Girls and Boys; Boys and Girls

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Last edited: 13th June 2019.

In celebration of Pride Month, it felt time to write this blog post… 

For me it was girls first. I can’t remember when I was first attracted to women because I just always was. I had crushes on female celebrities and teachers growing up, secret passions I kept to myself and would write about in diaries. I read about Lesbian icons, lusted after actresses on screen in movies, and felt certain about my sexuality as a teenager. I briefly dated a male friend in school when I was 16 but I just wasn’t feeling it. He put a lot of pressure on me to sleep with him – he was a typical horny 16-year-old – but at that point in my life I didn’t want to sleep with anyone. I was painfully shy with low self esteem and body issues. I wasn’t ready to be intimate with anyone, male or female, but I did know that my feelings for women seemed to be stronger than my feelings for men. When my mum and dad would ask me about dating and if there were any guys I liked, I would shut the conversation down. I wasn’t ready to come out and risk disappointment or judgement. Now I think they would have been very supportive of me, and I could have shared that with them, but at the time it felt deeply personal and terrifying to actually say aloud that I was ‘different’. I just buried myself in my school work and avoided dealing with the issue.            

At university I started to share who I was with trusted friends and became braver when their responses were so positive. I had feelings for a female lecturer who was in a relationship with a woman. She was very sweet with me, respecting my feelings, but it was clear she was very much in love with her girlfriend. We became good friends and she gave me the confidence to just be me, to be open with my thoughts and feelings. She also told me that I didn’t have to label myself if I didn’t want to, that it was entirely up to me who I wanted to be. When I made a comment during a class presentation about Sigourney Weaver in Alien being a sexy badass and quipped ‘but enough of my fantasies’, my classmates responded warmly and my lecturer/friend told me how proud she was of me. Today she is happily married to the woman she was with all those years ago, they have two much-loved daughters and live in Melbourne.

Post-university, I met the guy who became my first love. I was 22 and he was a total game-changer. It wasn’t the case that once I met a man I was attracted to and loved that I ‘turned straight’, that’s nonsense. He was a huge surprise to me, a total eye-opener that made me realise that it’s OK to be attracted to men and women. He was gorgeous. Tall, athletic, with lovely eyes and a soft Geordie accent. He was shocked to be my first, but completely understanding when I explained that until him, it had just been women. We had a great relationship while it lasted, eventually parting as we wanted divergent things in life. He knew I was still attracted to women when I was with him but we trusted each other, both being faithful, and we would often joke with each other about the women we were attracted to. Our tastes in women were very different which was interesting and amusing. Our sex life was fantastic and I’m grateful that he helped me to overcome the body issues that had, until him, been holding me back.

After our relationship, I became comfortable with not identifying myself as either gay or straight. Sex with men and with women is satisfying in their different ways but I have always found sex to be better with people I have feelings for, rather than casual encounters, whether I’m sleeping with a man or a woman. On the sexuality spectrum I sit somewhere in between and I’m fine with that. I loved it when the beautiful Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones said that she loves a soul, not a gender, because that’s exactly how I feel. I get involved with people I click with, feel connected to, want to share my time with, am attracted to, irrespective of their gender. For me there has to be more than just a physical attraction – I also need to be mentally stimulated and emotionally engaged to bother getting involved with someone. I have tended to date more men than women but that hasn’t been a conscious choice and I am very open to dating men and women in the future. What matters is how someone makes you feel and the quality of the relationship, not the anatomy of the people involved. Love is love.    

I remember how I felt growing up, not wanting to reveal who I was, and it makes me sad to know that there are people in the world living a lie, who feel they can’t publicly be their true selves. I totally understand the pressures that exist, that people may be living in countries that are anti-gay, have families who are religious and perhaps not accepting, may fear being trolled or even physically attacked for just being you, and if that is your experience, my heart goes out to you. Living an open life is liberating and something everyone deserves. This Pride Month, find the courage to be yourself, gay, straight, whatever, and please support everyone in the global LGBTQ+ community. 

Peace & love, take care,

Lisa.

📧 uncagedartbird@gmail.com

 

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Gaslighting Survival Guide

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Last edited: 13th June 2019

*Trigger warning: this post discusses Gaslighting and emotional abuse. 

