In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner

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IN CONTROL https://wp.me/p9u5hw-23F

NOTE: Instagram feedback on this post has been amazing! Sorry to hear that so many of you have gone through similar experiences. My heart goes out to you and I appreciate all the positive comments. Take care.

Trigger warning: this post discusses coercive control in relationships, emotional abuse and gaslighting.

There is a difference between someone who just likes to get their own way all of the time, i.e. a selfish f**cker, and someone who is coercively controlling. Many relationships have one partner who tends to take the lead but sometimes their need for control can go too far. This blog post discusses warning signs that your partner may be too controlling, and may indeed be coercively controlling. Coercive control within relationships refers to a spectrum of behaviours that puts one person in a position of dominance and control over their partner. When thinking about coercive control, you may have an image of a man who controls finances within the relationship, won’t let his partner spend money without his consent, won’t let his partner go out without him, who dictates everything his partner does, makes all the major decisions in the relationship, who verbally and/or physically abuses his partner. That’s not necessarily the case although many such men – Romantic Dictators – unfortunately do exist. According to Evan Stark, 2007, Coercive Control. How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life. New York: Oxford University Press, ‘Not only is coercive control the most common context in which women are abused, it is also the most dangerous.’ Like I said, a spectrum of behaviours constitute coercive control. Coercive control is a form of emotional abuse and it can have a serious detrimental impact on your mental health, your wellbeing, and your whole life. That was certainly my own experience.

My last two relationships have been with men who liked to be in control and get their own way. In the first relationship, with a man I have referred to in other blog posts as Mr Control (How To Date An Arsehole, The Cat’s Whiskers), the last few months of this two-year relationship made it clear that I had dodged a bullet when he ended the relationship (as he wanted to be single). Only with hindsight did I recognise just how controlling he had been, and how much I had compromised myself within the relationship to keep the peace. Though I felt the usual sadness experienced after a break up, I was able to quickly pick myself up and get myself back out there… walking straight into a relationship with another controlling man, who I will refer to as The Boss, as he was indeed my boss at work. The difference is The Boss was coercively controlling and getting involved with him was the biggest mistake of my life. As I had had a relationship with a controlling man before, why was I not able to see the signs sooner to avoid getting involved with yet another man who likes to control? The answer is the charm offensive. Defined as ‘a campaign of flattery, friendliness, and cajolement designed to achieve the support or agreement of others,’ I was charmed into the relationship, and my love blinkers prevented me from discerning his true nature and just how catastrophic this relationship would prove to be. Coincidently, Mr Control and The Boss shared the same birthday but they also shared other traits too. I obviously have a type – handsome, highly intelligent, ambitious, witty, charismatic men. Both men were emotionally intelligent, able to engage in thoughtful discussions, and could be supportive and considerate when they wanted to be. As happy as I was at times within each relationship, neither relationship could ultimately go the distance once I realised the different ways they tried to manipulate and control me. I’m an independent strong-minded woman and although I will make compromises for the sake of a healthy, happy relationship, I will always naturally rebel against efforts to control me unnecessarily. I want to be in a relationship with an equal, a loving partner, not a dictator who expects to always get their own way and punishes when you don’t toe the line.

