The Best Food is Whole Foods

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See what they did there?…  Anyway… I was just at the Whole Foods Market for dinner, it’s absolutely my favorite place, and I discovered that not only do they have delicious foods, but they also have great local events like cooking classes and cheese clubs.

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Whole Foods is a large food chain that adds the local touch. They sell plenty of local produce and their dining areas often feature art from local artists.

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And then there’s this…

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Vegan Meatballs! They actually taste like meatballs too. Do you know how long it has been since this vegetarian has had anything like that? Needless to say, I was very excited. I am still all in support of local business, but with Whole Foods you get some of both! If you’re blessed enough to have one in your area, go check it out. Take a cooking class. Become a cheese monger!

Key West on the Cheap

I already posted about my favorite things to do in Key West. Now, for all the things that you can do on a budget…

1. See all the typical Key West landmarks.

The Southernmost Point. Get your picture taken with the famous monument, and grab a snow cone from the vendor that is always there on the street. Trust me, you’ll be hot enough to want one.

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Mile 0 of highway 1.

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The Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square.

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2. Shopping! Both window and otherwise.

There are plenty of touristy stores where you can find souvenirs and handy travel underwear..

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Or you can pop some tags in one of the many thrift stores…

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3. Go see the Key West Aquarium.

It’s tiny, but well worth the $15 entry fee. You can even get cheaper tickets if you pre-purchase them online.

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There’s a petting tank with stingrays and other ocean critters..

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You can feed some fish and see some pretty large sharks…

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4. Grab a cheap book for charity and do some reading in the sunshine.

On your way down the Keys, you’ll pass Baby’s Coffee…

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…stop in and grab a drink, I recommend the chai iced latte, but all the drinks are good..

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… then grab a book and give a donation. If you have any books with you that you’ve already finished, here is the perfect place to drop them so another traveler can enjoy them…

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… Then go sit by your hotel pool or the beach with your chai iced latte, read your book and work on your tan.

5. Play pool at the Green Parrot.

The Green Parrot isn’t right on Duval, which makes it more of a locals hangout. “Locals hangout” can also be translated too “full of strange Key  Westers who make for good entertainment via people watching.”

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I’d love to hear any other suggestions!

Top 5 Things to do in Key West

There is so much to do and see in Key West, and often with very little time, you don’t want to waste time and money while you’re there. Here are my top five touristy things that everyone who visits Key West should do…

1. Take a snorkel tour on the reef.

You can snorkel anywhere in the Keys, but you won’t beat the scenery on the reef. You’ll see so many types of plant and aquatic life. I have been a few times, but this last time was the best. I saw a nurse shark (not as scary as you’d think!), Barracuda (much scarier than the shark), Yellow Fin Tuna, Tarpon, Yellow Tail Snapper, Grouper, Blue Parrot Fish, Sheep’s head and so many more…

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It’s harder to find water that is more beautiful than what’s in the Key’s. When you’re passing along the south side of Key West, there’s a really well defined line dividing the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf. It’s pretty cool to see…

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Even cooler through one of the deck-hands expensive Costa sunglasses.. The tour costs around $45 per person, plus a tip for the staff. It’s the only thing on the list that is slightly costly, but it’s well worth the money.

2. Mallory Square

From costly to free! Mallory Square has a sunset celebration that happens every evening. The Square is right at the end of Duval Street and very easy to find. Just look for the crowd of people with random jugglers, tightrope walkers and acrobats popping up throughout them…

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“Look, Mom, I’m a lamppost.”

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The cat show is great, but also bizarre. You should also see Dr. Juice’s tumbling show. He’s been performing on Mallory since I’ve been going, which is well over a decade now. The tightrope walker is also a permanent fixture on Mallory. The rest of the performers rotate pretty regularly but they are all very good. It’s also a good place to buy souvenirs, with several artists selling locally made goods. The best conch fritters in Key West are sold there too, so order half a dozen and don’t forget a side of spicy mustard!

