John Grindrod: Nashville, a bit of history and certainly music in the air

As for Lady Jane and my third and final town on our spring trip to Volunteer State, Nashville, once we traveled the 212 miles of Memphis and reached the outskirts, we had planned a tour of Andrew Jackson’s estate. , Hermitage, 12 miles east of town.

There is a museum, where there is a lot to read and hear about Jackson and especially his victory at the Battle of New Orleans, and, of course, the mansion. Additionally, there are signs directing you to other parts of the 400-acre estate, where various farming operations were conducted and the basic outlines of the farmworker’s living quarters could still be seen.

The narrated tour of the mansion was particularly enlightening on daily life here, both before Jackson’s two terms and after his return in 1837, sadly, without the opportunity to live out his days with his beloved wife Rachel, who died. . of heart disease during a controversial campaign before Jackson’s first term.

Much of what was in the mansion was original, including the wallpaper, flooring, and furniture, which Jane and I found quite impressive for a building over 175 years old.

When the tour reached the back porch and the passage that separated the kitchen from the formal dining room (to keep the heat out of the house), my sunglasses, perched on my cap, slipped off the bill and went off. broken when they hit the bricks laid so well before their purchase, which I found sadly interesting.

To the east of the mansion was a large and impressive garden, which contained the graves of Jackson and his wife Rachel as well as the graves of several members of Jackson’s family, largely those the childless couple adopted.

While we enjoyed the tour and the history lesson, Jane and I both agreed that there was also a sense of sadness that an area of ​​such beauty was also a place of bondage and misery for hundreds of slaves.

After our stay at the Hermitage, we drove to Franklin, on the outskirts of Nashville, and checked into a beautiful 11 ​​story hotel.

The next morning, after a full hot breakfast, it was time to make the 25-minute drive to the heart of Nashville, Lower Broadway, the famous honky-tonk entertainment district, where live country music takes place. pours into the street from every open window. We found a vacant lot just past Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville NHL team, the Predators. I expected expensive parking and got it, $ 35 for our eight hours.

So many of the honky-tanks that we saw as soon as we entered the neighborhood were affiliated with singers, such as Alan Jackson, Kid Rock, and John Rich (from Big and Rich). Before our honky-tonk hours, we took a two hour tour on the Old Town Trolley to see the main sights of Music City.

The conductor was also on the mic as a guide and did a great job in her dual role, highlighting places like the Country Music Hall of Fame, Tennessee State Capitol and Music Row, where singers like Elvis, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks have recorded in studios that line the street, including the most famous, RCA Studio B.

As we walked through the Lower Broadway District, I loved the tour guide’s story on the distinctive lavender painted honky tonk, Tootsie’s. She told us that the bar years ago was where Willie Nelson scribbled the lyrics to “Crazy” on a bar napkin, then sold it to Patsy Cline for $ 50, the amount of. his bar note. Cline kept recording it, and it became his classic.

By the time we got back from our tour, the honky tanks were in full swing. We had a Nashville favorite, the hot chicken sandwich (with copious amounts of cayenne pepper) at Honky Tonk Central and enjoyed the live music. One detail that I will point out if you are visiting Nashville is that the bands you will hear in the bars are unpaid and are only given on stage to perform for tips, so please sow the buckets of tips in each honky. tonk.

Throughout our day sipping beer and skipping honky tonk, we listened to some really great music in several establishments from budding musicians hoping to be successful. I would say my favorite out of many was Legend’s Corner, where the lead singer played such a mean violin between her lyrics.

We walked along the Cumberland River admiring the waterfront. If you are visiting, I will also recommend that you cross one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, the John Seigenthaler Bridge, which spans the Cumberland so you can see more. near the river at Nissan Stadium, where the NFL Titans play.

Even though I didn’t know I could enjoy a trip to Tennessee that didn’t include time in the Smokies, I certainly enjoyed Chattanooga, Memphis, and Nashville, who was Lady Jane and my version of the Tennessee Three-Step. .

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor, and the author of two books. Contact him at [email protected]

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