stout and as I left and headed back to my hotel down came the rain. The warm rain. It was hot in Nashville. The temperature reached the early eighties, but finally the weather broke and it rained quite heavily through the night.

Inside Pizza Vino at Dallas Forth Worth airport, 
In the morning the roads were damp but there was a freshness in the air as I walked down to Barista Parlor for breakfast. But you know all about that – see previous post if you don't. Here at Dallas Fort Worth airport I've just had a late lunch of a pizza and a Cabernet, all very nice, but slightly off kilter. The place, Pizza Vino, was billing itself as an upmarket pizza restaurant – I had to take an elevator ride to reach it – so my expectations were high, but unfortunately they were dashed on the rocks of crap. For a start there were tables that needed a wipe-down, there were napkins left on the floor, there were laminated menus and to make matters worse, for some reason they didn't price their drinks. This annoyed me. I ordered a cabernet, assuming the price would be reasonable, but when I came to order another one (the pizza – proscuitto and ham – took an age to arrive and I was bored) I thought I'd ask how much. I was told $14. That's a lot of money for a glass of wine, even if it did arrive in a little glass carafe.

Oddly, my bill was only around $30. So I gave the obligatory tip, chewed the fat with the waiter, a really nice guy, who told me that to drive from Dallas to where his folks live takes 12 hours – and they live in Texas! Last night somebody told me that Texas was the second biggest state in the USA, next to Alaska. Imagine that, though, to get home by car takes 12 hours and you don't even cross a state line.

I'm not too far from the gate and I've found a power point, otherwise I wouldn't be writing this, but I felt it was important to write something from Dallas. I've got about 30 minutes before it's time to board and then I've got a nine-hour flight to look forward to; I can't say I'm happy about that, but what else can I do?

The television is screening something about Trump and the firing of FBI director Comey, but hold on, somebody's called my name over the airport intercom, that's the second time. I'd better go and see what they want. Nothing else to report anyway, I'm just sitting here. Outside it's blue skies and cloud and people are milling around as they do at airports. I'd better go, see you back in the UK.

I post a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be found by clicking here.

In Nashville...Day Seven (at Barista Parlor)

With a cab virtually waiting downstairs to take me to Nashville airport, I've just got time to say a few rushed words about a couple of great places here in the city that anybody reading this must visit should they find themselves at a loose end. I'll clear up typos later. The two establishments are the Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun Street and Barista Parlor, just off Division Street in Magazine Street (kind of appropriate for me being as I'm a magazine journalist).

Inside Barista Parlor – my kind of America, especially with Beck on the turntable
As I say, there's not much time so I'll launch straight in and say first that I'm so glad I went out last night and even glader that I found the Tailgate Brewery outlet on Demonbreun. Tailgate produces the great Peanut Butter Milk Stout, which I first tried in the Hard Rock Café downtown. I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered that the Tailgate Brewery was just a stone's throw from where I was staying. So I had a couple of glasses of my favourite brew, accompanied by a 12in lasagne pizza (yes, it was a mistake as a 10in would have been more than enough).

Tailgate is a fantastic brewery and the place on Demonbreun was a kind of brew pub offering a wide selection of the company's brews. It was great and the beers can be sampled before buying.

The perfect breakfast...
While I was in there somebody recommended Barista Parlor, they even gave me directions, claiming it was behind City Fire down in the Gulch. I figured I had time to avoid the hotel breakfast and go there instead and I'm so glad I did. Had I known this place existed I'd have been there every morning rather than take the hotel breakfast, which was pretty standard.

Barista Parlor is cool. There's no other word to describe it. First they have a record player and on the turntable is Beck. Brilliant. Second they have two Royal Enfield motorcycles on display and third there's a cool vibe about this space. First, the word 'space' is really relevant, it's airy and there are long wooden tables, sparsely populated at this time in the morning, which makes it even better. There are pastries, there are chocolate bars, there are tee-shirts (sadly $30 otherwise I'd have bought one) and it's just wonderful.

A Royal Enfield 500 cc motorcycle inside Barista Parlor
For me Barista Parlor represents the type of America I like, it's akin to the vibe that emanates from the Ace Hotel in Portland and why oh why did I think that sitting in the Starbucks reading my book, Hotels of North America by Rick Moody, with an English breakfast tea and an almond croissant was in any way a good thing when no more than 50 yards away was Barista Parlor.

