Nashville’s Nashville

Have you ever watched ABC’s Nashville? It’s drama set in (you guessed it) Nashville chronicling the lives of fictional country music singers…the legend, the teen starlet, the up-and-comers, the trying-to-make-it-any-way-possible artist. I highly recommend it. The story lines are fantastical and yet realistic…probably because they are often based loosely on the lives & stories of actual music industry personnel. The music is spectacular…probably because it is written by actual Nashville songwriters; if ABC’s Nashville stars weren’t singing them you might hear these tunes on stage being belted out by current chart-topping singers. And the settings are beautiful & meaningful…probably because the show is actually shot right here in Nashville. That’s right, the whole show is shot in Music City. Today we hopped on a Greyline Tours bus and saw the sights of Nashville while seeing the sites of Nashville.

Warning: There will be show spoilers in here for those of you that are not up-to-date…but don’t worry too much about it, I’m still a couple of episodes behind too.

The first filming locations we drove by were this field & this parking lot. Ooooooo! Ahhhhhhh! They don’t look like much but in the Season 2 mid-season finale each was set up as a concert location. Juliette rocked out at a festival in the middle of the chain link fenced-in field while Deacon put on a rival show across the street in a car-less version of the parking lot. We had to go back for the photos because the bus didn’t actually stop here, but it was only 2 blocks from our hostel (just south of 1st & Broadway if you’re trying to find them) so it was didn’t take too much effort to return.
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And while we’re on the topic of places that look like nothing but are totally something check out this ditch. Here, at the intersection of Granny White Park & Battlefield Drive, is the site of Rayna & Deacon car crash from the Season 1 finale. The pleasantly sunny day makes it look like a far less menacing spot.
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A few other outdoor locations were:
– The Courthouse: where Teddy & Deacon had a tussle on the front lawn.
– The Stairs in this Park: Rayna & Deacon talked here once.
– The Pedestrian Bridge: They talked here too.
– The Corner outside Two Old Hippies: Teddy & Deacon also fought here.
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We also circled the Musica statue. It sits in the center of the traffic circle at the top of Music Row and is meant to symbolize the freedom of expression brought on through song & dance. You can imagine the controversy it caused when unveiled…it’s a statue of dancing naked people in a place consider the “Buckle of the Bible Belt.” In Nashville you might remember it as the backdrop of Juliette’s Telescope music video, which was also slightly scandalous.
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Juliette also sang in front of the Partheon at one point. You can see our Partheon pictures over on KG’s blog post “Instant Friends” which talks about our day other than this tour.
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We took a break from the bus at the Ryman Auditorium. We were given 30 minutes and free admission to explore the “First Church of Country Music.” The Ryman was originally a church, but is now used as a concert hall. For a few decades it was the home of Grand Ole Opry and still plays host to the radio show a few months a year. We were able to check out the sound booth, recording studio and various display cases full of artifacts from country music greats. One of my favorite things to see were the signed concert posters for various acts (mainly, but not entirely, country singers) that had performed in these hallowed halls. They would probably have frowned on me swiping a few, right? Finally we hoped on stage for a photo. On the actual Ryman stage! Where Eric Church stood just the night before!
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And where Rayna & Juliette premiered their forced collaboration Wrong Song. Apparently the Ryman will also be featured in a future episode when Juliette gets inducted into the Opry family…which by the way is totally unrealistic. It takes years for them to invite you to actually be an Opry member & and not just a “guest performer.” Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift aren’t members. Keith Urban only got invited last year!
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The houses featured on the show have all been recreated in a studio in west Nashville, but they are all replicas of actual Nashville homes. They pilot and part of the first season were filmed entirely on location in these actual buildings. We swung by Scarlett & Avery / Scarlett & Gunner / Scarlett & Gunner & Will / Gunner & Will’s house first. That house might as well have a revolving door people move in and out so much. Unfortunately no one hopped on the bus to visit us. The bus driver told us that when his tour pulled up 2 weeks before Sam Palladio (Gunner) and Chloe Bennet (Hailey) were waiting to talk to them! We thought it was just cruel to mock us with what we couldn’t have, but he seemed to find it enjoyable. He also kept bragging about how he’d been on a studio tour the day before. “We don’t go to the studio because there’s no way you’ll be able to get in…however I got to take a guided tour of all of huge sets yesterday.” I admit that he should be excited and tell us about it, but did he have to bring it up every 39 seconds? Anyway, I digress… We then made the long drive to Deacon (& now Scarlett)’s house. Just kidding, it’s actually right next door. I’m going to have to go back and analyze the camera angle of the exterior house shots now.
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The characters who are established stars on the show have houses out in the ritzy part of Nashville. Rayna’s house can be found in Belle Meade (where I want to live) and Juliette’s 2nd house (because she seems to move every third episode) is in Oak Hill. It was fun to drive around these fancy neighborhoods and lust after the old-money mansions. And the new money ones too…
Fun Fact: Both Nashville houses are currently on the market! If you have a spare $19.5 million (Rayna’s) or $2.2 million (Juliette’s) lying around they could be yours!
Fun Housing Market Fact: “Rayna’s” house was first appraised at $9.5 million but after being featured on the show doubled in value.

