‘Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo’. First stop on our trip to Nashville was Chattanooga. This lovely town is located along the banks of the Tennessee River and is surrounded by several high mountain ranges. The region of Chattanooga was the last home of the once great Cherokee Nation. When white settlers descended on Chattanooga the Cherokee were forced out along what is now known as the ‘trail of tears’ to Oklahoma. Many thousands died on route due to exposure, disease and starvation during this forced relocation. The history of some nations can be very heartbreaking.
Chattanooga is also: the famous choo choo, historic sites, civil war battlefields (5 major battles took place here which saw some of the worst fighting), the River Gallery Sculpture Garden, Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, Raccoon Mountain, Ruby Falls and the St Elmo Neighbourhood where more than 600 properties are listed on the national history register. We also had our first MoonPie in Chattanooga. The MoonPie was unleashed on the nation in 1917 when local miners wanted something quick, solid and filling to eat given they often worked very long hours without a break. It was developed and made in Chattanooga and since the 1940’s Moonpies have been sent to all US troops. There is so much on offer in Chattanooga so it was a great jumping off point before hitting Nashville.
‘When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar, then you know Tennessee is not very far….’
The ‘mini’ Moonpie hit the spot….really don’t think I could have eaten a full sized one!
Next stop. Nashville Tennessee – often referred to as the ‘home of country music’ and where the men like their checked shirts tucked in and the ladies definitely prefer their hair BIG!!! It is also where you get to wear your jeans pretty much everywhere (I think blue jeans are the mandatory dress code). It is also home of boot scootin’ – ” That’s the home of boot scootin’ (see). Oh, you gots to do boot scootin’ honey when your up there. I just love boot scootin’ ” a lovely Southern acquaintance of mine told me when I said we were heading to Nashville. Now I will pretty much happily give anything a go, but boot scootin’! We shall have to see!
Nashville is the capital of Tennessee. Tennessee is the home to the Grand Ole Opry, Elvis and Graceland, Dolly Parton, Dollyworld, boot scootin’, Memphis, moonshine, the Great Smoky Mountains, Sir J D (Jack Daniels), hush puppies (not to be confused with the shoes – they are fried cornmeal donuts), honkey tonk bars, BBQ sauce and road house grills. Tennessee is also the home of SPAM! This spam is not the computer generated spam but the odd canned – and I will use the term loosely – meat spam. And there’s a SPAM Museum!
The drive through the gentle and beautiful countryside of Tennessee is really enjoyable. The sky is big and wide and blue and the landscape is very different with plantations surrounded by bluegrass, soaring Smoky mountains, valleys of patchwork farmland, a winding river system and lush green pastoral lands where the cows look fat and happy. The state of Tennessee is wide and sprawling. So wide in fact, it is actually on two different time zones. Given it is spring, the beautiful dogwoods are in bloom at present as are stunning magnolia trees, the robins and mockingbirds are about and all was pretty perfect in Tennessee.
Once you hit Nashville you find a vibrant, relaxed and friendly town. Nashville is amazing day and night and I really did love it. Almost everything I wanted to see was situated in the city from The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum (which takes up an entire city block), the Johnny Cash Museum, the legendary Ryman Auditorium (it looks like a church but don’t be fooled this is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry), the honky tonks along Broadway, the Bicentennial Mall (not to be confused with shopping – this structure impressively showcases 200 years of Tennessee), Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop to the Capitol building (where Parliament was sitting on the day we visited). The elegant Nashville Library is also a must see for any book lover and you don’t even have to check out a book to go there. Dotted around the city are also beautiful sculptures, memorials to the fallen, fountains, old buildings mixed with stunning modern architecture and ‘boot’ stores where if you buy one pair of cowboy or cowgirl boots you will receive another pair free.
Also notable are the farmers markets where you will find anything from Amish baked goods to purple bell peppers, from cured meats to salted fish. Markets like these are a haven for the foodie plus they are a great place to people watch while chowing down on some very fine local food. We dined on some fab Jamaican food at Jamaica Away where they serve up jerk chicken, goat curry, oxtail, ackee and saltfish stew, bammy salads and patties (very much like a spicy meat pie in flaky pastry ) Johnny cakes to an amazing Jamaican Black Cake dessert and fried plantains.
