Did you miss me? Of course you did. Well, I’m back and I thought I’d share our Nashville experience with you. (In case you missed it in my earlier post, I just went on a girl’s weekend with my good friend Lauren.)
It started with an uneventful flight(thank God!) that got in right on time. We checked into the Sheraton and I was quite impressed by our VIP status. Lauren travels a ton for work, so she had used some of her travel points and platinum status to book us a great rate on a room on the 24th floor-the kind of room you need to swipe your card in the special key slot in the elevator to be able to access. There was also a VIP lounge on our floor with free breakfast in the morning, appetizers & desserts in the evening, and a big screen TV. It was a long way from Dora the Explorer and dirty diapers. Plus, Lauren’s good friend Kristen had called ahead and ordered room service to send us wine and chocolate covered strawberries as a surprise. Lauren gets paid to stay in these hotels every week!
The first thing we did was walk several blocks to the Vistor’s Center and buy ourselves some Total Access passes. For $50 the passes let you get into 4 major attractions of your choice, plus the Parthenon replica. (more on that later) It’s a pretty good deal, because the attractions we chose would have cost us much more in admission fees if we didn’t have the pass. Several of the ones we would have chosen, though, were not in operation because of the big flood. 🙁
From the Visitors Center we walked to the Hall of Fame Museum. This is when we realized that Nashville is not the “NashVegas” we were expecting. We thought the Country Music Hall of Fame would be much more flashy, have more pomp & circumstance, etc. It doesn’t. It’s literally a circular room in the museum with some plaques on the wall. See?
Although there are a lot of subtle music references in the architecture that Tater (more on him later) told us about, like how the lead on the windows is supposed to represent piano keys and the words going around the room are from a famous Gospel song. (Guess I need to brush up on my Gospel music)
Then we had Lunch at Rae’s sandwich gourmet, which was delish and the man who served us there was super friendly, and went back to the hotel & took a nap. After that we got dressed and walked back to have dinner at Jack’s BBQ. Now about Jack’s…
This place had tons of great reviews online and their walls were lined with pictures of famous people eating there, articles about how great they were from the Wall Street Journal, etc. I will say that the pulled pork was pretty amazing, but the place was filthy (I cannot count how many flies landed on us and our booth had a pile of dirty napkins and baked beans under it to the point that I had to sit with my feet in the aisle.) and the woman who served us in the cafeteria style-line was just plain rude. Ironic, because there was a gigantic sign above her head quoting a newspaper article that had voted this “the friendliest place in Nashville.” I’m just saying that wasn’t our experience.
Then Lauren had a surprise, she had bought us tickets to the Grand Ole Opry, which was playing at the Ryman theater because it’s normal location was flooded. There were about a dozen acts and it was a lot of fun. Again, not NashVegas, much more quaint than we were expecting. The live broadcast commercials were a fun throwback too. According to Tater the Ryman has the second best acoustics in the world, second only to the Tabernacle Choir. Take that with a grain of salt because Tater is a grown man who wears overalls and a camouflaged hat, not to mention that he goes by the name Tater.
After that we were exhausted. We went back to the room, reserved a rental car for the next day, called to book our seats on the Redneck Comedy Bus Tour, and went to bed. That was Friday.
On Saturday we ate breakfast in the VIP lounge and waited for Enterprise to pick us up in our rental car. We had made the reservation for 9:30-9:45 because the bus tour left at 11 and we wanted to have plenty of time to get the car situation settled and drive across town (which was really only about 10 miles) to meet the bus. The rental car rate was cheaper than taking a cab everywhere we wanted to go.
Oh Enterprise. Sigh. They got there late, which really wasn’t that big of a deal. Then they didn’t have the car we had reserved and they refused to honor our rate for any of the cars they did have available. So we waited a half an hour for the assistant manager, Mr. Nick-Who-Is-about-25-and-Wears-A-Bowtie, to go pick up another car. By the time he came back we were dangerously close to missing the tour and we still had to run back to the hotel. When we finally got out to the highway we realized that they had given us the car with less than an 8th if a tank of gas in it. We called them and Mr. NWIA25AWAB said that his only solution was for us not to fill it up, but to just “coast it back in on fumes” when we were finished with the car. Obviously that wasn’t an option because the whole reason we rented a car was to drive it places. You need gas for that. He was no help whatsoever. (For the record I called Enterprise back this morning to discuss the situation and they discounted the rental 50%) Like I said, the bus tour was scheduled to leave at 11. Lucky for us, we pulled into the parking lot at 10:56 and there was a gas station right next door.
