Road Trip Vacation 2016, Part 5 – Nashville, Tennessee

I had never been to Nashville before, so I was super excited to get down to lower Broadway, which (according to our hotel shuttle driver) is where “all the action happens”. The bars and restaurants were packed, each one of them. And every single one had someone playing music by the windows that were open to the street. It was like flipping through radio stations as you walked by each place.

*On a side note, we realized after we left Nashville, that we are terrible at taking pictures

We ate some dinner at Jack’s Bar-B-Que, which was the only restaurant that didn’t have live music. I didn’t mind that so much either because I could actually hear my thoughts while we ate. And let me tell you, the food was MAGNIFIK! Some of the best barbeque I have ever had. We both got ribs and the meat just fell off the bone *mouth watering*.

(inside Jack’s)

We continued on to explore the city. Sound was coming from every direction as we walked down to the Cumberland River that flows through the city. We could see Nissan Stadium across the river (where the Tennessee Titans play… boooo… Go Redskins!), the Riverfront Train Station, and the skyline of Nashville. The city was alive with people from every walk of life, shopping at the many touristy shops, drinking on The Pedal Tavern, and just having a great time. We ended up finding our way to Rock Bottom Rooftop where we had a drink and watched the city sing below.

(you can click on the pictures to enlarge them)

But something was missing. I was almost upset. I came to Nashville expecting this grand city, alive with music and culture, almost a walking billboard for country legends come and gone. I expected that “WOW” factor that people had told me about. I wasn’t feeling it.

So Jake and I left the rooftop bar, and started to walk back up Broadway, feeling kind of defeated to be returning to our hotel so soon. That is when we met Travis.

Travis was sitting in the driver’s seat of a golf cart as we were walking by. He yelled out to us, “Hey! Ya’ll want a ride?” Of course Jake, being the extrovert that he is, immediately started talking to him. Jake asked if he could take us to Coyote Ugly (the known bar from the movie). Travis got this smirk on his face and responded with, “How about I take you somewhere first, and then you can decide if you want me to take you on a tour of Nashville, or I’ll drop you off at Coyote Ugly. No charge.”

Intrigued and with nothing to lose, Jake and I hopped on the golf cart and we took off. Now, Travis was a very unique dude, very eccentric; he was extremely talkative so he and Jake got along right away. We stopped at a convenient store to grab some drinks. According to Travis we can drink on the ride, I’m still not sure that was entirely true, but I’ve never been one to really follow rules anyways, they are more like guidelines. Then Travis took us to our first stop…

Union Station Hotel

Union_Station_HotelAt first I was a little unsure of this guy. But he parked right out front, knew the doorman by name, and in we walked. Into a beautifully exquisite entrance with an even grander lobby with a 65-foot barrel-vaulted, 100-year-old Tiffany styled stained-glass ceiling. This was the Nashville I had come to see.

It was grand indeed. As most of my family and friends know, it takes A LOT to impress me, but this was probably the most grand building I have ever seen in my life. Travis told us the story of how this old dilapidated train station was restored to the glorious hotel it is today (a $15 million renovation in fact, I checked). Oh, and by the way, that Tiffany styled stained-glass ceiling… it’s the original. (The chandeliers were added after our trip, but make it even more magnificent). You can reserve one of the 125 rooms to see for yourself, or just go visit.

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So we decided to go to Coyote Ugly after. Kidding!!! We took Travis up on his offer to go on a tour, and boy did we go on a tour. We hopped back on the cart and off we went… to an alley. My heart sunk, we put way too much faith in this guy. Now we are sitting outside of this building, right next to a dumpster under a flashing sign with “Skull’s” written across it, and some people’s private balconies. Great. How do we get ourselves out of this now?

