Guest Post :: Blonde Voyage Nashville (Thoughts on Food, Adventure, and Savoring Time)

We're happy to introduce you to one of our EPM guests who has joined us in Italy and Morocco and always adds fun, glamour, and plenty of food knowledge and excitement to each retreat. Courtney is the author of the blog, Blonge Voyage Nashville - a Nashville, TN native who has a healthy obsession with culinary delights both at home and abroad, and who's favorite quote is from Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:

"Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures...."

We'll let her take it from here...Enjoy her thoughts on life, food, enjoying the time you have, and making adventures part of your journey!

It was a few months before my 37th birthday, and all I could think was “where the hell has the time gone? How in the world am I going to be 37?”  It’s feels like yesterday when I was standing in front of the entire student body with sweaty palms and a shaky voice as a naïve freshman delivering a morning devotional on the importance of time. My how it flies.

As I began to reflect on the last ten years of my life, I became overly anxious and, if I am being honest with myself, I was upset. Spending my entire life in the South, I had this preconceived notion of what my life was “supposed” to look like. I’d be married to my prince charming, have one or two kids (I mean you women who have more are heroes-literally) a successful career and be well established in my community. Literally, ALL my friends were married. While some were welcoming their second and third child into the world, others were in the throes of divorce.  And here I am on the sidelines thinking: “Seriously? You are getting divorced, and I haven’t even had the chance to walk down the aisle. What the?!?” In an effort to avoid a pity party, I decided to take a step back and simply be where I was. Over and over the same Rolling Stones song kept playing in my head “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

I know you guys are thinking to yourself “Cut to the chase already. What does this have to do with EAT.PRAY.MOVE?” I promise I will get there ☺

My name is Catherine Courtney, and I am a Nashville native with a penchant for culinary creativity and epic travel adventures (see, I told you I would get to the EPM part.) Confession: I have a slight obsession with handbags. I am a Project Manager for a Fortune 50 company by day and moonlight as a food and travel blogger. I have made it my personal mission to experience as many Michelin star/ World’s 50 Best restaurants as possible. I am well on my way as my list and waist line are ever expanding.

Realizing that time was our greatest commodity, I could no longer wait for the perfect time to see the world. I wanted to take the leap and start exploring. Enter EPM. Completing my due diligence, I ran across the EAT.PRAY.MOVE website, and I  was intrigued. Great destinations? Check. Solid Itinerary with food and wine excursions? Check. It seemed like this had everything I needed. Still hesitant to pull the trigger, I reached out to Erin with no less than 20 questions about the upcoming retreat.  She was so kind and responded ever so quickly putting my mind at ease.  Throwing caution to the wind, I booked my first trip to Tuscany (a "Form+Focus" yoga and art retreat). It was on that trip that I learned three things:  

1. I have zero art skills. A straight line is an accomplishment for this one. And can I just say, even though I am less than talented in the art arena, Julian (EPM art collaborator) has more patience than any other teacher I have met.    

2. Breaking news! I am NOT the only single 30-something in the United States. I met so many amazingly strong single women during my first retreat, many of which I am still in contact with today. Not only do we share our successes but we are comfortable enough sharing our terrible dating stories. ☺

3. Courage.  It sounds simple enough, right? But it’s not. For years, I had contemplated doing a food blog. After all, I take pictures of EVERYTHING I eat, so why not share it with the masses?  I was always too afraid. I didn’t know anything about a website or HTML.  By no means am I a writer.  Let’s be honest, I relied on Outlook to make sure my spelling and grammar was correct, but I was going to start a blog? YES. Yes, I was.  

As a self-proclaimed gourmand, I was thrilled with the assortment of food and wine in Tuscany. It was exquisite. From the fried squash blossoms that were procured from the local market, the handmade pasta filled with mushrooms and cheeses to the endless bottles of loose wine, I was in heaven. And this was just dinner! Not only did we have a cooking class at the villa where we learned how to make an assortment of pastas, but we had the chance to experience an authentic olive oil tasting. Quickly I came to the realization that the olive oil I was purchasing from Costco was not as great as I thought it was ☺ I’ve always had a sincere appreciation for chefs and their culinary creativity, but as I reflec t on my time in Tuscany, it was there where I truly realized how important it was to cook with high caliber ingredients. Did I mentioned that we ran into Giada De Laurentiis while we were having lunch in Florence?  That’s a funny story for another day.

Since the 2016 Tuscany retreat, I made the journey to Marrakesh in March and have plans on attending Puglia in October 2017 and Japan in March 2018.  I joke with Erin that I am her newest EPM groupie. (Side note: We seriously need to get t-shirts made because I know I am not the only one.)

Having never traveled to Morocco, I was intrigued by their cuisine. You can imagine that while Nashville is a culinary melting pot, there aren’t many restaurants that make a fabulous tagine. Erin did an amazing job curating a variety of dining experiences throughout the week. First, let’s talk about the meals we had while on property at Peacock Pavilions. The breakfast spreads were fit for royalty. Anything you could possibly desire was within arm’s reach. I am not one to indulge and have much bread for breakfast, but they have the most incredible apricot jam. It was a good thing that there were several jars available because I could seriously have one all to myself. I don’t want to spoil the dinners as they are an experience but I’ll let you in on a little secret: the adult mac and cheese sinful.  Rest assured you will go back for seconds.

While you are in Marrakesh, Erin coordinates an excursion to the Atlas Mountains where you not only get to explore Sir Richard Branson’s resort, Kasbah Tamadot, but partake in a tasting menu with a Moroccan wine pairing.  By far this was my favorite experience of the trip, aside from the camel ride. I was noshing on carrot gnocchi, sipping delightful red wine all while engaging in conversation with the ladies and glancing out at the Atlas Mountains.  In my book, that is a perfect outing.

For those of you conducting exhaustive research on yoga retreats, look no further. EAT.PRAY.MOVE  is the only choice. Your hardest decision now is deciding where you want your journey to take you. I hope I have a chance to meet some of you in Puglia and Japan. Thanks for reading. Until next time!


Follow Blonde Voyage Nashville as she explores near and far away places, filling her passport full of stamps and satiating her appetite with some of the most amazing cuisine the world has to offer. or @blonde_voyage_nashville on Instagram