Nashville is where I fell in love with the South. And I will shamefacedly admit I really didn’t register it as being truly South before I got there…
I had heard nothing but good things about Nashville, so I’ll be honest and say I was kind of expecting it to fall short of expectations. I’m glad to report it did no such thing. After spending two nights on a bus, I may have been a bit delirious, but my memory is that from the first experience we had in this creative city, it was fantastic. The first experience being fried chicken with greens and mac ‘n’ cheese at a place called the Whiskey Kitchen. I like to think I started as I meant to go on.
We stayed with a friend we’d met on a wine tour in New Zealand. As we’d only known each other for about three hours, two and a half of which were spent being a little tipsy, it could easily have been a very awkward stay. Thankfully, it absolutely was not! My time in Nashville was made even better by getting to know someone I had met by chance, but who I now feel is truly a friend. That rare feeling of it seeming like you’ve been friends with someone for years, even as you’re still getting to know them.
In the two days we had in Nashville, we packed in as much as possible*. A tour of a real Southern Plantation, complete with wine tasting was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon. In the evening we made our way through some wine at the house, then went into the city and did a bit of a bar crawl. A bar called Tootsies gave options of live music on three different floors, as well as a roof terrace, and tequila. There was mandatory dancing on the bar in Coyote Ugly, and tequila, and more live music, complete with saxophone and copious tequila shots at a place called Honky Tonks. It was a fab night, and I didn’t mind too much paying for it the next day!
The next day involved fried chicken again, which I guess was what made the hangover bearable. Along with iced tea, so I was hitting all the stereotypes and loving every second. In the afternoon we went to the shooting range and I tried not to act petrified as I learnt how to load and shoot three different guns. I managed to stop flinching at every booming shot after a while, and actually enjoyed it a lot. My favourite was the one which was easiest to load and fire, with the least kickback, unsurprisingly.
We went out again in the evening. This time to an absolutely beautiful hotel called the Hermitage. Honestly, even if I had hated Nashville, I would go back just to stay in this hotel. It was that pretty. I just needed a flapper dress and some pearls.
Fancy cocktails were had and we had our pictures taken in the award winning art deco-style men’s restroom. Because it’s famous, it’s not some new international fetish.
After we tore ourselves away from the Hermitage we went to Printer’s Alley, which was a short narrow street of cool little bars. We randomly chose one called Skulls Rainbow Room, and the god of random bar choices was evidently smiling on us. All seemed quiet outside, but the small unassuming wooden doorway led straight into a busy, friendly bar.
Not only did it have a great speakeasy atmosphere, smoky voiced singer, and brilliant band; it also had a burlesque show which kicked off with ‘All That Jazz.’ I was happy as a bivalve mollusc all evening. We stayed until even the band had left, long after having our fangirl photos taken with the acts.
The repercussions of wine and cocktails the next day were once again worth it, and our new friend introduced us to the perfect cure: a Southern breakfast.
At a place called Monell’s, with family style seating – you all sit round one big table, big platters of food get brought over and you just pass everything round – I had grits, potatoes, fried chicken, sausage, pancakes…I finally found out what biscuits and gravy are, after years of reading Janet Evanovich and having a weird vision of digestives and Bisto. When we’d all eaten so much we could barely stand, we finally left to get on the road to Atlanta.
I wish I’d had longer in Nashville, but I’m hoping it’s somewhere I’ll visit again, and new friendships are really rather wonderful.
*As much as possible after spending the first afternoon recovering from the Greyhound bus experience, and being plied with wine and a much appreciated roast dinner in the evening. Our new friend even messaged her boss to share the amusement of having ‘two British girls in my living room, drinking tea and watching Harry Potter.’ I do sometimes love conforming to stereotypes, and it turns out tannins and Harry Potter are my official reset buttons.