Nashville is a three hour drive from Memphis. During my visit I spent one day there. Again there was so much to see and do I have to go back. It is hard because everything is so spread out, that driving from one attraction to another takes up a lot of time in itself. I was really hoping to spot Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman having Sunday brunch but I had no such luck. They must be hanging out somewhere with the Neely’s.
Here is what I managed to do in my time in Nashville. I hope you can live vicariously through me and enjoy.
Tennessee State Capital
This building sits on top of an enormous hill with very pretty views. But I was here for one reason and one reason only: a dead President. I have told you I like seeing estates and dead people but my favorite is a dead President! I love being so close to history despite how creepy it sounds to others. Buried on the Capital’s East lawn are President and Mrs. James Polk. When I came here there were many statues and what I will call false alarms. Since I apparently have no sense of direction, what I thought would take 5 minutes took probably around 20. I pictured driving up, pulling over, taking my photo and leaving. But since I could not find the President and his wife I had to climb to the top and walk all the way around until I found them. I was not leaving without getting my man! It was worth it for the satisfaction of victory but they could not have been in a more inconvenient location. At least it was free.
I have always wanted to go to Greece and hopefully one day before I die, I will get there. But Nashville has something very special that I did not know about until recently, which is a close second. It is a full size replica of the Athens Parthenon. It was originally meant to be temporary but has been in Nashville since it was built in 1897. This Parthenon is the tallest indoor sculpture in the country and also has the largest bronze doors in the country weighing in at 71/2 tons per door. Even though I knew it was meant to be an exact replica I couldn’t believe how big it was. In is in the middle of Centennial Park and you can spot it from a mile away. This helps you forget how long of a walk it might be from your car if you are lazy like me. But no matter the distance, it is worth a close-up view. The detailed carvings that decorate the top are amazing. Those aforementioned doors are insane. It’s like you can see and feel how heavy they are without touching them. I could not touch them because they are behind protective netting and glass.
The other day I was watching PBS and the special they had aired on the Parthenon is Greece. The resemblance is uncanny despite that the original lays in ruins.
The only disappointing aspect of this attraction was that there was a miscommunication about the time it opened. My guide book and their website (you know I crossed reference) said it opened at 12 pm and apparently those where summer hours. That has never happened to me before. I was disappointed I missed being able to go inside and see the statue of Athena, who the real Parthenon was mean to honor.
Grand Old Opry
It turns out that even if you have no idea going in what the Grand Ole Opry is you can still have a good time. Of course I knew what it was and was dying to get to stand in what I call the “circle of trust.” It is a historic circle shaped piece of wood that was preserved from the original Opry building before this Opryland was created. Every famous person who has ever performed on the Grand Ole Opry has stood in this spot. And now so have I.
The Grand Ole Opry started out as a radio show in 1925 and remains one to this day. It has expanded to include concerts from some of country music’s greats. An interesting fact: only a musician that has been invited can play. We got to see the dressing rooms that each have their own theme, walk the halls, see the celebrity entrance, and then we walked out on stage and I landed in the circle of trust! It was awesome to stand there and see from that vantage point. The audience sit in pew like arrangements which keeps with the cathedral-ish look and feel of the building. Our tour guide made us sing, “You Are My Sunshine,” so now I can say I have performed on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry!!
The Hermitage is the estate President Andrew Jackson called home both before and after he came home from Washington D.C. President Jackson was elected both in 1828 and 1832. As mentioned above, I was here to see this dead President who happened to be buried in his backyard. But I actually got a lot more out of it than that. This is the first estate that I have been to where the look and feel is probably very close to what it was like in his day. After purchasing your tickets and walking through the welcome center, you walk about ten minutes or so out through a field to the actual house. The walk is very quiet and solemn. I went about 3 or 4pm in the afternoon and it was cloudy out. That added an extra layer of depth to the experience. I enjoyed this walk very much. I was able to get in the spirit of things and try to imagine what his journey home on horseback up to this majestic house might have been like.
The house is incredible both outside and inside. It is so well preserved. The Jacksons had great taste. The wallpaper was from Paris and looks like it was put on yesterday. There were glass barriers here too and no photography allowed but the house is still ingrained in my memory. The house was very large especially for that era. There were several large bedrooms, dining room, and sitting room. But my favorite (outside of seeing the man himself) was his study. There were these incredibly large leather bound books which had newspapers in it that the President had bound so he could read them when he had time. I loved that. It is not the same, but I won’t throw my N.Y. Times out until I have read it, no matter if its two weeks old.
In addition to main house, there is smokehouse, garden, an original log cabin, spring house, Old Hermitage Church, Tulip Grove Mansion, and the gravesite of President Jackson, his wife, children, grandchildren, and slaves. One especially moving burial plot is the one closest to President and Mrs. Jackson. That plot belongs to Alfred Jackson. He took the President’s last name, as was common practice at the time of many slaves and their masters. Alfred was the President’s most trusted servant and when the house opened for tours he was the first tour guide. I love that story. He spent his life serving the President and now spends eternity beside him.
I just gave myself the goose bumps, but no tears………yet.
Stay tuned tomorrow: For Rock n’ Roll, Ribs, and Reflection Part V!