Nashville – Part Two – April 2017

Hey everyone! It has been a little while since my last post so I thought I’d kick this post off with a little explanation as to why. Haleigh’s visit to England was the biggest reason why in all honesty, she was here for two weeks and obviously we wanted to maximise our time together around work. We spent a couple of days in Paris and did some other cool stuff. Additionally I turned 31 yesterday so another Wednesday passed me by without posting in honour of birthday things.

Speaking of which, I typically try and post once a week and Wednesday has generally been my day of the week I try and get a post out. I intend to change that going forward so welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a weekly Thursday evening post. I’m not particularly busy during the week but obviously things crop up from time to time. However Thursday is a day I’ll typically have free every week. Nobody has Thursday plans do they? (HA! If you know, you know.)

Anyway, last time out on the blog I talked about part one of my trip to Nashville so let’s get on with part two shall we?

Nashville had very quickly won me over on day one, you can read more about that here, but there was still the best part of a day left in the city for me to enjoy before my overnight bus journey to Dallas.

I’d had four nights in the US and three of those had been spent sleeping in a hostel in DC so it was hard to pull myself out of bed in the morning, I’d enjoyed my first night in a hotel and it had been particularly comfortable. Eventually I got up, freshened up and went to check out via a little detour. I hadn’t had time to use it but one of the selling points for the hotel was a guitar-shaped swimming pool and I had to swing by to get a photo before departing. Very fitting for music city!

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Having checked out of the hotel I made my way back over the “deadly” bridge from the night before and in to downtown Nashville. I had a few ideas on what I could do in the city but the first thing that really caught my eye was a sign for the Johnny Cash museum, I was a little intrigued so walked down towards it but just before I got there I stumbled upon the ‘Sun Diner’. I wasn’t seeking breakfast but all of a sudden it seemed really appealing so I popped in.

Inside was this pretty diner. I don’t know if it had any connection to Tennessee’s famous Sun Record Company but given the name and the long wall of portraits and memorabilia it seemed plausible. If there is no connection, it certainly seems to have been inspired by Tennessee’s musical history. The food was good too! I ordered some pancakes and along with a cosy atmosphere it’s certainly a breakfast spot I’d recommend.

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Sun Diner, Nashville

Given the Johnny Cash museum was only next door you think I might have made this my next stop following on from breakfast but oddly by the time I’d finished I didn’t really fancy it. I continued exploring and soon came across Nashville’s Hall of Fame walk. It’s essentially Nashville’s Hollywood equivalent with the floor covered in stars representing musical legends such as Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and more.

Moving on, one thing that had repeatedly been recommended to me was Nashville’s country hall of fame museum. I really wanted to see what all of the fuss was about so made this my next stop. With minimal exceptions, country music isn’t something we’re typically exposed to in the UK and consequently wasn’t a genre I’d really grown up with so I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy this museum too much.

It didn’t get off to the best of starts with the first exhibit being dedicated to ‘Alabama’. My first thought was actually that it was a cool concept. So this room would be dedicated to the state of Alabama, perhaps Tennessee another and who knows what other country-loving states they’d exhibit. However I’d completely misunderstood, this wasn’t a room dedicated to the state of Alabama, it was dedicated to the “world famous” band called Alabama.

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Alabama! The band, not the state!

Oh of course! That amazing, incredibly well known, highly successful band called.. wait, who? Alabama? Well known? Highly successful? I’ve never heard of these guys!

Admittedly I don’t pretend to be some musical guru, history will prove I’m a terrible pub-quiz teammate when it comes to music rounds but throw me a bone here. I’d gone in to this museum worried that I knew nothing about country music and this first exhibit pretty much smacked that theory right in my face. I was now worried the museum was going to be a complete bust.

Don’t get me wrong, the Alabama exhibit was actually quite interesting and informative. I went out of there feeling like I knew the band a little better and the exhibit was well presented too. Ultimately though it meant nothing to me and was probably one for the Alabama fans.

Fortunately things picked up from there and I LOVED the rest of the museum. I quickly appreciated how much influence country music had had on the world and some of the great legends and musical icons that the genre had given us. The museum delved in to a number of household names. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, Taylor Swift and on and on and on.

It’s an incredible museum, one of the most enjoyable I’ve been to infact. It was presented really nice, not overly crowded, really interesting and there were plenty of interactive pieces too. Be it memorabilia or access to unreleased clips I just seemed to find myself immersed in to the world of country. I spent far longer exploring the museum than I’d anticipated and probably could have enjoyed it for longer too. However I was conscious that there was still more of Nashville for me to see.