This post links with ‘Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…)’ https://wp.me/p9u5hw-Gr and ‘Invisible Scars’ https://wp.me/p9u5hw-Sf

Note: Last year I made the difficult decision to speak up about an emotionally abusive situation I experienced that impacted my personal and professional life. Abuse of power and emotional abuse are unacceptable. Sending love and thanks to those who have supported me 😘 Hopefully my blog posts will prevent others from going through similar situations, help those who are experiencing gaslighting/emotional abuse and may need support, and let victims know that they are not alone. I hope no one finds, like I did, that when they have the courage to speak up, no one wants to listen/believe them. The response to my posts has been amazing and proves that good can come from challenging/unpleasant life experiences. Peace ✌️💕

In an earlier post, ‘Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…)’ I discussed my own experience of being gaslighted within a relationship. In this post I would like to give some tips to help those who suspect they are being gaslighted by someone in their life, whether that be by a parent, a colleague, friend or romantic partner.

The psychological term Gaslighting originates from the 1944 film Gaslight in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going insane. It has come to describe psychologically/emotionally abusive behaviour that has the intent to cause the victim to question their memory, their perception, and doubt their sanity. Why would someone want to gaslight someone else? To gain power and control. It tends to happen slowly, over a period of time, and can be absolutely devastating to the victim. I felt completely unravelled, a shadow of who I was, by the time I made my escape from my ex – one of the most deceitful and manipulative men I’ve ever met. During the relationship I became emotionally unstable, prone to irrational, compulsive thoughts, cried frequently, felt paranoid, had trust issues, and as my mental health deteriorated, my relationships with the other people in my life, family, friends, and work colleagues were negatively impacted, thereby isolating me. Gaslighters convince you that you can only trust them, that only they understand you, and encourage dependency. Everyone else is stupid. Everyone else is wrong. Only they truly care. They will play mind games with you. For example, saying one thing to you and then another thing to someone else, pitting you against each other. When conflict ensues, you ironically turn to the abuser for support, unaware that they have created the issue, undermined you, making you increasingly reliant upon them. These parasites feed off your attention, your neediness, and enjoy playing you like a puppet, whilst maintaining an act of sincerity. This is why gaslighting and emotional abuse need to be taken seriously, with abusers held accountable.      

What should you do if you suspect you are being gaslighted?      

  • Do your research. Read about gaslighting techniques or talk with a trained professional so you are informed about the behaviours to watch out for. Once I knew what to look out for, I was able to keep a record of the things that happened whilst still in the relationship. The record helped to prove that my relationship with my ex was not healthy and was also valuable during counselling sessions.
  • Don’t be naive. Always remember that you are dealing with a very clever individual who is adept at manipulation. Simply talking to them and explaining your concerns is going to be ineffective. They will persuade you that you are wrong, convince you that they’ve done nothing wrong, and possibly say phrases like ‘You know I care about you, how could you think I would do anything to hurt you?’ Or ‘I’m disappointed you think that I am capable of that.’ They know how to turn things on you, to make you feel guilty and question yourself. Many times my ex did things that were unacceptable but after calling him out on his behaviour, I would often end up feeling bad and apologise to keep the peace.
  • Keep a record and collect evidence. An online diary that only you have access to could be safer than a written diary that could be found and read by the abuser. I created a Google Docs online diary and wrote down everything that happened in the relationship that I identified as being a gaslighting technique, or anything that was unacceptable to me – blatant lying, manipulative phrases, when his actions didn’t match his words, things done to deliberately confuse or wound etc. For evidence, I collected emails, regularly saved transcripts of WhatsApp conversations and took screenshots. You are always in a position of strength when you have truth AND evidence on your side – even if no one wants to listen/believe you. Knowing you have proof in black and white will make you feel more certain about what happened and make it easier to explain it to others if necessary.         
  • Share what is happening. If you have other people in your life that you trust, try to tell them about things that happen. For example, I did share some incidents with trusted friends and showed them messages. However, no one knew the full extent of the emotional abuse as I kept so much to myself. When I did eventually speak up, it was hard for people to believe me as they didn’t know everything that had happened and they didn’t get that it wasn’t just one event; gaslighting is a collection of manipulative actions and behaviours over a period of time.
  • Trust the evidence, particularly when dealing with gaslighting within a romantic relationship. When you love someone, it is natural to want to believe them and trust them so when they start to gaslight you, you make excuses for them. This allows them to continue to get away with abusing you. If your gut instinct is telling you something is off and you don’t like how someone is making you feel, pay attention to that and trust the evidence. If you speak up about their abuse, they will discredit you and make you appear crazy – but the evidence will speak for itself, making them look foolish. At the very least, you will know that you are right when others try to tell you you are wrong.      
  • Leave the situation. I stayed far too long in a relationship that I knew was harmful to me because I loved him. Put distance between you and your abuser. With distance from both them and the manipulation, over time you will gain clarity and the strength to fight back/ move on. You have a right to be happy. You have a right to good mental health and healthy relationships. You have a right to remove anyone from your life who harms your wellbeing and negatively impacts your life. Life is too short for such bullsh*t.

