Over spring break I was lucky enough to pass through Missouri and Kentucky and eventually reach the state of Tennessee – to Nashville. I didn’t know what to expect from Nashville and had only stereotypical ideas of an endless mass of cowboy hats and blaring country music. What I did immediately notice was the fresh air; something I took for granted before reaching the big city of Chicago. So the first thing I did was take a deep breath.
As we were only visiting for a weekend, we decided to pack a lot in and the first stop was a ‘honky tonk’. This is what the locals describe as a “loud, rowdy bar” – typically with 1950s style music being played, and dancing with “drunken hillbillies and having a good ole’ time”. I braced. We went to Broadway in downtown Nashville and decided to go to Robert’s Western World (partly because it was the bar that Aziz Ansari’s character goes to in Master of None but mostly because it was the loudest around). I immediately noticed everyone was really friendly and we talked and danced with so many locals. It partly reminded me of rural Ireland which was a welcomed surprise!
Next stop was the “Country Music Hall of Fame”, brim full of old guitars, Elvis’ gold-plated car, Jonny Cash suits and a random Keith Urban section. I did not realize how much Nashville loved country music. I mean I knew it was liked but they really love it. Signs are splayed all across the city advertising 24/7 live country music; in Ubers it is playing, in the shops and now there is a whole building devoted to it. But mostly to Keith Urban. And Taylor Swift.
On the last day we went to Belle Meade Plantation, a historical thoroughbred farm that had bred successful studs whose bloodlines still dominate modern racing such as the Kentucky Derby. I didn’t know what to expect when visiting a plantation, I thought there may have been a slightly somber atmosphere due to the history of the Hardy family who used to own Belle Meade grounds. It turned out to be the opposite with the grounds tour ending in a wine tasting. Interesting.
What I will remember of Nashville is the friendliness – from taxi drivers serenading us (we chose to ignore his spiel regarding Donald Trump), to the “Hey y’all” greetings in the restaurants and the cupcake dispensaries. That’s right, a vending machine that dispensed solely cupcakes. I will also remember the complete relaxation. We could go outside and it would actually be silent, no light pollution so the stars were showing. When one ventures outside of downtown, Nashville surprises you with wonderful peacefulness.
Orla Keenan is a third year Law with American Studies student currently on a Year Abroad programme at Roosevelt University in Chicago.