Amazing Jamaican food at the farmers markets in Nashville
Almost everywhere you go you will see menu’s with ‘meat-and-three’s’. Its a Tennessee thing. You pay a flat price for meat which could a pork chop, fried chicken or steak then add your choice of three sides such as collar greens, sweet potato, carrots or corn. You get a lot for your money in most places and just when you think you are fit to burst the wait staff will offer up pie – pecan, sweet potato, chocolate peanut butter or key lime.
Some great places I will happily recommend if you are ever in Nashville:
* Honky Tonk Row on Broadway – quite a few hole-in-the-wall juke joints and honky tonks where you order a beer and a basket of wings and sit back and enjoy some of the best blues and country music and artists this country has to offer. Just a word of warning…don’t show up before 9pm. An early arrival is considered very bad form.
* Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack – this is a local specialty of Nashville so don’t be put off by the façade of the building, the pot holed driveway and parking area or the area in which Prince’s is located. Prince’s will serve you up a portion of chicken marinated in buttermilk, breaded then sauced using a liberal rub of cayenne pepper then pan fried in cast iron. The chicken is placed on a fresh bunny bun with pickle chips. Word of warning. This chicken is HOT. Your lips will burn and tingle, your eyes will water and your nose will run….and that’s just the mild. The hot will make you cry!! It is well worth the trip to the seedier side of town for this but do take a fan and fire retardant drinks.
* Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge – I’m a huge Patsy Cline fan and this apparently was her favourite hang out. Its located on Broadway, its a bit of a dive but its worth a look as its an old honky tonk which appears as though it could have been there forever…..which in fact it has.
* Robert’s Western World – I loved this place because you can enjoy a fried bologna sandwich which comes with a packet of chips and a PBR (all for $5) while sitting back listening to some of the best rockabilly, hillybilly and country music around. Its a hoot and you can buy the coolest boots from there too. Great fun and definitely a must see and do place on honky tonk row. We ventured in a couple of times.
* Mas Tacos Por Favor – definitely yes please!! I could not recommend this wonderful little place more. It started out in the early 1970’s as a street vendor and it is now a restaurant (but don’t expect anything fancy) serving up some of the best food you will ever try. Tamales, plantains with black bean, fish tacos, sopa tarasca soup, pozole verde, Mexican soda’s and iced coffee with horchata. They don’t serve alcohol and they don’t take credit cards but they do serve up some of the best food we have ever eaten. This one gets a big 5 star rating. It is out of town though – approximately a 7-10 minute drive from the heart of Nashville.
Not fancy but some of the best food you will ever eat!
* The Bluebird Café – its a bit of a hike from Music Row then continue on 17th Avenue south to Wedgewood, turn right then walk several more blocks until left on 21st Ave South but its well worth it. All singer/songwriters wanting to make it big in the country scene flock to the Bluebird café. There are no cover versions here, its original songs all the way. A truly great experience.
* Legends Live Music Corner – once again you will hear great live music here and as with most live venues in Nashville, there is no cover charge. Legends has been voted number one country bar in Nashville and for good reason. It was another place we ventured in on more than one occasion.
There are also some very impressive craft beer breweries in Nashville. The Market Street Brewery and Public house, Yazoo Brewery, the Broadway Brewhouse and the Filling Station to name a few.
We had a great time in Nashville and we even got to take in an ice hockey game between the Nashville Predators and the Washington Capitols. Was it gritty, was there blood, were there fisty cuffs, was it a great night, was the game brilliant and fast and are the fans insanely passionate……well hell yeah!! And they even had a penalty shoot out which doesn’t really happen that often so luck was certainly on our side.
A few more random photos from Nashville………..
The start of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park which includes a 200 foot wide granite map of Tennessee, a 1,400 foot long wall which is inscribed with the history of Tennessee, tree lined pathways, a bell carillon and time capsules. The photo next to it is the Nashville library.
Beautiful leather cowboy & cowgirl boots
Oh, and did I boot scoot’. Well I was on that wood sprung dance floor quicker than you can say “biscuits n gravy” ’cause that’s just what you do when you are in Nashville xx