My relationship with The Boss is a long and complicated story that I have blogged about extensively since I left him in April 2018. You can read about it on my About Me page and various blog posts such as How To Date An Arsehole, Gaslighting Survival Guide and Dear Dubai Ex: Closure. Our relationship took place in Dubai, a hypocritical Middle-Eastern city where everything is skewed in favour of men and the rights of women are a joke. As such, he got away with professional misconduct and emotionally abusive behaviour. Controlling and coercive behaviour is an offence in the UK. The law recognises the harm that the cumulative impact of controlling and coercive behaviour can have. It is an offence if the behaviour has a serious effect on the victim, i.e. causes serious alarm or distress which has a substantial adverse effect on their day-to-day activities. For example, two years in to the relationship, there was an incident in which The Boss did something that he knew would hurt me to punish me for chatting to a male colleague at a staff party. I was so devastated, I instructed him to leave me alone, and to go through my line managers if there was a work issue to be dealt with. The Boss ignored my request, summoned me to a meeting in work to tell me there had been a silly complaint about me. He pretended he had done nothing wrong, that I had not requested to be left alone, and tried to manipulate me into compliance by telling me he had my back, implying I should be grateful for his support. This is a textbook example of gaslighting and was not the first time he had caused conflict with his unacceptable behaviour and then tried to manipulate me back in to submission. Unfortunately two years of dealing with this kind of behaviour had taken its toll, I had a breakdown and left Dubai for a week during term time to try to get my head together. I did go back for the kids I taught but I was broken. I managed a couple more months but he pushed me too far and eventually I spoke up to put an end to the situation. This relationship negatively impacted my mental health, my physical wellbeing, my relationships with others and my career. Far too many things happened in the relationship and post-break-up for me to discuss in this post; I’ve only ever shared as much as I felt I needed to to be believed, and to help others who may be in similar abusive situations. The point of this post is not to ‘dish dirt’ but instead to highlight what coercive control is.

Some warning signs of a controlling partner to watch out for:

  • being love-bombed at the beginning of the relationship – over the top gestures, excessive compliments. This is the charm offensive used to sucker you in. Both Mr Control and The Boss did this with me.
  • wanting to be with you all of the time. You feel flattered that they want you by their side all the time but it’s just their way of taking you over. Ensure you have time for yourself and your friends. Mr Control ended up isolating me from my friends because we spent so much time together and he didn’t like my friends.
  • messaging constantly – you may like the fact they want to chat so much but they may be checking up on you, monitoring your activities and who you are with.    
  • telling you what to wear, how your hair should be and what your weight should be. Not OK.
  • critical comments made with the intention of making you feel stupid, that make you feel not good enough, that make you feel as though you are in the wrong even when you’ve done nothing wrong. I remember being sent this classic when I joked I only got a smile emoji back in response to a long WhatsApp comment. The Boss replied, ‘A smile is a good thing and something you used to appreciate.’ Ouch. That told me.
  • encouraging dependency – when they imply that only they understand you, only they ‘get you’, so you get used to going to them for support. I once turned to The Boss for support in a professional matter, only to find out later that he had been the one who had caused the issue and had thrown me under the bus despite telling me he had supported me. It is not uncommon for victims to become overly-dependent on their abusers – it’s akin to Stockholm-Syndrome.
  • mind games – telling blatant lies or going hot and cold to play with your perceptions/emotions.
  • lack of respect for boundaries – they may not respect boundaries you set and will instead just do what they want regardless. For example, not giving you space when you ask for it. If you end the relationship, they may ignore your requests to be left alone. They may prevent you from leaving the relationship if you express a desire to end it and manipulate you into staying.
  • jealousy and possessiveness – they monitor who you chat to or spend time with. They may monitor your social media, to see what you post and who likes or posts comments. They may monitor phone calls, WhatsApps, emails etc, or even track your whereabouts using apps. They may insist that you share your passwords with them. They regard you as theirs, a possession.
  • Sulking and punishment – they go cold on you when upset with you and may do something to retaliate, to punish or let you know they are displeased with you. This is where fear comes into play – fear of letting them down, or fear of losing your job for example. I felt I always had to please The Boss to ensure my career was not impacted; in the end I lost my job when I spoke up about his behaviour. This was, however, a blessing in disguise. 

All of the above can appear to be ‘low-level’ behaviours but they are used to control and assert dominance; over a period of time, they can have serious consequences for victims. Controlling men do not like it when you do not do as you are told, if you fail to comply with their wishes and demands, or if you stand up for yourself, and they will find ways to regain power and control. As confident as these men can appear to be, the need to control often stems from their own deep-rooted insecurities. They may fear that you will leave them so they chip away at you, to make you feel that no one else will want you, or may even tell you that no one else will love you as much as they do. Some men treat women like trophies to make themselves appear more desirable or successful. You may have to look and behave a certain way in order to be ‘good enough’ to be with them. Coercive control has absolutely no place within a healthy relationship. Unchain yourself from anyone who tries to control you, who stops you from being yourself, who makes you unhappy, and does not enhance your life. 

