Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Washington DC to Nashville

A very early morning rise on September 11th and we were on the first Amtrak train out of DC to Baltimore Airport for our flights to Nashville via Chicago.
Security was tight but we were air side in plenty of time for a good breakfast and a quiet sit and read. It was good to relax for half a day (even if it was in airports and on aircraft) after nearly two weeks of hectic travel.
We arrived in Nashville mid afternoon and picked up our rental car. The guy behind the counter was 'y'alling' continually and I thought he was taking the piss. But no, most of the inhabitants actually do talk like that.
After checking in to the Airport Marriott we made a beeline for the Bluebird Cafe'. This is a music listening venue where you can hear songwriters performing their own songs as well as unknowns trying to make it in the country music scene. Some pretty big names have passed through this unassuming little place. Sunday is a no booking day and you have to line up to get a seat in the 100 capacity room. It was a very pleasant evening of music and song. Food wasn't bad either.
The following morning found us on our way to Franklin just to the south of the city. The first thing you notice about suburban Nashville are the huge houses (a lot plantation style) on large blocks of land and that there seems to be a church on every corner. Methodists and Presbyterians are well represented. I wondered how John Wesley/George Whitefield and John Calvin/John Knox would feel about some of these huge obviously expensive edifices.
Franklin was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War which largely goes unnoticed in the scheme of things.
After orientation at the local tourist office and a great breakfast of juice, French toast and a HUGE cup of coffee at a local bakery we walked down to one of the many cemeteries in the town. Here lies the unknown soldier from the battle discovered only a few years before. Pieces of the original columns of the Tennessee State Capitol have been used in the memorial.

Then we drove out to the Carnton Plantation on the southern end of the town.
Built in 1826 by the McGavocks, on the late afternoon of November 30th 1864 the house and its family were trapped between 40,000 Federal and Confederate soldiers. At 4pm the Confederate Army of Tennessee launched a massive frontal attack (at least as large as Picketts Charge at Gettysburg).
Five hours later 9500 soldiers from both sides were dead, wounded or missing.
Carnton became a Confederate hospital.
By midnight hundreds of wounded and dying men lay in the house and on the lawns.
In the morning four dead Confederate Generals lay dead on the back porch.

We were given a very detailed tour of the beautiful house and graphic descriptions of what took place there. On the southern side of the house near the windows, the doctors operated endlessly trying to save lives. Blood ran off their aprons and soaked through the carpet into the wooden floors.
Large crescents of bloodstains still mark the floor boards today.
In 1886 the McGavocks began reburying the remains of the nearly 1500 Southern soldiers from their temporary graves south of the town. They designated two acres at Carnton for the reinterment. Mrs. McGavock kept meticulous notes on each burial in her "book of the dead" so that she could answer the many inquiries from families whose soldiers never returned home.
They still get enquires to this day.
The McGavock Confederate Cemetery is the largest private Confederate cemetery in the country.

Two quilt shops in town were on the agenda and after some trouble we found both. One had the reputation of being the most chaotic in the country but had since moved to new larger premises. The co driver said it was 'still a bit of a mess' but had some amazing stuff 'if you could find it' among the piles of fabric.
Then we were off through really pleasant rural countryside to find the Loveless Cafe on the outskirts of Nashville for a late lunch/early dinner. It has been serving fried chicken and biscuits since 1951. The menu has been extended to cover all sorts of other southern 'delicacies' and despite many saying it's a tourist trap and not genuine we decided to give it a go. The co driver is a bit of an expert on southern cooking having lived in Alabama for a few years so I let her be the judge.

I had the southern sampler consisting of fried chicken, catfish, and pork BBQ together with hash brown casserole, home made cream corn and fried green tomatoes.
All I can say is YUMMO!
Biscuits may be like greasy scones but they were ok too especially with some of the Loveless preserves.
Dessert? You are kidding. Roll me outta here!
The co driver gave the meal the thumbs up.
Then we were off into town and Broadway to hit a few bars and honky tonks.
Parking was surprisingly easy (we were early) so we walked the strip to get a feel.
There are sixty odd bars in the area. We chose one which had the sound of good live music coming out the door. This was quite a good male singer who sang covers (and performed an Olivia Newton John song for us "because we were Ozzies") which was then followed by a good band. They concentrated on country rock.

I was wanting something more traditional (and quieter) so we found another bar where the band looked to average about 70 years of age. From the bio sheet on our table they had played for every big name in country music at some time or other either together or solo. The co driver thought they were too 'twangy' but it seemed I knew the words to all the songs they sang. Sad really!
Verdict on Broadway? Expensive drinks and the hand always in the pocket for band tips.
Glad we did it but no need for a repeat.

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