I ordered breakfast (scrambled egg, sausage, black coffee, a scone with jam) and it cost me $14. Sadly, I committed a cardinal sin: so carried away with the greatness of this excellent place I clear forgot to tip the guy behind the counter, but hopefully there will be another occasion in the not too distant future and I'm planning on a very positive review on Trip Advisor too.

Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun Street, Nashville – a vast selection of beer


Later...
Right now it's 1023hrs and I'm at Nashville Airport and through security. My American Airlines flight to Dallas has been delayed so I'm in the Starbucks writing this, but not with tea or coffee or anything, I'm just here using the facilities, so to speak. It's going to be a long day and I can't wait to get home (Saturday morning at 0905hrs if all goes well).

Nashville has been good, especially after I found The Gulch and the various establishments there, like Barista Parlor and, of course, the Tailgate Brewery on Demonbreun. The hotel was pleasant too and the people I met were all good. Hopefully there will be an excuse to return to the Music City soon.

I post a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

In Nashville... Day Six

I spent most of the morning of my last day in Nashville touring around Bridgestone's bus and truck tyre factory at LaVergne; it was roughly a 35-minute coach ride along the Interstate.

There was something very pleasant about the tyre factory, and it has a lot to do with the smell of rubber that filled the air wherever we went in the plant. It was wonderful and, in a way, calming. The plant was fairly quiet too because some of the lines were undergoing PM, that's plant maintenance, so the whole experience was almost surreal in a way, especially the safety video we had to watch prior to putting on protective shoes and eyeware, not forgetting (as I almost did) earplugs, although we didn't need the plugs that often.
Bridgestone LaVergne, Nashville TN.

Apart from the sense of calm brought about by the pleasant smell of the rubber, another interesting aspect of the plant was the robotics and these strange little rounded shapes that moved around the factory under their own steam, guided by laser scanners. They had a certain robotic cuteness about them that I think everybody on the tour appreciated. At one point there was a screen on which one could see where in the plant the robots were headed. 

One of the reasons I like the smell of rubber has plenty to do with my love of bike shops where the overriding scent is that of the tyres and it always reminds of being a kid and my dad buying me a new bike. I hasten to add that I'm not some kind of gimpy pervert. I mean, I like the smell of a freshly creosoted fence too, or the waft of hops from a pub doorway, both of which I find comforting for some reason. Perhaps they all harbour distant childhood memories.

The tour lasted until noon, roughly, and after that I was a free man, which is just as well as I've got to be out of here first thing in the morning in order to catch my flight from Nashville to Dallas and then Dallas to London; it's not going to be pleasant, I can tell you. In fact, I'm going to check out the BA website to see if I can get a better seat the aisle, preferably something similar to my outward trip when I was getting the best of both worlds, namely a window seat but also plenty of legroom thanks to being on the Exit row. But coming out was a jumbo, I'm not sure what the plane is on the return leg of the journey. We'll see what transpires.

Steps from Demonbreun lead to The Gulch
I went back to the Gulch for lunch at City Fire where I opted for salmon with spinach, a couple of beers and once again I was tempted into dessert, not by the waiting staff but by my own need to chill and relax. I had an Americano too and chewed the fat with one of the staff who hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, and was an artist by trade. She seemed to earn good money at City Fire and liked living in Nashville, Tennessee, rather than her home state, although she originally came from Vermont, which is up north close to the border with Canada.

My dessert was a kind of apple strudel, but I'd prefer to describe it as an apple mess. I'm still amazed how the Americans take something healthy – in this case apples – and then make it unhealthy. They even manage to take something unhealthy (ice cream) and make it even unhealthier by covering it in caramel sauce. I still finished it, but that might have been because I didn't have a big breakfast (who am I kidding?). And besides, last night in 'The Pub', also part of The Gulch, I only had salmon with rice and brocolli, not exactly high fat, although again I had that awful dessert with another huge blob of ice cream. Yesterday was excusable as I hadn't had any lunch, but there was no excuse today other than I wanted somewhere to chill that was off the street so I could read more of my book, Hotels of North America by Rick Moody.

