Nov. 7-10, 2018. Four days of non-stop fun things to see and do.
Nashville was a place I had never visited and always wanted to, so my wife and I jumped at the chance to be part of this fabulous trip. We belong to Cary First Baptist Church and have gone on other trips, but this was special. I may now have to buy and learn to strum and pick a guitar. I believe there are more guitars in Nashville than people! The eight hour ride via a very nice modern bus was long, a little tiring, but made tolerable by our entertaining tour manager, Jane Trexler, and our very excellent driver, Willie.
Our arrival to the Gaylord Opryland Resort hotel was one of the big surprises. The Gaylord is the largest hotel in the US, advertising a whopping 3000 rooms, covering nine acres, lavish gardens (and I mean lavish), countless waterfalls, a tantalizing water fountain show, and even a river boat ride through the extraordinary tropical gardens. And of course shops and restaurants galore. It is large, but well mapped with signs to reduce getting lost, however getting lost is part of the fun at this resort.
The next day included a bright and early departure for Fontanel Mansion, megastar Barbara Mandrell’s, former home. It is a 27,000 square foot log home with 13 bathrooms, 5 fire places, 2 kitchens and much more. The house is now owned by an investor group that run daily tours. Our tour guide was Steven Whitson a masterful story teller, singer, guitarist, and he gave us two beautiful renditions of songs he composed. Luckily he had a recorded band back up which shielded the two guitarists, Penny Jacobs, and Larry Kingsley, trying to come up with at least one chord that was right.
We moved on to visit The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and is the center piece of Nashville’s Centennial Park. Under the main structure is a private collection of some very fine paintings.
After lunch we toured Belle Meade Plantation renowned for breeding numerous Triple Crown thoroughbreds, including Secretariat, War Admiral, Affirmed, American Pharaoh and this year’s winner, Justify. Since the paddler wheeler trip and dinner cruise was cancelled we were entertained at the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Show. A top rated event that in the past featured Hank Williams and Patsy Cline and some of the superstars of today like Sara Evans and Toby Keith. It was a delightful evening with budding stars performing.
The following day was my favorite, a tour of RCA Studio B. Built in 1957 it became known as the cradle of the Nashville Sound. More than 35,000 songs were brought to life here including more than 1,000 American hits, 40 million singles and over 200 Elvis Presley recording! We all took turns standing on the blue tape X on the floor where the artist stood to record the many hit songs. Following the Studio B tour we boarded the bus to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. It was self-guided and featured the earliest folk roots of music and memorabilia and of the super stars including my favorite, Elvis’s car!
No visit to Nashville would be complete without visiting Ryman Auditorium. Revered by many as the “Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The building was built in 1892 by Captain Tom Ryman, after his religious conversion at a tent revival held by Sam Jones. He wanted a building large and grandiose enough to properly represent God’s church, so the revivals continued until morphing into The Grand Ole Opry home. Our self-guided tour gave us a sense of history of the years of music that was performed there. After Dinner at the Opry Backstage Grill, we made our way back to the Ryman Auditorium for a two hour concert which featured about eight different singers and acts along with radio timeout commercials for cowboy boots, hats and western clothing. It was a delightful evening sitting just a few feet from the “Grand Ole Opry” historic stage.
Of course all trips have to end and the next day we made the eight hours bus ride back to Cary with lasting memories of a city built by music.
Blog writer: Larry Kingsley
Photos: Gary Frazier