Of country music, true-blue BBQ, cowboy boots and kitsch – Nashville

Nashville will always be etched in our memory as a colourful, musical, candy-filled wonderland. It is filled with the kind of joie de vivre that country music has: a foot-stomping cheeriness and simple soulfulness. It doesn’t pretend to be high-brow, it’s not remotely arty-farty and it certainly loves the downright tacky! But that’s the fun of a place like this, and the best you can do is fling your arms open wide and embrace the spirit of it (and pose with the life-size Elvis statuettes like everyone else!)

We entered the city late in the evening, and dumped our bags at our hotel and headed downtown to catch the last of the night’s revelries. It’s an overwhelming street of bright lights, with live music floating out into the streets from the bars, wafts of hickory smoke emanating from the barbeque grills and tourists giggling over the weird and wonderful displays in shop windows. Booted cowboys tip their hats at the gals, street musicians trying to be discovered play at every corner, and cheesy Elvis impersonators strut by in a haze of glitter and fumes from their hair gel. 

Nashville at night

Nashville at night

If you’ve ever wished you could visit Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, head straight to Savannah’s Candy Kitchen on Broadway. Toffee apples, piles of caramel popcorn, six-foot funnels of assorted candy, slabs of fudge thicker than your wrist line the displays and make you feel like a child.

Toffee apples at Savannah's Candy Kitchen

Toffee apples at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

Candy funnels higher than your arm can reach

Candy funnels higher than your arm can reach

Once you’ve gaped around you in awe and fretted over what to buy (‘coz you can’t possibly eat it all. Can you?), totter down to Rocket Fizz on 2nd Street.

Rocket Fizz on 2nd Street

Rocket Fizz on 2nd Street

Strange and wonderful things await you at Rocket Fizz. Such as:

Exotic sodas from the imaginations of the owners

Exotic sodas from the imaginations of the owners

BACON flavoured sweeties

Bacon flavoured sweeties

Gummy creepy-crawlies

Gummy creepy-crawlies

Elvis, more yummy than usual

Edible Elvis (yummy)!

Mario-themed goodies, for us 80s kids

Mario-themed goodies, for us 80s kids

Rows of candy chews

Rows of candy chews

Treats for comic book collectors and lovers of kitsch

Treats for comic book collectors and lovers of kitsch

Trees blossoming with candy canes and rainbow lollipops

Trees blossoming with candy canes and rainbow lollipops

We choose the Martian Poop soda, since we’re grownups now, okay!

We choose the Martian Poop soda, since we're grownups now

But the fun is just beginning! Come back in the morning to the same street for more whacky weirdness. 

Multi-hued cowboy boots that make you wanna yodel!

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Cowboy belts more blinged out than ‘Fiddy Cent’ could hope for

Cowboy belts more blinged out than 'Fiddy Cent' could hope for

Cowboy hats that have been made by generations of artistes

Cowboy hats that have been made by generations of artistes

Bars that people pay good money for, to supply their own booze and pedal around the city

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Elvis and his twin watching over us from windows above the street

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Wonderful street art painted on corners and on bare walls around the city

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And for those who don’t find kitsch as fascinating as we do, there is plenty to do in Nashville as well. Our favourite was the Johnny Cash Museum just off Broadway Street, It’s a small museum but gives a great perspective into this talented artiste’s life and work.

The Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame is another place to visit, and offers a wonderful look into the origins of country music and some of the legends of the genre. There are some great displays of iconic costumes and videos of early country music singers. It’s a bit pricey, however, at over $20 per person for entry, and we thought it focussed too heavily on the really early days of country, without bringing it fully up to modern times.

And when your eyes tire of the bright lights and you’re longing for some quiet, head out for a stroll on the green campus of Vanderbilt University. Don’t forget to check out the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original that stands in Centennial Park opposite the university grounds. It’s a soothing sight on a dark night, standing with its clean white lines against the night sky after all the flashing pinks and blues of Broadway.

Athens in the middle of Nashville

Athens in the middle of Nashville

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