My Trip Diary : Nashville

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Last weekend, my parents and I went to Nashville for their 30th Anniversary. Why was I going, you might ask? 1) I’m an only child and that’s just how it goes most of the time and 2) Because Nashville. Any other questions? Okay, moving right along…

We left Thursday night and came home Monday evening. Not a very long time, right? However, you can fit plenty activities in with just a few days. All you need is a plan and a car, for the most part, but there’s also plenty to do downtown, without transportation.

After my dad and I got off work Thursday, the three of us headed to LAX, where we flew out at 12:45 a.m. Sleeping on a plane is next to impossible, especially in the middle seat. I dozed off a few times, after waking up at 5:45 a.m. the day before. But, my anticipation was greater than my need to sleep. We landed around 6:45 a.m. Nashville time and from the moment we touched down, after picking up our luggage and our rental car, we were off and running.

Friday:

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Our first stop was the Phunky Griddle for breakfast, since we hadn’t eaten in awhile. The Phunky Griddle is really a cool concept, because you get to be the one to make your breakfast…On your table. There’s a griddle on the table itself and you pour your batter for French toast, pancakes, eggs or whatever other food you order. Some might say, yes, you can do this in the comfort of your own home, but what are the chances of that actually happening? This way, you can get all of your friends or family together; laughing and teasing each other about the misshaped pancake you just made (guilty). It’s $6.95 for the pancakes and $5.95 for the French toast, but it’s all-you-can-eat. The pancakes also came with two different batters, wheat (for the healthier option) and regular. You can even pick two toppings; I had nutella and sprinkles, which made it taste like Christmas. I topped it off with a nice glass of sweet tea. Since we were there so early, we had an entire room to ourself for most of our time, which was nice. It was a lot of fun, and I would definitely go back again.

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After we finished breakfast, we drove around a little, venturing into the 12South neighborhood, which is really happening right now. There are a lot of coffee shops, restaurants and stores, many with that ‘hipster’ vibe and a good place for the 20-something crowd. You’ll also find some fun art, such as the famous “I Believe In Nashville” mural. It has been a goal of mine to find this for quite some time, since everyone and their brother has seemed to pose in front of it, and I finally did. So, naturally my dad and I had to jump in front of it. You’ll see that we do that a lot in front of iconic landmarks, just for the heck of it. We get a kick out of it.

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After killing some time, we went to United Record Pressing for our tour at 11 a.m. This establishment has been pressing ‘nothing but vinyl’ since 1949. This means that most well-known records have probably been pressed here in that time. They even released the first Beatles record in America. CRAZY! On the tour, they walk you through the process of what it takes to make a vinyl record, as well as some of the in-between label processes of how they transfer the music. A Motown Suite was also located in the building, because race was such an issue at the time, most of the African-American artists lived there, as it had complete living quarters, including a bathroom, kitchen and a living room with beds and couches to sleep on. Overall, many important moments, such as Hank Williams and Aretha Franklin signed their record deals, and numerous #1 parties and other celebratory moments have taken place at United Record Pressing. At the end of the tour, our guide walked us into the production room, where they were actually putting the vinyl together and packaging. We were able to see quite a few records that haven’t gone out just yet, which was really exciting. Music is just a really exciting process…And since it was Nashville, and you never know who’s going to be in your midst, a group from Warner Label group was with our tour — Complete with a Hunter Hayes lookalike.

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We didn’t have any set plans for some time after our tour, so we decided to drive near LP Field to get a picture of the beautiful city skyline. There was absolutely no one around, which made for the perfect picture spot. If I lived there, that would easily be one of my favorite spots to just think and write. How can you not be inspired in the heart of downtown Nashville?!

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At 2 p.m., we paid a visit to Country Weekly, after my ‘7 for 7’ surprise with Lady Antebellum, I was still curious about the process of the magazine itself and wanted to see the offices. I was able to talk with one of the editors about the magazine and meet the rest of the team. It was incredible to be surrounded by so many people who love country music and are just as passionate about certain matters involving that industry. I’m not used to being in a newsroom where people are into the same things that I am. That…Well, that was something I could definitely get used to. I also walked away with some reading material ;). It’s crazy that I grew up reading my grandma’s copies of Country Weekly when I was younger, reading about LeAnn Rimes and Bryan White or Faith Hill and Shania Twain. To think that I’d ever be hanging out in the office on a trip to Nashville is just crazy and quite the full circle moment.  It was a really good time and I’m thankful for the good people in that city who have taken the time to help me, whether for this or a story that I’ve covered over the past couple years.

