Friday, April 2, 2010

Music City USA- Part 3 of 4

Our next destination was Nashville, and we were both excited about it. We had both been as kids, but never as adults, so we were looking forward to our few days there. Because we left Knoxville so early, and because we gained an hour with the time zone change, our first stop was at the Bass Pro Shop and Opry Mills Mall- which was just opening up as we arrived. And where we scooped up pennies from four machines! (Yes, that's 16 pennies in all.) Also on the penny list was the Willie Nelson museum, and yes the penny had Willie's face on it! I was surprised at how extensive the museum was, and we spent at least an hour there! Next we went to a kids' museum, to duck in and just get pennies, but I was able to get this photo of downtown from their front door.

And of course, when you are in Nashville, the home of country music, you have to have cowboy boots! James found a deal on two pair, while I picked up a pair of what he called "biker" boots (no pointy toes for me). After the clerk rang them up, I put them right on and wore them the rest of the day, they were SO comfortable! Most of Nashville's pennies were right there in downtown, and we spent the afternoon gathering them up. There was even one at the arena where the NHL team, the Nashville Predators play. Lucky for us, they had a game that night, and the pro shop was open so we were able to get in and out with our prize.

We had some time to waste before check in time at the hotel, and we found this cute little place, where the rescue kitties were running around the store like crazy. I picked up a few cute black cat knickknacks- what I really wanted to do was take home some of the black cats themselves! We made it to our hotel later that afternoon, and it was as cool in person as the photos online. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, near Music Row and close to Vanderbilt University (we drove through campus while out and about). This funky hotel was decorated from top to bottom with guitars. Here is the lobby.

Here is our really awesome spectacular cool room! The framed photos were all guitars, and even the mural on the bedroom wall was a guitar. And yes those are hardwood floors, fantastic hotel! Not for the budget-minded, but hey, we were on vacation after all. We confess, we have never heard of this chain before. Turns out there are many of them, and even two in Atlanta! We found this one by accident. We spent an evening online looking at hotels in Nashville, and we couldn't find one we really liked from our preferred chain of Marriott. So I was looking for a Staybridge, our other favorite, when I came across their sister chain, Hotel Indigo. I told James I am 100% absolutely hooked, if we ever travel again and there is a Hotel Indigo, that is our hotel!

One thing we found online that we liked, was this fantastic patio with a view of downtown. This was a public patio open to all guests. The unexpected surprise was that when we checked into our room, we found that WE had our own private entrance to the patio, the only room to have this! (See our door, second photo.) At first I was like, great, we will have people partying outside our room all night. But, other than a smoker or two, no one ever used this amazing deck up on the 8th floor. Well, we sure did! It almost felt like our private "balcony" because no one else ever came out there.

High on our list of priorities was visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, where we went on our second day in town. No, not because they have a penny machine. This one was strictly for us! I wish I had more photos, but I admit I was so taken with reading every word of every exhibit, I only got photos of Webb Pierce's custom car- with a saddle in the front seat! And a photo of the beautiful lobby. This three-story museum was a highlight of the trip. Although I am pretty much a rocker, I grew up on country music as a kid, and James has always loved country music (he went to high school with hotty Kenny Chesney!!), and I recognized a lot of the names and songs here. For each artist, they had their home state listed, and of course about 99% of them were from the south. But only one from my home state of Florida! Can anyone guess? (I'll bet my dad will know the answer to this.)

We spent a little over two hours here, and I was intrigued by every corner of this place- I would have stayed longer if we didn't have more places to go. It was extremely educational as well, starting with country music's roots as mountain music all the way until now- we learned what the very famous and popular Nudie suit is! (Not what you think!!) From the guitar collection, to the video montage of the growth of country music, to the Brenda Lee room, and the 5,000 square foot tribute to the Williams family. I left the gift shop with a Hank Williams (Sr!!!) CD that reminded me of one childhood summer in Louisiana, cruising around the countryside with my granny. I loved this museum, and I would go back without hesitation if I'm ever in Nashville again.

After the Hall of Fame, we headed over to the metropolis known as the Opryland Hotel (photos from inside the hotel). This hotel is SO huge, it actually has "You Are Here" signs and maps posted everywhere. I haven't been everywhere across the land, but in my travels this has got to be the largest hotel in the world!!! It has over 600,000 square feet in just meeting rooms! We wandered around so long, and got so lost, we ended up finding an Irish pub along one of the hotel wings and crashed for awhile. We must have looked bedraggled, because the waitress was nice enough to sneak James a second little pint of Guinness for free.

After our lunch, we went next door to the Grand Ole Opry. You know, in all these years, it took until this visit for me to realize that Opry was just the hillbilly pronunciation of opera. Seriously, I am that dense, I never knew what the heck "Opry" meant! We took a behind the scenes tour of the Opry, and they were getting ready to have a show in just a few hours. But we got to see some of the dressing rooms before any performers arrived.

We also got to walk out on the stage itself and look out over the seats that would soon fill with folks. Below is part of the floor from the original Ryman Auditorium. We didn't have time to stay for the show, because it was our last night in town, and we wanted to check out downtown a little more. I think we both enjoyed Nashville enough that we will go back again, and we will plan to check out a performance at the Opry.

Nashville was certainly full of amazing surprises for us, and another one awaiting us at our hotel was the live music in the bar. And I'm not talking some dive with a bunch of has-beens. This was a hip gathering place with up-and-coming local talent. All of the music was accompanied by acoustic guitar, and all of the singers played. In all, we saw six different acts, including a young lady who not only looked just like Jewel, but whose style and uncanny voice sounded so much like Jewel I would dare anyone to tell them apart. We also saw two young sisters, new to Nashville by way of Wisconsin- they just cut their first CD and I predict they will make it big. I can't wait to find the CD when it comes out.

But James and I were most taken with this young man below, John Pringle. I'm not one for folksy, bluesy type music, but he was so talented and so good, we were blown away. Come to find out, he has a few CD's out already, and I am awaiting my order from Amazon as I write this! I've included him as my feature playlist right now, and I confess I got this from his MySpace page. It's a bit messed up, as it cuts off the end of every song, but you can at least get a feel for his talent. James will tell you I think his main talent is looking like my favorite hunk Russell Crowe, but honestly, I love this guy's voice! (Photo of John, NOT Russell.)

I got some really awesome shots of downtown from the hotel patio on our last night, before we headed out for an evening on the streets. Downtown Nashville is surprisingly small- not like Atlanta- but I'm sure the parts we saw were just the tourist areas. Mainly on Broadway, and 2nd Avenue. During the day it was bustling with folks, but at night it was really crowded with throngs of people waiting under the neon lights to get in to see live music at a multitude of venues. (I don't have many photos, but you can go here to see great shots of this famous street.) Because we had already enjoyed music at our hotel, we mainly walked along the sidewalks just to take it all in. We found dinner here at the fabulous Demo's (long wait but worth it), and a great lunch at the Wild Horse Saloon (and their penny machine!). We even enjoyed a wonderful meal at a fantastic Japanese restaurant, Goten, at the Hotel Indigo, where James got a lovely Bento Box and I got the Nabeyake-Udon. Say that three times fast! We definitely did not starve on this trip!

We loved Nashville so much, that I really can't wait to go back! But, we still had the drive home the next day, so we didn't stay out too late....

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