Our day started very early in the morning as we all had early flights coming out of YVR International Airport in Vancouver, BC. I wanted to make sure I was there early enough to greet everyone at the airport when they arrived so I got up at 1am... yes, 1 o'clock in the morning! But I was asleep by 7pm the last night, so it was all good.
I arrived at the long term parking lot at 3am, loaded my bags onto the shuttle and said goodbye to the BGE Mobile.
Our first group of 8 people were on an earlier WestJet flight (Vancouver to Calgary to Nashville).
Myself and the group of 12 departed on a second United flight (Vancouver to Chicago to Nashville) about an hour after the first group, and as you can tell we were all excited to get going... despite how tired we were!
So 19 Guests total plus me. Many of them have been on a few past Chef Dez Culinary Tours, and the rest are about to find out about how much fun we have. And up, up and away we go...
During our stopover in Chicago we all got some refreshments and Kareem and I each bought authentic Chicago Style hot dogs for lunch. These things were so huge and topped with so many ingredients that it was difficult to even pick up! But man 'o man, they sure were tasty! The picture doesn't do it justice.
Then onboard our second flight to Nashville. Some of us seeming more tired than others, but all very excited to be on the last flight for the day.
We arrived in Nashville to sunny, hot and humid weather: about 29 degrees. Waited for our shuttle...
...and then arrived at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This place is massive: 2888 rooms, 17 restaurants on site, and 9 acres of indoor gardens, waterfalls and fountains. Yes, 9 acres indoor! This place is so large that I got lost literally twice trying to find my room! This will be our home for the next 3 nights.
My room has a balcony facing the gardens - here is a shot of my room and a couple shots of my view (daytime and nighttime).
We all had a brief meeting with our Collette Tour Manager "Derek" and I went over the details of the Official Chef Dez Scavenger Hunt - Remember the group is playing for the grand prize of a large size Big Green Egg (complete with stand, shelves, and accessories valued at $1900). This will get awarded on the last full day of our trip (Sunday October 7th) before we depart for home on the Monday October 8th, so stay tuned!
After the meeting, we met our driver Alvin and boarded the luxurious coach that is ours for the next 9 days. Let me tell ya, we will be traveling in the lap of luxury.
We headed to the Opry Backstage Grill for dinner (our first of many meals included in the itinerary) for some southern homestyle cooking.
Here's a shot of the menu for the evening and some food shots from the group:
While we were eating we got to enjoy our first taste of live music by 2 different artists that worked at the restaurant.
This is our Collette Tour Manager Derek (on the left) and our Collette Driver Alvin. I can tell already this trip is going to be a riot with these guys!
Also, as a keepsake from this trip I have purchased a cookbook that is reminiscent of the area we are traveling in, and I will get everyone I meet along the tour to sign it to me with a little message. I will also get all my Guests to sign it, along with Derek and Alvin. At the end of the trip I will have a working cookbook that is filled with messages and memories from this wonderful holiday. Here is the front cover of the book and the first person to sign it on our tour: our server Maria from the Opry Backstage Grill.
The Opry Backstage Grill also has some cool memorabilia. Here's a little something from Marty Robbins:
We then took our coach back to the resort and most of us just retired for the evening as it was a long day of travel. Well worth it obviously, but long nonetheless. Tomorrow will be filled with a new day of adventures in our first full day here in Nashville, so I hope you come back and follow along on each day of our journey. Goodnight from Nashville and I'll see you again here tomorrow.