I hope this blog finds you well and ready for a little bit of transatlantic travelling! Hard to believe that Colin and I have been home from Nashville for almost a week, but we really crammed as much as we could do into our nine-day break and had a far better time than I think either of us thought we would!
Before I launch into my travelog, I just wanted to a) apologise for the initial lack of photos on my previous blog – problem with my phone, which disallowed me to send them – and b) thank you as always for all your comments!
It was great to catch up with you all and I am so glad also that you are contacting each other through these pages, which is a wonderful thing Sharing life experiences/problems makes what can seem impossible that bit easier to deal with, I think. Thank you
Having looked back through all my photos and notes, and the fact we visited Memphis as well as Nashville, I thought it might be a good idea to split this Blog/Travelog over two weeks as there's so much to tell you about! I'll begin at Heathrow, where our journey started and took us via Chicago as there were no direct flights.
It was just over eight hours in the air, where we dozed and watched a few films, before taxiing to our terminal. The amount of time it took to us to get there made me wonder if the pilot had landed at the wrong airport and was taking us by road to our final destination!
We then had to walk for about 20 minutes, so I think next time I'll ask to be dropped off early :) Two hours to get through passport control left us with just 30 minutes to get our connection, but we made it, and were directed towards a really tiny aeroplane for the final 60 minutes of our journey – not quite window boxes and an outside toilet, but definitely not your Boeing 747 size!!
With the time difference it meant we'd left home at 4am, travelled for 13 hours, and arrived at 1.30pm – not bad, eh? I'm not sure if I mentioned, but the main focus of the trip was for Colin to experience the four day CMA (Country Music Association) Festival, which is the biggest in the world.
They have live music at the Waterfront Stage and then all the evening's entertainment takes place in a huge football stadium called LP Field (left), which is just across the river via a huge footbridge. I hadn't bought the tickets prior to our trip as I knew we could get them in Nashville itself, and for a very decent price we got a four-day pass which took us to both venues!
While the UK basked in blinding sunshine, it was pretty cloudy in Nashville for the first few days, but we were rewarded with temperatures in the 80s by the weekend and warm winds – bliss
Nashville itself is a lot bigger than I expected it to be and is divided into Downtown, Music Row, Music Valley and The District, but it was Main Street, Downtown where it was all happening. EVERY single bar there had live music playing, all of it Country and all of it incredible – no surprise it's known as Music City.
There were buskers on every street corner too, giving it their all in the hope of being discovered and becoming the next Taylor Swift or Toby Keith. Throughout the four-day event this street is pedestrianised and, for the most part, it's rammed as are the bars! Most of them serve food and it's not just burgers and ribs either!
We found sushi bars, Indian, Italian and Mexican eateries, and although alcohol was available ALL day, everyone seemed to pace themselves and there were was no upset. Of course, this is also Jack Daniels country, where Mr Jack founded his whisky distillery in 1866 after the American Civil War came to an end. You can visit the distillery but, because Lynchburg is one of Tennessee's 'dry' counties, there are no tasters at the end of the tour, and it's the only place in the county you can buy a bottle of this beautiful bourbon!
But of course we, like thousands of others, were in Nashville – the Country Music Capital of the World – for the music and, with the The Grand Ol' Opry and The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, you can really immerse yourself in the deep roots of the music itself. As I found out there are many different forms of Country – Bluegrass, Swing, Rockabilly, Cajun, Honky Tonk and Contemporary – and Rock n' Roll is an offshoot off Country and blues, so no surprise that Elvis Presley's gold-leaf Cadillac (a gift from his wife, Priscilla) is kept there!
She had a piano gilded for him too – wouldn't want to leave your coffee cup standing on that! We had one of those plug-in audio guides to direct us through the displays, but our second visit was to the historic RCA Studio B, and Nyla was our totally engaging and enthusiastic guide.
Dubbed the 'Home of 1,000 Hits' this building was the place where Elvis recorded 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?', Roy Orbison produced 'Only the Lonely' and Dolly Parton sang 'I Will Always Love You'. Nyla told us that, on the day Dolly was due to record at the studio, she got caught in traffic and was running late when she swung her car into the car park and kept going straight into the wall of the building! You can see where they replaced the bricks
We sat at the same piano that Elvis played and listened in the main studio to a recording of him singing 'Glory Alleluia'…I've always liked Elvis, but the clarity of his voice, and the fact that we were sitting where he would have sat, brought tears to my eyes…it was as if he was there…
When we weren't sightseeing, we were on The Waterfront, watching artists like Lone Star and Craig Morgan perform live in the afternoon sunshine – it was fantastic. Colin had been a little apprehensive before we'd come away, thinking that maybe his take on Country music wasn't what the rest of the world were listening to, but he couldn't have been more wrong. He is absolutely on the money, and was so inspired by our time there that he has already written six new songs for the second album
Of course the biggest excitement was the evening's entertainment in the huge American football stadium, LP Field, which housed 41,000 people! Our seats were quite high up so we had a cracking view and to be able to sit outside and watch the sun go down without needing an umbrella or blanket was fabulous.
This is what about a third of the stadium looked like and we were treated to some of Country's finest. Headlining were Brad Paisley, Lady Antebelum, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Kip Moore and a young guy called Hunter Hayes who had the largely female audience at fever pitch :) There was even a surprise appearance from Kenny Rogers, who was possibly the only name outside of Lady Antebelum that I'd heard of!
Unlike Glastonbury or the Reading Festival in the UK, everyone leaves the vicinity after the concert via a huge bridge over the river. It's about a mile walk each way, so I cottoned on early that I needed to wear flat shoes! I had expected to see all the guys in check shirts with cowboy hats on, but nobody wore them!
It was interesting though that for the girls there were two codes of dress; either TINY shorts with T-shirt and cowboy boots, or short skirts/dresses with cowboy boots! And I have to say, I have NEVER seen such an incredible display of fabulous legs in my life. Daisy Dukes every one of them
As I am British and old, I didn't go for either of these looks, and kept my legs in crop trousers – I've been told I have a nicely turned ankle… :)
What I haven't mentioned yet, but what made the holiday such a great one for both of us, was meeting up with so many delightful Americans! Whether it was the driver of the shuttle bus, or the cashier at the supermarket, all the hotel staff, and even the passport control officers, EVERYONE was friendly. On the first day we met Brad, Brooke, Ashley and Josh who were staying at the same hotel.
This was their third year at the CMA's and they had travelled by car from Indiana. We went with them to the Festival on several nights, having eaten in a little Mexican first, and drunk a few mighty powerful Margeritas! Josh had brought his guitar and so, after the concert, the hotel allowed us all to sit by the pool singing til four in the morning
Colin got the chance to play and they loved his songs. We gave them each an album to take home, which they played in their car and then texted to say they'd learned all the words!! :) We were both sad to see them head home on Monday morning but, having waved them off, we set about making plans for the second part of our trip: Memphis!
Good decision, I think, to tell you about that part of our holiday next week, as this is more than enough for you to get through! But I leave you with a quiz question: what does this sign (left) mean, and where did I see it? It still makes me laugh looking at it now!
Have a wonderful weekend, and I look forward very much to hearing from you with all your news.
With my love, Ali xxx