3. Paddle Boarding

Despite being an island, Key West only has one tiny beach. The beach itself isn’t particularly exciting, but Sunset Water Sports has a booth where you can rent all kinds of things like paddle boards, kayaks, mini sailboat things and beach chairs. The paddle boards are only $22 an hour and they’re so much fun! It’s hard at first, but once you get the hang out it, it’s pretty easy.

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Until your mother “accidentally” pushes you off…

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3. The Cuban Chugs Exhibit

I already wrote a post about it, but I think it’s worth mentioning twice. It’s really eye-opening to the hardships that other people are dealt and made me really thankful to live in the country that I do.

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5. Get some good Cuban food!

There are so many delicious places to eat in the Keys, especially Cuban places! Being only 90 miles from Cuban, I’d say it’s pretty close to the real thing. Sandy’s Cafe is one of my favorite places, but there are plenty of options and trying them all out is the best part…

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So there you have it. Those are my top five! Beyond that, the jet ski tours are a lot of fun and the ghost walks have a lot of interesting history. Really, you can do anything while you’re there and it will be great. You’re in Key West which is better than where you’d be if you weren’t on vacation!

Bradenton Flea Market

As much as I wish Bradenton had something like the Nashville Farmers Market, we definitely do not. What we do have is good enough for me, though. The Bradenton Flea Market is the absolute best place to buy produce in town. Great prices and excellent food..

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LOOK at those tomatoes! Only $.25 each. If you tried to buy a tomato at Walmart, you’d easily pay double, AND you’d have to actually go to Walmart. I’m not sure which is worse. Also, when you buy something at a produce stand, it’s actually ripe enough to eat that day. You don’t have to leave it sitting in the kitchen for a week, waiting for it to become edible!

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Tell me what’s tastier than a ripe avocado? That’s right. Nothing.

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The actual Flea Market is only open Thursday-Sunday, but the produce stand in the front is open everyday, except for Monday. Stop in and look around. Your wallet and your tummy will appreciate it.

Latte Luna

What town, large or small, shouldn’t have a locally run coffee house with friendly staff, tasty treats and cozy atmosphere? Bradenton finally got their own a few weeks ago when Latte Luna opened up.

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It’s right on Manatee Ave in an old frame house from the 1920’s. There are plenty of comfy places to sit inside. That makes it easy to spend hours socializing and sipping coffee, tea or maybe even a milkshake.

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It is always good to support small business. Not only does the company provide jobs in your area, but all the money goes back into the local economy, and not to some big corporate office somewhere else. Latte Luna is also committed to giving back in other ways. All of the tips that they receive go to various charities, and the charity changes each month.. How great is that? So next time you are out and about, skip the Starbucks and stop in Latte Luna for your cup of joe.

Nashville Downtown Hostel

There cannot possibly be a better place to stay if you’re visiting Nashville than the Nashville Downtown Hostel. First, and MOST importantly, the place is super clean and safe. You need a key card to get anywhere inside. It can seem annoying to swipe your card at 3 different doors before you get to your room, but I would much rather that than anyone being able to come and go as they please. The kitchen and bathrooms were also very tidy all the time. The common area is huge and the best part is they have a bunch of instruments lying around for everyone to use. I heard banjos, guitars, a harmonica and piano playing during my few nights there. Here’s a sample…

The video also shows a little bit of the kitchen and common areas. Pretty nice, huh? I didn’t really get any pictures of the bedrooms or bathrooms, so you’ll just have to take my word that they’re nice. I’m not sure if the hostel can really take credit for this, but we also met some great people while we were there. We had lovely roommates from West Virginia..

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We are now Best Friends For Life and planning our next trip all together! Plus we met more people downstairs from Canada, Australia and the U.K.

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The hostel couldn’t possibly have a better location. You are literally a 2 minute walk away from the main downtown area. Also around the corner is a soda shop where you can find almost any flavor of soda. This includes Buffalo Wing Soda and Bacon Soda. The Buffalo Wing Soda just tasted like weird orange soda, but the bacon soda tasted like… well watch the video to find out…

So, whether you’re traveling on your own or with friends, stay at the Nashville Downtown Hostel. You’ll have a great of time!

