Sunday, 26 March 2017

Week 49.2 - Nashville, Tennessee

I’m not the best at saying goodbye, but seen as it was only a see you later for mum, Jo and David there were no tears outside the airport this time…yay me! The first part of our journey took us from San Antonio to Atlanta, and hats off to Delta airlines for providing one of the better short distance flights we’ve had on this trip. Even if we were 10 minutes late departing and the flight was packed, it was still a pleasant journey and came complete with complimentary drinks and snacks…I’m now a firm believer that all airlines should at least provide water no matter how long or short the flight. What somebody could of pre-warned us about though, (mum), was the size of Atlanta airport. Knowing we only had a 40 minute layover time we knew it would be a mad dash for the next flight anyway, but when you take the 10 minutes off for the delay, and a further 10 minutes thanks to being seated at the back of the plane and having to wait for everyone to take their 8 items of luggage out of the overhead lockers, we were left with 20 minutes to get from section B to section D. Now if you haven’t been to Atlanta airport its fucking huge, think Manchester and quadruple it, it’s so big infact that they even have a train to take you around the different sections. Did we know about the train? No. Did we accidentally stumble across it? Thankfully, yes. This meant we made it with 10 minutes to spare and were soon on our way to Nashville, another Delta flight that took little more than 30 minutes, we probably could of walked it.

We got our first taste of country music as soon as we hit the bag check at Nashville airport where a live band had set up at one of the airport bars, combining this with the Gibson guitars and other musical artefacts around the airport we knew we’d made the right decision adding Tennessee to our visit list. Our taxi dropped us on hip East Nashville, where everyone’s painfully on trend and ridiculously friendly…we immediately clicked with our Air B&B hosts, Justin and Lyndi, and fell in love with their beautiful home and humongous dog, Bo. We didn’t get to see much on our first day with a late arrival, but Kyle was over the moon with his ramen from the local Japanese restaurant and I enjoyed exploring our neighbourhood, especially when we saw the Christmas trees decorated with CD’s and LP’s.

No trip to Nashville is complete with a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We were greeted by the sweetest older gentleman who gave us a map of the building and directed us to the ticket booth. We opted for the audio tour, which we later gave up on, there was too much to take in and we wanted to explore at our own pace…but I would advise the audio tour for those who are very passionate about Country. By far one of the best museums we have visited on our travels, the Music Hall of Fame takes you on a journey from the early beginnings of Country music to the modern day stars of the genre. We got to see Elvis’ guitar, learn about the pairing of Dylan and Cash, view Dolly Parton’s tiny outfits, gaze adoringly at Taylor Swifts crystal covered guitar and reminisce over the days of Shania Twain when we saw her leopard print outfit. I was shocked to learn that Kyle was such a fan of Country and struggled to get him moving out of the audios booth, it’s the longest he’s spent, willingly, in any museum…ever! The building itself is spectacular, with dark ceilings and low lights to give you the feeling of being on stage, these rooms lead to the final gallery, a domed room with bronze placards of honoured artists and the words, “Will the circle be unbroken” lining the walls. 

From here we took a walk through the Nashville garden and along the walk of fame honouring the Nashville music legends, and looking like you would expect…L.A take note, you could learn a thing or two from these guys. We walked by the stunning Symphony Centre and on to the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge taking us over the Cumberland river, at 960m this is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world and offers great views of the city, especially the famous “Batman” building. Kyle was eager to visit the Johnny Cash museum but when we got there it was packed, plus he didn’t want to part with a further $40 for entry so we just had a browse around the gift shop instead.

