The word of the day is…

2 Apr

The word of the day is...

When English is lacking in a word to describe something, thank god we have German to pick up that slack.

What are some of your favorite words to describe something that has no direct English equivalent?

“Nothing Fancy” Series – Part 1

28 Mar

Some of the tastiest food in Nashville can be yours for five dollars or less.  In part one of my “Nothing Fancy” series,  I ventured out to Reina la Bendición, “The Queen’s Blessing,”  on 330 Timmons Street, just up from the Nolensville Pike/Thompson Lane intersection if you’re heading away from downtown.

Reina specializes in El Salvadorean food, and for those in the know, thaReinat means pupusas.  Pupusas are made from masa flour that has been stuffed with beans, cheese, pumpkin flower, meats, etc. and grilled to crispy perfection.  I asked for two bean and cheese pupusas and sat back to watch their tiny, busy kitchen as they hand made all of the food to order.

While their menu is fairly small (and entirely in Spanish), it makes up for it in big flavors.  Pupusas traditionally come with a cabbage slaw, and Reina’s is the best I’ve ever had.  It’s fresh, with hints of lime and spice to it.  Pupusas are a humble $2.25 each and come with a massive portion of (the best ever) slaw and hot sauce. Add a side of yuca frita (fried yuca) and nothing can ruin your day!

Come back next Friday for more in the  “Nothing Fancy” series to get the beat on what to eat, cheap!



Top 7 Free (Tested and Verified) Travel Apps for 2014

3 Feb

I have used the following free apps in the U.S. and internationally and have truly found them indispensable.  As long as you have a data plan or are on wifi, you can access these apps without a problem (many international cities have free wifi hotspots in parks, and you can always get free wifi at McDonald’s if you’re in a pinch).

Pro-Tip: If you think you will not have wifi or data service, make sure to take a picture or screenshot on your phone while you have wifi so you can reference the map offline later.

1.  Google Maps I know this may seem obvious, but after going in and out of service on back roads in Boone, NC to finding that perfect Christmas market in Prague, I have found that I really can rely on Google Maps.  It not only has visual maps but you can also plug in your headphones and hear step by step walking, bike and transit directions.

2.  Hop Stop While Google Maps is great, Hop Stop is essential if you will be using major public transportation.  Not only does it have excellent transit directions in most major U.S. cities, but it also works internationally in Paris, Montreal, Sydney, Moscow, Berlin, Jerusalem and more.  With this app you can pre- set how many transfers are acceptable (like when choosing a flight), if you want bus only, metro only or a combination of both, and you can be sure that you are getting the best directions in English.  Like Google Maps, it offers step by step instructions, but also shows maps in chunks of directions so you can focus on one part at a time.

3.  WeChat – If you’ve traveled overseas and are good at making friends, you will soon realize that you need some way to communicate with people in the town.  If you are on a tight budget, this can be difficult because turning on your cell phone data can rack up astronomical charges.

WeChat is an instant messaging app that supports languages in English, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Italian, Hindi and Turkish.  It is the 5th most used app in the world so many of your new friends may already have the app on their phones.  There is a setting where you can ping people close to you in distance so it is easy to find people without remembering your 10,000th user name.

*Pro-tip: You should know that as long as you and the other person you are communicating with have iPhones and wifi, then you can send each other iMessages.  I have found that especially in Central and Eastern Europe, people do not have quite the same cultish devotion to their iPhones as Americans so WeChat is a great way to keep in touch with local people without having to buy a phone card and use a payphone (So the year 2000).

4.  WC Finder  I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that Starbucks is “the bathroom of New York,” but what about everywhere else?  When Nature calls and you are traveling, you need this app.  It is user supported so all of the bathrooms have been used by travelers like yourself or people with insider knowledge of the town.  There is also another cool option where you can download maps of Paris and London for offline access when you don’t have wifi.  You can also view details and reviews of the bathrooms, such as price/free or dirty/clean.

5.  Global Tipping Have you ever heard that it’s rude to tip in Japan?  Or that it’s ok to just leave small change in Paris?  These things and more you can find in the Global Tipping app.  It does not calculate it for you,  but it does have some incredibly useful notes on customs, and details on where you do/do not tip (Salon, Waiter, Cab Driver, etc.).  While they have many countries around the world, they are not in alphabetical order so you may have to hunt for the place you are looking for.