Recovery after gaslighting can be slow but you will get there in time, with help. These days I am in a good place mentally and emotionally, unless something triggers me – for example, a phrase that someone says, or a manipulative relationship in a TV show, can take me back to a dark place, but I try to surround myself with positive people and count my blessings. I have a new life now, I’m living in a different country, I’m doing a different job, and I am happy I got away. It’s a work in progress. Until recently I had never taken any form of revenge or sought ‘payback’ for what someone has done to me but I made an exception for my ex. I had my reasons; long story short I gave him a taste of his own medicine. What can I say, I learned from the best. I would not, however, recommend others doing the same. If you can, leave it to karma, walk away with your head held high and focus on self-care and healing. Another ex love of mine reached out to me a few weeks ago after reading my blog posts to send some words of support and told me he considers our relationship to be one of the best he’s had. He said I was a considerate and loving partner to him and he was shocked to read about my experience of emotional abuse and gaslighting. Amazing the difference kind words can make. Certainly made me feel a lot better. You can put a horrible relationship behind you and there are plenty of others out there who will treat you with the love and respect you deserve. 

I really want to help others who may be experiencing abusive situations so I will continue to share my experiences, write blogs about the issues that are important to me, and hope that my writing encourages someone else to find the courage to positively change their life, as I have.  

Take care,

Lisa.   

📧 uncagedartbird@gmail.com

Tripping to Brighton

Click here to access the full list of Artbird Network properties and other travel promos https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/

An easy day trip from London is a visit to the seaside resort of Brighton, located on the South Coast of England. I’ve wanted to come to Brighton ever since I read Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock as a teenager and as much as I love London, sometimes it’s lovely to escape the city to be by the sea. Brighton is regarded as the LGBTQ capital of the UK and the vibe of tolerance and diversity makes it an exciting and fun place to visit. Before going I consulted two of my favourite websites for suggestions of things to do – Atlas Obscura http://bit.ly/2Mi6oEf and Culture Trip http://bit.ly/2W77Adr. Atlas Obscura is a great source for all the weird and wonderful things there are to see and do in places around the world and Culture Trip (which also has an App you can download articles to read offline – invaluable when I was in Cuba with little Internet access) is brilliant as various articles suggest essential sights, restaurants etc. Armed with a rough list of key sites, I set off for my day trip.

I booked my train ticket through the Trainline App the day before going. Using the App I was able to select the cheapest journeys and I paid £19 for a return ticket (including booking fee). A ticket bought on the day at the station would have cost me £27. It was cheaper to travel from London Blackfriars station with Thameslink than to travel from London Victoria. London Blackfriars is easily reached using the Underground. The journey time from Blackfriars to Brighton was only 1 hour 13 minutes. There are regular trains running to and from Brighton. When you exit the station, take the road straight ahead to walk down to the sea front.

Suggested Activities

The Seafront

  • Visit Brighton Palace Pier – free to walk along.
  • Enjoy fish and chips by the sea – but watch out for seagulls who like to steal your food!
  • Buy a stick of Brighton Rock at The World Famous Brighton Rock Shop on the street parallel to the sea front (55 Kings Road).
  • Grab a drink at one of the many bars and restaurants and watch the waves and the sun go down – I had a glass of wine at Tempest Inn. The interior is designed to look like caves. The outside seating area is perfect for people watching.
  • Go up the British Airways i360, a 162-metre observation tower. An adult ticket is £16.50 if you buy it on the day at the venue.
  • Visit the newly opened Upside Down House – next to the i360 tower – in which all of the rooms are inverted. Tickets cost £4
  • Walk along the sea front to the colourful Hove Beach Huts, a short walk from the i360.
  • Visit the Sea Life Centre – the World’s oldest operating aquarium. An Adult ticket bought on the day costs £20. Tickets are currently 40% cheaper when bought online.
  • About a mile west of the Palace Pier lies Brighton Marina and the start of the Undercliff Walk if you fancy some scenic exercise.