Being that live music is the heart & soul of the city you’d expect this to be prevalent on the show. Therefor Nashville‘s favorite on-location shooting locations seem to be popular Nashville restaurants and bars. Here’s a list of ones we drove by (and in some cases, have visited):

Restaurants:
– Sky Blue: Juliette & that football player she married then divorced had their first date here. They sat at the table in the corner by the window.
– Watermark: Scarlett, Gunner & Avery go here for a nice dinner to celebrate Scarlett & Gunner getting signed. Avery is a big grump (this is when him and Scarlett are attempting to ‘just be friends’) and he says he’ll walk home. We did the drive between your house and this restaurant Avery…that’s a really far walk. Although distances seem to be skewed…Remeber the non-neighboring houses being next door to each other?
– Frothy Monkey Coffee Shop: Rayna goes for coffee here…I don’t remember when.
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Bars:
– The 5 Spot: This is where Avery has his first big solo gig. If you recall, he gets picked up by an agent…both musically and physically 😉
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– The Stage: Will did his first big gig here, sang one of Gunner’s songs and got an Edgehill record deal. This totally screwed Rayna over as she was supposed to sign him.
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– Layla’s: This is where Scarlett (& Gunner) go out after her & Avery break up. Scarlett goes a little crazy, hooking up with a guy upstairs and jumping on stage to sing Ring of Fire with the band.
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– Rippy’s: This is where Will is trying to teach Gunner about getting women’s phone numbers. He also sings a song 🙂
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– Two Old Hippies: This was where Juliette did the small concert that Maddie snuck out to go to. It was supposed to be a reputation booster but turned into a riot type situation. Maddie ended up in the hospital. Also, more recently, Maddie & Deacon performed together here. That’s what lead to the Deacon vs. Teddy throw down outside.
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– Robert’s Western World: We can’t remember whether anything was filmed here, but we do know that Charles Esten (who plays Deacon) loves this bar and often hangs out here. Do t you just love fun stalker tips? If you do check out this bonus post: “Is it still stalking if you’re paying for it?
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All of these locations were really cool to see, but my favorite part of the tour was stopping at the Bluebird Café. Grayline’s ABC’s Nashville tour only runs on Sundays so they can have an exclusive stop off at the Bluebird. The General Manager gave us a private tour of the little café and it’s rich history. Even ignoring all of the other sites we would have missed without having a guide, this private visit was worth the price of the tour.
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For fans of Nashville, you will recognize the Bluebird Café as one of the main backdrops to the show (especially in the early episodes). Scarlett & Gunner both work at the café in the pilot. Deacon takes part in the songwriters circle. And the various cast members perform numerous musical numbers here. But even non-fans might recognize the name. It is considered a haven for songwriters and the starting point of countless stars. Here’s a few fun facts & history tidbits:
In 1982 Amy Kurland opened The Bluebird Cafe as a small fancy restaurant. But after the dinner crowd had left she started opening up the small stage she’d installed to her songwriter boyfriend & his pals. It wasn’t long before this took over the business. Soon the cafe was hosting nights dedicated entirely to the songwriters, who were chosen by an audition process. Each songwriter gets one minute and one minute only to do their thing & impress the judges. Eventually songwriter nights developed into the famous round format they now hold. Four writers sit facing each other with the audience surrounding them. It’s somehow both intimate and totally public. The writers take turns playing songs, strumming along on their guitars and harmonizing when they are able.
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Some artists who have passed the nerve-wracking Bluebird audition process are: Deana Carter (in 1990), Kenny Chesney (1991), Keith Urban (1993), Carolyn Dawn Johnson (1996) & Dierks Bentley (2000). The Bluebird is also where John Rich & Kenny Alphin first performed together as Big and Rich (in 2002).
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In 2004 Scott Borchetta spotted the first artist for his new label Big Machine Records at the Bluebird. She was only 14 but already had a publishing deal (aka was a paid songwriter) and was playing Spotlight performances at The Bluebird Cafe. I am, of course, talking about Taylor Swift who a few short years later had become and international superstar and helped make Big machine pretty much the most sought after record label in Nashville.
But that’s not even The Bluebird Cafés biggest success story! “Who is bigger than Taylor Swift”? you ask. Not many people, but remember she was already somewhat on people’s radar when she was signed. This fellow was plucked out of obscurity & failure to become one of huge biggest names ever in country music: Garth Brooks. He is the only person to ever receive a standing ovation in his songwriter audition (after performing only one minute!) and was a regular in the songwriter circle. One night he was pulled aside into the Bluebird’s kitchen and offered a record deal. History in the making people!
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Basically it was unreal to be in such influential place in tour try music and we will definitely be coming for a show when we return to Nashville!