It was around 1 by the time I came out I think so my morning had flown by. Unfortunately by the time I exited the museum, rain had appeared. I stepped out in to the street and there was a light drizzle so I decided to duck in to one of the first bars I encountered to get out of the rain. I figured I could have a quick drink whilst waiting for the rain to pass and catch a bit of the set from the band setting up on the stage in the corner.

I finished off my beer but the band hadn’t started yet so I gave them the benefit of the doubt and ordered a second, I wanted to hear a couple of songs at the very least! The band eventually kicked things off and were quite good, the old couple that had been sat next to me at the bar got up to dance which was just adorable.

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Legends Corner, Nashville

By beer number three the heavens had opened, there was a fully blown thunder-storm which combined with the near-perfect setting gave me zero desire to head back out in to the street. Others looked on (and filmed on their phones) in amazement at how badly it was coming down. Every few minutes some poor drenched soul would come flying through the door seeking shelter. Until things calmed down I had no intention of going anywhere and continued to enjoy the music, friendly atmosphere and an attentive barmaid who kept the beer flowing.

Beer four was quickly followed by beer number five and oh would you look at the time – it’s drunk-o-clock! This was NOT how things were supposed to go. I was catching a 14 hour ish bus to Dallas that night and my big plan to ensure I slept easy was to spend my evening bar-hopping and having a few beers. Beer makes me sleep easy so it was a fool-proof plan to get sleep on an overnight bus.

However my morning and afternoon was reserved for exploring Nashville, this damn thunderstorm had scuppered my afternoon plans. Instead of exploring Nashville all I’d achieved was a ‘rehearsal’ to the evening plans. I realised I was going to have to grab some food which unfortunately wasn’t a possibility where I was, sadly I was going to have to brave the miserable Nashville weather.

My intention was to walk down to the Hard Rock Café at the end of Broadway, I’m a fan of HRC’s anyway but where better to visit one than in music city? Sadly I quickly abandoned that plan, I didn’t fancy the extra two hundred yards down the street and jumped in to a restaurant a little closer. In hindsight it was probably a bad decision and I should have powered on to the HRC. I didn’t really enjoy my choice.

The food was fine but it wasn’t a “here for the night” place so with a fuller stomach I moved on. I had been recommended a couple of bars and wanted to see at least one of them before leaving Nashville so made my way over to the famous and highly rated BB Kings.

In all honesty I just didn’t feel it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit but personally I just felt completely out of place! Admittedly the numerous beers earlier probably hadn’t helped and made me a little more paranoid because I just felt like EVERYONE was staring at me. All I wanted to do was finish my beer as quickly as possible and get out of there!

Alas my next problem. I ordered the local IPA on the menu and my waitress returned to tell me that it was unfortunately unavailable and asked what I’d like instead. I didn’t have a clue so asked for a recommendation – “the Bearwalker” – alright, sure, let’s do that!

Back comes my waitress a little later and sits down a black beer in front of me. This is my IPA (Indian PALE ale) replacement? I’d been hoping for a like-for-like recommendation. Do I complain? I mean technically it is what I ordered, I just didn’t know what I was ordering.

I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and hope it was an honest mistake. It’s possible her beer knowledge was limited but it’s also possible she was completely trolling me and purposely found the darkest beer on the menu to serve me (seriously, paranoid much?).

Anyway, of course being English I stuck with the undesirable beer rather than send it back and opting for something different. I do drink dark beers occasionally but it’s by no means my go-to beer. I find them less enjoyable, they’re usually a higher-percentage so get me drunker and consequently they take me longer to drink. Ordinarily it wouldn’t be a problem but unfortunately I did quickly feel out of place and I now found myself in a place I didn’t want to be at, with a beer I didn’t want to be drinking and sadly drinking it at the world’s slowest pace.

I was already drunk and this beer was probably the one that tipped me over the edge. The sensible thing to do would have been to have just left the beer but it wasn’t the cheapest place and I was reluctant to pay near $10 for a beer I wasn’t going to finish.

On the plus side it did kill some time and the music playing was enjoyable too. Looking back I think it was my position (literally and mentally) that probably spoilt my visit. I was already drunk before the “bearwalker” so might have enjoyed BB Kings a bit more had I been sober.

