Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Road Trip: Tennessee, Part 1

Crossing the border from Virginia into Tennessee, it was like we hit a wall made of heat: the humidity began at the state line, I'm sure of it. Shortly after that we spotted a sign for a state visitor centre, so thought it might be a good idea to stop there and see if there were any cool things we could go and see or do.

Stopping at the visitor centre was good for two reasons:
1). We found here - and found subsequently - that many state tourist centres give out free booklets of vouchers for motels; we think we saved a small fortune in using those booklets for the road trip.
2). Had we not stopped, we would never ever have thought to go to Pigeon Forge for the night, where we saw Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede.

The Dixie Stampede was cheesy, but brilliant, watching a horse show and being fed large amounts of food (a whole roast chicken!). Dave and I rolled our eyes at a lot of the over-the-top patriotism that was on display at times, but watching the stunt riders and the theatrics was really entertaining.

From there, after a very good night's sleep we moved on to Nashville for two nights. The motel we stayed at was fantastic, a really great, well-situated Quality Inn which was the first place to offer a cooked breakfast and which also had a great Italian-influenced restaurant just around the corner. Dave took off for a few hours to replace Betsy the Second (whose tracking was wrong) with the sportier Betsy the Third, a car who served us well for the rest of the trip.

Nashville was a beautiful city, and we immersed ourselves in the history of music in the city. The Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Theatre (original home of the Grand Ol' Opry), the new Opry Mills Mall and new Opry - none of it disappointed, and this was after starting the day by taking a tour around the State Capital building and then the Frist Art Gallery. The history that we learned about at the State Capital was very interesting, tales of divison and re-union, of shots fired and people honoured. The Country Music Hall of Fame was brilliant, incredibly interesting and a home of research for country music today. The Ryman Theatre was a lovely place, and one can see right away why it means so much to so many bands and music lovers around the world.

Opry Mills Mall was nice as malls go, but still just a mall: we had a look around a small museum about the history of the new Opry, but it didn't have the charm of the original Opry. After going to see Bruno (amazing to see a woman leading two small children out after five minutes; I don't understand the thinking behind the US movie certificate system at all) we headed back to the Quality Inn to sleep after what had been a fun and full day. We would need our sleep, for the next day we were driving on to somewhere that would prove to be a highlight of the trip for both of us: Graceland.


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