I can attest to the south. I can raise a hand and fall to my knees. I can count the Cracker Barrels and the Chick-Fil-A’s and the Waffle Houses by the dozen. I can pass the churches with just a little bit of guilt. Hell, I lived in Kentucky for two years and the south is an experience you should have at least once in your life. The people, kind and awesome souls. The food, fattening and deliciously fried. The dialect, slow and composed. Sometimes so slow in fact, I’d often listen to someone speaking to me and wish I had a remote control to speed ‘em on up.
And after visiting Nashville, TN to bring in the 2014 New Year, I miss the south. If I moved again, I would tell you true, I’d make Nashville my next home.
There’s something about it. Something that isn’t anywhere else – and believe me I’ve traveled like a sonofabitch so I know my states. Though I can do without the new fangled hipsterness of Nashville and I would never be brave enough to venture karaoke in a city where probably 50% are aspiring singers with a better warble than I, I do adore the laid back charm and southern drawl and music in every single place you stop. Even the airport bars had a lounge crooner.
Nashville turns you devoted. It makes you loyal. It makes you dear. It makes you ogle the fry cook with a blazingly sweet pompadour on Broadway. It makes you buy three CDs from local musicians. It makes you beatific on Honky Tonk row with a PBR in your hand.
In fact, Nashville is extra special to me because a part of my maybe-it’s-a-future-book? takes place in Nashville, so anything I did was looked at as an opportunity for literary research.
So what does a Nashville Itinerary consist of? Music, drinking and face meets floor.
Day One – The King’s in the (City) House
A three hour drive to Memphis from Nashville ain’t no thang, especially where the King of Rock and Roll’s concerned. Graceland has been on my bucket list for probably more than 15 years (ever since I found his records in my grandmother’s basement), so using the excuse of when-are-we-ever-going-to-be-near-Memphis-again? I dragged my husband along.
Graceland was not what I expected. And not in the bad way. I expected a HUGE mansion; instead I got a gorgeous, quaint house with rooms decked out in all their 60s/70s beauty. Touring where Elvis used to live and seeing the amount of gold records he racked up was amazing. You truly get a glimpse of the King’s professional and personal world. When we made it to Elvis’s grave, I slipped on sunglasses. I couldn’t help tearing up.
Though Graceland is uber-touristy and slightly tacky, as we passed through the crowd I couldn’t help but hope that the 13-year-old kid whose parents had dragged him/her along developed an appreciation for the King. If Graceland can convert one kid a day from listening to Kesha (I refuse to use the “$” sign) to the King then life is pretty fucking beautiful.
After three more hours in the car, a quick pit stop at the hotel, we headed into East Nashville – Germantown – to have dinner at City House.
Rustic, brick, hipster is what City House is. It feels like you’re eating in a very well decorated warehouse. Concrete and brick walls, metal chairs, loft-like stairs, urban atmosphere, a menagerie of decorative pigs dotting the walls.
Known for their pizzas and fried chicken, the menu had surprisingly interesting dishes like head cheese and scrapple and Tripp ham. Mmmmm, ham.
Usually I’m the adventurous sort when it comes to putting things in my mouth but the waiter did have to talk me and the Husband into ordering head cheese lettuce wraps mixed with pimento cheese. The rest of the menu was rounded out with pizzas that were unique creations topped with Kale, Catfish, Chard, random and odd combinations on a crackling crust.
The best part of the meal came at the end. It was gloooorious. No, it wasn’t stuffing my face with the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever had in my life; it was the gentleman to my left politely tapping my arm and offering up his table’s uneaten appetizer they couldn’t finish.
Where else would this happen anywhere but the south?
Well played, Nashville. Well played.
Day Two – Coffee, Beer and Whiskey
Up, early morning.