Away from the Sea

  • A must-do is a visit to the absolutely stunning Royal Pavilion. Built as a holiday home for King George VI, the opulence of the Chinese-themed interior is breathtaking. When I visited there was an exhibition of Stephen Jones’ Hats. Tickets cost £15 when bought at the venue. Tickets are cheaper online. Take your smartphone with you and you can access two free audio tours, using the Pavilion’s free wifi.
  • Also in the same grounds as the Royal Pavilion, you can visit the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Tickets cost £6.
  • Visit The Lanes – an area of narrow lanes, with small shops, pubs and restaurants.
  • Go on a Ghost Walk – meet outside the Druid’s Head Pub. An adult ticket is £8.
  • Mooch around the shoppers paradise of North Laine, a bohemian area full of vegan cafes, vintage clothing stores, bars and restaurants. This area boasts the largest selection of independent retailers on the South Coast. Highlights include This is Not A Butchers gift shop and the quirky Snoopers Paradise, Brighton’s biggest antiques and vintage emporium.
  • Pop into St Bartholomew’s Church, which has one of the tallest interiors in England. Some say that it was built to the measurements of Noah’s Ark.
  • Near to St Bartholomew’s Church is Bardsley’s Fish and Chip restaurant, lauded as one of the best in Brighton. Loved my chips and mushy peas takeaway from here so I can recommend.
  • Also nearby is the Brighton Open Market. Redeveloped in 2014, it is now home to 50 local producers and creators. Opposite The Gnarly Trunk gift shop you will find the Brighton Fairy Folly, created by artist David Mayhew as a home for ‘fairies, hobbits, mermaids and witches’.
  • Street Art fans will enjoy finding hidden gems all around Brighton.

*Something I’ve read on other blogs as a suggestion is a Brighton Sewers Tour but note that this is now permanently closed.

Getting Around Brighton

The key sites of Brighton are easily accessed on foot but there is also a Hop On Hop Off bus tours operating around the resort. Tickets cost £14 and can be bought here http://bit.ly/2YUGZ4M

Selection of pictures from my day trip:

I Believe In Nashville: A Travel Guide

Click here to access the full list of Artbird Network properties and other travel promos https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/

  • Stayed: March – April 2019
  • Accommodation: Music City Hostel (I slept in an Airstream on the property whilst working as an Ambassador at the hostel; I worked 28 hours per week in exchange for free accommodation), and then stayed at a friend’s house in East Nashville on dog-sitting duties.

‘I Believe In Nashville’ is the title of a mural by Adrien Saporiti that appears in various places around Nashville and frequently appears in tourists’ photos on Instagram. Meant as an expression of support, it’s unabashed celebration of the city captures how I felt after spending two months living and working there and was therefore the perfect title for my second, and final blog, on Nashville. For my first post, ‘Welcome to Nashville, y’all’ https://wp.me/p9u5hw-1C3 I covered the main sights of Downtown Nashville, which is where the majority of travellers visiting the city spend their time. As much fun as it can be to bar-hop down Broadway’s Honky Tonks, there is much more to Nashville than that and the locals tend to avoid going to Broadway as it’s full of drunk tourists. To really love and appreciate Nashville, you have to venture away from Downtown and check out the treasures of other neighbourhoods. This blog post is intended to give you an insight into other areas worth exploring and suggest highlights to inspire you. Enjoy! 🙂

MIDTOWN

Music Row is located in this area so this is where you can see some of the major recording studios as well as visit the famous Historic RCA Studio B, where the likes of Elvis have recorded – note that to visit Studio B, you have to buy an official tour through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Vanderbilt University is also in this area so you can find some cool bars and eateries offering food and drink deals to attract students. Highlights:

  • Patterson House – swanky bar. You will have to wait to get in as every customer is allocated a seat. It’s definitely worth the wait. Cosy and dimly-lit inside, your bartender will suggest drinks for you. Not cheap but good for a treat.
  • Whisky Jam at Winners Bar – this is a free concert on Mondays and Thursdays where people go to watch real talent. Go early as the venue gets packed out.
  • Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the original in Athens. An adult ticket is £6. Worth a visit as it is impressive.
  • Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – there are daily queues down the block for this eatery.
  • Buffalo Exchange – a hip store that buys, sells and trades vintage and used clothing for men and women. Great if you are looking for something unique and quirky.