Now fully back in control of my life, I am passionately committed to educating others about coercive control. Victims deserve to be heard and believed and I have spoken up on behalf of so many women who may not recognise that they are experiencing coercive control, or feel too afraid to speak up themselves. I didn’t know what coercive control was until I had counselling and I’m glad I can use my blog, and Instagram, to share my experiences to highlight the issue and encourage others to set themselves free. 

Take care, Lisa.

This post links with Locked Down: How to Set Yourself Free from a Narcissist; Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; How To Date An Arsehole; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…); Invisible Scars and Gaslighting Survival Guide.

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

A Journey In Japan

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

This is a throwback destination guide. People often ask me which place has been my favourite travel destination. Years of travelling around the world means it is difficult to choose a favourite place. I have been fortunate to go to so many great places but if I had to choose one favourite, it would be Japan. I visited Japan in the summer of 2017 and absolutely fell in love with the country, the culture, the food, the people etc. It’s a very special place and an easy and safe destination to travel round solo. Key tourist sites are well sign-posted, the high speed and efficient Shinkansen bullet trains make getting around the country a breeze and you will always find people happy to help you should you need guidance/directions.

Tips:

  • You need to buy your railcard before you go. I bought my pass here Japan Rail Pass. The pass is excellent value for money and gives you unlimited travel provided you follow the instructions. Your Japan Rail Pass entitles you to free seat reservations on valid trains. Reservations can be made in person at train stations. This site offers great advice Seat 61.
  • When in Japan, buy a Pasmo card (similar to London’s Oyster card) that you can top up to pay for public transport. You can buy these from Metro ticket machines.
  • Download the free Tokyo Metro App to help you navigate your way around this sprawling city.

TOKYO

Give yourself plenty of time to explore this huge city. Suggested things to see/do:

  • View Shibuya Crossing from Starbucks.
  • Visit Tsukiji Market and have a fresh sushi lunch.
  • Go to Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park.
  • Go up the Tokyo Skytree.
  • Visit a cat cafe.
  • Catch the show at the Robot Restaurant.
  • Visit Sensō-ji temple.
  • Stroll along Takeshita Street in Harajuku.
  • Sing Karaoke in a branch of Karaoke Kan.

Day trips from Tokyo: Nara, Kamakura, Nikko and Mount Fuji (train journeys from Tokyo)

Nara Famous for the freely roaming deer and temples.

Kamakura: An understated seaside resort with a large buddha statue.

Nikko: National Park with a famous shrine and mausoleum.

Mount Fuji

I didn’t get to go to Mount Fuji during my trip unfortunately as I had left it to do when I returned to Tokyo after exploring the country and I misjudged how much time I needed to do it. If you can, you should definitely go; you can find a suggested day trip itinerary here Mount Fuji Itinerary. It’s at the top of my to-do list when I am next in Japan…

TAKAYAMA

A city with a beautifully preserved old town. You only need a night or two here. Many travellers come here before hiking Japan’s Alps. I really enjoyed my visit here. Such a cute place with small shops, saki bars and restaurants. Stay in a traditional Ryokan if you can and you definitely have to visit an onsen (a hot spring that is a quintessential Japanese experience).

KANAZAWA

A modern city with some fantastic sites to visit. Suggested things to see/do:

  • Kanazawa Castle – impressive historical site.
  • Kenrokuen Garden – lovely landscaped garden.
  • Go for matcha tea in one of the geisha teahouses in the Higashi Chaya district.
  • See contemporary art at the 21st Century Museum.

