Nneka Odum is a photographer and writer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She drove from Detroit to Nashville on a four-day road trip with a focus on dining, and she captured it all on her Canon EOS M50.
Travel has completely transformed me as a photographer, writer, and storyteller. The visuals I’m drawn to and the words I choose for my work are deeply inspired by the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met. On this trip, I was surprised by the kindness of strangers. Everyone from hotel staff, restaurant bartenders, Uber drivers, and store owners showed us a level of kindness that you would typically expect from family.
We got a late start in Detroit so we drove straight to Cincinnati, about four hours. Driving through the midwest in the fall stirs the senses. The trees that lined our route were delicious shades of orange, red, and yellow. We listened to a lot of early 2000’s R&B—Carl Thomas, Donnell Jones, Jon B, Musiq Soulchild—screaming song lyrics at the top of our lungs.
Along my journey as a photographer, Canon has consistently offered the perfect choice for my skill level at the time, and since I’d never road tripped before, I was grateful to be in familiar hands.
I was most looking forward to spending quality time with my best friend. As we get older, responsibilities compound, schedules get busier, life events occur, and quality time spent one-on-one with friends and family starts to dwindle. I was grateful to be spending a weekend with someone I love. It’s important to pick your road trip partner very carefully. A great road trip is less about the destinations than it is spending time with someone you love.
My advice for someone setting out on a any road trip: don’t be too dead set on following the itinerary. Be willing to go with the flow, especially when you meet people. Locals know the best spots you might not be able to find yourself. Be willing to explore when you reach the destination. Road trips are more about the people you’re with and the experience you make together.
Day 1: Cincinnati, Ohio
Stay: We stayed at the Covington Hotel, a really modern place and a gorgeous restaurant. It almost feels like a botanical garden and it seems like the city’s real hotspot. A lot of people were at the bar enjoying a glass of wine when we arrived at night and during the day people worked on their laptops. It’s a hang out hotel—more than something you just check in to.
Eat: We stopped at Goodfellas for a hot slice of pepperoni pizza. In the morning we did brunch at the Covington Hotel—we had french toast and eggs with coffee. Make sure to swing by Sundry and Vice for the best old fashioned in Cincinnati.
Do: We walked around Over the Rhine, a restored historic neighborhood. They have colorful building and boutiques and restaurants. Great place to walk around and people-watch.
Day 2: Louisville, Kentucky
Stay: The AC Hotel, another very bar-centric hotel. Once you pass the lounge area at the entrance you’ll see this huge circular bar—it was happy hour by the time we got there. The hotel is perfectly located, and we could walk to everything you’d want to do.
Eat: Decca, a rustic new American restaurant. We ordered the steamed mussels and two orders of their mouth-watering crispy salmon. We also went to META for some great craft cocktails. Before heading to Nashville, we stopped at Please and Thank You for two frothy cappuccinos to-go.
Do: The Market District is awesome. It has a large open boutique vibe, very niche and very local and a lot of farm-to-table restaurants. We loved this little plant nursery called Mahonia that was right next door to Decca.
Day 3 and 4: Nashville, Tennessee
Stay: We stayed at the 21c Museum Hotel in East Nashville. It serves as a contemporary art gallery and boutique hotel where you can grab a quick cocktail at the bar and then waltz into the next room to gander at a 20-foot statue.
Eat: We grabbed champagne cocktails at the hotel bar. For brunch, we made our way to the LA Jackson rooftop bar, a hip Nashville spot known for their colorful cocktails. We ordered two perfectly balanced froze’s from Sam, the best bartender in Nashville! We also had really good Ramen at Otaku, a hole-in-the-wall Japanese spot. It has a limited menu but it was really, really good. They’re hot chicken buns were amazing—a great Japanese take on a Nashville classic. We also went to a plant-based ice cream shop called Kokos.
Do: Explore the art gallery at 21c. It has three levels of artwork that guests and non-guests can peruse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We also stopped at The Thompson Hotel whch has a great rooftop bar that gives an entire view of Nashville. The outdoor area is heated when its gets cold.