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Cooper Creek

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    • Day8

      The Grand Ole Opry

      June 14, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

      Now the Grand Ole Opry has been broadcasted as a 'one hour barn dance' to the nation since 1925. Since then it has outgrown its original home at the Ryman Theatre in downtown Nashville and now sits on a bend in the river east of Nashville amongst a huge hotel complex and mega mall. On entering we eschewed the idea of a warm glass of wine at $20 a head and instead bought water and a 'Goo Goo bar' which is a Nashville treat of nuts, nougat and chocolate. It was surprisingly delicious. There was a large crowd of mostly older clientele and mostly rather large. We squeezed onto our vaguely upholstered church pew near the front of the huge auditorium. 'Y'all got great seats!' the lady on the door promised. And they were, front and central. Trouble is we we sharing our pew with a huge couple from Georgia, the wife was continually rifling for candy in her bag and the husband had a bad case of man spreading. This meant that I was sitting sideways and Richard was pushed into the edge of the arm of the pew. I asked our Georgian friend how long the recording was. 'Oh I think about 3 hours' she worryingly replied.

      In the end through the uncomfortableness of it all we were really blown away by the talent on stage. We were taken through a potted history of country music. Performers young and old were greeted with whoops and screams and we could see that Country music is still huge in the US. One up and coming young guy certainly impressed. His sweet soulful voice and agile guitar playing made him mesmerising to watch. Good manners, a simple life and memories of the old ways seemed to be the theme. We were invited to cheer for the second amendment which we hurriedly remembered was the right to bear arms. We were the only ones not clapping. One of the performers told us that following the shooting in Washington if everyone had been armed this wouldn't have happened. The twisted logic there made me frown so hard I gave myself a headache. God was also a heavy theme and clearly everyone was a believer but we weren't made to feel like outsiders.

      We found it all very charming and had an insight into perhaps why the South feels constantly lectured to by the north, being told that their simple pleasures are unsophisticated and that their way of life is somehow backward and wrong and that their history is shameful. I think they are aware of this shame but rightly they refuse to be defined by it. Instead they celebrate the kinship, warmth and traditions of their ancestors and are proud to share them with all.

      We were picked up by a softly spoken, young, black Uber driver who clearly hinted he was liberal but admitted that he kept a gun under his bed, 'Just in case.' I tried and failed to imagine a probable situation where it would be appropriate to use the gun. Later at a throughly untraditional sushi restaurant we spent time talking to the young waiter who dreamt of travelling to Japan and trying real sushi, he was so knowledgeable and the only qualified Sake sommelier in the state of Tennessee. He said he was sick of serving fireball rolls to bachelorette parties, his yearning to escape was palpable.

      We really feel like we are getting a feel for the South and share in its Southern Pride. Many people we have spoken to sheepishly ask why we have come to their state and what we think about it and seem surprised when we say how much we love it. This pride is just under the surface and breaks through with smiles and agreement in their mutual love of the city and recommendations of other places to go.
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      Andrew Humphries

      One day...

    • Day7

      Shopping & General Jackson

      October 28, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 4 °C

      Currently sat on the General Jackson showboat waiting to set sail for this evenings ‘Nashville Nights’ cruise.

      We have had quite a leisurely day, spent most of it at the Opry Mills, shopping!! We found a fab clothes shop called ‘Maurices’ it catered for both our sizes which was perfect as we both saw lots of stuff. The assistants set us up with changing rooms with our names on. I don’t think I have ever liked every single item I have taken into a changing room before! I thought bugger it, i’m on holiday, I have the money on my travel card so lets treat myself. We must have been in there way over an hour. Mel bought a lot of stuff too.

      After our splurges we were both hungry so we decided to eat at the Aquarium restaurant. We had a lovely meal, both of us decided on fish & chips, then for desert we shared key lime pie, all washed down with cocktails!!

      From there we went over to the Grand Ole Opry shop as we didn’t have much of a chance to look properly yesterday. We both got a few items there.

      Then we just wandered around the mall again, just browsing shops. We spent a bit of time in one of the shoe stores just trying on cowboy boots, I was very tempted buy a pair & may have to go back!

      We didn’t go back to the hotel to drop stuff off, we just walked straight over to the General Jackson to board.

      Been back at the hotel 30mins or so.