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Additionally for some reason they sat me down in the restaurant so I was amongst other diners enjoying their food and chatting away. It didn’t feel like a bar or a club to me, it felt very much like you should be here for food and the music is a bonus. Whereas all I really wanted was to enjoy the blues music and have a drink, perhaps if I’d sat at the bar area I would have felt a bit more relaxed and enjoyed it more so I’m willing to give it a second chance next time but on this occasion I didn’t stick around for a second beer.

“Wise decision Jason..”

Hold off on the praise because although I moved on, I stupidly returned to one of the bars from the night before and squeezed in one more beer before bidding farewell to Nashville. I certainly didn’t need that last beer but I suppose the only alternative was (water, food, fresh air, NOT another beer) to wait around for ages at the bus station.

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George Jones bar – I liked this place a lot!

Things are a little hazy from there. I remember leaving the bar and trawling through the wet streets and puddles of Nashville en route to the bus station but my memories of Nashville bus station are minimal. I’m surprised I even found it given how drunk I was, let alone ensuring I got on the right bus (“Welcome to Canada!”).

My next clear memory was getting woken up and thrown off the bus in Memphis at 2am so they could “clean the bus”. Thanks Greyhound, you couldn’t have done this at 10pm in Nashville at a more reasonable hour?

Unlike Nashville, Memphis’ bus station I remember clear as day. I spent 45 minutes pacing this little room and you quickly appreciate every little detail, I didn’t dare sit down as I wasn’t sure I’d stay awake and I didn’t particularly fancy waking up in the morning and finding myself stranded in Memphis.

After what seemed like an eternity we were allowed back on to the bus. I must have dozed off almost instantly because the next thing I remember was waking up to this beautiful sunrise in Little Rock, Arkansas! It wouldn’t be long before I’d be in Texas. More on that to come!

Stay tuned!

Jason

Nashville – Day One – April 2017

Those of you following the story from the beginning will know this was a three-city trip and that I’d kicked it off in Washington DC. You can recap on that here but it was time to move on. DC had really set the standard for this trip, it surprised me a lot and had really exceeded my expectations and I was hopeful that Nashville would follow a similar trajectory.

First things first though, I had to get there! I’d bitterly got myself to bed at a reasonable time, sacrificing a night out in DC, which ensured I was up early for a morning flight. Morning flights are typically a no-no for me where possible. I don’t mind as much when it comes to beginning the holiday early and getting to my destination in the morning but there’s always that risk of flying hungover and feeling terrible (I’m looking at you Lisbon / Newcastle).

Fortunately I’d avoided that dilemma here and I was up early to pack the last of my bits, get ready and perhaps have a last look around DC before making my way to the airport. I finished freshening up, squeezed the last of my things in to my bag and as I zipped it up, my zip came flying off! My bag was now uncloseable (is that even a word?)

“Ahhh! Panic!!”

Alright, alright so most of you will know I’m not really the panic type. I’m ridiculously laid back and knew I had some time before I had to leave but regardless, I still had a problem that needed resolving and quick! I suppose there’s a lesson to be learnt here. Something along the lines of “pack the night before Jason” or some other crazy advice but much like my hangover situation I’m going to lay the blame at another pesky morning flight – never book a morning flight!

I was short on time and didn’t even know where to begin looking. I hadn’t spent my time in DC shopping, I didn’t have a clue what was local to find a replacement. The hostel staff weren’t particularly helpful either so I just set off and hoped for the best. About 50 yards later I realised how ridiculous it was to even contemplate walking around with a half-open bag and in the end I just hedged my bets and flagged down a taxi.

To the airport! Why waste my time in DC? I didn’t have a clue where to start looking and I was 90% certain there’d be somewhere at the airport I could buy a replacement. In all honesty I don’t quite understand why because who hasn’t got their luggage sorted by the time they’re arriving at the airport?

“Idiots like you Jason!”

Touche but still, it’s a bit of a risky business model isn’t it? I’d estimate most passengers flying already have sufficient luggage opposed to uncloseable (I’m making it a word!) bags with them. Nevertheless my gamble had paid off and soon enough I was repacking my things in to an extortionately priced brand new suitcase. It ate in to a large chunk of my emergency money but that’s what it’s there for I suppose, problem solved.

