Sunday, February 01, 2015


Good friend Mike had a work trip to Nasvhille last August, and about three weeks before he went, he asked me if I wanted join. I'd never been, free hotel, good friend for adventures, so I found a flight and got myself there. Turns out I'd fall a little bit in love with Nashville.

Mike's conference was at the Gaylord Operyland Resort - nice property, though a bit outside of town. Mike rented a car to come pick me up at the airport, and we managed free parking since one of the rental car companies has a few spots at the hotel. Otherwise we'd be paying a ton to park overnight.

A photo for Mike's nieces, with a frog they'd sent him.

Mike had some classes on Thursday, and I worked a bit in the morning, but I took a lunch break and walked over to the outlet mall. Hello, J Crew.

I'd researched Nashville's best restaurants and made a reservation that night at Rolf and Daughters, apparently one of the best new restaurants in the country. Samantha, Nashville friend, also gave it a glowing review, and the reliable Tom Sietsema at WaPo had written about it.

We drove into the neighborhood and took a walk before our food exploration.

Finally, time to eat. I'd heard we had to order a pasta dish.

Started with bread with seawood butter and our server recommended the lamb ribs. I think we also had the heirloom tomatoes and cheese.

Mike went with the trout. Sadly, he's allergic to pork, so I couldn't share my dish with him.

I had the garganelli verde with the ragout, and while that's not a super appealing photo, let me tell you, that dish was FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC. I wanted to bathe in that sauce. It was so so good. Holy smokes.

Blueberry lemon tart stuff for dessert. I could barely take a couple bites, but it was a great way to finish a wonderful meal. There was an older couple sitting next to us, celebrating their anniversary. They asked us what we had ordered and we chatted for a bit. They wondered how we were able to get in that night, since they'd had reservations for weeks. I counted myself lucky that I just called on the right day. This couple had the loveliest southern accents, and I recall the gentleman saying - well, ya'll sure picked a funny time of year to come here. It was sticky humid. Oh well. They gave us a great BBQ recommendation before we left.

Summer means free music in parks, so we headed down to Live on the Green to see the Head and the Heart. 

It was crowded and hot, and we took a walk to explore over the bridge.

Then we almost bought boots and went to some honkeytonks. And we took a horse and carriage ride around for a few blocks.

Friday was time to jump into country music. We started with the tour of Studio B, which was excellent. So much history in this place, especially since it was the place where Elvis recorded so much.

Inside the main recording studio - that's the piano from this.

Elvis liked to record late at night and have all the lights turned off, so that's what our tour guide did to set the mood. She played a couple songs, and even though I'm not really an Elvis fan, I got a little teary-eyed. It was beautiful.

Studio B is quite small, so we were back at the Country Music Hall of Fame in no time.

It's a great space.

I remember her from childhood as the lady with super long hair.

This is a must-do in Nashville, even if you aren't into today's country music.

Next stop, the other add-on to the tour - Hatch Show Print!

It nearly went out of a business a few times, but its relationship with Ryman Auditorium kept it alive at one point. Nearly even artist that plays there has a custom poster printed at Hatch.

Some of their clients. I see American Express on there!

We got to make our own poster to take home. They'd already printed two colors - we added to the final red to complete it. And of course I bought a couple more things. I loved this place!

We were so hungry at this point, so we headed to Edley's, recommended by our friends from the next table over at Rolf. They didn't steer us wrong. I loooove me some okra. 

Back to the hotel to freshen up - we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry that night! It was an easy walk over. 

The schedule for that night is here. Vince Gill was certainly a draw for me (fellow Oklahoman) and I knew The Oak Ridge Boys, but that was about it. But the whole thing was great! And our usher gave us better seats when we saw we were crammed into a bench.

Each segment is pretty quick, with the host playing a song and the guests playing one or two. When Elvira came on, I didn't quite know what to make of what was going on, but it was entertaining!

Back inside the hotel. It's pretty impressive, though the lobby was always freezing. My parents would be coming here a couple weeks later. 

The Opry was over pretty early, so we went out to meet my friend Sam, who I know from my DC days. She'd moved to Nashville for the music scene - not to make it as an artist or songwriter, but more as an appreciator. Funny to see a New Yorker adjust to living in the south! The east Nashville neighborhood we explored that night had some great spots.

Saturday morning we were off and running again, this time to see some American history at the home of Andrew Jackson. He was kind of a jerk.

But he had some pretty land!

Where the servants lived.

The Hermitage wasn't my favorite thing, but I guess I'm glad we spent a couple hours there. I love America. It started to pour rain a bit as we were walking back to the entrance (the grounds are rather expansive), and it poured as soon as we got inside. Lucky us.

More to see, back over to downtown to visit the Ryman Auditorium - the Mother Church of Country Music. It's a beautiful place.

We walked around a bit before our scheduled tour.

View from stage, sort of. How amazing is that? I vowed to return one day to see a show, and it turns out I'm doing that in April! I'm so stoked.

Those windows.

Then we trekked over to get some chocolate before Olive & Sinclair closed. They've got some strange hours, and I wish we could've done a tour of the factory. They sell their chocolate all over Nashville, but I wanted to go straight to the source.

I had to get several samples to try. That nib brittle is interesting. They put it in a smoker at a friend's BBQ place.

Time for a real meal - Nashville's famous hot chicken at Hattie B's, another Tom Sietsema recommendation. I couldn't go very hot, but it was delicious.

We grabbed a cupcake at the place next door and went on another driving/walking tour in the neighborhood with all the record labels. 

Back to Studio B, since I didn't take any outside photos on the previous visit.

Everyone is so proud of their artists and songs.

We'd thought about going to the Bluebird Cafe, of course, but Samantha recommended that we try the Listening Room instead. The music is just as great, much less hassle to get into, and closer to downtown. It was a wise decision, and we had a great evening! I could spend most any night hanging at a place like that.

One more drive through honkeytonk land on a Satuday night. 

The last place on my list to eat was Husk, so I made brunch reservations for Sunday, and Samantha joined me and Mike.

Deviled eggs and pimento cheese to start - don't get much more Southern than that.

Someone ordered the French toast.

I went with the eggs Benedict with fried bologna. Yum.

I enjoyed the purple inside.

We drove over to Third Man Records right as it opened to check out all the strange stuff inside. Jack White is an interesting guy.  I opted not to record my own vinyl record in his booth.

We dropped Sam off at her place and hung out with her cat for a bit. The entire time I was in Nashville all I wanted (besides eating all the food and hearing all the music) was to see a cast member from the tv show Nashville. I got my wish as I was walking into Sam's apartment complex, cause Zoey lives there, and she was on her way out.

Rush, rush, rush to see a couple more things before the flight out. Union Station Hotel (the same one Alison Krauss' band is named after, I think I heard someone say?).

I'd love to stay here next time.

Then I walked over to the Frist and Mike went to the Johnny Cash museum. I went on a guided tour through the Surrealist exhibit, which was helpful. Sometimes that stuff is a little much for me.

This book was great.

On my walk back to meet Mike at the new convention center, I passed a lot of churches and cool buildings.

There's the Batman building, one more time.

We ducked into the air conditioning at the convention center and went to their observation balconies, while checking out which conferences were going on. One last view of downtown, then it was time to head home!

This town is wonderful - I highly recommend that you get yourself there soon.

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