New York was a great place to begin this trip as a huge leg of it was going to take place down South, and it provided such a great basis for comparison. Once we began heading south it became clear quite early on that we were entering an entirely different culture; everything was different from the pace of the cities, the food, music, and of course that delightful Southern drawl that makes me want to drop everything to go in search of my very own cowboy. I love the Southern accent, I find it so relaxing.
Our first stop was Nashville, Tennessee. Not exactly a fan of country music, I was in it more so for the fun of learning how to line-dance. We arrived early enough at our campsite which was Yogi Bear themed, my favourite thing about it being the Hollywood styled vanity mirrors in the bathroom; I don’t know why I was surprised, we had just landed at the home of Dolly Parton, after-all.
Getting ready in the bathroom with all of the girls reminded me that while girls can get a bad reputation, they can be the most awesome people to travel with. You’ll never be without an eye-liner, eye-lash curler, or pair of hair straighteners, and there’s simply nothing more fun than sharing a mirror and listening to cool music while getting ready for a night on the town. Hair, make-up, music, drinks, and laughs, the girls on my trip were the best. Signing up to do a tour with a group of strangers can be a very risky thing do, after-all, you can’t know what kind of people you’re going to end up sharing a bus with for six hours a day, and maybe we were just lucky, but they were all just so great. I travel with Chris and as one half of a couple I always make an extra effort to talk to any girls around, and do my best to join them before they form their ‘cliques’ and I find myself resigned to only hanging out with my husband, which isn’t bad but I’m girly girl and I love having girlfriends. It’s not intentional, but it can happen when you’re part of a couple that any singletons around sort of write you off, but this trip couldn’t have been more different. I loved hanging out with these girls, we had so many laughs, and I felt genuinely devastated that we were going to part ways in New Orleans.
So, our first stop in Nashville was for food which I was feeling very excited about. I first discovered Southern BBQ while living in Seoul, and I couldn’t wait to try some authentic Southern BBQ. One of the benefits of travelling as a twosome is that we can order more food, so we have the opportunity to try as much delicious food as we can fit inside our bodies. Our guides took us to the Wild Horse Saloon, not to be mistaken with the Crazy Horse which is a strip club, and there we ordered a big plate of meat. Pulled pork, brisket, Italian sausage, coleslaw, pork-fried beans, and potatoes, it was a.m.a.z.i.n.g, and the meat sweats soon followed. Totally worth it though!
So, after eating your body weight in meat there is really only one thing to do, and that’s line-dance. What’s that you say? You don’t know how to line-dance? That’s ok because at the Wild Horse Saloon they have a dance instructor who will guide and direct you step-by-step. She will also do a really good job of making it look easy which it is not! I’ve never felt worse about my coordination skills until I tried to line-dance, I was awful but it definitely wasn’t because of lack of trying. I’m pretty sure Chris recorded my pathetic attempts, so it’s probably on our YouTube channel. Go on over and have a laugh at my expense.
Nashville was such a cool experience. I wasn’t particularly excited about it and I was utterly baffled when our CEO told us that it’s a really popular spot for bachelorettes. However, after a couple of nights there, I totally understood. Nashville has the most incredible atmosphere, every bar is hopping with people, and there is live country music everywhere. I also noticed that the further south we travelled, the nicer the people. In New York, everybody is in such an almighty rush that nobody has the time to talk to you, but once you head south, it’s “Well, hey there darlin’” “You be safe, now” I was slowly falling in love with the south. Walking around Nashville, I felt as though someone had met my mother and then just built a city; she would be at home in Nashville! Now, if I could only convince her to make the journey. Perhaps I’ll take her there myself as I absolutely plan to revisit.
The nature of this trip means that we don’t get a lot of time in each place we visit, but I was in Nashville long enough to know I want to go back. How could I not? I still can’t line dance, so that’s reason enough.
After two nights camping with Yogi Bear, we got back on the bus and the sound of Jail House Rock meant only one thing; we were on our way to Memphis. Elvis is one of those iconic artists that while I’m not really a fan I appreciate his brilliance and contribution to the world of music. Even though I’m by no means a ‘die-hard’ fan, even I knew that any trip to Memphis simply must include a tour of Graceland. Sitting on the tour bus and making our way up the driveway at Graceland, I all of a sudden found myself coming over all giddy and girlish “We’re going to see Elvis’s house” the realisation of just how cool this was really began to hit me. The entire tour is done by audio through an IPad you’re given at the door. Upon entering the house, we were directed to our right to Elvis’s sitting room where I marvelled at the grand piano, the portraits of his parents, and the amazing furniture; shag carpets, everywhere. I expected to wander around thinking “God, it’s so seventies” but instead, I found myself wandering around marvelling “Wow, it’s so seventies”. The décor was amazing, I loved it. Graceland represented everything that was awesome about the seventies and now here it is frozen in time to be forever admired and remembered.
The tour only allows you to walk around the ‘downstairs’ parts of the house as upstairs is kept private, according to my IPad, Elvis was very private about the upstairs part of the house and they want to respect that wish. There’s something about that I really like. The Jungle Room was my favourite, it was just so Boogie Nights, I could almost picture him sitting back in that huge chair playing his guitar and singing.
Outside in the Memorial Garden, we were able to pay our respects at his final resting place where he now lies beside his parents, and grandmother. As I lifted my phone to capture it, I found myself unable to take the picture. Throughout the house I was able to wonder at all of his records, awards, jewellery, and even outfits; all of which brought home his roaring success and celebrity, but his headstone only served to remind me of his humanity, and in the end it felt more respectful just to say a silent prayer and be in the moment instead of trying to capture it. I can’t recommend the tour highly enough for anyone who is lucky enough to go to Memphis.
But visiting Elvis is not the only thing to do in Memphis. Still on a quest for the best ribs I’ve ever had, I think I may have found them in Central BBQ. They really were finger-lickin good, and huge as you can see by the pictures below. Just don’t make the same mistake as my English compadres who asked for chips with their ribs, and got crisps. I laughed, and laughed! Let me take this opportunity to thank Laura and Geri for all the laughs we had that week. It simply wouldn’t have been the same trip without them.
Like Nashville, Memphis is full of great live music and there are bars everywhere. However, if you go during the month of May, which is monsoon season, don’t make the mistake we did and choose the only outdoor bar, that decision will come back to bite you. In saying that, it was worth getting soaked just to watch Lulu dance and ‘seduce’ the blues singer with her eyes. I’ll forever think of her when I hear the song ‘Got my mojo workin’ Oh, Lulu, I’d love to just follow her around forever and live vicariously through her.
I’ve thanked the girls for contributing to what was an incredibly fun week; now, let me thank the south. It’s been a dream of mine to visit the south for several years, and whenever I’ve expressed that to some of my American friends, they’ve gone on to tell me all of the reasons why there are much better places in the U.S to visit, but it absolutely lived up to my expectations. I was lucky enough to hear some of the best live music I’ve ever heard, try some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had, and meet some of the kindest, friendliest, and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. I left with only good memories, and I look forward to my next trip to Tennessee.
Fortunately, my time in the south didn’t end in Tennessee and I had the opportunity to take-in New Orleans. Even better, I got to experience it with some awesome ladies, so stay tuned for the blog post about all of those antics, and for the videos which will be uploaded on to our YouTube channel. Have you ever been on a mechanical bull? If not, New Orleans is the place.