Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Smoky Mountains, Part 1: Nashville

Continued from the Introduction...

First, some of you might be wondering, why Tennessee? Well, Southwest Airlines had this deal where they sectioned the US into three zones. And, there was a cheap fixed rate based on the zoning. So, I looked at the East Coast destinations and jokingly suggested Nashville. However, after some internet image searches, we saw the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, especially during the changing of the fall colors. Add a bottle of wine to the mix, and soon we had tickets to Nashville.

Though Nashville was not meant to be the highlight of our trip, we figured spending the first weekend out there would be nice. Plus, the National Park would be a lot less crowded during the week.

Our first meal was at Monell's at their newest location (the former New Orleans Manor) just a few miles from the airport -- it was recommended by a lady on our flight who lived in nearby Murfreesboro. It was a good introduction to Southern cooking. We were promptly seated at a table of strangers, and food was served to the table as it would for a traditional family dinner. We passed the dishes around the table and basically helped ourselves to as much as we wanted. Yes, it was all-you-can-eat, but it was not at all a crappy buffet-style meal. In fact, it was delicious. If you ever find yourself out that way, go give them a try.

Monell's at the Manor

My First Plate of Food at Monell's

The first touristy thing we did was check out the Grand Ole Opry House and the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The hotel is absolutely beautiful (and huge!). The Grand Ole Opry backstage tour was interesting, but I think you need to be more of a country music fan to truly appreciate it. If you, like me prior to the tour, knew very little about the Grand Ole Opry, it is apparently a very big thing in the country music world... being invited to join is a much bigger accomplishment than winning a Grammy Award.

Grand Ole Opry House

Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Inside the Gaylord Opryland Hotel

One of the many Flowers Inside

We also went downtown to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you are not big on country music, I suggest you drop by an hour before closing as we did for the discounted ticket price. There were a lot of things to see there, and it was pretty well organized I thought. Much of it was interesting, so I think it's worth a visit.

Featured Exhibit: Chet Atkins

On the Floor of the Rotunda

While downtown, we checked out a highly recommended spot to eat... Jack's Bar-B-Que. It was a really casual place where you order at the counter with a tray and you get your food right away. The meat was delicious, but I wasn't as big a fan of the side dishes. I felt the sides at Monell's were much better.

Jack's BBQ

After pigging out a bit on meat, we went to a few other spots for food and entertainment. One of them was a place called The Stage On Broadway. One thing to note about Nashville, at least in the section of downtown where we visited, is that every single bar had a live band playing. This was very cool. The nightlife we saw on a Sunday was much more impressive compared to nearly all other cities I've ever been.

Band Playing at The Stage

Shelby Street Bridge Overlooking the Cumberland River

Before we left, we stopped by Tennessee's original pancake house, the Pancake Pantry. The pancakes were quite good, but the coffee was very much the opposite. Overall, it was alright, nothing that wowed me, but also not much negative save for the coffee.

Tennessee's First Pancake House

From here we headed off to Townsend, TN, one of the gateway cities into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

To be continued... Part 2.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Smoky Mountains

Recently, I went on a week long trip to hike about in the Great Smoky Mountains during the fall colors season. Here are a few pics to serve as as an introduction. I'll post more of a trip report as time permits.

Continue to Part 1: Nashville.