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After we were finished at the Country Weekly offices, we went out to Loveless Café for lunch. There was a bit of a wait (because when is there not???), so it gave us a chance to look in the stores at all of the adorable knick knacks, kitchenware, jams and other food items. We were seated on the outdoor patio, which is the perfect spot, no matter how hot it is. I had a BLGT (Bacon, lettuce, fried green tomato), which I’d before, but it was just so yummy, I had to get it again. Our stomachs were full, and it was harder to fight the sleepiness that was kicking in from staying up most of the night. So, we decided to head back to our hotel room for a bit. I hadn’t planned on falling asleep, because I rarely ever nap, but it didn’t seem like I had much choice in this case.

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A couple hours later, we all woke up and decided to freshen up and go out for round two of our adventures. We drove around, taking in the view and went back to LP Field for the nighttime view of the city. It’s really something else to stare in wonder at the landscape in front of you, knowing that it is a crazy town full of neon dreams, as well as a few broken ones. Which one will I be? Well, I guess I’ll just have to move there to find out.

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It was getting later and we were getting hungry, but it seemed that a lot of places were closing up, like Noshville Deli. We ended up eating at Taco Mamacita, which I’d heard a lot about and loved it. My mom and I decided to share the nachos, and they were so good, topped with lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, cheese and corn. I would love to go back and try some of the other items on their menu. After our very filling meal, we headed back to our hotel to turn in for the night.

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Saturday

We started the day off with breakfast at our hotel, then we took a tour of Barbara Mandrell’s former house, Fontanel, which means “New beginning.” That place is its own little world and completely indescribable. Tucked away in the middle of a forest sits a huge log castle (it’s no small cabin) with a million memories that the Mandrell family owned, as well as the legacy of a country queen with plenty of accomplishments lying around the house. I could tell you about the countless stories I learned, but it’s just one of those things you have to check out for yourself. It’s definitely a “goals” kind of thing. They also mentioned that they rent it out for parties, events and weddings, so I have now added to my bucket list that I want to celebrate my 30th birthday there with all of my friends and family. Now I just hope I’m making that kind of money by then. HA!

After the tour finished, we drove into Hendersonville, which is where Taylor Swift lived when she first moved to town, and also attended high school there and shot one of her videos, “You Belong With Me” at another local school. We hadn’t been there in a few years, so I thought it would be fun to go back, as well as find the playground that she donated money to back in 2010, since I’d still never seen it. I thought there was more to it, but I guess not. I have to admit, it was a little embarrassing climbing on playground equipment as a 23-year-old, while all these little kids were playing, so I tried to be quick with the pictures. We drove around Hendersonville a little more and stopped by T. Swift’s old high school, as well as Johnny Cash and June Carter’s property and where they are now buried. I’ve kind of been fascinated with their life and story lately, so I thought why not?

By the time we got back into Nashville, we were starving. We had to make a quick stop at the new pop-up Big Machine store, so I could get a “Music Has Value” shirt, then we walked over to the new restaurant (also featured in one of Lady Antebellum’s 7 for 7 videos), Acme. It was crazy loud and they were only serving brunch at the time, so we decided to try the new George Jones museum and restaurant. When we walked in, his widow, Nancy, was standing by the counter talking with fans and taking pictures, so I thought I’d get my picture taken with her. She was still trying to work at the time, so I didn’t really get to talk much with her, just a ‘hi,’ but I still thought it was pretty neat to meet the Possum’s wife. I can’t say it was my favorite food experience; there wasn’t much flavor to anything, the chicken strips I had or the steaks my parents ordered. But, it did just open a few weeks ago, so I’m sure they’re still trying to figure things out.

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That view of the Batman building never gets old.

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Nancy Jones and I

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The view from the restaurant.
I had been crashing right before we ate, so I felt much better when we were done. We decided to stop by Ivey Cake for some cupcakes. For those who don’t know, Carrie Underwood’s band leader, Mark, is married to Ivey. Ivey made Carrie’s wedding cake back in 2010, which was actually a tier of cupcakes named the “I Do,” which they also still sell in the shop, and they are pretty tasty. We stocked up on cupcakes, with our eyes bigger than our stomachs and had planned to go back to the room to rest up.

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Image from IveyCake.com

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Carrie’s wedding cake, which was featured in People Magazine.
However, we ended up stopping by the Opry, while there weren’t too many people there (or so we thought) before the show, so we could get our traditional pictures. Well, we pulled into the parking lot and it was NUTS. We drove around forever looking for parking, but eventually found a spot. It was a special day of sorts, because there were band kids all around, setting up to play music or wandering around. It was kind of awkward doing our typical jumping pictures with an audience, but hey, what can you do? We had balcony seats for the second show, but decided to see if we could trade them for something better.  They didn’t have any, but the lady who helped us was super nice about it and told us to try again later before the show started. We also went into the Opry store, so mom could pick up a shirt. Again, it was CRAZY, but we made it out alive and rather quickly.