Skull’s Rainbow Room

And then BOOM! We walked through the door and into a freaking circa-1948 speakeasy-style lounge. ***Jaw hits floor*** A freakin’ speakeasy. And, according to Travis (as well as sources online, because of course I fact checked), everyone who was anyone had frequented this place; Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Andy Griffith, and even Elvis Presley. Did I mention there was also a Blue’s Boogie Bar next store?!?!

(inside Skull’s)

Sadly we didn’t stay and hear any music, or get to taste some of the delicious smelling food (there was like a two hour wait),  because we were off to our next stop. Travis whipped our ride through the streets until we arrived at…

The Hermitage Hotel

Hermitage HotelNow this place looked just like any other “old town” luxury hotel, think The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA. But I’ll tell you what, Travis had a way of surprising us. As soon as we walked in, in was liking walking on to the Titanic. The beautifully crafted ceilings, the oak wood paneled walls, and the shinny marble floors just drew you in. There was just one work that came to my mind, exquisite.

And then, Travis said he needed to use the bathroom. Hmmm, ok no worries, when you gotta go you gotta go. So we headed towards the bathrooms near the Oak Bar. Travis walks in, then walks right back out and says, “follow me.” In my head I’m thinking, “follow me if you want to live.” We follow of course, and walked right in to the men’s bathroom like it was any other room. And WOW. I thought that the tour had ended, but no. There we were standing in the men’s room…

The floors are terrazzo, with leaded-glass tiles, and a two-seat shoeshine station. Very Art Deco. Many artists have done music videos here as the bathroom is very well known, especially for attracting “business talk,” aka, politics.

According to many, that floor to almost ceiling mirror is blocking a secret passageway to the Nashville capitol building. It is said that many deals were made in this bathroom by Tennessee’s finest lawmakers. Go figure.

Although it was too late in the evening to tour the Tennessee State Capitol building, we did drive by while heading to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Bicentennial State Park 2Travis zipped that little golf cart around until we pulled up behind the 95 Bell Carillion Pillars (also known as the Carillon and the Court of 3 Stars), which was an excellent view of the park and the capitol building. The park was created to celebrate 200 years of statehood in 1996.

Since we were the closest to the 95 Bell Carillon Pillars, and it was reaching the top of the hour, we visited them first. 95 bells were placed in 50 Greek styled columns, which represent the 95 Tennessee counties95 Bell Carillon Pillars 2, in a circle around a large red, white, and blue circle (which represents Tennessee state flag). Inside the circles are three stars which represent the three geographical land formations of Tennessee: the mountains (east), the hills (middle), and the flat lands (west). The formation of this structure is called a Carillion.

Every 15 minutes the bells play a part of the Tennessee Waltz. The four parts complete the song after one hour. A 96th bell on the capitol grounds rings an answer symbolizing the government answering the call of the people.

The Carillon itself represents Tennessee’s musical heritage and the citizens of Tennessee. At the base of the pillars lay stones with country legend’s names carved into them.

What many people do not know (and it isn’t actually stated anywhere that I could find online) is in the very center, in the middle of the stars, there is a small nail. If you stand on this nail and speak, it sounds as if you are echoing. The unique way the pillars were placed makes you sound as if you are speaking into a microphone. Pretty cool huh?

The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is also where you can find the Tennessee World War II Memorial.

WWII Memorial 2


At the center of the memorial is an 18,000 pound black granite globe. It is suspended by a thin layer of water (you can push the globe in different directions), and is surrounded by ten (10) pillars that are etched with images and descriptions from the war. The descriptions explain the significance of Tennessee in the war; the seven benches honor the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Jake and Travis decided to attempt to change the direction of the globe before we left…

There were many other areas of the park that we were not able to explore as it was getting dark. So we hoped back on the golf cart and on we went. The last few places we were not able to tour as easily because they were either closed… or abandoned.

Marathon Village

Sadly Marathon Village was closed when we reached the building, mind you it was going on 9pm, but we were able to look through the windows. Marathon Village is made up of several buildings that use to be the home to Marathon Motor Works from 1910-1914, the first factory to completely manufacture automobiles in the southern states of the U.S, and it was the only one until 1990 when General Motors created Saturn.