      So, review of General Jackson, we weren’t overly impressed, to be fair on a summer evening &/or if you were eating it might be different. We didn’t eat because surprise, surprise we weren’t overly keen on the menu, so we were up on the balcony looking down at the stage & those dining below. So for us there was a lot of waiting around as we left just after 7pm & the entertainment didn’t start until about 8.45pm. We did wander outside on the deck but was too cold to stay there too long, we also popped to the gift shop, but for the most part we were sat around drinking our huge & bloody expensive daiquiris!

      The entertainers were talented & sung a wide of songs but we struggled to make out the words to most of what they were singing, whether that was down to the audio or where we were sat I don’t know. I swear there were so many costume changes their wardrobe backstage must make Carrie Bradshaw’s look tiny!!

      So it was a good experience but i’d choose the Opry over it any night of the week.
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    • Day89

      Grand Ole Opry Show - Nashville TN

      October 8, 2016 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

      After Maine lobster tacos & a local Yazoo beer from the plaza stalls it's showtime. With a big bag of popcorn purchased (cheddar & caramel flavour ..... it really works) it's showtime !! Artists old & new performed & the announcer did his part advertising Opry goods & upcoming local events. Biggest ovation was for Brad Paisley one of the newer country stars. Great night. !!Read more

    • Day89

      Grand Ole Opry - Nashville TN

      October 8, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

      08:30 given our backstage passes for the tour, brilliant got to see the artists entrance, security check in, mailboxes full of fan mail, each member has one. The members board has the names of past & present artists who have been invited by the show's management to join, based on their commitment to country music, the fans & the Opry itself. We toured the 18 dressing rooms & walked onto the Opry stage from the wings. The 'Circle' has not been broken as a circle of the original Ryman stage has been placed here. History of the Opry & the artists that have performed here is overwhelming. This weekend the Opry is celebrating 91 years & we were lucky to get a package deal that included The Ryman & Opry Backstage tours plus picnic lunch, afternoon concert (Crystal Gayle) & the evening Opry Show.Read more

    • Day89

      Opry Birthday Concert - Nashville TN

      October 8, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

      Yummy picnic lunch box of smoked brisket in the Opry Plaza where there is live music all day. Crystal Gayle concert 3pm was in the Opry. Everyday's a school day, we didn't know who her sister is .... Loretta Lynn !!Read more

    • Day10

      More Tours & Exploring

      October 31, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 10 °C

      As I was so slack with yesterdays blog, I thought I would get started on this one nice & early!
      We are currently on the shuttle to downtown Nashville again. Considering we were not late back yesterday it was gone midnight before I got to sleep, we were reading & chilling, we had the TV on in the background & got through Pretty Woman and Hocus Pocus.

      It looks like it is going to be a nice day, like yesterday the sun is out & we have a bright blue sky. Can still be chilly in the shade but still nicer than the weather we were having in the UK.

      Sat in the sunshine waiting for the Trolley.
      After getting off the shuttle downtown we decided to do the ‘Old Town Trolley Tour’, the trolleys go around 12 miles of Nashville in a continuous loop stopping at 15 stops along the way. Our first stop was the ‘Parthenon’ as we had free admission tickets, although we stopped here 2years ago we never went in. I’m glad we went in this time. The history of the building & what it was initially there for was fascinating. Inside hosts loads of photos from this time period & how the building was constructed. There are also art collections, I wish I could paint! Up the stairs inside is the huge golden gilded figure of Athena - which wow, is impressive!

      After leaving the Parthenon we jumped back on the Trolley & our next stop was the ‘Belmont Mansion’. This was an interesting tour & much of the original decor & furnishings still exists or has been replicated to look as near as it did at the time. I suppose I hate to admit where I take after Dad as I do find it interesting looking round old houses & museums! One fascinating fact from the tour is that the carpets in the house are made by Axminster carpets! To which me & Mel pipe up ‘ooh that is just down the round from where we live’. Small world! I knew Axminster carpets had a good reputation but I didn’t realise their reputation was THAT good to furnish an historic mansion!

      Ooh trolley is here....more later!

      Sat back on the shuttle to return to the hotel.
      We completed the full route of the Old Trolley Tour, with our couple hop off & ons as indicated above! Was a really nice route & the 3 drivers/guides we had over the course of the tour were really informative. After getting off at the final stop we were starving so we headed over to the ‘Sun Diner’ next to the Johnny Cash museum for food. We both have omelettes & had a bop along to the music. I thought it was a quaint typical American style diner.