On Demonbreun heading downtown...
After what amounted to a late lunch I wandered about in the heat, stopping for another Americano in a coffee shop across the street. I ordered a banana too in an effort to convince myself that I was in control and I was health-conscious, although it was highly tempting to have chosen a huge cinnamon whirl, but I managed to resist. 

There are good shops here for women, but they're pretty pricey so I left them alone, even if one was offering 30% off advertised prices. Eventually I moseyed on back to the hotel and sat by the pool for a short while reading Hotels of North America by Rick Moody. And now here I am again, on the lap top, in the room, contemplating all sorts of things, like when am I going to pack, will I even bother with dinner bearing in mind my late lunch and should I really bother about going on-line to check out a better seat for the Dallas to London leg of my journey? I'll probably do the latter and then I might even take a last swim in the pool if the warm weather here has warmed it up a bit since my dip on Sunday.

I took another look at the Thompson hotel, this time checking out the rooftop bar. It's not that hot. I know I said it was cool in a previous post, but I might revise my opinion of it; it's certainly got nothing on the Ace Hotel, Portland, Oregon. I'd like to say the rooftop bar offered great views of Nashville, but it doesn't, and if I'm honest I began to see the join, so to speak. I left disillusioned and continued to mosey around, eventually returning to the Best Western Plus.

Postscript: Should I stay or should I go?
It's 2007hrs and I'm still in my hotel room wondering what to do. I'll admit to feeling mildly depressed, probably at the thought of the mammoth flight I must undertake tomorrow night and the journey that begins early in the morning with a taxi to Nashville Airport and a flight to Dallas from where my transatlantic 'adventure' begins. I'm sitting here now wondering whether or not to go out and have a drink and something to eat. Something says don't bother, something else says go out and yet another voice says stay in, watch CNN and hit the sack. They're all rather tempting options in their own way and to be honest I don't think I could stay in all night, here in my hotel room with nothing but the television to keep me company. There's always Del Frisco's Grille, but can I really be bothered to hike all the way there, across the interstate and, well, I'll go down to the front desk and see how I feel.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

In Nashville...Day Five

Okay, you come to Nashville and you're supposed to be all corny and talk about 'live' music in a Jools Holland fashion and pretend you really love it when in reality you're simply not that bothered. Who gives a hot damn about the Grand Ole Opry? I mean the downtown area is fine, for about half an hour, but then you realise that all the food there is 'fast', bar a couple of upmarket eateries you can't really afford, and even if you could you'd think 'why did I pay all that money, it wasn't THAT good!' Well, yeah, you start to think there must be more to life. And there is! The Gulch is an area outside of town that's a little bit more European and offers some light relief from the 'party' that is Nashville's downtown. You can reach it on foot in about 20 minutes from the town centre, just walk up Demonbreun and between the bridge over the railroad tracks and the interstate there are some stairs that will take you down there. I'm sure there are other ways of getting there too.

The Gulch is a cut above the downtown area, put it that way, but the problem, of course, is that the places offering classier food also charge more for it and you end up staring at the usual burger and fries style menu trying to find an exception to the rule. There's always an exception, and invariably it's Atlantic salmon.

Oh how I wish I'd not ordered this dish!
So, the Gulch. Well, I've been dreaming of sitting in a Starbucks in the USA with my book, nursing an English Breakfast tea and an almond croissant, and finally I was able to do it.

The Gulch is a short walk from my hotel, which makes it all the better.

There's a great hotel at The Gulch called the Thompson. It's a trendy-looking, hip boutique style, similar in many ways to the Ace Hotel group, particularly the Ace in Portland, Oregon, that will always be my all-time favourite place.

According to a Chugger I met on the street, Kid Rock was staying at the Thompson recently. Kid who? But this place has all the ingredients of a cool hotel.

The Thompson's dinner menu was a little pricey and after my experience at The Palm last night (see previous post) I figured something a little more sensibly priced would be best. So I headed for the pub across the street. It's an English pub selling English beer like Old Speckled Hen (awful stuff in my opinion) and Fuller's ESB (not that good, let's be honest). So I opted for Sweet Water Extra Pale and a couple of glasses of Devil's Backbone Schwartz Bier. The music was good: The Smiths, the Stone Roses, the Rolling Stones, the Police, you get the picture.

