Nashville has been high on my list of places to visit for a long time, and since the program Nashville has aired, that obsession has only grown. This city, full of country music history, did not disappoint.
Firstly, I have to give some praise to the U.S airports, as there are water bottle refills everywhere. Not only are they saving people a fortune ($5 for a bottle of water?) but they are saving the environment too, as you can see from the little counter that shows how many bottles they have saved people from buying.
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As we left New York, we got a nice view from the plane of the city in the distance. I was sad to leave, but I will be back in a few weeks and I was really excited to see what Nashville was all about. As we came in to land, the landscape was completely different from NYC and it was nice to see a bit more countryside.
For the next part of our trip we are doing Air BnB. For those of you that don't know what that is, it's where you rent someone's house/apartment, or their annex or sometimes just a room in their house. I have done it before on city breaks and it's always been a great experience. You get to stay in less touristy areas and you get some of the comforts of home. Most have kitchens too, so you can save some money by cooking your own food.
We really lucked out with this place, as it was beautiful. A little cottage in the garden of the people we were renting from - for this size room at a hotel we would have paid a fortune. It was a little outside the centre of Nashville, but not too expensive to get a cab back.
They even left us some orange juice and almond milk in the fridge, which made me very happy and would come in very handy the next morning....
I didn't get much of a chance to speak to Dave whilst I was in New York, as we were so busy all the time and trying to work it around the time difference makes it even more difficult. So I had a quick Skype chat with him and the cats. Seems like the cats have not even noticed I am gone.
We were only in our little cottage for about 45 minutes before we were out the door again, as the plan for the evening was to go to the Bluebird Café and we knew there was going to be a queue. We got there and were told we couldn't start queueing until 4:30pm, so we went over the road to California Pizza Kitchen to get some food. I know this is a chain place, and not very authentically Nashville, but we were hungry and it was close.
I went with the roasted veggie salad, which probably had more calories in it than a pizza, but it was really good and I am trying to make an effort to eat as many veggies as possible this trip, even if the rest of my eating isn't great.
As we were sitting eating our dinner, we had a view over the road of the Bluebird Café. People were turning up and being turned away until 4:30pm and then as soon as it ticked over to 4:30pm, people came out of nowhere and formed a big queue. We asked for some take-out boxes, threw our food in them, paid and ran out of the door to join the queue.
By the time we got there, we were put in the second queue, which is the "maybe" queue. The Bluebird has seats for 90 people and on the open mic night that we were waiting to watch, they seat 25 acts and each act is allowed to bring a plus one - leaving just 40 seats left for the rest of us. They get around 200 people queuing to get in.
We stood around for about an hour, not knowing if we were going to get in as the guy on the door said the cut off would be around us and then all the singers started turning up, and it looked like most of them had a plus one. They all started going in and setting up and we waited around a bit more. The wait wasn't as boring as I thought it would be, as we met lots of people from all around the world in the queue, so it went pretty quickly. But it was HOT! No shade, but plenty of water.
So, what's so special about the Bluebird Café? Those of you that know anything about country music, or have seen the TV show Nashville, will know how iconic it is. Anyone who is anyone in country music has performed there and the TV show is kind of based around there, so it was at the top of my list of things to do in Nashville.
They let 40 people in and the cut off was 1 person in front of us. Noooooooo! All that queuing for nothing! The guy on the door said it was worth waiting around, seeing how close we were, as people start coming out at around 7:30pm (in 90 minutes time) as some people just go in for one drink to say they have been and then come out again. We waited around so long, that we had invested too much to just leave - yeah, I am stubborn like that. About an hour later we got in. Yay!
From the moment we sat down at our bar stall, with a beer in hand and listened to the music, we knew that it was worth the wait.
Nearly everyone that performed was amazing. I say nearly, as some were a little "questionable", but no judgement from me as they got up on that stage in front of all those people and performed - so massive respect for that.
These were some of my favourite acts. Sadly, I don't remember their names. I made a mental note of them at the time, but as you will see from my recap of the rest of the evening, not much was remembered after that.
Because the open mic night started so early, it meant that it finished early too, so we headed down town to Broadway, which is where all the bars and live music venues are. When we arrived we were greeted by bright lights with the at&t building towering behind them - the locals call it the Batman building and you can see why.
Our first stop was Honky Tonk Central, which we chose because it was busy and had some great country music coming out of the speakers outside.
We could have easily stayed in there all night, but seeing as we only had one big night in Nashville, we wanted to experience as many different things as possible, so we did a little bit of a bar hop and met Elvis along the way. We didn't spend too much time with him though, as we were going to see him in Memphis in a couple of days.
Just off Broadway there are more bars, but less lights and it's a little bit more chilled out. Broadway can be a bit like a mini Las Vegas and I prefer something less flashy. We found some great bars down here too. Too many great bars!
I know this is a healthy eating blog, but I always try to be honest with you all. I drank a LOT that night. Too much. I drank lots of water too, but I definitely let my hair down. It isn't an every day thing, but it does happen. It was such a fun night, but I was going to pay for it the next morning.