*If you need to buy groceries in this area head to Piggly Wiggly.         

GULCH

A gentrified area of Nashville where you will find upscale boutiques, bars and restaurants. Highlights:

  • The Station Inn – a concert venue that hosts bluegrass acts.
  • Pemrose – I enjoyed a meal here with friends when it had just opened. A lovely seafood restaurant. I can recommend the mussels and fries appetiser.

*If you need to buy groceries in this area head to Turnip Truck.

HILLSBORO VILLAGE

Trendy area of Nashville with character. Highlights:

  • Belcourt Theatre – a nonprofit cinema that shows classic and arthouse films.
  • Biscuit Love – keen to try southern biscuits? Biscuit Love is the place for you. The original opened in the Gulch but the Hillsboro Village venue tends to be quieter. Open for breakfast until 3pm daily.
  • The Grilled Cheeserie – as I love a grilled cheese sandwich I couldn’t wait to eat here and it did not disappoint!

12SOUTH

Upscale neighbourhood with boutiques and hip eateries. Home to one of the most photographed ‘I Believe In Nashville’ murals (located opposite Draper James). Highlights:

  • Draper James – Reese Witherspoon’s clothing store.
  • The Flipside – relaxed place offering 22 versions of sautéed chicken.
  • Bartaco – popular taco spot.

GERMANTOWN

Upscale historical neighbourhood with many restored Victorian buildings. Worth a wander around. Highlights:

  • Monells – highly rated Southern dining. Come here hungry and ready to eat!
  • The Cupcake Collection – they lured me in with the promise of a free cupcake – I was given a small sample sweet potato cupcake to try – and I left with a delicious red velvet cupcake.

EAST NASHVILLE

East Nashville is the equivalent of New York’s East Village. Cool and quirky with lots of character. Its laid-back arty vibe makes this a popular place to live in Nashville. Highlights:

  • The 5 Spot – Sunday Night Soul is a bi-monthly event and Motown Monday is every Monday. The Sunday Night Soul event I attended was brilliant – amazing singing talent was showcased. £10 entry fee. Highly recommended.
  • 5 Points Pizza – lauded as the best pizza in Tennessee. I certainly enjoyed my pepperoni pizza and can recommend the garlic knots.
  • 5 Points Tacos – popular food truck with tasty tacos.
  • Ghot Wingz – no frills chicken wing eatery
  • Lipstick Lounge – Gay-friendly bar that welcomes everyone. Fun venue.
  • 4Way Market – massive craft beer selection on offer.
  • Attaboy – speakeasy no-menu cocktail bar. I didn’t make it here but I’m told by friends that it is great.
  • Shoppes on Fatherland – lovely collection of stores perfect for an afternoon mooch around.
  • Local Honey hair salon (download the 20% off voucher from their website before you go) – if you need to get your hair done in Nashville, I had an excellent experience here. Mackenzie, my stylist, was warm, friendly and she did a good job of my highlights.

Other Suggestions

  • Grand ‘Ole Opry – a must-do for country music fans
  • Opry Mills – huge outlet mall
  • The Hermitage – this historical mansion was the home of President Andrew Jackson
  • Belle Meade Plantation
  • Nashville Zoo

Useful websites worth checking out when planning a trip to Nashville:

Nashville Guru http://nashvilleguru.com/

Nashville Scene https://www.nashvillescene.com/

Blog about Nashville’s Street Art https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/nashville-murals/ Fantastic street art can be found all over the city and this blog gives a useful overview of key areas and standout pieces that should not be missed.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

 

 

Good Hotel London

Stayed: May 2019

  • Use the code STAYGOOD when booking direct on www.goodhotellondon.com to get 10% off your stay.
  • For every direct booking, £5 per night is donated to underprivileged kids through NGO Niños de Guatemala. 

