Nashville, Day 4

And in the blink of an eye it was our last day in Nashville!

We treated ourselves to the most wonderful brunch at Husk (highly recommended to me by a respected coworker). We originally had made dinner reservations for Wednesday, but the timing conflicted with the bus tour, so we moved it to Sunday brunch. We had delicious, locally made goodness.

And the rest of the day we just crossed everything else off our list, including a visit to the library. It’s hard to resist big books.

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And then after a little rest, we got on a city bus to Hillsboro Village to check out the Bluebird Cafe and Parnassus Books.  I tried reserving a spot at the Bluebird, but was unsuccessful.  But since it was so close to Parnassus Books, we thought we may as well see the outside.

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And then it was time for some book browsing.  Parnassus is an awesome bookstore, and if I lived nearby, it would probably become a second home to me. Good job Ann Patchett and team.

After taking the bus back to the city center, we decided to just wander around and see if there’s anything I missed.. We checked out all the stores on Broadway, and wandered up and down the streets in the neighbourhood.  All too suddenly the day was done, and we were packing up and getting ready to come back home in the morning.

This was a fun trip to experience with my mom.  The 5 days we had were more plenty, but meant we could do everything at a slightly slower pace since we had extra time.

Memphis

After Graceland, we headed into Memphis to visit Sun Studios.  Opened in 1950 by Sam Philips, Sun Studios was the Birthplace of Rock N’ Roll and home to the ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

We had met a couple on the historic Nashville tour that went to Memphis a couple days before us.  During their tour of Sun Studios Johnny Cash’s brother showed up, as one does. So I had slightly elevated expectations. Unfortunately no one showed up during our visit, but I’m over it.

From there we had a few hours to explore Beale Street.  The timing of the day was a bit off.  We could have used less time in Graceland, and more in Memphis, but it is what it is.  I would have liked to go to the National Civil Rights Museum, but we wouldn’t have had enough time to do it properly.  Instead we took a break, had a drink, and checked out the various stores in the neighbourhood.

And then we were back on the bus to drive back to Nashville. What a day.

Graceland

When mom and I first picked where to go, she got really excited when I said Nashville.  It turns out, she got excited because she thought Graceland was nearby.  Technically it is close, only about a 4 hour drive, so I found a day trip from Nashville to Memphis so we could go.

Our first stop was Graceland itself, where we got a VIP tour package, including an audio guide narrated by John Stamos.

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Here’s his living room, featuring a 15 foot long sofa, and a 10 foot long coffee table.

We weren’t allowed to go upstairs.  Apparently, Elvis hosted people all the time but upstairs was his private space, so they decided to keep it that way.

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His parents’ bedroom, which his mom helped decorate.  A few of her belongings are still hanging in the closet.

 

Next up was the dining room, which features the china that Priscilla and Elvis received for their wedding.

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Mom and I were a bit confused by the kitchen.  Firstly, who puts broadloom in a kitchen? Secondly, weren’t there higher end options for the finishes? Mom really expected to see granite counters, or something a little fancier.

The stairs to the basement are completed surrounded by mirrors.

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The TV room was in the basement.  Elvis heard that President Lyndon Johnson had three sets to keep up with all the major network newscasts at the same time, so he decided he also needed 3 TVs.

Also in the basement was the billiards room, which was by far my favourite.  Look at the fabric on the wall!  It took 3 guys 10 days to put it up.

But Elvis’ favourite room is what the called the jungle room.  Right off the kitchen featuring green shag carpet on the floor and ceiling and a waterfall feature wall, this was the place to be.

That was it for inside his house.  Our next stop was his backyard, carport and his dad’s office.

We then made our way to his Trophy Room.  He used to keep them in the house, but it reached a point where he had so many that he needed to build a separate space for them. Now it also features his timeline, from his music to film career and back.

Elvis loved horses, so he made sure to have some around.  It wouldn’t have been uncommon for him to be seen riding on horses and offering others rides as well.  He was very generous, and had extras of everything so whoever was around could take part.

Next up, the squash court. The curtained wall behind the piano is a window, so you could watch the game. They’ve since turned the court into a museum.

By chance, we happened to be in Memphis a few days after the anniversary of his death. So I don’t know if his grave looks like this all year round, or just at this time of the year.

