As for Lady Jane and my third and final city of our spring Volunteer State trip, Nashville, once we covered the 212 miles from Memphis and reached the outskirts, we’d planned a tour of Andrew Jackson’s estate, Hermitage, 12 miles east of the city.
There’s a museum, where there is much to read and hear about Jackson and especially about his victory at the Battle of New Orleans, and, of course, the mansion. In addition, there are signs that direct you to other parts of the 400-acre estate, where various farming operations were conducted and where the field hands’ living quarters foundational outlines can still be seen.
The narrated tour of the mansion was particularly enlightening as to what daily life was there, both prior to Jackson’s two-term presidency and after he returned in 1837, sadly, without the opportunity to live out his days with his beloved wife Rachel, who died of a heart ailment during a contentious campaign prior to Jackson’s first term.
Much of what was in the mansion was original, including the wallpaper, the flooring and the furniture, which Jane and I thought pretty impressive for a building over 175 years old.
When the tour reached the back porch and walkthrough that separated the kitchen from the formal dining room (to keep the heat out of the home), my sunglasses, perched on my ball cap, slipped off the bill and broke when they hit the bricks laid so very long before their purchase, which I found sadly interesting.
East of the mansion was a large and impressive garden, one which contained the graves of both Jackson and wife Rachel as well as the graves of several members of Jackson’s family, largely comprised of those the childless couple adopted.
While we enjoyed the tour and the history lesson, Jane and I both agreed there was also a sense of sadness that an estate of such beauty was also a place of bondage and misery for hundreds of slaves.
Following our time at Hermitage, we drove to the Nashville suburb of Franklin and checked in at a beautiful 11-story hotel.
The next morning, after a full hot breakfast, it was time to make the 25-minute drive to Nashville’s heartbeat, Lower Broadway, the famous honky-tonk entertainment district, where live country music pours out onto the street from every open window. We found an open lot just past the Bridgestone Arena, the home of Nashville’s NHL team, the Predators. I expected expensive parking and got it, $35 for our eight hours.
So many of the honky-tanks we saw as soon as we entered the district were affiliated with singers, such as Alan Jackson, Kid Rock and John Rich (of “Big and Rich”). Before our honky-tonk times, we took a two-hour tour on the Old Town Trolley to see Music City’s main sites.
The driver was also on the mic as guide and did an excellent job in her dual role, pointing out places such as the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Tennessee State Capitol and Music Row, where singers such as Elvis, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks have recorded in the studios that line the street, especially in the most famous, RCA Studio B.
As we drove through the Lower Broadway District, I loved the tour guide’s story about the distinctive lavender-painted honky tonk, Tootsie’s. She told us the bar, years ago, was where Willie Nelson scribbled the lyrics to “Crazy” on a bar napkin and then sold it to Patsy Cline for $50, the amount of his bar tab. Cline went on to record it, and it became her classic.
By the time we returned from our tour, the honky tonks were in full swing. We had a Nashville favorite food, the hot chicken sandwich (with copious amounts of cayenne pepper) at Honky Tonk Central and enjoyed the live music. One tidbit I’ll point out if you’re visiting Nashville is the bands you’ll hear in the bars aren’t paid and are only given the stage to play for tips, so please seed the tip buckets in each honky tonk.
Throughout our day of some beer sipping and honky tonk-hopping, we listened to some really good music in several establishments from aspiring musicians hoping to make it big. I’d say my favorite of several was Legend’s Corner, where the female lead singer played such a mean fiddle between her lyrics.
We walked along the Cumberland River while admiring the waterfront. If you visit, I’ll also advise your traversing one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, the John Seigenthaler Bridge, that spans the Cumberland so you can get a closer look across the river at Nissan Stadium, where the NFL’s Titans play.
While I didn’t know I could enjoy a Tennessee trip that didn’t include some time in the Smokies, I surely did enjoy Chattanooga, Memphis and Nashville, which was Lady Jane and my version of the Tennessee Three-Step.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. He is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at email@example.com.