Notes from a traveller: part 10

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Kaye’s itchy feet have taken her to Nashville. Read the latest instalment of her ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, only on Just About Travel

 

Continued from last time

HonkyTonk

Downtown Nashville’s honky tonks

It’s midnight and men (and women) in cowboy boots and stetsons are swirling across the dance floor of Robert’s honky-tonk, line dancing to a traditional country band.

Earlier today I tucked into meat and three (a classic Southern meal of meat loaf, fried chicken or catfish served with three sides) and attended an open mic session at Bluebird Cafe – a much loved live music venue where bright young stars get signed. (Lady Antebellum  and Garth Brooks were both discovered here.)

The famous Bluebird Cafe

The famous Bluebird Cafe

Tomorrow? I’ll be rising for a breakfast of crumbly buttermilk biscuits and grits at the institution that is Puckett’s Grocery with my new friends Paris, River (yes really), Tommy and Belle.

Everyone who is anyone has played at The Bluebird Cafe

Everyone who is anyone has played at The Bluebird Cafe

Welcome to Nashville – which truly lives up-to its nickname Music City. Make no mistake: NashVegas is all about guitars, bars and wannabe country music stars.

The cowboy boots Kaye nearly bought

The cowboy boots Kaye nearly bought

It seems as though everyone here is an aspiring muso. The Uber driver who drove me back to Broadway (the heart of the downtown district) from East Nashville (Music City’s new new hipster neighbourhood)? He’s an artist – who could have a number one next week. The bubbly blonde who tried (and nearly succeeded) in selling me a pair of brash, glittery, rhinestone cowboy boots at Boot City? An actress and singer. The Aussie receptionist at the hostel where I’m staying? A songwriter who’s travelled all the way from Oz, to develop a career in the music business.


Of course there are plenty of bonafide stars in town too: Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, the cast of hit ABC show Nashville, Jack White (formerly of the White Stripes), the Kings of Leon, Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift, self-proclaimed ‘architect of rock n’ roll’ Little Richard and disco queen Donna Summer all have homes in Nashville.

Keith Urban has a home in Nashville

Keith Urban has a home in Nashville

And while I was in town the CMA Awards – aka country music’s biggest night – were taking place meaning Music City was flooded with even more celebs (here’s looking at the A-list likes of Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood, aka the most honoured artist in CMT Music Awards history) than normal.

FullSizeRender_1

The Ryman Auditorium

You can learn all about the importance of country music at the monumental Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum where my own personal highlights included gazing at Elvis’s gold cadillac and Tammy Wynette’s wig.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Musuem

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Elvis’s cadillac

Elvis’s cadillac

The Ryman Auditorium – often referred to as the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’ – is another Nashville must visit. A National Historic Landmark since 2001, the Ryman was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 and has hosted country music legends like Johnny Cash and Don Williams to name but a few.

Johnny and his wife, June Carter Cash, died months apart in 2003 in Nashville

Johnny and his wife, June Carter Cash, died months apart in 2003 in Nashville

But there’s more to the Tennessee capital than country: Nashville boasts a booming pop and rock scene, while gospel also thrives in this city that’s home to more than 800 churches and attracts over 11 million visitors every year.

 

The annual CMA Awards attract thousands of fans

The annual CMA Awards attract thousands of fans

Not that I knew any of this prior to visiting, which only serves to prove that one of the best ways to learn and better oneself is to explore new lands and meet new people…

The CMA Music Festival is a four-day country music festival

The CMA Music Festival is a four-day country music festival

Yet while Nashville has long been famed for its many musical attractions, in recent years the city has also become a top food town leading Conde Nast Traveler no less to declare of Nashville: “There’s enough going on food-wise to warrant a trip solely for eating”.

Needless to say all this eating out at Nashville nosh stops such as Arnold’s, Monell’s and The Southern has given me a new shape. Certainly I am fatter than I was five months ago, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing… I was at my skinniest last year when living in London, but it wasn’t because I had paid a personal trainer to put me through my paces for hours on end.

Nashville is all about guitars and country music stars

Nashville is all about guitars and country music stars

Rather my slim figure was a result of being permanently skint as any income was going straight back out on council tax, tube fares et al. Subsequently eating out in London was reserved solely for special occasions whereas in uber affordable Nashville, I have spare cash to splash. Bottom line? I am heavier now but it’s with happiness – and that beats being back home, skinny from sleeplessness and sadness.

Speaking of home, in four short weeks I will be returning to my life in London – and alas, I’m not looking forward to doing so. I’ve had emails from  friends at home speculating that I must be, and I quote – “counting down the days until you stop living out of a backpack” – but perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise coming, as it does, from people who are content to stay in the city they came from.

ErnestTubb

And there’s nothing wrong with that. But then there’s people like River – my Nashville roommate who drove solo across America to reach Music City in time for the CMA Awards – and myself, who are addicted to discovering different destinations, languages and cultures.

These past five months have been fabulous. I’ve come out of my comfort zone, made a life the other side of the Atlantic and in doing so I’ve found the freedom to be myself. Or as the English writer, David Mitchell, phrased it in his award winning novel Cloud Atlas: “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”

Although best known for its music, Nashville is also a true foodie town

Although best known for its music, Nashville is also a true foodie town

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.

To be continued on 21 July

To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here

To read part two click here and here

To read part three, click here

To read part four, click here

To read part five, click here and here

To read part six, click here and here

To read part seven, click here and here

To read part eight, click here

To read part nine, click here and here

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,