Now I could relax, now I could focus on Nashville. I happily waved my bag goodbye at the bag-drop-off area and about 30 seconds later I realised what I’d done. Admittedly there wasn’t a huge selection of suitable bags at the airport but my “any bag will do” approach to shopping had somewhat backfired. I’d bought it, packed it and checked it in but.. what did it actually look like?

Was it blue? Or maybe black, or grey? What was the brand? Any distinguishable features? No?

“Panic again!!”

Yeah, that still didn’t happen. It wasn’t really my problem was it? My only concern was that I was hungry and really wanted some breakfast and a cup of tea. The luggage situation was future Jason’s problem, let him worry about that in Nashville. So feeling care-free I went and found myself some breakfast and was soon boarding my flight.

The plane was probably the smallest I’ve flown on, I reckon only around 100 passengers with pairs of seats on either side of the plane. It was cosy I suppose, perhaps even a little too cosy. My neighbour was some young woman who’d come well prepared with lunch, laptop and notebooks to work on. With that in mind she’d re-position herself dependent on her activity. Time to snack? Stow the laptop away. Time to work? Table tray down, laptop open.

The flight was going swimmingly and then I felt something brush up against my arm. Now, I swear this happened but every time I try and look back at it logically I begin to doubt my memory. Am I remembering this right? I mean, it doesn’t sound like your typical airplane etiquette or dare I saw the type of boundaries you’d expect with a stranger but nevertheless this is still my recollection.

So, I felt something brush my arm and as I looked to my right there was her leg. I can understand you’re in a confined space and perhaps your arms brush or your legs brush or oops, I’m really sorry and I knocked you but arm to leg contact? It felt weird, to me at any rate. She however didn’t flinch which just puzzled me more. She was perfectly content sat as she was rather than having her feet planted firmly on the floor.

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Photo by mododeolhar on Pexels.com

The above is obviously a stock photo found online but essentially similarly positioned sat down with her feet up on the airplane seat.

Is this normal? Is this how Americans flirt? I mean, of course I’m flattered but I’d be good with a traditional in-the-sky beverage if you want to get to know eachother better or even a hello would do. What’s going on? None of those thoughts exited my mouth of course, I just sat there in a confused state, maintaining stereotypical British politeness and refrained from apologising for having my arm in a completely natural position.

In her defence (“what!?) it was only for a minute or two before her feet were back on the floor of the plane and social etiquette had been restored. Perhaps she’d just been uncomfortable sat in one position for so long but most people tend to go and stretch their legs by having a wander on the plane. Anyway, the rest of the flight I’m pleased to say was unmemorable and we’d soon landed. Me and leg-lady went our separate ways and I was finally in Nashville!

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Nashville happens here!

I passed on through the airport, down to baggage claim and then I remembered what past-Jason had done. I went down to baggage claim and was worried it was going to be a nightmare. Fortunately there was only one flight’s worth of baggage on our allocated carousel, likewise it seemed most passengers hadn’t actually checked in a bag so there was only around a dozen bags at best whirling around but I still couldn’t tell you which mine was.

One by one they disappeared and inevitably one single bag was left on the carousel – I guess I’ll have that one then.

Don’t worry! It was actually mine, I did check the contents before I left the airport. Ordinarily I’d have probably just jumped in a taxi in to Nashville but it had already been an expensive morning. Far more than I’d budgeted for so I took the cheap option and went and found a bus I could catch.

Soon enough I’d arrived in downtown Nashville, I was in “music city” and it was instantly apparent. The second I’d stepped off the bus I could hear music, I think the music was coming out of some museum we’d stopped at but still, it was a great first impression of Nashville. The second sign that I was going to like Nashville only took a matter of minutes as some beer-bike-thing went pedalling past me. It looked like fun and Nashville already appeared to be a city that I was really going to like.

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Pedal Tavern – looked like fun!

I made my way across the river and checked in to my hotel. Within a few minutes I’d had a text from my friend Sam who was waiting outside. Sam, her husband (Scott) and their daughter (Ariel) had driven up from Alabama for the day to come and meet me.

I was hoping to get to Nashville earlier but I think it was around 2ish by the time we met up. We’d planned to go to the Parthenon, a replica of the famous sight in Athens. It’s not something you’d typically expect to find in a city such as Nashville but we were keen to check it out. It turns out it’s actually closed on a Monday, which was somewhat unfortunate given it was a Monday. However we still decided to go, ultimately the main attraction was the exterior anyway and just seeing the building. We didn’t really have to explore it too much further.

