The Athens of the South

Sarah and I just returned from a five-night, Labor Day weekend trip that took us to Nashville and then on to Western Kentucky for a family reunion. I usually fly through Louisville when I’ve gone to Kentucky, but we didn’t want to make the three-and-half hour drive to get from “The Ville” to the Sarah’s family in Graves County. Nashville is a much more manageable two-hour drive away.

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I had never been to Nashville, except for the time we flew into their airport last December. Many friends kept talking about the great music scene there, but I am not a fan of country music so I really didn’t want to pop into a noisy bar and listen to music I probably wouldn’t like. Besides, I don’t know how it would measure up to our trip to Memphis for Gonerfest 8 last September. Sarah did her best at finding a number of activities for us, and on Friday we set out for some adventures in Nashville.

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Our first stop was for breakfast at the Pancake Pantry. We waited about thirty minutes to get a stack of cakes. I selected the buckwheat pancakes because I was looking for something different that just buttermilk cakes, and while they certainly didn’t lack in flavor, they weren’t quite as good as the pecan pancakes Sarah got. Oh well.

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We then headed downtown to see Printers Alley, which was neat but not very happening on a Friday afternoon. I had wanted to tour the Hatch Show Print shop on Broadway since December when I saw the poster exhibit at the Nashville Airport. The posters in the exhibit has some beautiful typography and simple, stunning colors. Sarah promised me that we would go see the shop, but when we did, I was disappointed. It’s basically just a gift shop and an extension of the Country Music Hall of Fame, not much of a working print shop anymore.

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We migrated to the Ryman Auditorium, the original location of the Grand Ole Opry radio program and, as the historical marker outside of the auditorium says, the birthplace of Bluegrass. The auditorium still hosts a number of concerts and other events, but it also serves as a monument to the Grand Ole Opry radio program and the legendary franchise it has spawned.

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From there, we ended our day in Nashville by visiting the Parthenon. I remember first seeing the Parthenon in the NBC documentary, Sit In, about the civil rights movement in the 1960s. The mayor boasted about Nashville’s various traits as the “Athens of the South,” including Vanderbilt University and the replica of the Parthenon. While the replica is certainly remarkable, it is the Athena statue inside of the building that really knocks your socks off. I highly recommend seeing it as it was the best spectacle of the trip.

The Parthenon closes at 4:30 PM, and we were asked to leave. Shortly thereafter we got in the car and drove to Kentucky.

As you can see, this day was your basic tourist-style run through Nashville. There was a lot more we could have done, but I wanted to get a first-timers tour of Nashville. Besides, we were returning two days later for two more nights.

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