I liked the pub's English theme. It was, for all intents and purposes, an English pub, but not as rough around the edges. Most importantly, though, the fact that I was English made me the star of the show, or so I thought. I was the cool dude because I was actually English, but it's impossible to 'out-cool' an American. They have bags of it stored up. Take the barman, he looked like Johnny Depp, he had two arms full of tattoos and he probably owned a Harley. Who am I to compete with that? My Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike, my Toyota Corrola, who am I kidding?

I ordered Atlantic salmon with brocolli and rice but then ruined it by ordering whisky bread and butter pudding, which arrived with miles too much ice cream. I ploughed through it, wishing I hadn't ordered it – like I always do when dessert wins the day – but ultimately the experience was fantastic and I'll probably head back there tomorrow for my last night in town – but hold the dessert!

There's other places in The Gulch, like Burger Republic, which I might try tomorrow, but in all honesty I need some exercise, although I've done a fair bit of walking around the city, bearing in mind that it's 20 minutes on foot from my hotel to the convention centre, so I've been putting in at least 40 minutes a day.

Devil's Backbone Schwartz Bier... nice!
My colleague has flown home leaving me alone to experience the cabin fever of solitary dining. Sometimes it's alright, but once a bit of alcohol kicks in it can take me two ways. Either I embrace the loneliness and ride the lightening of desolation or I inwardly crack up and start thinking about my family back home. I waver between the two and often tip the balance, but today I was fine. I paid up and left and took the lonely walk home along Division Road, which I admit I had thought about prior to undertaking it; I've read about how you need to be aware of your surroundings in Nashville, especially if you're alone after dark. Alright, it's more for women than men, but you never know and I was taking a lonelier route than usual. It was fine, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing along that road and I'm glad I just about got back before nightfall. The crickets were out making a lot of noise, put it that way, it was just like being in the movies.

The Gulch is a fantastic place and, as I mentioned earlier, the Thompson Hotel looked wonderful. Not much else to report other than the price of clothes. There were shops selling shirts for ridiculous prices and with the pound being not too far off the dollar these days, there's little to gain for an English visitor to the US so I'm assuming nobody buys anything unless, that is, I'm the only pauper in town. Who knows and, more importantly, who cares?

I'm back in my hotel room now, but once again I go to bed too early, and now I'm up at 0137hrs tidying up this blogpost and listening to the birdsong. Better get back to bed.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.

In Nashville, Day Four...*

There's a lot of raised voices outside of my room and it's 0520hrs. A woman and a man are raising their voices at each other – arguing in other words – and it can only be a matter of time before somebody from the hotel management arrives or somebody opens their door. I think the kerfuffle (that's a good word) is coming from next door, room 508.

Woman's voice: "My God, get you're shit together!" There was much more, but I can't remember what. At one stage I heard the woman use the word 'abnormal' and the man seemingly protesting or justifying whatever it was that she thought wasn't right.

Now it's gone quiet, perhaps somebody has had word. My room and next door's are linked by a door that is obviously locked, but I'm always slightly uneasy about internal doors into other people's rooms. Earlier, resting my ear on the door I thought I'd better keep away in case one of them attempted to shoot the other and the bullet flew through the door and hit me. I'm making a sweeping generalisation here that all Americans are gun-toting maniacs who can't have an argument without shooting at one another.

The last time I eavesdropped on an argument between a man and a woman in a hotel room was in Pittsburgh at the Quality Inn, but I can't remember the gist of whatever row they were having.

The interstate
We're back to silence and birdsong, which has been pronounced over here. It's now 0526 and its brightening up outside. I can hear the distant roar of the interstate, or perhaps its the aircon. The interstate is a shortish walk from the hotel, possibly 10 minutes, but I'm thinking now that it's the aircon, although I might be wrong.

It's Wednesday and I'm up early because I went to bed early. Since Monday it's been work during the day, an early dinner with a colleague and then we part company, around 1930hrs. I walk back to my hotel, it takes 20 minutes along Demonbreun, which is pronounced De-mon-breun and not Demon brewin' as I was saying until somebody who lives here corrected me. Once in my room and with no urge to go back out again and nothing much going on in the hotel I simply jump into bed and fall asleep, waking once or twice during the night but then rising around 0500hrs.

