Shiny Metal Tiger

Experiences in Baltimore, MD

Road Trip Days 5-6: Nashville

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Our next stop was Nashville, Music City!

I must admit that Nashville had mostly been a token stop for me, when planning the trip. My road trip partner was much more enthusiastic, probably because he’s more into live music. But by golly, it didn’t turn out badly at all.

We got there pretty early in the day, so we had some time to kill before we could indulge my companion. The first step was naturally to find a place to stay, which turned out to be the only backpacker-style hostel in town (a fact that they were happy to advocate; “Very popular in Europe and Asia!”). Not a bad hostel (having experienced many in Europe and Asia :P), close to the action part of town and reasonably priced; consequently it was completely full and I had to sleep on an air mattress for which I had to pay full price. Meh. With that out of the way, we decided to see the sights. I’d read or heard somewhere that there was a full-sized replica of the Parthenon there, and was curious to find out why. Get to Centennial Park and, lo and behold, there’s a big old temple that I’d believe looked more or less like the Parthenon (I haven’t seen the real thing). More or less, but not quite, I reckon; I do believe that the Greek one was constructed from marble rather than concrete, and probably lacks the very generous handicap accessibility ramps and elevators found here. I don’t know which one has the higher entrance fee, but we decided that $15 for the lookalike was a bit much. I did, however, get an answer to my initial question: The replica was built for the World Fair in 1897 and preserved by popular demand.

The Parthenon, two!

After stumbling onto the photo shoot for a cigarette commercial or perhaps an album cover, we proceeded to check out the nearby Vanderbilt campus. It was rather nice, and it was fun to walk into the Student Life building and more or less blend in (aside from the tourist outfits anyway). But the main attraction for us was, of course, the frat houses. Eternally glorified through pop culture, the enigmatic fraternities have arguably achieved something of a legendary status in Europe. Keg stands, toga parties and Greek letters are all symbols of the hedonism, exclusiveness and sheer betterness concealed behind the gates of the frat house; a bacchanalian paradise swimming with solo cups and college girls awaits you if you are fortunate enough to be accepted to an American college. A bit of exaggeration perhaps, but with a foundation of truth. Are fraternities all they’re cracked up to be? I doubt it (though of course I wouldn’t know, dundunDUN). Frat boys are going to be doing the same things that students in Denmark, or anywhere else, are doing. Only we’ll have be doing it from age 15, and so exhibit a bit more self-control by the time we’re in college. But hey, as the sign says, nothing in frattier than America.

Nothing indeed.

At the end of the day, we finally headed to Broadway and the honky tonk bars. And there were a lot of them, a wall of sound and I.D. checks that was only occasionally broken by a store selling CDs, guitars or cowboy boots (Buy 1 get 2 free!). After a couple of passes we had a pretty good impression of what was what: each bar had a slightly different genre (bluegrass, country with and without fiddle, etc.), with different bands playing for tips over the course of the evening. No covers, so you could hop from one place to the next, but you couldn’t bring your drinks. All the musicians seemed to know each other as well as many of the (presumably) regulars, so there was a whole lot of community feeling going round. A good way to spend an evening, or ten. No photos though, as the E-PL1 isn’t really nightlife friendly.

The next morning we went to a place that had been recommended by my favorite food guide, the Elliston Place Soda Shop.  Classic soda shop interior, (nonfunctional) individual jukeboxes for each stall and distinctly Dixie cooking: I had fried bologna with gravy and biscuits. Mm-mmm? Well, it was better than I’d expected, not too different from country ham. I also had a milkshake, which was perhaps the best milkshake ever. Fortuitously, Mike behind the counter gave me some sage advice as to vanilla vs. chocolate (Chocolate. I don’t even know why they make those other flavors.), and after a torturous wait brought in a massive malt cup filled with thick, creamy chocolate milkshake. I poured it into my big glass, applied a powerful vacuum to the super thick straw, and tasted heaven. So rich! So creamy! And the best part was that it just kept coming. When I finally emptied my first glass, I was able to pour out a second and third helping of this ambrosia. For the rest of the trip I would seek out milkshakes wherever I could, in the hope of getting something to rival this one, without success.

I don't know why they make flavors other than chocolate either.

We had a dinner planned that evening with more friends of a friend, but no particular place to spend the preceding daylight hours. On a whim, I decided that we should go to a pistol range to get in another rather American experience. Asking the GPS didn’t take us to a pistol range, but instead to a skeet shooting range. We walked in there anyway, and after a slightly awkward moment where 8 men with sunglasses and shotguns asked us: “Are you guys lost?”, we established that we could in fact go out and blast some clay pigeons without any previous experience, for the low price of $30 each.  We rented a gun from Steve Leadbetter, who kindly offered to show us the ropes; he was a terrific guy, and “Dead bird!” will forever hold a special place in my vocabulary. It was a ton of fun, and goes to show that you don’t need to use a map to get lost and have unexpected adventures: just ask your GPS for directions.

Dead bird!

The dinner was at the Loveless Cafe, just at the beginning of the Natchez-Trace parkway. In this apparently classic Nashville spot, with the correspondingly long wait, cultivated atmosphere and delicious food, I had another infusion of Southern stables: Fried chicken, fried catfish, fried okra and a whole lot of biscuits. Honestly, it’s not really my cup of tea. Not that I mind the taste, but all the fried stuff gets to me after a day or two, and a lot of the sides feels like main dishes (cough-mac’n’cheese-cough). But hey, that’s the good thing about a road trip like this: we did the Southern food thing in high style, and could then move on to another cuisine. Plus the place was great and the company even better; the waitress had to come back to our table three times because we just kept chatting away and forgetting to pick our orders. A good meal followed by a good night in town, and then we were once again (South)Westward bound.

By the light of the night

Written by Martin

2010/11/27 at 15:40

Posted in Uncategorized

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