I first visited Nashville back in 2006 on my very first US road trip. It's still the best holiday decision I ever made, despite the thought of me, all shy and nervous, actually having to drive on the other side of the road, in an unknown car, in unknown cities, for an estimated 2,000 miles.
The freedom to drive around the South seemed like such a romantic notion: all a bit Thelma and Louise, but minus the whole 'driving your car into the Grand Canyon' thing. Although, in saying that, with my lack of direction, it was always a possibility. My first road trip through the South sparked my love of country music. A decade later, it's pretty much all I ever listen to.
Hubby and I are huge fans of Airbnb on holiday, so we booked an apartment in East Nashville for a few nights and headed off to see what the city had to offer.
Arriving at rush hour wasn't the greatest planning on our part, but approaching from across the river certainly was. I hadn't seen Nashville for a few years and struggled to keep my eyes on the road when I spotted the Titans stadium across the Cumberland River. Once settled in and suitably unpacked, we hit up downtown.
Home of the Tennessee Titans
The Country Music Hall of Fame is possibly my favourite place in the world and I arrived with a massive smile on my face, practically running through the massive front doors, shouting: 'TWO TICKETS, PLEASE!!!'. Once inside, I realised our visit coincided with a Miranda Lambert exhibition. That NEVER happens. I generally have the worst timing ever, so I was an exceedingly happy woman.
Literally my favourite place on earth
The beautiful Rotunda
Located on 5th Avenue in Eastern Downtown, the Hall of Fame has been open since 1967. A massive refurbishment programme was also completed in 2001. It is glorious. Housing a permanent collection, taking you through the beginnings of the genre, right to the present day, the Hall of Fame introduces you to some of the biggest characters in the business, as well as celebrating those that defined the origins of its music.
Even if you were not a massive fan of country, some of the priceless collection pieces, such as Elvis' car, Patsy Cline's dress, and Dolly's hand written lyrics for 'Jolene' would surely delight any music fan.
The actual Hall of Fame plaques within the very impressive Rotunda, and the best selling record plaques, which take up a huge wall and then continue to the hallway, are a who's who of the genre. I happily spent time here, oohing and aahing at the names I recognised whilst desperately searching for all the artists I listen to today. To be honest, the CMHoF deserves a full blog post of its own, but I'd only get over-excited and spontaneously combust.
Rotunda plaques, depicting the biggest stars in country music
Elvis' car still looking pretty good
The Music City Walk of Fame and Music Garden is Nashville's equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in L.A and, having been to both, I like this one better. It's not exclusively for country stars, although it does have a lot of them, obviously. It also recognises contributions from other artists for their impressive contribution to the music industry. Kings of Leon and Jimi Hendrix being a couple of examples of non country folks. It's located right across the street from the Hall of Fame and, despite being in a bustling area, it's always seemed so peaceful to me.
The area has just undergone a massive overhaul (2015), with the unveiling of stars for new inductees Loretta Lynn and Jack White. I know, I can't believe Jack White wasn't there already, either... In addition to the Walk of Fame, the Music Garden boasts a range of flower varieties, named after singers and songs.
Downtown Nashville is a pretty and compact area, which feels much more like a small town than a major city
Well, you knew he'd be here somewhere, right?
The Grand Ole Opry is a music concert, which has, since the mid 1920s, hosted the biggest stars in country music. Making its home in Music City, it holds a special place in history as the long running music radio broadcast. The Opry was housed at the beautiful Ryman Auditorium in Downtown Nashville from 1943 and moved to a new, larger venue in 1974.
While still at the Ryman, in 1954, a young Elvis Presley made his first and only Opry performance. His music didn't go down so well and it was suggested that he go back to Memphis. And that was the last we ever heard of him, huh? As Membership of the Opry is something that demands a commitment to play there, Elvis, with his single, not overly popular performance, is not a recognised Member. I'm sure he went on to do OK, though.
Bluebird Café opened its doors in 1982 and operates as a small 90 seat venue, well known for hosting live music and giving a stage to some of the universe's biggest and brightest stars, who were often unknown writers and composers at the time of playing there.
Rather famously, Taylor Swift was discovered by music execs when playing at the Bluebird and she's not done too badly, has she? She's got some annoyingly catchy tunes. She even sells records in the UK and the iTunes country chart in Britain is primarily made up of anything she's written.
If you fancy a trip to Bluebird, it's always best to book in advance to ensure you can gain entry. They do have a small selection of seats offered on a first come, first served basis when the doors open but, as it's an intimate venue, booking is always recommended.
Les checking out the Walk of Fame stars
I love going to Coyote Ugly. I'm fairly certain I'd seen the movie before I visited the first time, but all I really recalled was the bar dancing, the bra hanging, and that LeAnn Rimes song.
I've visited twice; both times during daylight hours when the bar was quiet but the opportunity to chat to the bar staff was much better. I love chatting to local people and finding out where they live and what they do. Obviously, in this case: Nashville and Bar Staff, but I like finding out about other people's lives and I've always found Americans to be open and incredibly friendly. That's one of the biggest draws for me about the US.
The Saloon is spacious, with a fabulously long bar for dancing on. On this occasion, however, there were no bras strewn along the pole above. They'd all be removed. Maybe because the prospect of having someone's sweaty boulder holder sliding off and dropping into your bourbon was putting people off? I really don't know. I sensed my husband was *slightly* disappointed with the lack of publicly available women's underwear but after a quick shot of Jack Daniels he seemed much happier.
It's a great bar with a quirky interior. I love looking at all the signs on the walls and there are daily specials on the drinks menu. I've always wanted to go to Tequila Tuesday as that sounds like my kind of day. I'd have to forgo Moonshine Monday, though, as I'm not sure I'd survive two in a row. Also, I have to work and stuff. It really gets in the way of everything. So annoying.
...and not a bra in sight
I love wandering around all the little souvenir shops in Downtown Nashville and, in between some shopping, popping into to some of the bars and dives on the main drag to keep my beer ratio at a decent level. It doesn't matter what time of day it is in Nashville, there's always quality karaoke on the go and the atmosphere is always, always fantastic.