Sunday, 7 May 2017

In Nashville... Day One

It started badly.

Driving along the A23 towards the M23 and then, supposedly, the M25 and Heathrow's Terminal Five – or T5 as I pretentiously call it. I'm in a taxi, or rather a 'minicab', a strange phrase as the car is roughly the same size as any other.

"Just so you know, it's Heathrow I'm heading for, not Gatwick," says I with a smile.

The driver acknowledges me so I relax, but then he takes me to Gatwick anyway. I mean, why not? I want to go to Heathrow and I make it quite clear that I want to go to Heathrow, but I end up in Gatwick. I look at my watch. There is still time, I think, and the traffic is thin, it being a Saturday morning when most people are chilling out, watching a bit of Saturday Morning Kitchen, munching a slice of buttered toast and sipping tea. Not me. I'm up with the lark. In fact, I didn't sleep that well. I never do when a long flight stands between me and a decent night's kip.

Unnecessarily grand and too many pillows
There's a long, long stretch of M23 between the M25 turn-off and Gatwick Airport, but all I can do is look at the long road ahead and wonder whether or not I will get to the right airport – on time. The driver, of course, apologises for his complete and utter ignorance (what else could he do?) and I do my best not to show I'm annoyed, but I am. It's just the start of Hasslesville.

There are big queues so I decide to use the machines to check-in – always a faff at the best of times. Glasses on, documents out, I key in my flight reference number and eventually two boarding passes appear, one for London to Chicago, the other for Chicago to Nashville, and then I head for security and the hassles it entails.

Once through, with relative ease, I find my colleague, we have a snack at Giraffe (granola and fresh fruit plus a mug of tea; my colleague has a soft drink) and then we head for the gate and a relatively smooth flight in a BA jumbo jet – BA 0295. I had the best seat in the house for an economy seat, 28a, plenty of legroom, but I can't settle, I'm not relaxed, I'm agitated so I spend the flight looking out the window or standing in the galley area chatting. I spend a lot of time looking at my watch and sectionalising time. In my head I'm always saying stuff like, "In an hour from now there's only five hours to go," that sort of thing.

Even lunch isn't as enjoyable as it should have been, although the food is fine: roasted chicken with mashed potato and peas in one of those foil containers, a decent chocolate mousse and, of course, a couple of those small bottles of red wine. The wine is non-descript and does little to relax me, but one of the cabin crew excels herself. I enquire about Island Bakery Lemon Melts, a biscuit's biscuit in my opinion. I'm worried that BA's move towards M&S food on short haul flights (that customers must pay for) will mean the end of this classic biscuit. She investigates. Normally when cabin crew say they'll investigate they forget and I never hear from them again, but not this time. She returns, not with a pack of Lemon Melts, but with another variety from the same company. I was impressed.

The man next to me in seat 28b says nothing. He's reading a management book, something like Seven Ways of Improving Efficiency, I can't remember, but it's keeping him occupied. I read the Sun, the Telegraph and the Times plus a chapter of Hotels of North America by Rick Moody.

More hassles in Chicago. The hassle of immigration, the hassle of baggage reclaim and the hassle finding Terminal Three, but then I'm in my favourite restaurant opposite gate H3, Romano's Macaroni Grill. Pollo Caprese, a green salad and a bread roll, plus a Stella Artois. Much needed. We meet a white-haired man in a checkered shirt traveling to China, he tells us he's in healthcare and that he's written a novel about time travel but hasn't bothered getting it published. I tell him to publish on-line but he doesn't seem interested, he's moved on. He tells us about his wife. They're now divorced. Met on-line. It lasted for 10 years and now he's living in Wisconsin and she's somewhere else. He said where but I can't remember.

We head for Gate 17 and the short hop to Nashville. A pleasant, albeit cramped flight and then more waiting around for baggage reclaim. I draw some dollars, my colleague goes his own way. "See you tomorrow," I say and eventually take a cab to the Best Western. It's around 0130hrs in the UK but only 1930hrs in Nashville.

At the front desk I am given a goodie bag: two small chocolates with a nut in the middle, a small bag of Cheetos and some gluten-free Sweet 'n Salty Mix. I eat the chocolates but leave the rest and decide to take a walk around town. I find a street full of bars and being as I'm Nashville, the music city, there's a live band so I stop for a beer, listen to a couple songs then head back to the Best Western.

The hotel room is fine. Unnecessarily grand furniture, a large wooden desk, huge bedside lamps, obligatory flatscreen television, an average-sized bathroom, an empty fridge, but at least I can open it. A huge red couch and a coffee table. Wifi is free. There are heavily patterned curtains and a below average view out of the hotel window. A skip full of rubbish and some new houses are being built across the street.

I write the blog and then hit the sack, waking twice. It's now 0516 and I'm back on the blog. Outside the birds tweet and somebody is running around in the corridor outside, probably kids, it seems that way. I'm feeling fine and can't wait for breakfast. I could make myself coffee but it's another hassle. How the hell to use the machine first – a device made by Hamilton Beach Commercial. I consider the Sweet 'n Salty Mix and the Cheetos but I'm not that desperate. Perhaps I'll shower, get dressed and mosey around.

I'm in the Midtown district and it's a one-mile walk to the downtown where my colleague is based.

Those birds have upped the ante on the tweeting front as I reach for the literature stored in a wooden container on top of a big wooden sideboard with two doors. Inside is the aforementioned empty fridge.

"Respected Guest". That's me. "For your convenience, Best Western Plus Music Row serves a sumptuous Hot Breakfast featuring our ever popular 'Make Your Own' Belgian Waffle, each morning in the Breakfast Lounge. Breakfast includes Country Biscuits and Sausage Gravy."

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

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