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.


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.


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.

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.