How country is this? The walls of some of the bars are lined with boots. I really wanted to buy some boots whilst in Nashville, but I just don't have the room - I am meant to be travelling "light".
Let's just say I woke up the next morning feeling very "fragile". Okay, let's be totally honest - I felt awful! There was no laying in bed feeling sorry for myself though, as we were booked on a tour of Nashville and I want to make the most of this trip and laying in bed with a hangover doesn't fit in to that.
What is a guaranteed way to make you feel better (or sometimes worse)? A good breakfast! I am not really one for a greasy fry-up, but I am one for egg and avocado. So, we found a nice café that was packed with locals, so we knew it had to be good, and set up camp there for an hour or so with breakfast and iced coffee. I felt a little bit more human, enough to move around, so we went to the train station to meet our tour.
We arrived early, but it was by the river, so it was nice to sit and relax for a bit and call Dave. What I love about having my Tep Wireless device with me is that I can call Dave over WhatsApp where ever I am. Sometimes there can be a little bit of a delay, but it is making staying in contact so much easier.
We loved the Gray Line tour in New York so much, that when they offered us tickets to go on the Discover Nashville tour, we thought it would be a great way to see the whole city in the short space of time that we had.
This wasn't an open top hop-on-hop-off type of bus, but a smaller mini bus for about 20 people, that was going to drop us off at some Nashville highlights. If you are short on time, then these tours are definitely worth it.
My highlights of the tour were seeing Ryman Auditorium, which many famous country music stars have performed and even the Foo Fighters have played there - it would be amazing to see them there, as although it is fairly big, it is fairly intimate too.
Our tour guide was great and gave us lots of information about the places we visited, as well as pointing things out as we drove along.
Next up was the Country Music Hall of Fame, which was much bigger than I was expecting it to be and to be honest, much more interesting than I thought it would be too.
Lots of instruments on display, which made me miss my guitar at home. Before I came out here, I did toy with the idea of bringing my guitar with me and playing some open mic nights, but I would have never been able to carry it around with me, and I have bought too many souvenirs now too.
The best part of the Country Music Hall of Fame was the studio area, where you could record your own song, which was actually pretty hilarious. You sing over a backing track (I picked We Will Rock Yoi) and then you can mix it and make your own album cover too.
Another interesting part of the Hall of Fame was the Taylor Swift Education Centre. I am not ashamed to admit that I am a Taylor Swift fan. Not just her music, but her as a person. She does a lot to build up the confidence of young people and the education centre is dedicated to just that. Not to sound like an old lady or anything, but it's always good to see young famous people using their influence for positive things.
Walking around museums makes me hungry, so we headed to Acme, which had been recommended to use a few times. It's a farm to table kind of place, that is known for great meat.
Although I am not eating meat, the fish and veggie options here were really good and I just couldn't resist the tuna burger. I don't know why I am still surprised at the portion sizes, but how many fries? It's just insane. I enjoyed some of them, but that is too much even for a chip-fiend like me. One of the best parts of the meal was all the sauces on the table. About 5 different chilli sauces which made me very happy.
Oh, how can I forget to mention the collard greens. SO good. Even they were spicy too. All the chilli for me!
I have found a lot of inspiring graffiti in the toilets and this is one of my favourites. Although, they need to sort the grammar out!
The night before, when we were drinking, we saw these group pedal bikes going around town. There were about 12 people on them, all pedalling together whilst drinking and we thought it was the best thing EVER! So, we booked it there and then. We woke up the next day to the confirmation email and then it all came flooding back to us.
All I can say is.....what a con! A reminder to never book things when drinking. We paid $35 each, to sit on a bike for 2 hours and pedal around the city with 10 other people. We presumed drink would be included, but then read that it was bring your own bottle. So, if everyone is paying $35 each and not getting anything, think how much money they are making.
Sure, it was fun and not something I have done or even seen before, but paying that much to pedal a bike is a bit of a con. There was meant to be games included, but our "tour guide" was very moody and seemed to just want the night to be over. But, it was an experience.
We had an early start the next day (we always seem to have an early start) to catch a bus to Memphis, but seeing as we would be sat all day, I wanted to get a workout in. The only time I could fit it in was when it was early in the morning, and still dark.
As we were staying in the suburbs, there were not many lights about, so I was a little worried about running when it was so dark, but luckily I had packed my Helly Hansen running tights, that have little high-vis reflectors at the bottom.
"The Aspire Norviz tights give you the protection you need for those cold weather training sessions. Fabric at the back of the leg reflects light and shine to keep you visible in darkness. 360 degree reflective is added for your safety, while a sweat proof back pocket for your electronics is added for your comfort."
Staying safe when running is really important, especially if you are training in a new area. Not only are these reflective, but they are quick drying too, which is ideal if you are running in the rain. I love the Helly Hansen Norviz range, as you can stay safe and look good whilst doing it too. Plus, you are not going to miss me with these bright trainers too.
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****This post is sponsored by Helly Hansen. All comments and views are my own****