My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Walking in my Nashville neighborhood ... with French surprises
On a beautiful day, not too warm (mid 80s F - 29C) with low humidity, I decided to walk in my Nashville neighborhood, Hillsboro-West End. The center of Hillsboro Village is located along the former Hillsboro Road, now called 21st Avenue, about 3 miles from downtown Nashville. Most of the neighborhood surrounding Hillsboro Village is on a grid as it was built in 1910 around a streetcar line running out Blair Boulevard. It is assumed that Francis Nash (1742-1777,) a brigadier general in the American Revolutionary war, after whom Nashville was named, was raised in Hillsborough, NC; our village name was shortened to Hillsboro. At the southwest end of the village are the neighborhoods of Hillsboro-West End (adjacent to West End Avenue close to Vanderbilt University) and Belmont-Hillsboro (adjacent to Belmont Avenue close to Belmont University and Lipscomb University.) Below is the historical marker for Hillsboro-West End surrounded by lavender bushes. Click on collage to enlarge.
A panel in front of my house says "Walking District" and it certainly is a walkable area with sidewalks along vintage homes.
Most of the houses are craftsman bungalows from 1910 to 1935. There are also some houses built in the popular style of that period: Tudor Revival, Foursquare and English cottages. I found my house listed in the Hillsboro-West End Historic District Register: Weatherboard Bungalow, c. 1925; irregular form; 1 1/2 stories; gable-end roof; gable dormer; recessed front porch, brick foundation, etc. I took pictures of some of the houses along the way so you could have a look at the architecture.
Many houses have picket fences around their yards. Most have porches and swings in them. My neighbor across the street even has a vintage automobile (not sure of the brand or year) that compliments his house.
Most houses have grass and shrubbery in their front yards but some have pretty flowers and flowering bushes; there are many large trees.
If you walk closer to Belmont University you'll find some hip eateries, cozy cafes and cocktail bars, but closer to my home on Belmont Avenue there are larger historic homes dating from the 1900s and up, plus always nice sidewalks for strolling (or jogging or walking your dog.) Both Hillsboro-West End and Belmont-Hillsboro are on the National Register of Historic Districts and are considered "trendy" and relaxed areas of Nashville. The community is a mix of university academics, students, families, couples and young professionals.
My walk in the neighborhood was quite nice but tiring as there were no benches anywhere. The next day the weather was still lovely, so I decided to walk toward the center of Hillsboro Village. I found many benches along 21st Avenue. It was pleasant walking under the large trees.
I walked by an historical panel and a mural.
Then I realized that this mural was on Belcourt Avenue. Last April, a couple of blocks down Belcourt Avenue, my daughter, grandchildren and their Chinese au pair had gone to a new noodle shop called Meet Noodles. We drove and I did not know it was less than a mile from my house. Meet Noodles is an offshoot of a popular Brooklyn restaurant serving a variety of spicy noodle dishes from Chongquing, China. Chongquing noodles, "little noodles" or xiao mian are traditional common street food served with or without soup plus a variety of meats, fish and vegetable. The Chinese au pair said the food tasted authentic and my grandson ordered in the Chinese language (all the grandchildren attend a Saturday Chinese school nearby.) My order, fish balls (below top right,) came in a bowl and was a huge portion. I took part of it home. Now I know I can walk back up to this noodle restaurant.
Next to the mural was the Belcourt Theatre, a historic movie theatre showing classics, documentaries, indie movies, foreign films, musical performances and live theater. As I was checking the posters I noticed that in a few minutes the matinee featured that day was "Double-vies / Non-Fiction" a French movie, with English subtitles. So, I stepped inside, of course!
The film was being shown in the 1925 historic hall (shown above.) It was renovated with a larger screen, new sound system, new seats and more. They have two other renovated halls from the 1960s. Their snack bar offers local draft beers, wine and specialty cocktails to enjoy during the film. They also have a standard concession with popcorn, candy and healthful snacks. The theatre dates back to 1925 when it was a silent movie theater named The Hillsboro Theater. Now as The Belcourt it is one of the very few theaters chosen to be a part of the USA Sundance Film Festival program.
It was still light and sunny when I left the theatre. I started walking back up 21st Avenue. A bicycle behind me used its horn. Still thinking of the French movie I moved to the side and said in French "allez-y, passez" /go on, pass me. I was surprised when the rider stopped and said "I can't believe an American speaking French with no accent!" When I told him I was French he started talking to me, in French, telling me he was from the French Antilles (not sure which one, maybe Martinique, Guadeloupe or St. Martin) and we had a nice conversation. That day in honor of the French women soccer team who had won a match in the World Cup I was wearing my blue French soccer tee-shirt. Walking still up 21st Avenue I passed by the outside eating-drinking area of Double Dogs, where you can eat, drink and listen to live music.
As I came closer to Double Dogs, a young man, who was sitting there with a friend during the Happy Hour, said to me "that's a neat tee-shirt" so I responded "it's a French tee-shirt" and he replied "Je sais, je suis francais." (I know, I am French.) I was surprised because usually in the US a young person rarely talks to a senior. All through my walks in Nashville, never anyone has talked to me, and I passed by many young people. Well, he was French, and that does explain it. Seniors are not as invisible in France as in the US. I stopped and talked with them for a while, about soccer first. He told me he had just moved from Minnesota to Nashville and was originally from Lyon, France. After a nice chat, in French, I went on up the avenue. It certainly had been a charming afternoon, full of French surprises. Below is the French feminine soccer team playing in the World Cup 2019. They won their match against Brazil today, June 23, 2019, and now can go on to the quarter finals (photos courtesy austade.fr.)