This tour just cemented in my mind what I was already starting to suspect: Nashville has really embraced Nashville, and I think Nashville has embraced Nashville in return. The stars are living in the city, shooting at actual city landmarks and experiencing everything the city has to offer. And the city is gathering positive notice from not only America, but the world (we had an Irish family on our tour that was psyched about the show even though Season 2 has yet to start airing over there). Yay tourism!

Love & Luck,
Kris

The DC Grand Tour

There are too many things to see in Washington DC. It is just too big with too many important, interesting and/or historical sights. I mean maybe if you lived there or were visiting for weeks you could see it all, but a 5 day visit is not sufficient to see all of the worthwhile attractions. Obviously the Smithsonian Museums were most important to me and I have run through the more memorable of the memorials, but there are an abundance of other hot spots around the city. In order to pack as many touristy “must-sees” in the shortest amount of time Mom & I hopped on board a Hop-On/Hop-Off City Bus Tour. I’ve done a few of these before in other cities, although mainly in Europe when I was an extreme tourist. They may be a bit cheesy, but then again so am I… They also offer great views of sites worth seeing but that don’t really have anything you do with them. Here are a few of the more exciting activities:

The White House: home of the President of the United States. It’s a pretty big deal…a big enough deal that you’re not allowed anywhere near the place. You can peer through the bars of an 18 feet tall distant fence though and catch a glimpse of Michelle Obama’s garden and the famous Truman balcony. You may also be able to pick out the snipers othe rooftop. No joke, there is always a sniper up there waiting for someone to try to climb the fence and sprint. If the president is home there you might be able to spot 3 or 4 of them camped out on the rooftop.
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Fun Fact: The White House only got its name after the entire facade had to be painted with white pain. And why was it painted you ask? Well the Canadians & British burned it down and left the exterior (and interior I assume) stained black. Go Canada!…I now apologize to all American readers, it’s just that Canada doesn’t really have many other international acts of aggression in its past.