6.  XE Currency Bad at Math? Me too.  As long as I have the XE Currency App, which is updated constantly with new currency equivalents (which can often change daily), then I can be more confident in going to markets, especially when haggling is the custom.

7.  Google Translate I use this all the time in my daily life even.  Sometimes I just get curious about what a word would be in another language or I forget a word I used to know in a foreign language so I look it up.  You can speak or type and convert to/from any language.  It will also repeat the translated version back to you so if you’re really in a bind and no one speaks English they can talk and you can use this app to translate back and forth.

Sensuous Steel

16 Sep

The Frist Center for the Arts is the only museum I have ever been to without a permanent collection. This has been a point of contention for me, especially when Tennessee State University sold their collection of Georgia O’Keeffe paintings several years back and the paintings left the State instead of being purchased by The Frist.

But then they opened the “Sensuous Steel’ exhibit and maybe I’m starting to change my mind. Being able to wipe out the museum to make room for literally anything is rare, and one of the reasons that Nashville has on exhibit some of the most unique art deco cars ever made; housed inside 1930’s Art Deco Frist Center building. I mean, the whole thing is like a scene out of Gatsby. Or Batman.

The exhibit consisted of 18 cars and motorcycles, most limited editions (like one of three made) and all significant. They are a celebration of beauty, an echo of an America where Detroit and booze brought the Country alive, a story of handmade craftsmanship, lost in sea of mass production.

And tragic in the end.

Wilson County Fair

16 Sep

A haiku to immortalize the end of summer:

Monkeys riding dogs

Screams from the blurry, neon lights

Deep fried snickers bars

The Wilson County Fair (thirty miles outside Nashville) wins awards each year for being one of the best fairs in the Country.  If the Texas State Fair is THE State Fair, then the Wilson County Fair is THE fair.

Just some of my favorite things are the pig races (where some lucky lady will get herself declared “Pig Queen” for the winning pig – I’m Miss Piggy 2008), chocolate covered bacon on a stick, prize winning biscuits, blue ribbon chickens, outrageously large gourds and pumpkins, Fiddler’s Grove Historical Village (complete with a spectacular dioramas of a funeral and jail), bluegrass bands, rodeos, and a tractor pull.

It’s the perfect outdoor adventure for every honky tonk angel…

The Cumberland Plateau

14 Sep

Few places make me feel settled.  As someone with a bit of a wanderlust addiction, it’s hard for me to stop moving because there’s always something else out there, something else to experience.  One place that calms the wanderer in me is Cummins Falls, near Cookeville, TN.  It used to be private property with a series of ropes tied to trees that you had to hold onto if you wanted to live.  Well, some didn’t and the property owners gave the land to the State, where in 2012 it opened as a State Park.  It no longer has the ropes and you don’t have to use a pulley system to get your cooler down but it is still just as beautiful as the first time I saw it summers ago.

Summer iphone  pics 2013 873

I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel

16 Jan

The place really should have been a museum.  A dedication to the poetry, music, art, film, drugs and gonorrhea of New York in the 60’s and 70’s; yet here it sits, closed off from the people it matters most to and a mystery brick skeleton to those who came too late.

In 2010 Patti Smith spoke at Cooper Union and Vanishing New York covered it.  She is quoted as saying, “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie… New York City has been taken away from you… So my advice is: Find a new city.” And I’m pretty sure we should have listened.  In less than two years gone is the Mars Bar, Duffs when it was by the River and awesome, the original Coney Island Arcade, Shoot the Freak, Cha-cha’s, and Chelsea Hotel like CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, Coney Island High, etc. before them.

But ain’t that New York?  A town of wildly rich people towering above starving peasants across the moat in Brooklyn.  They take more and more land away for their ten dollar sandwich shops that fortify the walls of their castles in the sky.

I was lucky enough to spend a less than classy evening in the Hotel before it closed in 2011 with three of my girlfriends.  It ends as to be expected.


Rachel Louise Martin, Ph.D.

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