|A September Week in Nashville
||[Nov. 12th, 2010|08:40 pm]
From central Kentucky we made our way south and west to Nashville, TN. The last time we were in Nashville, in March, we stayed in a private campground near the Opryland Hotel. That was fun, but this time the Seven Points Corps of Engineers campground at J Percy Priest reservoir was open (with one space left when we made our reservation) so we stayed there. It’s a small campground with large wooded sites, most of which overlook the lake; the driveways are paved and the sitting areas are gravel, with large concrete picnic tables. They take beautiful care of it too, the sites are policed and the gravel is raked between campers. The campground sits on an arm of the lake and there’s a sandy beach for swimming, which we were really enjoyed after the long hot drive. My only complaint about the area is that it seemed that they were repaving every single road that accessed the campground during our stay. And it wasn’t that they’d do one and move on to the next, the crews were digging up all the roads and laying tarmac more or less at random or so it seemed.
On the trip down I drove the van with my MIL while J and P towed the fifthwheel, and we took advantage of our route to stop at Mammoth Cave; not so much for the cave as for the very nice restaurant at the inn there. They make pan-fried chicken and cherry preserves to die for. The waitress warned us that there would be a wait for our fried chicken, since it would have to be made fresh. It was well worth it!
Our site wasn’t on the lake but we were within easy walking distance, and we were very close to the bathhouse, which boasted a washer and dryer. Those occupied our first full day in camp; we kept both machines busy all day as we caught up with the laundry.
We did Nashville area touring for the rest of the week. Our first stop was the Ryman Auditorium, mostly for tickets to the Grand Ole Opry. I wanted to see the museum that they advertised on their website, but we weren’t planning on doing the backstage tour until the nice little old ticket seller J was flirting with threw in the tour for a steep discount. And it was a good thing. The backstage tour was a lot of fun; the dressing rooms are named and decorated in honor of country and western stars, and the tour guide had some great stories to tell about the Ryman and its denizens. The ‘museum’ was a misnomer; there are some display cases in the back of the auditorium and an intro film and that’s it.
You can see the cases by attending a show at the Ryman, and that’s much more fun. We were there the week before the Opryland stage was due to have its grand reopening after the Nashville flood, so all the shows were at the Ryman. We picked one at random, since we’re not country enough to recognize all the acts. The show’s the thing anyway, when you’re talking about the Opry. Since we wanted seats in the disabled seating area for my MIL, we got the tickets for half-price. I wasn’t expecting that but it was a nice bonus! The seating is cheaper because it’s at the top last row of the auditorium and it is folding chairs so that they can easily be moved to accommodate wheelchairs and the like. Well, the auditorium is really shallow, so you are not far from the stage even all the way back. And the regular seating is pews: narrow seats and not very comfortable. I was very happy to have seats which would be padded folding chairs instead.
The next day we went to Andrew Jackson’s plantation, the Hermitage. There’s a small and interesting museum, and tours of the house and grounds. The garden was beautiful, and the epitaph written by President Jackson for his wife Rachel was very touching. From everything you see there, he was a complicated man, and very much a man of his time and place. His popularity was based on military success, frontier toughness, and a way of looking at the US which seems very foreign to us now; some of his acts as president seem reprehensible by current mores. But at the same time he had some shockingly modern sensibilities; most notably, he lived with Rachel for several years before she was finally divorced and they could be legally married. The house belies the stern general; it was set up as a home for his extended family, and you can picture him living there as a father and grandfather after he retired from office.
Our tickets to the Opry were on our last day in Nashville. We drove into town early and went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It was the most auditory museum I’ve ever been to. Everywhere there were spaces with speakers in parabolic hoods, beaming music down for just one or two people in that particular spot to hear. The halls are studded with little brass audio chambers like golden raisins in fruitcake, each curled entrance leading to a small carpeted space with music on endless loop. They were fascinating. What was even more fascinating was the central core of the museum, which is a glass enclosed space for the research and archival facilities. You get just enough glimpses of activity and stored costumes and music and instruments to make you feel like a kid at a candy store window. I refrained from actually pressing my nose to the glass, but not by much. The Hall of Fame itself was small but lovely, seeming carved from native stone and complete with a fountain that starts as a small spring at the entrance and runs like a mountain stream, down along the staircase to the lobby.
After a nice dinner we finished out our week in Nashville in Country style at the Grand Ole Opry. We love the Opry. It’s an old-time radio variety show. We never know too many of the acts but we always enjoy the show, from the corny opening by “Minnie Pearl” (Howdee!) through Little Jimmy Dickens terrible jokes. We enjoy the little bits that let you know it’s a live radio show, the MC cuing the audience to applaud, even the commercials; it’s all good fun.