Driving in from Birmingham on Friday in the late afternoon, I realized that I had bypassed the Appalachian mountains. There were a few foothills in my vista since leaving Boston, but no Smokey, Blue Ridge or Allegheny Mountains. I’ve missed the Catskills, the Poconos, and the Cumberland, too. I was headed to the town known as “Music City”, meeting up with my husband and youngest daughter to spend the weekend with some of our oldest and dearest friends. I was looking forward to being with my people and being off the road for a few days. Easter in Nashville; good food, good music and good friends. Our friends were well-informed guides and gracious hosts in their new-found hometown. I barely noticed that it rained on and off all weekend. Let me begin my tale of the weekend by saying that Nashville should be at the top of everyone’s ‘getaway weekend’ list.
Friday’s evening meal was a short walk from our hotel in mid-town, near Music Row. Patty B’s Hot Chicken is reminiscent of being at an aunt’s backyard Sunday dinner. You line up and order in a little kitchen and then can go out to a larger deck area full of picnic tables. There’s tall boys of beer, lots of sides to choose from and five variations of hot chicken to choose from as well as the traditional Southern fried chicken. I had the greens(collared greens), mac ‘n cheese with pimento and Southern style fried chicken. Moist and tender inside, tasty and crispy outside. My daughter tried the medium-hot and was a member of clean-platers club as was the rest of our group.
On Saturday morning, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to have an appetite for The Pancake Pantry, a legendary breakfast spot with Vanderbilt students and alumni. We arrived at the restaurant in the Hillsboro neighborhood on 21st Avenue and the line was only 30 feet or so out the door. I was told this was a good thing, not too long a wait. By the time we were seated 20 minutes later, the line had wrapped around the corner and was almost down the entire block. I mustered up the courage to order pancakes. The waitress was encouraging and helpful when I hesitated between the cornmeal pancakes and the buckwheat pancakes. She took care of me, bringing me three of buckwheat and two of the cornmeal. Once they were delivered, with steam coming off the plate and looking delicious, I found my appetite. I tried several other pancakes ordered by our group including sweet potato, chocolate chip and sugar & spice which is made from a special cinnamon and spice batter.
After breakfast, we walked backed through Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Campus . The stately campus is full of beautiful lawns and quads, distinguished red brick buildings and an arboretum that has received national designation. The arboretum tree tour is identified by metal circles on the pavement and while they seem to point me in every direction, the trees and shrubs are individually identified. The Main Campus is lovely, but I especially liked the Peabody Esplanade.
Saturday afternoon we drove down Music Row to see all the studios before heading into downtown. Parking north of the State House across from the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, a manicured lawn with pillars and granite walls alongside it, outlining the geology and history highlights of Tennessee. Climbing the steps to the State House we took in the views of the city and saw the final resting place James K. Polk, one of two US presidents that hailed from Tennessee. Walking towards Broadway and the Riverfront we stopped at the Nashville Public Library. From it’s front doors with bronze plates cast in the flora and the fauna of Tennessee or Tennesseans reading, this library charms. Comfortable furniture, traditional library tables, a large reading room with views of the State House, a civil rights center that has a lunch counter motif to illustrate this era in our history and a large children’s section with an imaginative story-time area, this is a welcoming library ready to serve its patrons. After exploring the library we continued on to The District, with it’s honky-tonk bars. Country music spilling out of each of them and there’s a vibe in the air that encourages you to spend the afternoon with a cold beer in one hand while the other hand keeps time to the music. The District is the tourist area of Nashville and not far is Ryman Auditorium, one of country music famous performing centers and Schermerhorn Symphony with it’s ‘perfect’ acoustics. The waterfront, along the Cumberland River, as well as The District is watched over by the AT&T building, which looks like the building in Batman. We walked the Shelby Street Pedestrian bridge, an old truss bridge, that offers great views of the football stadium, riverfront and downtown. Taking the blue circle bus back to our car, a free service offered by the city, I was thankful the return walk to the car was unnecessary. Although we made a stop for drinks and appetizers at Tavern Mid-Town, a hip restaurant and bar-probably too hip for us- was welcomed before we regrouped for the evening.
Saturday evening we had reservations for our group of eight at The Listening Room, a music venue showcasing singer-songwriters. Rather than the cover bands that play in The District, there were four performers who each took a turn singing their own songs. One of the artists was from the group Poco. I realize I’m dating myself with that reference. Sunday, after mass, our friends served a Easter buffet that was brimming with fresh fruit and vegetables, a gorgeous prime rib that melted in our mouths along with mashed potatoes and several cheeses. Luckily we didn’t have dessert until much later after we had taken a drive out to Centennial Park and seen The Parthenon, the only remaining fixture from the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition and now the centerpiece of this park. Although we teased about it being hokey it was typical of that era of when copying great works of Europe was in fashion. It is a unique structure, sitting in the middle of a park in Nashville, Tennessee. It was easy to say good-bye as we know we will return to Music City.