Pleasedeargod if you ever go to Nashville hit up Barista Parlor. A magical coffee shop in East Nashville that now sits where a mechanic shop used live is vintage and modern cool all at once, with coffee brewers that looked like they came straight out of a laboratory, taxidermy on the walls, record player in the corner and garage doors that open out onto a stage, Barista Parlor would need to look hard to find competition.
Order the sausage biscuit and one of the gourmet coffees. With selections like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Four Barrel, you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to jumpstart your morning.
To while away the afternoon, head over to Antique Archaeology in Marathon Village. Featured on the History Channel, this shop has odd and historical wares that are too expensive to purchase but sure make for fun browsing and conversation.
Next stop, Honky Tonk row. A street of fine and rascally drinking establishments and shops on Broadway. The bars lining the back alley of the Ryman Theater are the best and all have classic histories and star sightings, not to mention delicious, delicious PBR and live music. Hit up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner, Second Fiddle, The Stage, and Robert’s Western World. I’m pleased to say I hit up all five of them in about 24 hours.
8pm, dinner that night was at the white-table clothed (la di da) Merchants, a restaurant on Broadway, right across from the boozing bars.
Merchants serves locally sourced produce and meats. A simple menu with familiar dishes that have interesting twists (Scallion hoecakes, anyone?) the dinner at Merchants was very good but not the highlight of the trip by any means.
From there, 10pm, we hit up the Station Inn.
BY GOD GO TO HERE. A small space, twelve bucks a head, drink PBR on card tables and sit on non-matching folding chairs. It is an insanely amazing time. The husband and I got a table right in front of the stage. No matter where you sit the venue is so intimate, you feel like you’re getting your own personal show. That night we saw Robert Cordle and a better time could not have been had.
Midnight, we go dancing at Legends Corner and drink whiskey sours while watching the confused country singer on stage try to sing Weezer for a $100 tip before heading back to the hotel at three AM.
Day Three – The Mother Church
Sleep in until ten. We’re beat. Too lazy and bleary-eyed I order a $15 pot of coffee. I move slow. That is until we have a Ryman Auditorium tour at noon.
This tour is a must. Hearing the history, learning about original bluegrass singers who played there is a testament to Nashville and country roots. Tour this gem. Educate yourself about Ray Acuff. Drool over the Hatch prints.
From there we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame. And…
In the right mindset this could have been fun. But I was tired. My feet hurt. I was probably biased BUT…there were too many people and it was hot and it was crowded. I get that it’s a Hall of Fame but there were just teeny tiny snippets of information that didn’t really do anything for me.
From there it was a drink, a nap at the hotel, a quick dinner, pregame with Buffalo Trace, and then onto the Ryman. The main reason for this New Year’s Eve trip to Nashville – Old Crow Medicine Show and Parker Millsap at the Ryman.
Seeing a show at the Ryman is a must. Add it to your Bucket List, STAT.
You have not heard music until you have been at the Ryman. You have not felt throbbing until you experience the floors hum and pulsate with the stompage of fellow music lovers. It sings through your soul and vibrates your bones. It is an experience every music and concert lover should have in their life and pays a true homage to those who stand on its stage.
Old Crow put on a righteous performance. Clad in tuxedos and ties, they played a two and a half hour set like goddamn champs. They had their timing down, sang the classics and we rang in the New Year with bells and whistles and a whole bunch of beautiful balloons.
Someone handed me a noisemaker that had my husband looking instantly regretful.
After the concert, Broadway in all of its crazy glory was a sight to behold.
The line for a taxi was probably a half mile long; people were starting fights in the back of the bars and hot dog vendors were slinging wieners and raking in the dough. I bought chicken and grits from a food truck and posed on the Ryman’s steps.
While I have come away with the knowledge that I will never debut my karaoke skills in Nashville, Nashville isn’t just the south; it is a well-oiled city that knows their food, has beautiful scenery and brims with music. So work on your manners, develop an affinity for whiskey, and practice your white-trash-debutante curtsy because Nashville is a trip that must be had.
Hell, it made an honest woman out of me.