I wanted to get one good view of the house from the front before leaving. I was going to wait until all the people were inside, but at this point it was pouring rain, and I was soaked.  So this sufficed.

img_1581The shuttle took us back across the street, so we could enjoy the exhibitions and visit the approximately 15 gift shops offering the same products.  Some of it was cool though.

We got to go inside his planes, including the Lisa Marie:

And see his car collection:

One bit of advice. If you’re going to go, pack your own food.  The offerings really aren’t the greatest.  Except for the ice cream.  I got some peanut butter and banana ice cream (c’mon I had to!) and it was delicious.

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Some gems from the gift stores:

We figured being in Nashville was the closest we’d ever be to Graceland so we had to come check it out.

Nashville, Day 3

Our 3rd day in Nashville combined a lot of my favourite things: music, printing presses, and shopping.

We started the day off with a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. Built in 1892, the Ryman is best known for hosting the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974.  We got a backstage tour, where we got to go backstage and on stage, and then did a self-guided tour through the public areas.

Our next stop was a tour of the Hatch Show Print Press. In operation since 1879, Hatch Show Print designs and prints 500 to 600 different posters a year (on top of other projects).  They make a poster for every  Grand Ole Opry performance and concert at the Ryman.  It was interesting to do this after we toured the Ryman, because there was a display of past Hatch Show Prints at the Ryman for all to see.

This was doubly interesting for me, because I actually studied letterpress printing in university. They gave us a live demonstration of the press, and then let us add colour to some posters as keepsakes.

And then we booked it to the Grand Ole Opry.  My brother and I gave my mom tickets to the Grand Ole Opry for her birthday, and we were really excited for the show.  But we also had to do a backstage tour, so I schedule that for this afternoon.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the show, so we headed next door to the Opry Mills Outlet Mall.  It was glorious, though we weren’t even able to cover a quarter of the mall in our allotted time.

When we went back for the show, we discovered our seats were awesome! My brother and I had quite the luck. We were literally four rows from the stage.

It was a great show! I wasn’t familiar with any of the musicians, but they were all fantastic. And as it’s a live radio show, I particularly enjoyed hearing the commercials read between sets.

And with that the show ended, 4,400 people left the auditorium, and I made my mom take one last selfie.

 

Nashville, Day 2

On our second day in Nashville, we got out of the city on a day trip to see President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and the Belle Meade Plantation.

Andrew Jackson was the 7th president of the US (something I now care about thanks to Hamilton). Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel lived in a log cabin from 1804 to 1821. But Rachel wasn’t content with a cabin, and so they built a more refined house, and turned the original log cabin into two structures for their slaves.

The house was completed in 1821, however in 1834 a chimney fire seriously damaged the house. This prompted him to build the current 13-room Greek Revival structure two years later. The house is filled with as many originals as possible, and if it wasn’t from the house it was from the same time period.

They wouldn’t allow pictures inside as the wallpaper was original, but it was pretty cool.  Rachel custom ordered hand printed wallpaper from France that depicted scenes from The Odyssey and I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. But as cool as the house was, the gardens were my favourite spot.

After a break at the Hermitage Smorgasbord for some classic Southern food we made our way to the Belle Meade Plantation.

You heard of Seabiscuit and Secretariat (and every horse to race in the Kentucky Derby since 2003)?  All their bloodlines can be traced back to Belle Meade.

Founded in 1807 by John Harding, what started as a log cabin grew into 250 acre mansion and one of the largest thoroughbred horse farm in the south covering 5400 acres.

We got to see the original cabin (1807), the dairy (1884), slave cabins (1830), the mausoleum (1839), the gardener’s house (1820), the smokehouse (1826), and a massive carriage house and stables (1892)(now housing a collection of carriages). And of course we got a guided tour of the mansion (1853).

If I had to choose one house to live in, the Belle Meade Plantation Mansion was more to my liking.  But that wallpaper in the Hermitage was to die for.

When we got back to the hotel, 7 hours later, I thought we were done for the night.  We’d get some food and just relax.  Instead, we came across a music festival right down the street from our hotel and mom insisted we go.