What to say about Nashville? Well, you won't be surprised to hear that I like it (I like everywhere I go). There are high-rise buildings here, of course there are, but not as many as Portland or Cleveland or Indianapolis, but the downtown is growing, hotels are going up and so are office buildings, probably much to the dismay of the locals, but then I guess that high-rises and hotels bring in money and generate wealth and that should, by rights, benefit everybody. There's a large Marriott going up next to the Westin, there's already a Sheraton, a Hilton, an Omni, all the big brands are here, and they're being fuelled by a huge and impressive convention centre where I'm spending all of my days while here in the city.

I've been told it's a pretty safe place, although it's probably not safe for women walking around alone at night, but that's pretty much the same as in the UK. I've seen the odd down-and-out, but so far, that's about it; although, oddly, yesterday morning, my mobile phone sent through an 'amber alert' alerting me and millions of other mobile users in the city to a paranoid schizophrenic who had broken into his girlfriend's apartment and stolen her baby. I'm not sure on the latest, but I found it odd that my mobile received the message. I went down to breakfast and there on the television was the same words that had appeared on my phone, "Amber Alert" along with photos of the abducted baby and the madman.

While the madman and the baby is the local news, the big national story is Donald Trump's sacking of FBI director Comey, the man heading an investigation into the Trump administration's links with Russia. Odd that the man running the investigation into Trump has been sacked by Trump, but I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions, although, if it wasn't politics but gangland, I'd imagine Comey would have been bumped off.

Jackelope Bearwalker, 6% abv at the Omni
On the food front I can't say I'm impressed as it's all kettle chips with burgers and beer. I'm generalising, but there seems to be two extremes: either you go to places like the Hard Rock Café where there are lots of burger-type meals accompanied by fries or 'chips' – the terminology can be confusing, but basically if 'chips' are offered you're going to get crisps and that appears to be the common culinary currency here. The other extreme is places like the Palm, where we went yesterday evening and realised pretty quickly that it was 'posh'. Posh but still a little brash. It was a haunt of 'celebrities' which over here means film stars like Mel Gibson. The reason I mention Mel is because his is the first face I see – drawn on the wall, in colour, by a cartoonist and placed alongside many others. There are, of course, prices to match and a certain pushiness on behalf of the waiting staff. I'll give you two examples: first, the wine waiter (yes, there's a separate waiter for the drinks). I order a Cabernet, mainly because I'm not a great fan of the beer over here, but I'm not at all happy at the prices. Put it this way, two glasses of wine cost more than the food I ordered. Now that's not on for a start, but what I found irksome was the Ned Beatty lookalike waiter's assumption that I'd ordered a 9oz glass. I hadn't. In fact I hadn't said either way, but the prices were high so I was going for the 6oz. He came back with a smaller carafe and slung the contents into my awaiting glass.

I ordered linguine with clams – the bias here was steaks. There were bread rolls and some horrible-tasting iced tap water. My bill, without the tip, was almost $74. Never again, put it that way, as most of my 'potato chip and burger' meals have cost far less.

The waitress who took our food order was annoying too. She insisted on bellowing out the desserts rather than hand us both a menu. It was the usual fayre but at vastly inflated prices: Key Lime Pie, loads of chocolate-based desserts and, of course, cheesecake. We declined them all, paid up and left.

I moseyed on back to my hotel in the evening heat. It was still light as I made my way along Demonbreun and stopping off en route at Del Frisco's Grille just to check it out. It's close-by the hotel, meaning I don't have the 20-minute walk and can simply finish work, come back to the hotel and then go out later – I'll be alone from tonight as my colleague flies home. I stick around for the plant trips on Thursday.

Actually, I say that Del Frisco's is closer to the hotel in which I'm staying (1201 Demonbreun, I'm at 1407) but it's still on the other side of the interstate, although I'm guessing no more than 10 minutes. The prices look more reasonable too; put it this way, I could have two entreés for the price of one small glass of wine at The Palm.

So, it's 0622hrs, the sun is out, all is still, the skies are blue and I can hear the sound of a helicopter. I'd better get ready for breakfast and a catch-up on what's been happening with the schizo and the baby and, of course, the latest on Trump. Amazing how the two are mentioned in the same sentence.

* The reason there's no Day Three is simple: nothing much of any interest happened.

I write a lot of hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor, which can be read by clicking here.