      We ended up just wandering & popping in shops along Broadway killing time before the shuttle. One thing I have noticed more this time than the last time we were here is the number of homeless people & beggars. I always feel really guilty walking past them but I would hate to give to one & not another. I would rather give some money to a homelessness charity or shelter.

      Ready for bed! Just watched the film ‘Over Her Dead Body’ - a Paul Rudd film I haven’t seen.
      When we got back to the hotel we finally used the swimming pool, was actually really nice & relaxing. At one point we were the only 2 in the pool, must be quiet season as hardly anyone has been using the pool. After our swim, we went to the whirlpool spa, oh my god it was lush! The worse thing was getting out & going back to the pool as that seemed freezing in comparison.

      Last full day in Nashville tomorrow 😢 better make the most of it!
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    • Day9

      Museums & Music

      October 30, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 7 °C

      Bit late writing today’s blog!

      We purchased the 3 day shuttle ticket from reception & caught the first bus at 9.55am into Downtown Nashville. We got off at the Wildhorse Saloon & then walked along Broadway just taking in the atmosphere. Our first stop was the Visitors Centre where we purchased City Passes. These entitle you to free admission into 4 attractions, free entry to the Parthenon, free entry to Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame & 25% off a Gray Line Tour.
      Monday appears to be a quiet day in Nashville so a few attractions are closed.

      The first place we decided to go was ‘Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum’ - it was really interesting to learn more about the musicians that have played on some of the biggest records of all time. Part of the museum is home to the ‘Grammy Museum Gallery’, this part had lots of area where you could test out being a musician & try different instruments. One thing I learnt today is that i’m a crap drummer!! There was another stage where we had a sing along as Ray Charles’ backing singers.
      Again we were lucky that museum was fairly quiet so we got to really take our time & interact with the exhibits. We must have been there for about 3hrs!!

      Leaving the museum we called back into the Ryman auditorium shop as we didn’t get chance to look around yesterday. By now we were hungry so we called into ‘Tootsies Orchid Bar’ for lunch. It is so nice to be able to relax with food & drink listening to good live music. We were probably there a good hour or more.

      Our next stop was, yes you guessed it the ‘Johnny Cash Museum’ - come on it had to be done! Actually there were several new exhibits since the last time we visited 2 years ago. We must have been there 2.5hrs! I never learn, as once again I watched the video for ‘Hurt’ knowing full well it makes me tear up every time I see it!! I love this museum, he was so talented.

      By the time we left the museum it was 6.20pm, when we checked the bus schedule we realised we had just missed a bus back to our hotel & would have 90mins to wait for the next one so we called into the Wildhorse Saloon for a drink. Only cokes mind! No cocktails or alcohol today.

      Tomorrow we plan on heading back Downtown & doing a Trolley hop on, hop off tour.

      Night y’all 😴
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    • Day53

      What an awesome town

      October 11, 2016 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

      So my time here in Nashville is nearly over, it's been a great couple of weeks and everything I was hoping it would be.

      The people here are really friendly here in the music city and it is truly and apt name, fantastic musicians playing music all the time throughout the city.

      Since being here I have partied with the Tennessee titans cheerleaders, I've toured the Ryman (the mother church of country music), I've spent hours listening to amazing musicians up and down Broadway, I've walked through amazing parks and seen amazing things like a full-scale replica of the Parthenon and the spectacular floating globe war memorial.

      Saturday was a highlight and a fantastic day, starting with a backstage tour of the new home of the grand ole opry, some lovely pulled pork out the front whilst watching some brilliant musicians, a full show from Crystal Gayle in the opry and then a live birthday recording of the show featuring brad paisley.

      It's with mixed emotions that I head back to Charlotte, I'm really excited to see Lauren, Clay, Grayson and my boy Connor again as I've started missing them already, but unfortunately it signifies a pause in my travels for now due to unforeseen circumstances, but hopefully I'll get going again soon enough and you'll get another blog entry before you know it.
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    • Day8

      Nashville TV show tour

      October 29, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 0 °C

      Sat in bed writing the blog for the day! Today has been a fairly quiet & relaxed day. We were going to get up & go for a swim but it was a bit cold & we couldn’t be bothered!!