We found a good place on the grass, and watched the first act.  There was a break in between performances, so we took a stroll through the food trucks and got some ice cream.  Of course, there were too many people to get back to where we were on the grass, but we were lucky enough to find a free table at the far end of the lawn, so that’s where we stayed for the next performance.

We left just before the third performer came on (c’mon we had a long day), but I was glad my mom forced me to stay up and have this experience. It was a good time.

Nashville, Day 1

My mom and I like to take a trip together when we can. When she approached me about going somewhere this year, she had no idea where she felt like going. I was suggesting Boston, because I thought she’d really like it there but she wasn’t feeling it. So I pulled up google maps and started naming places across the US. When I got to Nashville she got really excited and so that’s where we decided to go.

We decided to stay in the city our first day, and go to what had been touted as the city’s main attraction: the Country Music Hall of Fame. However, there are lots of ticketing options, so we spoiled ourselves and got their most VIP package, which includes a tour of RCA Studio B and a Hatch Show Print Tour. Hatch was scheduled for Friday, but we thought a tour of Studio B would get us in the right mood for the museum, so we did that first.

The Studio B tour was one of my most faveourite parts of the visit. One, it was super interesting. Two, I loved discovering this with my mom. As soon as we stepped in the studio, our guide gave us an overview of some of the artists who recorded here and played clips of their music and my mom kept saying “I know them!” and singing along. I loved it.  It also helped that our guide was so clearly passionate about the studio and the music. I swear he was in tears when he played our final song, “How Great Thou Art” by Elvis recorded live in the very place we were sitting.

The tour took us around the studio, where we listened to recordings made here, watched some videos of recordings, and learned about the studios history. Our guide also had some great stories to tell.  Dolly Parton started out on the Porter Wagner show. She had always told herself she’d stay for 5 years, so when she stayed 7, she was ready to move on.  Unfortunately she hadn’t told anyone else this.  She wrote “I Will Always Love You” for Porter Wagner, and he loved it.  Until he found out it was her resignation, as she was going solo.

Elvis also heard that song and wanted to record it.  But you see, Elvis didn’t write any of his songs.  His deal was that he’d get 50% of any royalties (great for him, crappy for the writer).  So when he told Dolly he wanted to record this song, she said no.  He didn’t hear no very often, but it was good for her that she did.  She’s made over $25 million in royalties (thanks you Whitney), so she would have lost half had Elvis recorded a cover.

One last story, the piano above was Elvis’ favourite piano.  He would drop by the studio at night, and play gospel songs on the piano until he decided which song they would record that night (Elvis followed his own rules).  He told the studio he wanted the piano, and they said no.  He offered to purchase the piano, the studio still said no.  So those are two of the few times he’s been refused.  But we was able to drop by the studio and play it whenever he was in town, so that option stayed open.

From the studio we returned to the hall of fame and spent a few hours going through the museum.  The top floor was full of music my mom grew up with, from Hank Williams to Carl Perkins, etc.  The second floor was a little more modern, with exhibits on people like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton and Keith Urban, who I discovered my mom has a huge crush on.

Some personal favourite things on display:

What do I hear when we leave the Cuontry Music Hall of Fame?  The Dixie Chicks practicing in the stadium next door. Tickets to their show were sold out before we booked our trip, so it was nice to still be able to hear them live.

And then we entered the Johnny Cash Museum, which was (obviously) all about Mr. Cash and his friends. It was pretty great.

Mom and I are quick learners.  It only took us going to about 5 restaurants and seeing they were full to realize we either needed reservations or free time.  We eventually found food (and drinks – it had been a long day!) and caught a night bus tour around the city.  Some sites we had already seen, and others were a bit far for us to get to, so the bus seemed like a good idea.

And it was a good idea, don’t get me wrong.  It’s just that the guide was the most annoying 23-year-old in Nashville.  Pretty sure I know just as much about her as I do about the city…

Anyways, some night views. We started down Broadway, to Parliament, then around to Bicentennial Park.

Built in 1996 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood, the 19-acre park shows of Tennessee’s history including such features as a 200-foot granite map of the state, a World War II Memorial, a 95-Bell Carillon, a Pathway of History and the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains.

We only had time to check out the World War II Memorial and the 95-Bell Carillon, but it looked like a great park to spend time in.