Our final tourist trip of the day was the Ryman, the Mother Church of Country Music. A stunning venue that I was keen to visit after learning that they filmed scenes for Nashville, the tv series, inside. Though there was no filming taking place when we visited there were still plenty of people buying their Team Luke and Team Deacon t-shirts. After miles of walking and lots of sightseeing it was time to experience some of the famous music on the strip. Our bar of choice was the Second Fiddle, we enjoyed many Bud’s and lots of whiskey whilst listening to an awesome band called, The Scallywags. Fronted by Kristine Speilmann, The Scallywags play upbeat, melodic and interesting songs of their own creation, combined with any requested covers performed in their own style and I would highly suggest catching one of their gigs when in Nashville, you can find them on Twitter for more information…it was a great afternoon, but I soon learnt that I’d had one too many when I paid $20 to crawl across a bar for a shot in Coyote Ugly…it was not a highlight of my trip and one I would not recommend for anyone else, unless you’re one of those girls on a beer bike singing your way round downtown. 

I was feeling really sorry for myself the next morning, hangovers have long become a thing of the past and I’m happy to put them back there after a night on the whisky. To wake ourselves up we went on an 8 hour walk around the districts of Nashville, starting at the Farmers Market for banana and Nutella crepes…mine did not go down well. Next we walked through the Bicentennial Capitol Mall state park which has timelines of Tennessee events, showing the evolution of the state, memorials for World War 2 and memorials for some of Nashvilles greatest music stars. This walk led us to Germantown, a stunning, but expensive looking district, whilst we also saw the baseball stadium complete with giant guitar used for keeping score. Next we walked along the river and across Downtown to the Gulch, another fancy side of town with restaurants far too expensive for our taste so instead we found ourselves in The Pie Wagon. Serving pie, chicken and catfish, this buffet style diner has been open since 1922 and all the fixtures, fittings and sweet staff look as though they have been there since that very first day…still it did the job and kept us fit for our stroll around Music Rowe.

Music Row is home to all the businesses relating to country music, gospel music and contemporary christian music, such as BMI, Sony records and the famous Studio B that saw the production of many singles from artists like Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. There’s also many larger than life guitars and statues along the streets representing instruments used by famous musicians and bands. To end our hangover day we treat ourselves to a meal at a real American Diner. Family run and one of the first businesses to be owned by a woman in Nashville, the Pied Piper offers a music themed menu, with Onion rings of fire, Fleetwood Mac ’N’ cheese and Soup! there it is, being a few of the options. We had a lovely, if a little to large, meal at a table decorated with old records, with spectacular art work and posters of many, many musicians lining the walls…it certainly made me feel better. 
Opryland resort can only be classed as a NashVegas style hotel, with 1000’s of room surrounding a man made river, waterfalls, plants and trees, with scatterings of restaurants and shops mixed in. I personally don’t think i could stay here, it’s not to my taste, and I think after a whisky or 2 you would really struggle to make your way back to your room. But the hotel was not why we’d ventured to Opryland, we’d been lucky enough to get tickets to a live show at the Opry thanks to the kind people at the visitor centre who advised it was only $10 more for a show rather than a tour. So as we settled into our seats way up in the rafters (believe people when they tell you, no seat is a bad seat at the Opry) we got ready and excited for the show to begin. It was like being taken back in time, as the show is broadcast live on radio and TV it has to include adverts of course, but these aren’t your prerecorded adverts, no some man with a voice from the 20’s broadcasts these adverts live throughout the show, and makes a joke of it each time…sometimes even stealing the show. An Opry performance is broken up into 4 half hour segments, each having its own compare, with my favourite of the night being Jeannie Seely. An honest comedian with a mass of songs of her own, she touched on topics few may not agree with and certainly got the audience ready for the music. With great performances from Carrie Underwood and the Opry Square Dancers, the night was stolen for me by Brandi Carlile and Sundance Head, the winner of the voice who was making his Opry debut, Sundance…with such passion and some of the best live vocals i’ve heard in my life was hands down the best act of the night!

It’s a bold statement but Nashville has been one of my favourite places on our travels, from the laid back vibe to the friendly people and the great music on tap…it certainly has got a lot going for it. A holiday destination I would recommend to anyone, theres something for all ages and I’m pretty sure you won’t be left disappointed. For now it’s time to bid farewell and board the MegaBus bound for Chicago, a trip thats advertised as 9 hours…I reckon we’ll be there in 12.

Love Carrie xxx