Tag Archives: Nashville

La Isla Bonita

For the last 2 weeks of my stay on Isla, I fell into an easy pattern: coffee chats with Coleena, classes in the morning, ambling around the town and practicing my Spanish with various cafe owners & shop keepers I’d befriended, a meal at a different loncheria or cafe every day,  back to my bed for some reading, writing, and napping, swims until sunset, then catching up with friends for dinner and drinks.

I did take a day tour to Contoy with Dahlia before she left. Contoy Island is completely uninhabited and teeming with wildlife. “Capitan” Tony has a very interesting life story and he was “all over it like a fat kid on a smartie” to quote a good mate of mine. He had us ahead of the Cancun tourists by about 2 hours. One of the highlights was meeting Samantha, a very flirtatious ray and some pretty spectacular snorkeling.

I spent one afternoon on a fuck-off swanky yacht- owned by one of Isla’s richest men, a friend of Coleena’s. We partied like rockstars to extraordinarily bad 80s music, whilst cruising around the island.

Coleena also introduced me to Pamela, a talented artist with a big heart and a smile to match (you can check out her work here: pamelasplanet.com) She had also been renting a casa for a month. She invited me to her farewell party, a fun tequila fueled night!

And I was absolutely chuffed when a wee group of friends I’d made through Coleena, decided to join us for a beautiful seafood dinner on my last night. Jill, the effervescent social butterfly, who’d chucked it all in to manage a boutique hotel on the island. Chris, the Canadian nightclub owner, who I met and shared great conversation at a 4th of July party. And the absolutely one-of-a-kind Rowdy, the muso from Nashville who constantly had me in stitches.

It was the perfect way to end an idyllic month living on a Caribbean island.

I lived on a Caribbean Island!
“Now, you don’t get to say that every day,” as my mate Dave would say.

So here’s 31 reasons why Yo heart Isla. One for every day spent on the island.

1. I thought I’d get bored. I didn’t. In fact, I ran out of time to get through everything I wanted to do.
2. I may have kissed a rather cute young Mexican man with gorgeous skin.
3. I can now get my point across in a slightly Special staccato style of Spanglish after 60 hours of lessons.
4. I wrote some 7500 words in 8 posts and my blog reached almost 1000 hits.
5. I finally got to swim with (and throw up all over) whale sharks!
6. Almost every day I watch the sun set and I can now say with some authority: no two are the same and some really do deserve applause!
7. Ceviche!
8. Micheladas, made by Jose at Buho’s.
9. Max –  the noisy town dog who walked me home late one night.
10. Rami – for getting me properly stoned and the philosophical chats.
11. Jacob – the lil pocket rocket entrepreneurial candy seller.
12. Dahlia’s sun lounger bloke, who I adopted for free luxury
13. Tony “I’m so lonely” – the barman from Argentine Steak & Grill for all those free tequila shots.
14. Mario and Omar, from La Terraza for drinking games, salsa lessons, Mexican Bingo and stuff.
15. Gloria, the gorgeous Italian gal who helped me get the keys to mi casa.
16. Carlos and Mariano, for the daily practicar.
17. Fausto for being the first person on the island to extend his hand, and also for my private snorkeling tour.
18. Every shop keeper who let me practice my Spanish with them, when what they really wanted was for me to buy something.
19. Coleena – thanks for the coffees, and the girly chats… You made conjugating irregular verbs on a hangover so much easier x
20. Dahlia – things could have been a lot different had I NOT missed you, when I was vomiting in your general direction. Thx for being the best vacation buddy, I could have wished for x
21. I met a bunch of really interesting, quirky, downrightfucking gorgeous people in Jill, Pamela, Rowdy & Chris (amigos: mi casa, tu casa)
22. I’ve left my legacy at La Luna (top right hand corner on the black wall, in big drunken writing: “IT’S ALRIGHT CHRIS, I’M AUSTRALIAN! xChelle”
23. The Texan Swingers (let’s just say they’re not a baseball team. And no- Derek, I didn’t play with them.)
24. Tortugas! On the sand, in the sea. Oh my gosh, you guys know how  to make a day feel special.
25. There is no MacDonalds or Starfucks on the Island.
26. That I got to party like a rockstar with one of the island’s richest men
27. Its perfect blue water and perfect white white sand, and crazy colorful underbelly
28. My postries lady (jamon y queso para dulce!)
29. Goran, my lovely Spanish speaking, Bosnian neighbor, who bared his soul and brought me cakes.
30. My feet and bed have never been more sandy than they are right now.
31. I get to say to my granddaughter one day, “you know, your grandma once lived on a Caribbean island…”

Muchas gracias, Isla Mujeres y su gente. Tu tienes un lugar especial en mi corazon.

Going back to Houston

Some days my “on a wing and a prayer” style of traveling doesn’t always work out for me. I could do to be a bit more organized. In my defense, I am getting better at not holding up international flights.

So from Memphis, I had originally thought i would get a car, drive to Nashville, have a look around, and then fly to Houston from there. Mistake Number 1: I’d let my credit line run out.
I did have money but a bank transfer that should have taken hours took days, and therefore, i couldn’t hire a car.

No dramas. I’d just take the train.

Find out there are no trains direct from Memphis to Nashville.