Nashville Farmers Market

We found the Nashville Farmers’ Market by accident while we were driving around the city and we were not disappointed by our decision to stop. They had plenty of BEAUTIFULLY ripe fruits and vegetables..

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Local honey..

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Jams and pickled things…

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Inside, they had several small booths selling different beauty products and candles etc…

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This candle booth had candles that smelled like everything from fresh linen to fruit loops to leather. I was boring and just went with “Breeze.”

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There is also a nice cafeteria…

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…with everything from Indian food…

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… to BBQ..

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You know you are in the south when there is an entire menu section dedicated to varieties of Grits!

My favorite was probably the kettle corn place.

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I have never seen so many varieties of kettle corn! We sampled many of them, and they were all fantastic!

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Of all the food we tried in Nashville, this was probably the best. I have to recommend that you go there and buy a couple of bags. I can’t believe I never noticed the White Cheddar Jalapeno and the Dill Pickle! That’s it! Time to go back!

Makes Me Want To Take A Backroad

Hellooo writer’s block. I have to take my GRE this morning so of course my brain thought it would be an excellent idea to wake up at 5AM for absolutely no reason. Fantastic! There isn’t really a method to the madness of writing these posts. I just scroll through my pictures and the first thing that catches my eye gets a post. This morning, at 5AM, it was the things we saw on the back-roads of Tennessee.

We took the back-roads often, but we mostly only drove on the first and last days. The rest of the time, we were in Nashville. We arrived there and found it impossible to leave, so we did a lot less driving than we had originally planned.

Our first stop, once we were outside of Knoxville, was Oral’s Elegant Junk…

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Who wouldn’t stop there?? Unfortunately, it was closed. That may or may not have kept us from being chopped into tiny pieces and thrown into a river. I guess we’ll never know. Then we stopped at a few smaller antique/thrift shops which were not what I would call exciting.. but then… we saw this beautifully promising sign..

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Bargains AND MORE? What could you possibly want beyond bargains? We had to investigate. Upon driving up the long twisty driveway, this is what we found…

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Why yes, that’s a 6′ by 10′ shed… I’m not sure how much “bargains and more” could fit in this place, but there was no turning back now…

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Apparently, she’s a couponer and she sells her extras, using a deceptively large sign to lure people in. I only say deceptive because her sign was probably bigger than the whole shed. At least she “excepts” major credit cards

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The people were really very sweet, and I was able to buy some paper towels which definitely came in handy so I can’t really complain. It’s always an adventure.

Our best stop was probably on our way back home. We had just been to a park for some relaxation and river frolicking and we’d worked up a pretty good appetite. That’s when we saw this place…

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The food is very southern, which means a lot of fried food and a lot of meat. For us vegetarians, there is a grilled cheese option that they make with Texas toast. Add some tomatoes and it’s perfection! The owners were there and so friendly! They gave us a lot of recommendations on things to do in the area like white water rafting, kayaking, parks etc. Too bad it was our last day!

The decor is very hunter chic..

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One deer even gave the place two thumbs up…

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Terrible joke. I apologize..

Here’s the address, 3292 STATE HWY 158 SOUTH, GEORGETOWN, TN 37336. If you’re driving from Chattanooga to Knoxville, I definitely recommend stopping for some lunch.

Waiting With Friends

I still haven’t had the time to write about the George Jones Memorial Service. There is just so much to say and I have to find the right words. I did want to share about the wonderful couple that we had the pleasure of getting to know while we waited in line for SEVERAL hours…

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I don’t even remember what started our conversation, but we just kept on talking for the whole three hour wait. It went so much faster thanks to that lovely lady. She even had gave us fruit snacks! You know she’s a Southern Mom when she not only brings enough snacks for the two of them, but has the forethought to bring extras to share! She is a realtor in Nashville, so it seemed like she had connections to everyone in the city, even George Jones! She had been inside the man’s house. How cool is that? They also got interviewed by Billboard Magazine, so she’s basically famous.

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People like her are why the term “Southern Hospitality” exists. Thanks for hanging out with us, Ms. Joan!