Good Hotel London is a non-profit floating boat hotel currently located on the Royal Victoria Dock, next to the Emirates Air Line cable car, and within easy reach of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) Royal Victoria station and London City Airport. Perfect for guests attending events at the O2 area and ExCel Exhibition Centre.

Originally moored in Amsterdam in 2015, and then towed to London in 2016, Good Hotel London will be moored here at its current location until December 2021. Good Hotel Antigua, located in a former private mansion, opened in 2015. Good Hotel founder Marten Dresen was travelling through Guatemala when he met a little girl with no shoes. This chance meeting sparked the concept; he founded NGO Niños de Guatemala and then created the innovative business model of Good Hotel. The mission of the Good Hotel is clear: to do good whilst offering a premium hotel experience. All profits are re-invested. The Good Training programme offers long-term unemployed hospitality training followed by on-the-job training in the hotels. Good Hotel also collaborates with local businesses and local charities.

Arriving at the hotel after an epic 48-hour journey from Nashville, USA, I was pleased to be greeted by warm and friendly staff, a quick check in process (you are asked to complete your details prior to arrival online) and a personalised welcome note in my room with two chocolate treats. The room itself was lovely: a compact double room with a waterfront view. The room had a desk, tea and coffee-making facilities and a nice range of toiletries in the bathroom. An intercom in the room allows guests to press a button for assistance, whether that be a request for extra quilts, a hairdryer, etc. It was quiet and peaceful in the room, allowing this travel-weary guest to have a great night’s sleep to combat jet lag. I woke up feeling beautifully rested and worry-free – a cute touch was the placement of two small hand-made Guatemalan worry dolls on my bed when I arrived. Tradition says you place them under your pillow to take all of your worries away and I couldn’t resist following this sweet tradition.   

The Living Room, the bar and restaurant on the premises, makes it easy for travellers to relax and enjoy themselves here. The open-plan design and long tables are intended to encourage guests to be social and interact with each other. I throughly enjoyed an evening meal of salmon and rose wine before giving in to the jet lag and grabbing some zzz in my room. The hotel also offers a rooftop bar but typical cold and rainy English weather prevented me from taking advantage during my stay.

The check out process was as simple as check in and you can leave your luggage for free if you wish to explore the London sights after checking out. You could perhaps take a ride on the Emirates Air Line – you can get a discounted ticket with the hotel.

Overall, I had a fantastic stay at Good Hotel London. I love the concept behind the business model and heartily recommend other travellers to support the good work they are doing in London and Guatemala. Stay good, do good.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

 

HUNTER MUSEUM, Chattanooga

📧 uncagedartbird@gmail.com

The Hunter Museum of American Art is an absolute gem and a must-do for all art lovers when in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Dramatically perched on a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River, the museum consists of three buildings, each of differing architectural design: the Hunter Mansion (1952), the Brutalist East Wing (opened in 1975) and the stunning modern addition West Wing (opened in 2005). The Museum showcases different periods of American Art, with early work fittingly located in the beautiful mansion building and modern/contemporary art on display in the East Wing. The West Wing features temporary exhibitions and some fantastic sculptures. The current special exhibition is Alyson Shotz’s Un/Folding.

This is a welcoming and impressive art museum. The staff here are very friendly and you are allowed, and in fact encouraged, to take photographs as you explore the work, which I appreciated as that’s how I like to engage with art. It makes for a relaxed and enjoyable experience, in contrast to some particularly uptight venues I’ve been to round the world who should take note. I spent three hours making my way through all three buildings and the sculptures outside so give yourself plenty of time to see everything at your leisure.

Entry cost for adults is £15. Admission to the permanent collection is free on the first Thursday of every month, from 4pm to 8pm. To view special exhibitions during these times, admission of $5 per adult is required.

Selection of pictures from my visit in April 2019:

 

 

Chattanooga, USA

Click here to access the full list of Artbird Network properties and other travel promos https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/

  • Stayed: April 2019
  • Accommodation: The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel. I booked for a few days but ended up staying for a week. I loved this place! The staff are all lovely, easy-going and happy to make recommendations for hikes etc and the hostel is proud to be eco-friendly. The bunks are great, with privacy curtains. Breakfast is free and you are welcome to make whatever you want for yourself. The shower was one of the best I’ve encountered in all of my hostel experiences. My favourite feature was the fire pit outside and I spent several nights drinking wine by the fire with my hostel buddies. Good times!