      I had emailed them, but not heard back so we tried to ring the Gray Line tour company to confirm all was ok with our tour today but none of the numbers worked. We chucked on some clothes & went to reception, the lovely lady there phoned the company on our behalf & even arranged for them to pick us up here rather than the Opryland resort. Bonus!

      We then came back to the room to shower & change, we decided to go out for brunch before the tour. We walked over the road & went in the Cracker Barrel store/restaurant but it was heaving so we decided to go there another time. We then found some shops to have a look around. One store had lots of cowboy boots so we tried loads on & both ended up buying a pair! As we were in there a while we were running out of time for food so went to McDonalds (it actually had a live singer inside!). We got food to go & legged it back to the hotel as we only had 20mins to eat before having to be outside ready for our tour pick up.

      We were picked up about 1.10pm & our driver/guide Brian had to make another couple stops to get other passengers. Brian was a great guide with lots of Nashville knowledge & facts about the show. He drove us all around Nashville pointing out loads of filming locations & the scenes filmed there. We saw the homes used for those of the characters: Juliette, Rayna, Deacon, Gunnar etc. We had a 45min stop at the Ryman Auditorium - which used to be the home of the Grand Ole Opry, was interesting to find out history of the building. We also stopped at The Bluebird Cafe but unfortunately did not get to go in, still it was fab to see it, looks tiny from the outside & you wouldn’t think so many big country stars were discovered &/or play there regularly. The other stop was Two Old Hippies, a rather expensive store where apparently most of Scarlet’s clothes come from.
      It was a great tour & we were out for over 3 hours.

      When we got back to hotel we chilled & faffed around trying to decide what to do! In the end we went back to Cracker Barrel & had pancakes for tea! They were yummy!

      The next three days we plan on buying the 3 day shuttle pass & spending our time in Downtown Nashville, we just have to decide what attractions to see!
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    • Day6

      Nashville - Tussauds & Grand Ole Opry

      October 27, 2017 in the United States ⋅ 🌧 5 °C

      I had a good nights sleep & was awake by about 7.30am. We didn’t rush to get ready as the only plans we had were for this evening.
      We caught the complimentary shuttle over to the Opry Mills (a huge shopping mall!), we went to guest services first to pick up our passports of offers, looked like there would be a few we would be able to get use out of!

      We decided to go to Madame Tussauds first (it only opened earlier this year) & as we are staying at the Opryland we got free entry - bonus! It was quiet which meant we had plenty of time to pose & do stupid poses with the waxworks. We went into a recording booth & now have 2 songs of us singing on CD. We had fun! As we got in for free we decided to buy the photo package.

      After leaving Tussauds we were hungry so went to the food court for lunch, i’m somewhat ashamed to admit we went to Burger King! We then wandered around the shops some more but didn’t actually buy anything (we are saving that for tomorrow/Sunday!). Mel bumped into her friend from back home who is also on holiday in Nashville (small world!). We then came back to the hotel to chill for a few minutes before getting ready for the Opry tonight.
      We are currently waiting for the shuttle, it better hurry up as we have the VIP tickets for before the show!

      Been back at the hotel a while now. Wow, what a night at the Opry! Thankfully we got there in time to pick up all our tickets, we then had to wait in the designated place for our VIP ‘Behind The Curtain’ tour. Our guide Judy was great as she took us back stage & explained what happens before a show. We got to see some of the artists arriving & in their dressing rooms getting prepared for the show. Just before 7pm we were ushered onto the stage, it was an amazing experience to actually be on the stage & witness the red curtain rise, to look out & see the audience and see an artist perform.
      We got to be on the stage for the first couple performances, then we were escorted back to our reserved seats where we watched the rest of the show from the audience.

      There were a lot of acts on the line up, if i’m honest, Mel & I weren’t particularly impressed before hand as there weren’t really any contemporary acts like last time, however, it was a great night. Admittedly there were several bluegrass & older artists but they were all so talented & you could see they loved being up on the stage.
      There was even a comedienne called Jeanne Robertson who was very funny, she had spoken to us all backstage & seemed really nice & down to earth. The artist I really liked & would check out is Mark Wills, I loved both songs he performed.

      We left the Opry to find that the heavens had opened & it was pouring down with rain (it was just like being at home!!), we got soaked walking to the shuttle.

      It was a fantastic night, now looking forward to sleeping & seeing what tomorrow will bring.
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