Embassy Row is located north of Mall…like quite north…more north than we would have wanted to walk. Thankfully our bus tour had a northern loop that travelled by trolley taking the illustrious Massachusetts Avenue. The Embassies aren’t all in a row along this road but they are all located very close together and flying their flags proudly. I found it a fun game to yell out what country each flag was for. Luckily there wasn’t anyone else on our trolley so it was only annoying to Mom. The Canadian Embassy isn’t in this area…it is actually much closer to the Capitol than any other. When we passed it on the bus and we identified ourselves as Canadians our guide stated that he wouldn’t have guessed that we were Canadian…we looked American. What that supposed to be a compliment? Because I am proud of my country and don’t really want to be assumed to be one of my neighbors from the south. Also, what would a typical Canadian look like? Were we unidentifiable because we weren’t in parkas? Or Mounties uniforms? Or carrying a beaver? Or riding a moose? Or dressed as a backwoods hick lumberjack? Geez guide, Canadians can be stylish, modern people too!
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The Ford Theater is an exciting yet tragic location. It was at this theater, while sitting in the box pictured below, that on April 12, 1865 Abraham Lincoln was shot. John Wilkes Booth the leaped from the balcony, which is quite a feet…not pun intended, but Booth ended up injuring his foot on the way down. He then took off down an alley on horse back. 14 days later he was tracked down to a barn in Virginia. Wen he refused to surrender the barn was lit on fire. But he still refused to come out and was eventually shot by a very green police officer….or was he? Many conspiracy theorists (and some academics actually) believe that Booth actually escaped and lived out his life incognito.
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PS Check out this stack of Lincoln-centric books! I found a couple in there that I have!
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While in the theater Mom was texting my sister. When she heard what we were up to she replied, “How exciting for Kris…or sad…I’m not sure what the proper response is.” Mom texted back, “Well Lincoln would be dead by now anyways so it’s not like she could have met him.” I know, I have the world’s most sensitive mother…but the comment did make it hilarious when we could send sister this photo at our next stop (along with the caption “Or not…”):
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That picture is of course from Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. The museum is full of wax figures of famous folks that are creepily realistic. Justine & I had visited the original Madame Tussaud’s in London and snapped photos with a multitude of pop culture icons. Mom and I were less entertained by this area and more focused on the presidential floor. were able to “meet” all 43 US Presidents! And it was way more fun than it should have been…
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The most hilarious moment though had to be while we were leaving. Before you enter the gift shop there is one last wax figure. To be honest I don’t even remember who the figure was but there was a young Asian woman taking a picture of it. Being the polite Canadians we are we stopped to wait for her to be done. We waited and waited and waited…until I realized she was made of wax too… We were halting our progress to be courteous to a wax figure…it’s a whole new level of nice…and stupid…

The bus tour was a very convenient way to see sights outside of the city center. There were two of these I was eager to see. The first was the Pentagon. I anticipated seeing it because it is (a) a major hub for the US Department of Defence, (b) the largest office building in the world for square footage and (c) in Virginia. I have officially crossed another state off my list! A neat Pentagon fact is that despite the building being 116,000 square meters corridors are set up so that someone can travel from one point to any other point within the building in 7 minutes or less.
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Arlington National Cemetery lies across the river from the Lincoln Memorial. It is the final resting place to countless members of the US military, including 2 presidents. William Taft (Mom’s new favorite president) and John F Kennedy are both buried here. Taft has a simple monument, while the Kennedy family has a large memorial area. Edward, Robert and Jackie are all laid close by JFK. There are many memorials, such as a Tomb of the Unknown Solider for each major military conflict the US has been involved in since WWI and a statue dedicated to those lost int he Challenger explosion. What I found impressive, in a sad way, were the rows and rows of simple crosses…so many people who have died in service to their country. We watched a changing of the guard and I felt sooooo sorry for those poor soldiers. It was so hot out I thought I might melt, but there they were standing perfectly still in fully covered, layered up clothing…including gloves!
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Thus concludes my tour of Washington DC…Thanks for coming along!
Love & Luck,
Kris