Heading South…

I think I’ve been waiting a while to write all these posts because once I’ve done it and they’re out there, what more is there to say? Who else is there to tell about my adventures? Reliving each city as I’ve written about it has been such a joy, I guess it’s the closest thing I’ll get to actually re-doing the trip – as much as joke about it to Ana. I’ve been especially reluctant to write about Nashville and New Orleans because I’m afraid my love for them won’t come across. It’s quite hard to write about a place where nothing major happened, there were no grand canyons or star filled skies it was much more about the people and the music and the atmosphere. And that’s something very hard to describe.

Nashville was always on my list of places to go. Country music and the whole romanticism of country life have always been of interest so actually being there was really special. The visit to the Ryman auditorium was incredible – learning about its history and the Grand Ole Opry and being only a few footsteps from the stage that so many incredible performers have sung on was so surreal. Walking up and down Broadway, the main street, popping into boot stores, hat stores and the array of different bars and honky tonks listening to all the next big thing’s. People singing and dancing everywhere with a real love for the music they’re listening to. It’s just such a special place.

It’s the place of karaoke – and I mean karaoke. These people can SING! Like, ready to get their big break kind of singing. So naturally our tour leader added my name to the list. I politely but rather forcefully declined and let another member of our group take my place, and it was just as well because she smashed it.

It’s also the place where you can get pizza delivered to the bar. I’m here for it.

It’s the place of $54 hats, 3 pairs of boots for the price of 1 (which is actually a really good deal and a few of us nearly grouped together but the reality of carrying boots round the world put a slight downer on the idea), it’s the place where everyone can wear pretty much the same thing and it’s not weird – think denim, flannel shirts, hats, boot, etc etc. It’s magical. I think the phrase of the night was “I love it, can I stay here? Let’s stay here. Can we stay here?”.

We also got to visit the Bluebird Cafe, which may not mean anything to many of you but it’s the place people go to perform at open mic nights where they may or may not get spotted and they become the next Garth Brooks or Taylor Swift. Both were discovered there, and it’s also had visits from Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley before they were country superstars. It’s a country music holy grail and I got to stand outside.

Nashville, I’ll be back.

From Nashville we went to Memphis, land of Elvis and Blues. Compared to Nashville, Memphis was a little bit of a let down. Don’t get me wrong, it was still amazing and the live blues singers were unlike anything I’ve ever heard before but nothing was going to beat that Monday night. Tuesday night in Memphis wasn’t quite as buzzing and the rain may have dampened the mood a little, thanks Irma.

We spent the day at the National Civil Rights Museum which is adjoined to the Lorraine Hotel, the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The museum was incredibly interesting and interactive but the most hard hitting part for me was definitely seeing the room where the assassination happened. Everything was left as it was and the quotes from his family and friends bought a tear to everyone’s eye, it was very moving. If you’re ever in Memphis I’d definitely recommend taking the time to visit.

We also took a trip to the Gibson factory which was $11 rather than $60 like Graceland was, sorry Elvis – maybe next time. The Gibson factory was fascinating though, even for someone who’s not got the biggest passion for how guitars are made. It was very hands on, lots to see and touch and questions were encouraged, well worth $11.

I have to say though, highlight of the day had to be the Peabody Ducks. If you haven’t heard of them, stop whatever you’re doing and listen up. There are a group of ducks that live in the Peabody hotel in the centre of Memphis and every night there’s a ceremony for them. They walk (waddle?) from the fountain in the hotel foyer down a set of tiny red stairs, down a red carpet to the elevator lead by the Duck Master. They proceed to get in the lift which takes them to the roof where they spend the night and then in the morning the ceremony is reversed. They do this every day. Hundreds of people (us included) waited for 45 minutes to get a good view of them. There was music and the Duck Master had proper attire and it was quite the event. Half our group thought it was ridiculous and the other half (myself included) thought it was maybe the highlight of the trip (or definitely the highlight of Memphis). Here’s a video Ana took of them – she sat on the floor with the children to get the best view, obviously, but I still don’t think you can get the full experience. Add it to your list of things to do in this crazy city.

We also visited Beale Street which is the equivalent of Broadway in Nashville. It’s a street full of bars that have blues music flooding the street it’s impossible not to be impacted by such soulful voices; blues isn’t my favourite genre of music but even I was swept up in it. It was a great place but the tiredness from Nashville and the rain from Hurricane Irma had caught up with us and so it wasn’t a late night but a fun one all the same.

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