Artbird Network Travel Promo: The Crash Pad: An Uncommon Hostel would like to offer my followers 10% off your booking with my promo code ARTBIRD28. Click here to reserve online https://crashpadchattanooga.com/

Keen to explore more of Tennessee after my positive experience of Nashville, I ended up in Chattanooga on a whim. Only a couple of hours drive from Nashville (plus a one hour time difference) and $13 dollars for a single journey on Mega Bus, Chattanooga is definitely worth visiting for those travellers who enjoy outdoor activities and the Arts. Chattanooga is known as The Scenic City as it is located at the base of Lookout Mountain; spectacular views and great opportunities for climbing and hiking can be found in the surrounding area. It is also nicknamed Gig City as the city boasts citywide 10 -gigabit-speed internet, and has become a prime location for Start Ups and entrepreneurs. Back in the day, the city had the first factory bottling Coca Cola and was notorious for its industrial pollution. That is no longer the case today. Residents are proud of the city’s transformation and it has been voted one of the best places to live in the US. It’s not hard to see why. It’s family friendly, green spaces abound, has some fab eateries and drinking spots, and it has a thriving arts and culture scene. As much as I loved my time in Nashville, for me, its smaller Tennessee cousin Chattanooga, was more my kind of place and I would happily live there.

The city is quite compact and walkable but helpfully, a free electric shuttle runs every 5 minutes from the Chattanooga Choo Choo (in Southside where I was based) up to the North Shore, to a station near to the popular Aquarium, which makes it easy to get from one end of the city to the other. You can also rent bikes from bike stations dotted throughout the city.

Suggested Activities

  • Explore Lookout Mountain. Trek through Rock City, visit Ruby Falls (an underground waterfall) or ride the Incline Railway (the world’s steepest, operating since 1895). Another attraction is Point Park, a 10-acre National Park.
  • Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a hotel in the old Terminal Station. Get an instagrammable pic with the illuminated Chattanooga sign. Train enthusiasts can book to stay in one of the old train carriages.
  • Art lovers should check out the Hunter Museum of American Art and their sculpture park. Loved this place!
  • Nearby, you can also explore the Bluff View Arts District, where you will find the River Gallery and sculpture park, and the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts.
  • Explore the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. Download the app OtoCast before you go to listen to each of the artists explaining their sculptures.
  • Check out the public art in Southside or go on a street art hunt around the city – there are some amazing large scale murals to be found, such as ‘Traveling Musician’ by The Artist Seven on Passenger Street.
  • Hang out with pooches and have a beer at Barks and Beers.
  • Visit the Songbirds Guitar Museum – one of the world’s largest private collections of guitars.
  • Visit the African American Museum and Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
  • Go to the Aquarium.
  • Have a look around the vendors at Merchants on Main.
  • Eat a Moon Pie and read about the history of this iconic local treat at the Moon Pie General Store.

Food/Drink Recommendations

  • Next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo there are a couple of different bars and eateries, such as the Terminal Brewhouse. The Frothy Monkey is the perfect place to grab a coffee and people watch. 
  • Main Street Meats – a meat-eaters heaven! Whatever you choose to eat, wash it down with a Homegrown – a mix of Chattanooga whiskey reserve, Mexican coke and peanuts!
  • Flying Squirrel – cool place, offering reduced price drinks and tasty eats during happy hour. Guests staying at The Crash Pad get 20% discount on food.
  • The Pickle Barrel – great place to grab a snack and craft beer on the rooftop terrace. They even offer a fried Moon Pie dessert on the menu.
  • London Calling – classy speakeasy with great cocktails
  • Champy’s – iconic fried chicken venue. Delicious!
  • Taconooga – cheap and tasty tacos.
  • St John’s Restaurant – a good choice for a treat meal
  • Zarzour’s Cafe – this 100-year old food venue offers Southern-style home-cooked classics.
  • Chattanooga Whiskey – one for whiskey connoisseurs
  • Clumpies Ice Cream Co – popular ice cream parlour with an array of flavours.

Selection of pictures from my stay: