Music City Meanderings
Thursday was our last full day in Nashville and we still had a lot to see and do. We started our day by driving up the road apiece in search of Amy’s Cafe.
This time Mrs. Garmin and Mrs. Google were more or less correct but somehow we drove right by the place without seeing it (and boy did we get nagged about that)!
Guess I’ll blame it on the fact that we hadn’t had our cup of morning java yet! After driving a few extra miles and turning around, we finally found the place. Not much to look at from the outside but the food was good, the service was excellent and the prices were reasonable. Definitely a place where the locals go.
After breakfast, we headed for downtown, taking Interstate 65 and 24. The drive wasn’t bad although there was a fair amount of traffic on the highway left over from rush hour.
We wanted to stop at a Visitor Information Center before parking somewhere which turned out to be a mistake because it wasn’t well marked (at least we didn’t see the signs for it) and once we did find it there was – surprise – no place to park.
We turned into one self pay parking lot in the middle of the tourist area but when we realized it was $15 for 2 hours, we decided to look for another parking garage.
In addition to their regular MTA buses, Nashville has Music City Circuit buses that are free so we figured as long as we parked somewhere along the bus route we could always hop on one of the buses to get to another section of town. At the northern end of town, near the capitol area we finally pulled into the Music City Center parking garage on Charlotte Ave between 4th Ave N & 5th Ave N which was advertising $5 for two hours with an all day rate of only $10 – a much better deal!
It was such a beautiful day, relatively cool with a slight breeze and temps in the high 60’s so we decided to hoof it. One nice thing we found about Nashville is that it is a relatively small city (at least the tourist area) and the streets are laid out in a grid with the north/south streets numbered (1st Ave, 2nd Ave, etc.) so finding our way around the main part of the downtown area was pretty easy.
As we walked down 4th Ave N, passing the AT&T building (bat building in the photo above), we stopped at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Lots of history associated with this auditorium which was built by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain and Nashville businessman.
It first opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. After Ryman’s death it was renamed the Ryman Auditorium in his honor. From 1943 to 1974, it was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts and the Johnny Cash show on ABC. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. It then sat empty and fell into disrepair for several years but was revitalized in 1994.
Several movies have been filmed there including parts of Coal Miner’s Daughter in 1980 with Patsy Kline and Loretta Lynn. Several tours are offered – a self guiding tour for $13 or a Backstage Tour for $17 but we decided to save that for another time. Without tour tickets, you can only walk around the lobby and gift shop.
After we left there, we proceeded down the hill on 4th to Broadway to what is known as Honky Tonk Row which is lined with clubs, restaurants and shops selling all sorts of western clothing and gear.
This is where many hopeful musicians, singers and songwriters perform trying to make it big in Music City. A number of country singers got their start here, many eventually becoming household names. Some of the more popular honky tonks (defined as a bar with entertainment, usually country western) on Broadway include Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, The Stage, and Legends Corner to name a few. Want to hear some country music? Just walk down the street at any time of the day and you’ll hear either a live performance or music playing. Similar to New Orleans with continual jazz on Bourbon Street!
Continuing down 4th Ave S, we walked over to the Music City Walk of Fame Park where a number of country western singers have stars on the sidewalk (no hand prints though). This park is directly across from the County Music Hall of Fame and Museum, another attraction that we’ll save for next time.
From here we walked over to Riverfront Park which is right on the Cumberland River. On the other side of the River is LP Field which is Nashville’s Stadium and Home to the Tennessee Titans.
As we walked along 1st Ave N, we stopped at Fort Nashborough. According to the Nashville.gov website, “on January 1, 1780, Nashville was founded when James Robertson led his group of pioneers across the frozen Cumberland river to a place called The Cedar Bluffs. It was here that these men built a fort called Nashborough which would be shelter for the first families until Indian attacks ended in 1792.” Usually you can take a self guided tour but it currently is closed for repairs.
By this time, our feet were tired (so exhausting being a tourist) and it was well past lunch time. We still wanted to walk up to the Capitol Building and the Bicentennial Mall but we needed some nourishment.
Tina and Robert had recommended Jack’s Bar-B-Que on Broadway but there was a line waiting and we weren’t in the mood for a cafeteria style place. So we headed up 5th Ave where we eventually stumbled upon an interesting place, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant at St. Cloud corner at the intersection of 5th and Church Streets.
It really wasn’t a market but according to the history on their website, it did start out as a country market in the 1950’s in the small town of Leiper’s Fork near Nashville. Since we were hungry, everything on the menu sounded good but with a little help from our server, we both decided to have one of their plate lunches.
You could have 1 meat which on this day was either pulled pork BBQ or chicken and dumplings or meat loaf with 1, 2 or 3 sides. We both had pulled pork (no bun but served with a Cajun Corn Cake) with 1 side – a caesar salad. To quench our thirst we also had a mason jar of Hap’n Harry’s draft beer which was really good.
Bar-b-que is serious business in Tennessee with many debates over which kind is better (dry or wet) and who makes the best. We Northerners (as in Rob and I) certainly are not bar-b-que connoisseurs but boy, was the pulled pork good! This is not the stuff loaded with sauce typically foisted on us northerners, it’s just the slow cooked meat and is far superior in our view. Different parts of the country have different cooking techniques we hear, but we just don’t know enough about it yet – guess we have a lot more sampling to do! At night, Puckett’s also has live entertainment.
So now that our tummies we’re full, our thirst had been quenched and our tired feet had rested, so instead of hopping on the bus, we continued walking a few more blocks (of course, it was all uphill) to the State Capital Building.
The construction of the State Capitol began in 1845 and was completed in 1859. It was designed by architect William Strickland who modeled it after a Greek Ionic temple. Unfortunately, Strickland died in 1854 before it was completed, and at his request he is entombed in the northeast corner.
During the Union occupation of Nashville between 1862 and 1865, the Capitol was transformed into Fortress Andrew Johnson but the artillery which was located there never had to be fired in battle. On the grounds are the tombs of President and Mrs. James K. Polk, the famous equestrian statue of President Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson and statues of President Andrew Johnson who was also governor and military governor, WWI hero, Sgt. Alvin York and Senator Edward W. Carmack (US Senator from TN 1901-1907).
After walking around the Capitol and enjoying the views of the city and surrounding areas, we headed back to the parking garage. Before leaving downtown, we stopped at the Bicentennial Mall Park which was very nice. Besides the parkland with a long view of the capitol on the hill, there is a war memorial and a set of Bell Carillon Towers.
Each bell tower in the picture at left (there are more towers that you can’t see ) have one or more bells that can be played with a piano or organ style keyboard located in an adjacent building. While we were there the bells chimed on the quarter hours, but apparently they are played live for special events.
Later we drove by the Farmer’s Market (but not much was open) before heading back to our hacienda.
One other thing we never had a chance to do was to visit the Grand Ol’ Opry! Even though we are not big country music fans, somehow that seems like a “must do” when visiting Nashville. Since we totally loved Nashville and the surrounding areas and there was so much that we didn’t do, we definitely need to return here again someday.
It was a very enjoyable day to say the least!
We have a lot more photos in a Picasa web album, to view, click here.
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