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We then decided to go by Two Rivers Mansion, where The Band Perry filmed, “If I Die Young” and Taylor Swift did a photo shoot for “Enchanted” in her Speak Now CD booklet. Last time we were there a few years ago, it was being remodeled, so it kind of took away from the house. This time, it looked like they were setting up for a wedding, but they didn’t look like they were finished and we hadn’t seen a sign. Well, as we were taking pictures, a lady stepped outside and asked if she could help us. My mom said she didn’t know that we weren’t allowed to be in the section we were in, and the lady just replied with “We’re having a wedding here today,” and stood there until we left. So, that was fun, but it was still a gorgeous time of night.

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We ate our cupcakes and cooled off for a bit before getting ready, but didn’t have much time before heading out to the Opry. I showered and we cleaned up a bit, then hit the road. We wanted to make sure we got there earlier, since the parking lot is so crazy!

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The “I Do” cupcake

The Opry is my absolute favorite thing in Nashville. To me, that’s what the city is all about, and you just can’t make a trip there, without at least seeing the outside, taking a tour or going to a show, no matter how many times you’ve been there. Not only is it fun putting on your best dress and going out for the night, but you just never know what’s in store for the Opry. It was our first time sitting in the balcony (since we didn’t decide to go until LONG after the tickets went on sale), which I was really looking forward to, because I was curious to know what the show was like from up there. As soon as we sat down, I felt really sick and dizzy, and that didn’t go away the entire time. I’m not afraid of heights and normally don’t have trouble with it, but for some reason the angle really messed with me. I felt horrible, and debated on leaving a couple times, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave early, because it’s still the Opry, and as of now, I don’t know when we’ll make it back to another show (at least within the next year).Carrie Underwood was incredible as always and I was excited to see Charlie Worsham, plus he sang my favorite song “Young To See” from his album, which made me tear up after just graduating and all. He also sang a song he wrote for a boy at his church who was killed in a car accident, and how we don’t always quite understand why things happen, but God has a plan. His set was really what my heart needed, let me tell ya!

After the show, I was able to meet with a couple of my friends who I met through the Carrie Underwood fan club and over the years we’ve been able to get closer. We’ve even nicknamed ourselves The Golden Girls (long story). It was great being able to catch up with them and take pictures.

The rest of the lineup:

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We grabbed food on the way back to the room, but I was still feeling kind of crummy, so I just opted for a Sprite and took it easy back at our hotel.


Sunday

We ate breakfast at our hotel again, then decided to try going out to the Two Rivers Mansion again. It was another beautiful day, and the way the sun was shining was perfect ambiance lighting. If my friend, Marisel, would’ve been there, we easily could have turned it into a full-day photo shoot, because that’s just what we do, and there are a billion places around Nashville with such picturesque scenery and landscape. That’s another reason I love it so much, everything just looks so artsy and gives you a chance to be creative and tell your own story everywhere you go.

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We decided to check out the Farmer’s Market downtown, which was incredible. They had all kinds of fruits and veggies, as well as other local knick knacks and food to snack on. There was even a garden section, which sold tables and chairs, a variety of plants and even signs and decorations. I was mentally decorating my future home as we walked through the buildings. Farmer’s Markets and Sundays just go together like peanut butter and jelly.

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From there, we went to Centennial Park, home to a replica of the Parthenon in Greece. It also resembles, what I imagine, Central Park looks like. And I just couldn’t get over how green everything is — 1) that it is always naturally that way and 2)they aren’t in a drought.  But, again, I was enamored by the nature and the stillness. My parents and I took selfies and sno cones, and it was the greatest thing ever (except for the fact that I had to keep slurping down the juice to make sure it didn’t drip on my cream colored skirt). It was also incredibly humid and hot, and sweat was dripping from places you’d never realized before, but that’s all part of the experience, am I right?

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I NEVER wear my hair in a bun in public. But, sometimes, you just have to say YOLO, because it’s too hot to function any other way.
We had talked about going to The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s house, but it was getting later and being that it was outside, mom and I just weren’t ready for that. So, we ended up at the Country Music Hall of Fame (yes, again), because they had a few new exhibits. If I do anything when I move back to Nashville, it will be to get an annual pass for the CMHOF or however that works, because they are constantly changing and updating things in the museum. This time around there was one for Luke Bryan and another for Trisha Yearwood, along with a tribute to Bob Dylan and Nashville’s Real Cool Cats, including Johnny Cash. Plus, there’s always Taylor Swift’s Education Center, which had also been updated since October (the last time we visited). They had a class going on when we visited and we were able to make bandanas, so that was fun.