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Greece or Nashville?

We drove over to Nashville’s Centennial Park. It’s a beautiful setting for such a landmark and was pretty peaceful when we got there – probably because it was a Monday. It was quite cool to see up close though, walk around the park and get a few photos along the way.

It began raining which seemed a good time to call it a day and move on. We contemplated what to do next but there wasn’t too many options really. Given the weather we didn’t really want to be doing anything outdoors, it was late afternoon so didn’t really seem worthwhile checking out one of Nashville’s museums and we had a little’un with us too which meant we couldn’t really go pop in to one of Nashville’s many bars and watch some music either.

In the end we decided we’d grab a late lunch / early dinner which was a lovely chance to chat and catch up over pizza. It was undoubtedly a highlight of my time in Nashville and we even managed to get an obligatory photo from the day which was nice.

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Sam and Scott kindly treated me to lunch, it was unexpected but much appreciated (thank you again!) and met with a promise I’d return the gesture next time we get an opportunity to meet up. Sadly time was ticking away and with a little’un to worry about they had to make the drive back to Alabama. With the rain pouring they dropped me back at my hotel and we said our goodbyes.

I relaxed for a bit in my room and struggled with the idea that at some point I’d have to move again. I’d spent three nights in DC sharing a hostel dorm with three other people. Now I had privacy and a large comfortable bed – it was incredibly tempting to just have stayed there for the evening.

However I knew my time in Nashville was short and this was my only proper chance at a night out in “Music City”. Fortunately it seemed like the rain had stopped so I made my way back over the bridge and in to downtown Nashville with a clear plan – bar-hopping!

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The bright lights of Broadway, Nashville

Nashville is a dream night out. I’d heard a lot of good things prior to my visit and Nashville’s nightlife doesn’t disappoint. Broadway in particular is just an endless number of bars, most if not all of which offering some sort of live music to watch. Don’t like a bar? Move on to the one next door, or two doors down, or you get the point..

If it sounded good I was going in for at least a beer before moving on. The first place I walked in to was called the George Jones, it seems to double up as a museum during the day but upstairs was a nice bar. At the back of the bar was a female country singer which set a nice mood in the room. I think there was a rooftop bar too but given the drizzle I didn’t bother checking it out. It was a nice place, one I could have quite happily stayed at for much longer but after two beers I made a move. On to the next!

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The George Jones, Nashville

As suggested above, I didn’t have to walk too far before finding the next couple of bars I liked the look and sound of. One had a really nice atmosphere with some artist singing a mixture of his own songs whilst taking requests from the room. I can’t remember the name of it but I had a couple of beers there before moving on and picking up a CD on the way out.

I wasn’t typically someone that would listen to country music before this trip (Nashville has changed me!) but it’s nice supporting local artists where you can so I figured I’d pick up a little souvenir of my night. It was actually a bit of a disappointment hearing it when I got home, I enjoyed his live performance a lot more but perhaps that’s just because I had a few beers down me by that point.

A couple of bars, little more music and few more beers later I decided to call it a night. I could have stayed out a bit later but I’d had fun, was the right level of tipsy and was also conscious that I had to cross over a bridge on the way back to my hotel.

Fun fact but I have an irrational fear of bridges. I don’t know if fear is the right word but I certainly don’t like them. Don’t ask me why because I’ve got no idea. I don’t know what I think’s going to happen. I suddenly forget how to walk, lose my balance, stumble and go head first over the bridge? 100% plausible right?

I can’t explain it, certainly not logically and worse yet – it’s not even an every-time type fear which would at least make it somewhat rational. Some bridges I’m perfectly fine on – Brooklyn Bridge for instance I didn’t have a concern in the world about falling on to the oncoming traffic below.

Back to Nashville: irrational fear or not, to put myself most at ease I walked on the opposite side of the path as far from the bridge edge as possible and right by the road. Seemingly happier to be right next to the vehicles whizzing past me. Sure, I might get hit by a truck but at least I won’t fall in the river!

Well you’ll be pleased to hear my bridge walk was a success. I have a 100% success rate in fact, who’d have thought? I made it safely back to my hotel, ordered some room service as reward for surviving my “near-death” experience and then crashed in to the comfortable bed I’d been so looking forward to sleeping in. It was the perfect end to a memorable first day in Nashville.

Stay tuned for day two!

Jason