Monday, March 28, 2016

Nashville - more than just a hit show on ABC

pulled my groin in Nashville. 

It happened on our first night. I can't tell you exactly how. And I can't pinpoint the exact moment. But I'm pretty sure that my brand new cowboy boots, a shot (or 6) of a nasty "whiskey liqueur" called Fireball that tastes like flammable cinnamon hearts, and trying to keep up on the dance floor at a bar actually named the Honky Tonk Central with a group of 20-somethings, all combined to have something to do with the injury. 

I should know better than to try to keep up with millennials. Especially when it involves new shoes. Doubly especially when it involves shots of whiskey. It led to a sluggish, gatorade-filled next day, a solemn vow to never touch Fireball again, and hobbling around Nashville on a bum groin for the next 4 days. 

Oh, but it was worth it. Because I had a great time. Nashville is definitely the kind of place to go and let your hair down. It's a party town - bachelorette capital of the United States of America, according to one of the servers we met at one of the many fine live music establishments. You don't have to look hard to find fun. It just kind of finds you. 

Here are highlights of some of that fun:

If you have ever wanted to buy a pair of cowboy boots, Nashville is the place to go. Every three doors on the strip is a boot shop, and at least one of them offers up the ridiculous deal of buying one pair and getting two more free. Now there is a small part of me that has always wanted a pair of cowboy boots, but just couldn't imagine when and where I would ever wear something like that back here in sleepy old Ottawa. Luckily for me, I found a gorgeous pair of cowboy booties, and I know I can pull these off with any number of outfits. So I am now the proud owner of a certified pair of cowboy boots. Even if they are ankle height!

As for the strip, it is not just a place to buy cowboy boots. It is also a place to go and get your fill of live music. Up and down either side of Broadway, for about 4 or 5 blocks, there are close to 20 bars to wander in and out of. All of them open up at 10am. All of them have live music starting at 11am. All of them close at 3am. And all of them have lots and lots of whiskey. 

A shot of the strip at night, just as the bars are starting to fill up.
The afternoon band at Robert's Western World - you have to love a band with a stand-up bass AND a fiddle.
Shots of "medicine". Or Fireball Whiskey. Very liberally poured. 
Now most of the bars on the strip definitely cater to the country music lover. But you can find other genres.  B.B. King has a blues house just off the strip, where we heard some pretty tight blues. And the Acme Feed and Seed, one of the newer bars on the strip, caters to the alt-indie crowd. On our first night, we walked into a battle of the bands for a spot at Bonnaroo Music Festival, one of the biggest alternative/indie rock festivals in the world, where we ended up listening to this incredibly entertaining indie-heavy-metal duo who knocked over a gong at the end of their set, while Hubby screamed out "Yeahhhhhh!" at the top of his lungs! 

Neither the drummer's man bun nor the gong would survive this heavy metal set!
Maybe you don't like to get your fill of music in the local bars. And that's okay too. Because Nashville is the home of the Grand 'Ole Opry, the radio-show-turned-television-variety-show that took country music out of the shadows of the Ozarks and pushed it into the national limelight. Growing up, the Grand 'Ole Opry - and it's spin off comedy show, Hee Haw - were often on our television set. So I had to take it in and see what it is all about. Even if you aren't a country music lover, it is still worth it to take in a show. Hubby can't stand country, but thoroughly enjoyed the Opry. There's a lot of magic to it: its history, the fact that the show is still produced primarily for radio, how much it means to the singers who perform on the stage, and the wide range of talent that performs week after week. It's a pretty special place, and I'm really glad that we got to take it in. Even if I hardly recognized any of the performers. 

Hubby and I before the show. There are lots of rhinestones in Nashville. I don't own any. So I wore sequins instead. 

Performers abound at the Opry. From "mountain music" bands...

... to solo artists who do heartbreakingly sad country music songs.
If you need a break from live music but still want to soak up some music history, there are a couple of really fun museums to check out in Nashville. The first is the Johnny Cash museum. And who doesn't love the Man in Black? It is totally worth a visit to go behind the scenes and see an in depth glimpse into Cash's life and his extensive body of work. Plus, you can get your picture taken with Johnny Cash through the magic of green screen technology. Seriously. How cool is that! The price of admission is a little steep at 22$ per person (which translates into what, 45$ CDN these days?), but it it was totally worth it just to see the extensive exhibit retracing the history of the famous Sun Studios, where the biggest names like Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison were all discovered and recorded their hit albums. 

A wall of Johnny Cash album covers. My father would die.

How bad ass are we?
Nashville is also home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, another great museum, even if you don't love country music. Did you know that in the 60s, a lot of non-country music stars - like Bob Dylon and Jimi Hendrix - came to Nashville to record albums? I didn't know that either until I visited the Hall of Fame. 

The Hall of Fame. It's shaped like a piano. 

Me and Jimi Hendrix

This one is for Dad. Me and Roy Orbison

A wall of gold and platinum
I've already mentioned the copious amounts of liberally poured whiskey to be had in Nashville. Of course, the most famous of Tennessee Whiskeys is Jack Daniels, made from the cave springs of Lynchburg, Tennessee. We decided to take a little trip through the bible belt to check out the distillery, which lies smack dab in the middle of a dry county. The only reason that they are allowed to continue to make whiskey in these parts is because Mr. Jack Daniels himself agreed to pay the government copious amounts of taxes back during the prohibition years so that he would not be shut down. Which was a smart move given how big his name has grown. The distillery tour is definitely worthwhile. I don't consider myself a connoisseur of whiskey - or even that big of a fan - but it was still really neat to see the production site and to learn a little bit about what sets Tennessee whiskey apart from bourbon (in case you are wondering, both come from corn, but Tennessee whiskey is filtered through charcoal, which is why it is no longer considered a bourbon). 

Outside the distillery

The location of the distillery was chosen for this cave spring. 

Every single drop in every single bottle of Jack Daniels comes from this water source. 
And finally, Nashville is just a really pretty city. It's not a bustling metropolis like New York or Chicago. It's much smaller and more quaint. There are only a couple of towers that make up the downtown skyline. It sits along the Cumberland River, which has a nasty tendency to flood and cause all sorts of damage. In 2010, the Opry sat under water and suffered significant damage. Concerts had to be moved to other locations around town. 

The river figures prominently in literature, and in the history of the city. 

So prominently that river navigation is recognized as an inherent right in the Tennessee Constitution.

The Nashville skyline along the banks of the Cumberland River.

Another view of the skyline

The River basin is a great place to go for a run!
Nashville is also the state capital. And a beautiful state capital it is. Although one has to climb a few stairs to get there...

Up we go to the State Capital

The State Capital

I had to take a rest before climbing the rest of the stairs. Because I pulled my groin, remember...

The war memorial

The war memorial

The war memorial plaza and its view of the Capitol Building. 
So that's Nashville for you. Live music, bachelorette parties, museums, history, good looking architecture, cowboy boots, and whiskey. A pretty fantastic way to spend a long weekend.

So I've booked a couple of appointments with my physiotherapist to start rehabbing my groin. Cause I have every intention of going back to Nashville. And I want to be ready for it!