The Kentucky Bourbon Festival was a nice excuse to fly in and out of Nashville and finally visit "Music City." There was a lot less to do there than I expected, but the food was good and the hotel was awesome.
We stayed at the old Union Station train station, which has been converted into a Wyndham hotel. It's one of a few kind of gothic, stone structures looming in the skyline - alongside the Customs House and the local high school. In fact, everything seems to be a historical landmark, not only on Broadway through downtown, but everywhere we went. Union Station's clock tower (which inspired us to hunt around the hotel, looking for its entrance) is visible from afar, and was definitely a beacon in the night when we were walking home from drinking $6 pitchers and eating bacon-stuffed hot dogs at Paradise Park Trailer Resort on our last night there.
We got to hear some decent cover bands sing Elvis, Garth Brooks, and Nickelback songs. Bands play all day long all along the strip, and the bars are packed, even early in the afternoon. We resisted an afternoon beer buzz and went out to Tootsie's at night (where FarCry was entertaining a bunch of bachelorette parties). It was claustrophobic and rowdy and full of Colts fans, but we got some cheap beers and got to try Miller's new lime-and-salt chelada-style beer "Chill."
The hot dog was probably the best thing we ate in Nashville, but we also had a lovely elegant dinner of new southern cuisine at Watermark in a new trendy neighborhood called The Gulch. Other highlights included the steam pot at South Street and trout dip at Broadway Brewhouse and Mojo. Although the food didn't totally knock me over, I loved the experience of visiting the Loveless Cafe, a former motel that's on the outskirts of town.
In fact, we got to see quite a bit of Nashville, and not just the touristy stuff. Saturday night we went to the Tennessee State Fair, which is pretty small and entirely local. Supposedly nobody really goes to the state fair because they all visit other counties' fairs, but we had a good time watching the pig race and riding the rides.
Seeing all those crazy European cars at the museum, test-driving a SmartCar (the Swatch-designed Mercedes-manufactured minicar), and driving so much around KY and TN made me totally want to get a car. It's idiotic for me to think I could have one in Manhattan, but a tiny little fuel-efficient car with a sticker price of $11,000 somehow seems totally do-able.
In the meantime, I'm only here for one night and I've got to fly out to LA for work tonight. Stay tuned for more dispatches from the West Coast....