Touring public art in Nashville

The last word on Nashville goes to a couple of hours of exploring I did on my last day there back in June.  As a way to weave my way through the city’s sights, I planned a walking tour of public art via the ever helpful Downtown Nashville Partnership website.   Given my limited time, I didn’t get to see everything I had hoped to but did end up with a nice selection of some interesting art.

The largest piece I saw on my tour was “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks” by Alice Aycock.  Located just outside LP Field, it is meant to evoke the evolution that side of the river has seen from an industrial past to a current and future that is more focused on recreation.

Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks

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Quickly wandering through Nashville

With only four days in Nashville, and most of those tied up in a work-related conference, my usual wandering around time was at a premium.   Subtract from that the time I spent in restaurants sampling all sorts of southern dishes and the time on my arrival day taking in some country music and there was precious little time remaining.   Here’s what I managed to squeeze in.

Near the conference hotel was the lush Centennial Park.  It was a wonderful place for an early morning walk before the work day would get underway.  I went primarily to see Nashville’s Parthenon.  It’s a full scale replica of its namesake in Greece and houses an art museum.  Very impressive.

Nashville Parthenon

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Country music everywhere you looked

You hear “Nashville” and the first thing that comes to mind is country music.   Although I wouldn’t count myself as a big modern country music fan, I’m a “when in Rome” kind of person so I took the opportunity to sample of bit on my recent trip.  Making things very easy for me was that it was the last day of the CMA Music Fest when I arrived.  My plan for my first afternoon in Music City USA was a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum followed by hopping from stage to stage downtown to listen to a pretty solid lineup of free entertainment.

My one word of advice to the true country music fan when it comes to Nashville? “Go!”  In particular, don’t miss the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  They had a host of interesting displays: the set from Hee Haw!, the black Trans Am from “Smokey and the Bandit” (not sure what that has to do with country music, but it’s pretty cool!), and this – a 24 karat gold leaf covered piano given to Elvis by Priscilla on their first anniversary:

Elvis Presley gold piano

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Nashville craft beer

Every North American city I’ve been to over the past few years has a vibrant and growing craft beer scene.  As part my pre-trip planning, I look for a craft beer bar or two and create a list of beers I hope to try when visiting a city.   For this recent trip to Nashville, a small craft beer bar in the Gulch neighbourhood, Hops + Crafts, came very highly recommended.

Early afternoon on my last day in the city, after filling up on a wonderful pulled pork sandwich from the Peg Leg Porker just around the corner, I arrived at Hops + Crafts just as it was opening.  Not sure if it’s a good or bad sign when you’re the first person in the bar for the day.   But when you catch a look at a set of taps like this, any guilt is gone.  After all, this was a small sliver of vacation time for me…

Taps at Hops + Crafts

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Southern eating, Nashville style

With limited time to explore Nashville on my recent trip there, I had to cut a few corners.  One place I wouldn’t cut on was experiencing my share of southern food staples.   I had no shortage of recommendations for great places to eat and foods to try, and I managed to squeeze a lot into my abbreviated time in the city.

On my first afternoon in Nashville, after visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and taking in some live music downtown going on as part of the Country Music Association Festival, I worked up an appetite for some barbeque and dropped into Jack’s BBQ right on Broadway.  It took me about twenty minutes in line to get to the counter, as this is a popular place:

Jack's BBQ

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A warm welcome from Nashville

Solo travel gives one an interesting perspective on the hospitality of a place.  When you’re by yourself,  you become more in tune with those around you.  Cabbies, bartenders, waiters, hotel staff and a cadre of locals (in my case, usually found in a craft beer bar, restaurant, art gallery or at a concert) can make you feel welcomed and part of a place, or just another anonymous visitor.  Over my short four days in Nashville, I gave this question a lot of thought:

Had I ever been anywhere friendlier?

With the notable exception of St. John’s, NL, I’m having great difficulty in thinking of any city I’ve been that’s been more welcoming.  The people of Nashville were unfailingly warm and open.  Those I met on this trip quickly felt like long lost friends, eager to share a story and a laugh.  What initially was a place that in my mind I might never get back to, now has become a place to which to return.

Sadly, this was only a short visit, but I think I got a great taste of southern culture.  I wandered around the last afternoon of the CMA Music Fest hopping from stage to stage to listen in on some country music.  I ate almost exclusively from regional specialties – barbeque, hot chicken, catfish, greens, grits, fried green tomatoes… every meal was an experience.  I tried a number of great Tennessee craft beers.   I did a little evening bar hopping along Broadway to take in some blue grass and old country standards.

I’m pretty happy with what I squeezed around the edges of this work-related trip.  It gave me a nice taste of Nashville and was a wonderful warm up for what now will be a “sometime in the future” visit back to Tennessee.   I’ll write more on Nashville in the coming weeks…

It can’t be Nashville every night

When the city for a conference I try to attend each year was announced as Nashville, I got a wee bit excited.  I’ve been reading a lot of travel buzz about Music City USA, and as I’ve come to learn more about Nashville,  I’m a bit sad to not have some extra time there.  This is one of the rare trips where I’m not able to tack on a few extra days, so I’ll be squeezing my tourist adventures into the margins on this one.

With limited time in Nashville next week, I’ve got an almost impossible to achieve itinerary of things to see and do, but I’m going to try my best.  There are a few barbeque joints to try and I will find a way to sample the local specialty “hot chicken” at least once (probably twice).  Luckily, one of Nashville’s best hot chicken joints is close to the conference hotel.  I hope to set aside one evening to take in some bluegrass and alt-country/Americana music at the wide selection of live music joints.  I think I can fit in a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and perhaps a quick walking tour of downtown Nashville and some of its relatively new public art installations.   There’s also the allure of venturing out one night to take in Nashville’s triple A baseball team, the Sounds, and their cool retro guitar shaped scoreboard in left field.

Ambitious plans for a short trip, but looking forward to whatever I can squeeze in.  I can always catch up on my sleep on the plane on the way home!