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By the time we were done at the Country Music Hall of Fame, we were extremely hungry (seems to be a theme, doesn’t it?). Tacos sounded good to me and there was a taco place inside the Omni Hotel, which was also connected to the museum. But, they didn’t really have much that my dad would eat, so we decided against that and finally after researching online, we found Nashville Street Tacos just a few streets up. Also, tacos are my new favorite thing and they pretty much always sound good at this point. We walked around downtown to some of the usual shops on Broadway, so I could get a sweatshirt for the plane ride home (because I like sweatshirts and I’m usually just cold a lot). We walked up near The Ryman, then decided we’d seen it all and called it a day.

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We went back to the room, but really just for a few minutes and the next part of our evening adventures began. Our family does a lot of driving around, even when we’re at home, so we definitely do a lot of driving back there (well, my dad does), because there’s so much to see, even if just from the window. So, we drove out to the Belle Meade area and all around, just listening to good ole country music, of course and soaking in the scenery. We stopped at a Publix grocery store and I was finally able to try Milo’s sweet tea, which I’ve heard is what Taylor Swift served at her Nashville condo a few years ago – It was SO good. I can never have enough sweet tea, and this lived up to its expectations.

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We had dinner at Steak ‘n’ Shake, which we’d never had before. It’s kind of like Johnny Rockets meets In-N-Out, so it’s pretty tasty. I had a burger, fries and a heath shake. Good stuff! After we finished eating, we went up to Love Circle, which has a breathtaking view of the city. Based on the title, yeah, it is a pretty couple(y) place to go, but there was another family up there, so I didn’t feel so awkward! LOL. Being away from the rest of the town like that, it just puts it all into perspective. You remember that you’re just one part of the equation, and it’s everyone in the city put together that makes it so special. Now, more than ever, I have faith that it won’t be long before I’m back in Music City, but until then, I’m content where I’m at. This time, I know without a shadow of a doubt that dreams come true.

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We turned into the hotel for the night and started getting our suitcases together, since we were leaving the next day.


 

Monday

We woke up really early to finish getting everything together and had decided to go to Andrew Jackson’s house, The Hermitage. It was our last day in Nashville, so that was the only thing we were able to do, but I’m so glad we did. There’s something so charming about the old homes in the south, but especially when so much history surrounds them. The tour guide walked us through the house, showing us all of the rooms, as well as little stories behind them that might not be public knowledge. When the tour portion was over, we were able to wander about the land, through the gardens and all of the other side houses. We started walking through the garden, and all of a sudden, I saw a pretty thick/long lizard. I froze in place, which freaked my mom out and I was just not sure about continuing on, so we decided to get out of there rather quickly. The rest of the grounds were stunning, though, even if it was sticky and hot out. Each spot had a sign and a number, so you could punch the number into the audio system they gave at the front desk, which gave more detail about the location and what actually happened there.

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After our time at The Hermitage, we decided to just get something quick to eat. There was a Chick-Fil-A nearby, so we ate there. You can’t go wrong with Chick-Fil-A in my book! From that point on, we went straight to the airport. It didn’t take long to check our bags in and make it past the x-ray machines, then all we had left to do was wait. Every single time we would go to Nashville, I would get really sick…Well, we noticed that it was only on the way back, which started telling us that it was probably just nerves because I  didn’t want to leave. There were many times that I would tear up right before take-off or would actually feel like I was going to throw up or pass out in the middle of the flight (totally normal). Needless to say, I had to start taking dramamine before our flights, so that’s exactly what I had to do this time. I got my Starbucks and took my medicine in plenty of time, then it was time to board.

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Here is my dad reading the newspaper!

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This time I was sad about leaving (as always), but nothing like in the past. I think it was different because now I know that I will definitely see this place again…This is just the beginning of our beautiful relationship and journey. I was 16-years-old when I made my first trip to Nashville. I didn’t know who I was and I thought I knew what I wanted and I had a generalized idea. But, that trip literally changed the direction for the rest of my life and I know that was no coincidence. God had it planned all along, and while my story has had several drafts that I haven’t been quite so sure about and a few pages I wish I could rip out, it’s all part of the process. A process that I am SO thankful for.

From Nashville, we flew to Dallas and from Dallas to Los Angeles. I fell asleep for some of the second flight, I read magazines and tried to keep myself occupied as best as I could. And that was the end of our wonderful trip. But, let’s be honest, I’ve never had a bad time there either ;).

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Until next time…

~Shelby

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