The carillon has 95 columns and a bell in each one, representing the 95 counties in Tennessee. It’s planned so the acoustics are the best if you stand right in the center (obviously music city would know how to get good acoustics). We made it just in time to hear them ring.

From Bicentennial Park we made out way to the Centennial Park, to see Nashville’s Parthenon.  For Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, they built a 100 replicas of sites around the world, but decided to make the Parthenon the only permanent fixture. They actually went to Greece and studied the original, as they wanted to make this one an exact replica.  And when Greece decided to restore their Parthenon, they came to Nashville to study this one.  The columns are wider on the bottom than on the top, so it looks like its farther away than it is.  Pretty cool.

Our final stop was on Nashville’s pedestrian bridge  which offered great views of the city.

All in all, a great first day.

Oroville to Seattle

It was pretty sad to leave Oroville, where we had such a nice time in our little beach front cottage.

We went up to Cam’s parents cottage for a post-wedding brunch, and then had to head back to Seattle as Kate and Janetta were both flying home tonight.  I couldn’t get a flight til tomorrow, so I dropped my luggage off at the airport, packed a small bag with everything I’d need for a night, and headed into the city..

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Mount Rainier in the distance

I only had one night, so I figured I’d hit the basics: Chihuly Garden and Glass and the Space Needle tonight, and Pike Place Market in the morning.

I could have spent a full day with Chihuly’s creations.  I have such an appreciation for glasswork, having taking some beginner’s classes, so this became my favourite museum ever.

The Space Needle was okay too.

The next morning I woke up bright and early to check out the Pike Place Market before my flight.  I think I got there a bit too early, but I’m sure I’ll be back someday.

And suddenly my time was up. It flew by, but I’d say my first venture to the west coast was a success.

Oroville

Today was the day of the wedding! It wasn’t until the afternoon, and it was going to be at the resort we were staying at, so we had some time to check out the town of Oroville. There was a farmer’s market, vintage stores, a cute little town square, and some wineries.

We went for a wine tasting (why not?) and then made our way back to Veranda Beach to get ready for the big event.

It was beautiful.  The ceremony, the venue, and somehow the three of us ended up wearing complimentary bright colours. It was so lovely to be there to celebrate such an important day with our friends.

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SF to Seattle to Oroville

One of Janetta’s friends from university had moved to San Francisco a few years ago, so he took us out last night for dinner and then invited us to join him at his friend’s birthday party in the Castro District. We had a fantastic time, but it certainly wasn’t conductive to waking up early this morning.

And when I saw early I mean early.  We had to be at the airport by 5 am in order to catch our flight to Seattle, where we’d meet Kate, pick up our car, and drive about 5 hours to Oroville for Aidan and Cam’s wedding.

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But we made it.  I was pretty sad to be leaving SF, but excited to have our mini-Ireland reunion. We plotted our route while waiting for Kate’s flight to arrive in Seattle, and then off we went!  We arrived in Oroville later that night, just in time to order food at the resort restaurant before they closed.

Oroville is really lovely.  Cam’s family has a cottage up here, which is why they chose this spot to get married. It’s just south of Kelowna, and absolutely stunning.  We were staying at Veranda Beach, a 1950s themed resort, which rents out little cottages on the water, has a pool, and would be hosting the wedding. If I could, I’d go there every year.

Continued access to a place like this might even be enough to turn me into an outdoorsy person.  Seriously this place has it all.

 

San Francisco, Day 4

We decided to get closer to nature for our final day in SF, and headed down to the Golden Gate Park.

I never fully realized just how big this park was until we arrived.  It’s actually massive. Included inside is a botanical garden, so we headed that way, also hoping for a spot to sit and read for awhile.  Janetta and I have very similar interests, and one of them is reading in parks.

From here we went down to Haight Ashbury, checked out some vintage clothing stores and Amoeba Music, and had lunch at a very delicious but super hipster restaurant.

The only thing we hadn’t done yet was Coit Tower, but I really had no interest in climbing any more hills.  So instead we went to the Exploratorium and it was awesome.  It’s a hands-on museum of science, art and human perception and definitely not just for kids.  We would have gone to the SF Museum of Modern Art but it was closed, but that worked out in our favour in the end.