It was a chilly 40 degrees (just above freezing) in New York, winter coat, woolly hat and gloves weather. The good news: it was Presidents Day, a public holiday. More good news, we weren’t wearing coats either. In-fact, with iced coffee in hand, we were meandering our way to the start of a walking food tour. It was the last day of our three day long weekend escape to Nashville and it was beautiful and sunny.
My knowledge of Nashville before the trip was mainly formed through its fame for country music. After arriving on Saturday we’d had two days to explore the city and had sampled in its music history but also found so much more beyond it. The city’s music heritage extends far beyond country music though.
Standing in the Bicentennial Mall, with sunglasses on, we still had one outstanding question. How did Nashville get its name Music City?
It’s a long answer but connects Nashville’s other nickname “Athens of the South”, with Queen Victoria and a group of spiritual singers called the Fisk Jubilee. A Greek and English connection? Oh, Nashville you just keeping winning me over.
Walking Food Tour
The tour focused our attention on an area of Nashville called Germantown. The meeting point for the tour, The Bicentennial Mall, was worth a visit in itself and an interesting place to start. An 11 acre park it includes various monuments and features. The tour started at a 200 foot granite state map, proving a useful scene setter of Nashville and Tennessee.
Over the course of the weekend and the tour we sampled a variety of local cuisine: some southern fare, some specific to Nashville, some that are practically a global brand. Probably the most anticipated was the “hot chicken”, a “cuisine” growing quickly in Nashville. The local recommendation was Hattie B’s, a small chain with about 3 or 4 restaurants.
Since Hattie’s was not part of the tour, so we caught a Lyft to what we thought was the quieter out of town location. Our driver though suggested there was a different location more likely to be uncrowded. Happy to lean on local recommendations we took her advice. Arriving there though, to her absolute honest surprise, was still a line of about 50 people to get in. Having taken this journey we were not deterred by the line. We were deterred by what we thought would very hot chicken, opting for ‘mild’ on the advice of most people. While tasty, I wish I had gone one level hotter.
Back to the tour though, there was a big surprise. The DoubleTree cookie (made by Christie Cookie). If you have ever stayed in a Hilton DoubleTree hotel you will know what I’m referring to – that delicious warm cookie you get when you check in. Well, did you know they’re made in Nashville? Neither one of us did!
Food aside, being in Music City, we had to embrace some of the country music heritage. The Country Music Hall of Fame makes every list of things to do in Nashville but within the same building is the Hatch Show Print. A letterpress shop running since 1879. I’d heard about this from a colleague who had recommended not only visiting the shop but taking the tour. We got a combined ticket for the Hall of Fame museum and Hatch Show Print. The tour was more of an informative talk and a chance to see the equipment. It may sound relatively two dimensional, but we came away feeling very happy we’d done it.
We spent plenty of time over the long weekend walking up and around Broadway with all the Honky Tonks, which partly make Nashville famous, but never felt the urge to go in. Cheap beer, big crowds, hordes of tourists.
When we checked in to our hotel somehow my whole name had ended up on the booking. I very rarely reference my middle name but the receptionist took unusual note of it. Apparently, Samuel was her favourite name with both her father and son called Patrick.. From this small coincidence she gifted us two tokens to exchange at the bar for free drinks.
Our hotel had live music every morning and evening and turned into one of the highlights of the trip. We enjoyed the music several times during our stay, twice for dinner, once for breakfast. A local duo from NJ and California, both of whom had relocated to Nashville, was Sunday’s live music. They were superb and it was even better being on our doorstep away from Broadway’s touristy crowds.
We ended the trip with a recommendation from our walking tour guide. Heading over to East Nashville (a growing ‘hipster’-ish area) to soak up some vitamin D in a wonderful beer garden surrounded by trees. We were away from the hustle of the Broadway Honky Tonks and the bustle of New York. It was a superb relaxing end to Nashville and the long weekend that found the perfect balance between relaxation and activities. I was skeptical of Nashville before the trip, but now? I wouldn’t think twice – it’s (more than) alright.