Our tour took an interesting turn as Travis, with is Capitan’s hat turned and asked us if we trusted him. Ummmmmmmmmm, not really, but he hadn’t let us down this far. So off we went, and where we ended up I would have never put any money on…

Neuhoff Slaughterhouse

Yup! This is where Travis excitedly took us. I honestly thought I was going to be murdered; my a$$ did not budge from the golf cart. It was also almost completely dark, but you could still see the building, and man was it creepy. It is located in the East Germantown neighborhood of Nashville, and was once used as a meat packaging and slaughter house until 1977 when it was abandoned. According to an article from July 2016, it looks like as the old place is going to be spruced up.

It was definitely something I was not expecting to see on our tour of Nashville, but it was neat, and it showed us the history that Nashville holds.

But off we went, to our next destination.

The Parthenon

No, not the one in Greece that is falling apart, but the next best thing. Nashville’s Centennial Park is home to the full scale re-creation of The Parthenon. Once again, Travis had out done himself. We had absolutely no idea that this even existed!

Parthenon Replica 7

In 1895, Nashville began the construction of the original structure but is was mostly made out of plaster, wood, and brick for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, which was held May 1, 1897 – October 30, 1897. After some deliberation, the city of Nashville decided to make the structure permanent, as the plaster began to show wear and tear. The exterior of the permanent piece was completed in 1925, the interior in 1931. The recreation of Athena Parthenos was completed in 1990, and stands in the middle of the Parthenon.

In 2001, The Parthenon’s renovation was completed, followed by the gilding in gold of Athena Parthenos; a $12 million dollar process.

I don’t think Jake and I could have been any more impressed, the replica was incredible, and it saves us a trip to Greece. Ha! Kidding, kidding!

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Did I mention that those double doors are one-foot thick and each weigh seven and a half tons? Pretty incredible! Apparently, and fun fact, Athena’s spear was also recreated using a McDonald’s flag pole. We spent more time here than any other place on the tour, it was absolutely incredible.

Since it was getting late, and Travis had already worked well passed when he was supposed to head back, we started back to lower Broadway, but we stopped at one or two small places before we ended the tour.

Guitar PoolMusic Row being one of those places. We didn’t know it when we checked into our hotel, but it was right on the end of Music Row. Travis stopped our little golf cart, had us get out, and we looked right over a fence (I actually thought he was going to have us jump the fence at one point) to see a pool, lit up, in the shape of a guitar. It is called the Webb Pierce Spence Manor Guitar Pool. The building belongs to what was originally the Spence Manor Hotel where legends like The Beatles, Johnny Cash, ELVIS, Willie Nelson, and Frank Sinatra stayed. Today it has been converted into condos.

I should have jumped in that pool while I had the chance, dangit.

After about four hours, Travis stopped the golf cart in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame. We couldn’t go inside because it was so late, but we did learn that the building was actually built to resemble a bass clef from the air, and from the ground the windows look like piano keys.

I was very disappointed that our tour was ending, because I would have loved to be able to tour more. But next time, we are definitely going to take more time to tour each of the places Travis took us to.

So… as promised, Travis dropped us off at Coyote Ugly, and we said our goodbyes, gave him an excellent tip, and he was gone! We ventured into Coyote Ugly to have a drink before heading back to our hotel, but we walked right back out. It was terrible, not at all like the movie haha. We called our hotel for the shuttle to come pick us up. Glad we decided to take the tour and not go to Coyote Ugly as planned!!! Even the Yelp reviews are bad!

What a great tour! Even though he was a bit crazy, I’m pretty sure we had the best tour guide in Nashville. We cannot wait to go back again!

The next morning, we waited out some rain and then we were off to…

Road Trip Vacation, Part 6 – The New River Gorge, West Virginia

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