That’s when we met Tater and Earlene, the actors (at least I hope they were actors) who host the Redneck comedy Tour. This tour is a 2-hour trip on a camouflaged bus decked out on the inside with a toilet-turned-flower-pot and underwear hanging from the ceiling, a ceiling that is also covered in bumper stickers advertising the many reasons that guns should be sold in convenience stores. Earlene interacted with the crowd while Tater seemed to give semi-believable information about the city between toilet humor and sexual innuendo. They poked a lot of fun at us because we were the only “Yankees” on the tour, and especially Lauren because she lives in New York City.
From there we went to tour the Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s estate. I came to the conclusion that Andrew Jackson was a pretty big jerk, but his estate is beautiful. See?
Then we went back to the hotel for a brief nap and got ready for our night on the town. We went to dinner at PM, a local restaurant owned by one of the contestants on the TV show Top Chef. Their website said “small plates” and we knew the chef was Top Chef worthy, so we were thinking it would be similar to the tapas restaurants we have on the east coast. Not so much. We were pretty over-dressed for what turned out to be basically a college bar that served appetizers. Still fun and the food was good. (I guess we still hadn’t really learned our lesson that we were not in NashVegas.)
That was followed by a determined drive around the city in search of free street parking (found!) and then a fairly long walk in impractical shoes in search of line dancing and live music. First we tried The Stage at Tater’s recommendation. That was more of a middle-aged married couples bar and didn’t have line dancing. Eventually we wound up at the Wild Horse, where we stayed most of the night. I even got private line dancing lessons from a guy we thought worked there, but nope, he just liked me. Ha, guess this old married girl’s still got it after all. We hit up a few more places after that for all of about 2 seconds each, they were just too crowded to move. I believe the whole weekend with the kids was worth it to Eddie when he found out that Lauren discovered an alcoholic drink I actually liked! A Firefly Arnold Palmer, ice tea flavored vodka mixed with real iced tea and lemonade, the only drink I’ve had in my entire life when you honestly could not taste the alcohol. Could be dangerous.
Sunday we started the day with a quick trip to the Farmer’s market where we both found some cheap jewelry. Then we went back to the hotel, packed up & checked out. We drove back across town to the college area. Our Total Access Passes had come with tickets to the Parthenon replica, so we decided to check it out. It’s a life-sized replica of the Parthenon which is located in a park next to student housing for Vanderbilt University. Maybe it’s because we’ve actually been to Europe, but try as we might we just could not understand the point of this thing. Nashville considers itself “the Athens of the South.” I’m pretty sure that’s only because they have an utterly pointless Parthenon replica. We left after 10 minutes, but maybe life-sized Parthenon replicas are your thing, so don’t let that deter you.
From there we stood in line for quite some time to have a late brunch at the Pancake Pantry. The restaurant was nice and clean and probably the most up-scale-looking place we ate. The toothless bus boy who sat us (I’m not trying to be mean, he really was about 20 and had no teeth) told us he was going to make “all of our pancake dreams come true.” And he did. They were really good!
Then we checked out some local shops and headed over to the Belmont Mansion for a tour. The house is located in the middle of Belmont University, although it has no affiliation. It struck us as a little odd that we found ourselves on several college campuses looking at these kind of tourist attractions that had nothing to do with the colleges themselves. The Mansion was really cool, so far my favorite story of any of the historic mansions I’ve toured. (There have been a lot.) It was the summer home owned by Adelicia Acklen, the most independently wealthy woman in the country at the time, who was friends with Napoleon’s family. If you find yourself in Nashville and you like history you should check it out.
From there we stopped in a sports bar so Lauren could watch the end of the World Cup final. I had no interest in that whatsoever and I wanted to give my single friend a chance to mingle, so I headed back down the street to the used book store.
Then we dropped off the rental car and took a cab back to the airport. We were early so Lauren was able to get a standby ticket on an earlier flight, but the early flight that I would have needed to get back to BWI wasn’t available on standby, so I sat around reading Barbara Bush’s memoir.
You know I hate flying with a passion, so the flight back was AWFUL! I was by myself (well, actually I was sitting with a very friendly-too friendly, I was winked at several times and he put up the armrest in between the seats so we could “cozy up” to each other- used car salesman-yes, he actually was a used car salesman-and his wife who I nicknamed Skin Cancer Barbie in my head because she never told me her name and if there was ever such a thing as Skin Cancer Barbie they would model they toy after this 50-some bleached blond, size 2, leather-skinned woman.) That might be mean, but I needed a way to amuse myself because I was about 90% sure I was going to die on this flight. It was the kind of flight with so much turbulence that they make the flight attendants stay seated and they never turn off the fasten seat belt sign because you are being bounced around so much. Also, it was almost pitch black because they needed to turn off the lights to conserve fuel or something and it was 9pm. So that was not so much fun, but I survived, and lucky for you because now I can report back everything you ever wanted to know about being a tourist in Nashville.