I’m not sure if I’m re-telling this story to you all, and apologies if I am, but I just love the randomness and serendipity of it. My trip to the States was initially set for after my dissertation was handed in, preferably between then and starting my new job (which I have yet to find). However, around the holidays I found out one of my oldest friends was engaged, and received a save-the-date for July! I knew I couldn’t miss her wedding, especially considering we’d fantasised about our big days together from the time we were nine, so I asked Fraser if he fancied coming with me to 1. be my date for Steph and Mike’s big day 2. meet the family (all at once) and 3. visit America for the first time, complete with July 4th celebration…though not necessarily in that order. His response was, no lie, “yeah that sounds great. Any chance we can go to Nashville while we’re there?”
Now, Fraser enjoys country music and his grandfather’s nickname was “Yodelling Dod,” and I’ve always wanted to visit Nashville but never gotten the chance. And I figured Tennessee is somewhat between Florida and Maryland, the two states we’d already be going to, so why not? It made a great excuse to have a few days in the States as a couple, and we planned to have a mini-weekend in Nashville. I should also mention that we’d be driving this whole way so he could get a sense of how immensely huge the country is…we’ll definitely fly next time but it was nice not to worry about renting cars in two states and get a chance to see the verdant, mountainous landscapes from the ground. After a two-hour detour that took us way into the scenic route (think around a mountain scenic), our weekend was shortened to one full day, but we’d be damned if we didn’t make the most of it!
Given our shortened timeframe, it made sense to stay in the heart of Nashville, around Broadway and in the middle of the tourist area. We figured we’d rather confine ourselves to where we could walk and take everything in properly, instead of rush around the city trying to hit each landmark site we’d considered seeing before. So after spraying ourselves down with some sunscreen and hunting down an excellent iced coffee shop-another first for Fraser, and given the heat he was more than happy to try it-we wandered about a few blocks to get a feel for the city. And we fell in love.
The first thing we both noticed was that, even though it was half past nine in the morning, was the music. Guitarists and singers and drummers busking on the sidewalks, live bands setting up in every honky-tonk and restaurant, promoters announcing the line-up of musical acts for the day, all surrounded us. As we passed each street performer we felt their passion and talent wash over us; it didn’t matter whether they had a fancy portable sound system or made a collection of buckets and tins their own custom drum set, the soul of their music was still there.
The second thing that caught our attention? The sheer size of everything. This wasn’t a shock for me so much as it was for Fraser, but between our hotel with 25 floors, the jacked up trucks thundering past, and a view of the Nissan Stadium from across the Cumberland River, he learned just how big America can be, even in the heart of a city.
Once we’d wandered a bit and had our bearings we decided to pay the country music hall of fame and museum a visit (full post on that later). I’ve always wanted to go, and Fraser thought it would be interesting, so we had nothing to lose! And let me tell you what, as soon as the elevator doors opened and Fraser saw a wall of guitars from the Bachman-Gretsch collection, I knew I’d lost him. We both loved the history, experienced a few emotional moments, and had a blast finding our favourite country artists-or pointing out ones the other didn’t know-on the gold record wall.
Fast forward to the afternoon, after spending a few hours at the hall of fame and museum, and we were hankering for some good food and cold brews. We made our way to the main street, Broadway, where I asked Fraser which honky-tonk he’d like to try first. It wasn’t until he answered with “that sounds good to me” that I realised he didn’t know what a honkey tonk was! After months of deciphering his teuchter words, it felt good to stump him with an American phrase. Once he learned that a honky-tonk is simply a bar with country music (though the term has slightly less favourable origins) he and I made our way to Rippy’s for some BBQ, locally brewed beer, and live music.
We spent the better part of the afternoon and evening visiting different bars, ending up on a rooftop overlooking the river and Broadway. While the sunscreen had worn off and my shoulders were a bit pink, we had the time of our lives just drinking in Nashville. It wasn’t until we were headed back to our hotel that Fraser reminded me we needed to go to Legend’s Corner, but I’m glad he did! That was probably the most emotional bit of the night, but with an incredible band and genuinely friendly people around us, we couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere.
I haven’t a clue when we’ll be returning to the states, but whenever we do we’ll be sure to visit Nashville for more than just a day or two! It’s a city entirely unlike anywhere else I’ve been, and we’re hoping if we ever have a group holiday with Fraser’s bandmates and their significant others that we can show them Music City, USA.