Okay, so I’d just take the Greyhound. Next available was the next morning and meant I’d be cutting it fine to make my flight but it was doable. Provided the buses ran on time. I was assured they, yes m’am, they absolutely do.

Found out they don’t.

After a near 2 hour wait, in a terminal filled with a bunch of toothless hillbillies & a bunch of other, let’s call them ‘interesting’ characters, we piled onto the bus an hour late. Then we were asked to get back off the to pack our own bags into the bottom of the bus. I did a quick calculation, 40-something passengers… This would take at least 20 minutes. There was no way i was going to make my flight.

A bouncy haired, sassy young mother by the name of Lisa who I’d befriended in the line, suggested it was possible i could still make my flight if I drove.

I checked my credit card again, and the money had gone through. So I decided to revert to Plan A.

I tried googling the number of the car rental place up the road. Wireless had dropped out. I left my bag with Lisa and asked her to watch it while I did a mad dash about 1/2 mile in 35 degree heat with approximately 90% humidity – only to find they had no cars.

Mistake Number 2: I didn’t swap phone numbers with Lisa. Running back, I started worrying I would now miss the bus. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I was worried about making a bus that was going to make me late for my flight.

I ran back just in time to see the bus take off around the corner.
Mistake Number 3: not being clear with Lisa what she should do with my bag, in the event this happened. Yes, I know, I’m a bloody idiot.

No sight of my bag. I ran to the info desk guy, screaming at him to Stop. The. Bus. My bag was on it. Nashville. Late. Flight. Houston. Missed. Yell, yell, yell. Because it’s very helpful to yell in a situation like this.

He just laughed at me, dripping with sweat carrying on like a maniac and told me to calm down – he had my bag.

Hadn’t i got my car, he wanted to know. I explained my situation to him and he and a sweet lady started helping me work through my options.

I’d change my flight. It would cost me an extra $50. But I still had to get to Nashville. The next bus was cutting it fine again, and i certainly didnt want to go through this whole ordeal twice in one day. And besides i wouldn’t get to Houston until midnight.

Or I could fly from Memphis for an extra $400. And still get there at 7pm. By this stage all I wanted was a solution. And a couple of shots of tequila. It was only 1030 in the morning. I took the flight from Memphis.

We stopped in Dallas, and the flight was delayed for about an hour. I think for Morgan Freeman.

When I arrived at Houston, I did my usual thing of freshening up in the restroom before going to the baggage claim area. Let everyone else scrabble for theirs first, mine’s usually waiting for me. There were a couple of bags circulating restlessly but mine was nowhere to be seen. Then I got a tap on the shoulder by an airport official. Not what anyone wants.

“Did you just come in from Dallas, m’am?”
yes.
“Do you have your bag identification tag?”
yes.
“Come with me, please”

I feel my blood pressure rising for the second time that day.

“Your bags are still in Dallas, m’am”
I justed started laughing.
of course they’re in freakin Dallas. Where else would they be.
“pardon me, m’am?”
nothing.

Basically I wouldn’t get my bags until the following day. They gave me a toiletries bag. I asked them if they had spare pairs of panties. They laughed. I was being serious.

I got to Dave’s quite late. Jamie greeted me with a big hug. Dave handed me a beer and introduced me to his gorgeous wife, Rita. I reckon that was the best beer I’ve ever drank in my life. I was very glad to be in Houston. Finally.

***

That night, we went to a few different places to catch up, drink and listen to music. The thing that has struck me most about the bars, pubs, and clubs right across the States is there really is such a diversity in look and feel… Pubs in Australia tend to be quite homogenous by comparison.

We spent the weekend at a music festival called Freepress Summerfest. Started by a street press publication, it is now in its 3rd year and has already featured the Flaming Lips and Yeasayer on the bills. This was a “small” festival for Texas, with just 50k odd goers. It was damn hot all weekend with temperatures peaking at just over 40 degrees. I met a good bunch of Rita and Dave’s friends and a big day was had on the 1st day.

We had some dramas on the 2nd day, because I hadn’t been issued with a festival wristband, only an alcohol wristband. I got into a lengthy argument with the volunteer gatekeepers, who were insistent that I would have received one. I hadn’t. They were clear they had no intention of letting me in because I was supposed to have kept it on. This then escalated into a very heated debate with various other people who couldn’t help me and a couple of arrogant hick cops on a power trip. I was insisting on seeing a paid event manager, and was starting to lose my shit. I was almost at the point of getting myself arrested when Rita and a couple of good cops saved the day. We were escorted around to a side gate of the festival and I was given a new wristband and told to avoid the front entrance when leaving that night. We ended up having a great day (a bit more subdued than the Sat, but fun nonetheless) and I was especially stoked to sneak backstage to congratulate Cut Copy, who one of the last acts of the day, on an awesome gig. They have a massive following in Texas, and were a perfect way to end the weekend.

The next day I just mooched about the neighborhood, poking around in vintage clothes shops looking for a pair of cowboy boots (sadly none to be found) and got myself organized for New Orleans over a couple of iced teas.

I shared a lovely Tex Mex meal with the boys, Rita and her cute-as-a-button little girl and turned in early for a stupid o’clock flight bound for Louisiana.

7 June