KYOTO

Absolutely loved my time in Kyoto. It’s less manic than Tokyo, with so many beautiful temples to visit, and no trip to Kyoto is complete without a walk around the geisha district. You can see a geisha performance for an affordable price at Gion Corner. Other suggested things to see/do:

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine – famous for its thousands of red torii gates. Kyoto’s most visited shrine.
  • Visit Arashiyama’s bamboo forest. It can get over-crowded so try to visit early in the day.
  • Walk the Philosopher’s Path (known for cherry blossoms in the spring).
  • Dine in a restaurant in Pontocho Alley.

OSAKA

A modern and vibrant city with a thriving culinary scene. A fun day trip is a visit to Universal Studios Osaka – go just to hear Harry Potter speaking Japanese and ensure you stay for the dementors light show in the evening. I also recommend eating your way round Dōtombori or booking a food tour.

HIROSHIMA & MIYAJIMA

Many travellers visit Hiroshima and Miyajima as a day trip from Tokyo but both places are peaceful at night and are good options for an overnight stay if you don’t want to rush. I chose to stay overnight in Hiroshima and I was glad I did this as Miyajima is a train and ferry ride away from Hiroshima, and it may take you longer to get there and back than you expect. I visited Miyajima in the morning which then gave me plenty of time to explore Hiroshima’s Peace Park. The Peace Museum is excellent, and the park itself has several monuments, such as the Children’s Monument, worth seeing.

I spent three wonderful weeks travelling round Japan focusing on the main places I had read about during my trip research but there is so much to see in this magnificent country so I will definitely be going back. For now Japan, Sayōnara. We will meet again one day.

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

 

Gaslighting Survival Guide

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

As someone who has experienced the detrimental impact of being gaslighted and fully recovered from the trauma, 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. It certainly was for me. I felt like a shadow of who I was by the time I found the strength to leave the relationship with my ex. During the relationship I became anxious, needy, snappy, paranoid, couldn’t sleep, and cried all the time. I felt as though I couldn’t think straight which impacted my ability to do my job, made worse by the fact that my ex and I worked together and he was in a position of authority over me. He would only support me professionally if our personal relationship was in a good place and even once admitted that to me. He was a compulsive liar but he insisted he never lies. Many times I saw him do things with my own eyes but when confronted, he appeared nonplussed. He could be so convincing he would make me doubt myself. Even when presented with evidence, he would argue to the contrary. He drove me to a breakdown. Relationships with co-workers and friends were negatively impacted. The blog post I wrote to get him to stop led to me losing my job. This is why gaslighting and emotional abuse need to be taken seriously, with abusers held accountable.  You can read more about what Gaslighting is here 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting 

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. 

Recovery after gaslighting can be slow but you will get there in time, with assistance. I can’t recommend counselling enough to help you process everything, heal and move forward in your life. Today I am in a good place mentally and emotionally thanks to removing myself from the abusive situation and receiving amazing support. I have a completely new life now. I’m living in a different country and I am so happy I was able to get away. I hope that my writing encourages someone else to find the courage to positively change their life, as I have. There is life after being gaslighted and you can go on with your life much stronger for overcoming the experience.

Take care, Lisa.   

This post links with Locked Down: How to Set Yourself Free from a Narcissist; Inconvenient Truths; If You Know, You Know; Dear Dubai Ex: Closure; In Control: Warning Signs of a Controlling Partner; How To Date An Arsehole; Get Lit (Not Gaslighted…) and Invisible Scars

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

Tripping to Brighton

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

  • Visited May 2019.

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 and Culture Trip. 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 

Selection of pictures from my day trip:

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

I Believe In Nashville: A Travel Guide

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

  • Visited March – April 2019

‘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’ 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

Nashville Scene

Blog about Nashville’s Street Art 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:

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

 

 

Good Hotel London

  • Visited 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:

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird

 

Chattanooga, USA

Check out my Flight Path page for other destination guides.

  • Visited April 2019

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:

CONNECT with me: Instagram @uncaged_artbird