The southern part of America was all about music and food, two of my greatest loves, so excuse me if I forgo some of the other details!
Nashville was our first stop after Corbin, Kentucky and is known as the home of country music – it didn’t disappoint!
The Country Music Hall of Fame was good. I’m sure it’s great if you love country music but we don’t so we enjoyed just looking at all the amazing costumes and records from the stars we did know. Their wall of gold records was insanely huge and even spiralled around a staircase. Their current feature exhibition is Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats which was interesting and well presented. They clearly try to make this an interactive museum; two things we did were design ourselves country star outfits and design the front of our own record… needless to say, neither of us will be country stars any time soon! Lastly, their Country Music Hall of Fame Rotunda was beautiful, poignant and definitely befitting of the biggest and best.
Across the road is also the Country Music Walk of Fame – which albeit being quite small was cool to see.
We started our night out in Nashville by walking down Music Row. It is just as you would imagine; neon signs, loud music, people’s voices belting out well known songs everywhere! We decided to take a more low key evening and headed off the main strip to the Listening Room. This is a place where local singer songwriters come to play their own music, some songs already released, many times songs they are just trying out. We were lucky enough to see some amazing artists: Two Way Crossing, Casey Weston, Cort Carpenter and Ryan Sorestad. Stephen and I don’t have a particular taste for country music but they all made me go straight to Spotify and download their music for my new country music playlist! I would highly recommend visiting the Listening Room if you are heading to Nashville for some real authentic music.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que where we had succulent pulled pork burgers with obligatory coleslaw and mac n cheese sides – you just have to right?! For me, what really made it was Jack’s Creek sweet vinegar and pepper base barbeque sauce – deeelish!
Fried green tomatoes. I didn’t know this dish even existed and oh have I been missing out… and so have you if you haven’t tried them! Big thick slices of green tomatoes fried in panko breadcrumbs served with goats cheese and siracha aioli. It may not sound that exciting but just try it, trust me. In fact, try all of the food at the Listening Room if you make it there because it’s all fantastic!
Whilst driving through Nashville we stopped at the well known, infamous Parthenon. No, not the one in Greece, the life size replica in a Nashville’s Centennial Park. There is a recreation of a 42 foot gold Athena which I have to admit is quite unflattering however very imposing. It seems odd to have this building and its collection in the middle of Nashville, the home to country music but, so be it! The reason for it being built was for Tennessee’s1897 Centennial Exposition as a monument to the pinnacle of classical architecture.
Memphis was up next and quite honestly we were there for one reason: Elvis. Graceland is more like a theme park complex minus the rides. In fact, when the income for the original Graceland was dwindling and expenses were getting out of control, Priscilla Presley hired a new CEO who had revamped other famous houses and estates and within a month of reopening it recouped all investment and now continues to provide a decent inheritance to the family.
We had lunch at BB Kings on Beale Street where we had delicious ribs and wings. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any music playing at lunch but all the BB Kings we saw across the south were always buzzing at night with some great music.
Finally, we got to New Orleans and it really did live up to all expectations. We stayed four nights here and I think that is the perfect amount of time. Staying in the neighbourhood of Treme gave us a great insight as to living like a local. The area is definitely still going through some tough times but you can see little pockets pushing through and I imagine in the next five years this neighbourhood will be the next hot spot.
For Sunday brunch we went to Maison on Frenchman Street where not only did I have the biggest bloody mary of my life, but we got to see Chance Bushman dance with the NOLA Jitterbugs Band whilst we enjoyed eating. The dancers and musicians were fantastic, each a front person to their own band but come together on the weekend whilst everyone is recovering from the night before!
For Sunday afternoon after a short stroll along the Mississippi, we went to Bacchanal in Bywater, part of the Ninth Ward, and listened to some cool jazz in what is basically someone’s backyard whilst enjoying a glass or two of bubbly. It was a beautiful summers day (before the rain came the next day!) and everyone was heady and dreamy surrounded by Sunday jazz tunes. Oh, maybe I would go back to NOLA for a full day there!
I would visit New Orleans again just for the food. If anything, I wish we weren’t on a budget and could have eaten out for every single meal as there were so many dishes I wanted to eat! We had gumbo and jambalaya at Coop’s Place on Decatur Street. The jambalaya was filling and sticky and tomatoey and meaty and mmmmm. The seafood gumbo was salty and sweet and wholesome and mmmmm. Go there, it’s good. You have to wait outside for a little while but it’s worth it.
One of my favourite indulgences is having oysters. I prefer them raw and do judge a little when someone suggests cooked ones but if I was ever going to try cooked (or broiled) oysters it had to be in New Orleans. We went to the ACME Oyster House where I tried both raw and broiled oysters. They were good but not great unfortunately. Perhaps if you like oysters the size of mussels then this is definitely your thing but I prefer more delicate ones. The way the oysters were cooked were delicious though… a dense garlic butter, which I used half a loaf of butter to scoop up, was divine. Would I go back? No, but I did enjoy trying something different!
Beignets, pronounced ben-yays (not bay-egg-nets like someone thought) are a delicious product from when doughnuts and profiteroles made love… and then cupid sprinkled them with powdered sugar. They are prepared just as you order and are served hot and steamy… no further comments.
I didn’t have any particular thoughts on praline before our trip to New Orleans. Now, I think it’s a delicious morsel of sugary, nutty goodness! Try them if you haven’t before.
Lastly, we dined at a restaurant Couchon (pig in French) and had a fantastic meal of pig man ways, plus an appetizer of alligator. I have to say the alligator was delicious and was cooked perfectly. Not chewy or tough at all, it was nicely fried with a chilli garlic mayonnaise compliment. When it came to the pig, we had a boucherie plate which consisted of various slices of different cuts, rillettes, terrine/head cheese accompanied by various pickles and mustard. We also had their Louisiana cochon with cabbage, crackling, and pickled peaches which was very nice but quite filling after our appetisers!
We also stopped off at Hotel Monteleone carousel bar but unfortunately couldn’t get a seat when we were there so here is a picture just to show you what we all missed out on!
There is more to New Orleans than music and food so we took a couple of day trips. The first was a swamp tour through the Honey Island Swamp just outside of the city. We saw plenty of alligators (tempted by hotdogs on a stick!), wild pigs and cheeky raccoons. It wasn’t the warmest of days but it still felt humid on the high river and it was fascinating to see the way locals lived on the river – tree through your house? Normal.
We also spent a morning at a traditional Louisiana plantation called Laura Plantation. We did the tour and it was definitely worth it to hear the amazing history that follows this piece of land and the numerous people that have occupied it from the owners to the slaves. The amount of information they have on the buying and selling of slaves is amazing and saddening at the same time. But, the Laura Plantation does a great job in telling the true story of everyone that lived here.
Overall, we really loved New Orleans, however we probably wouldn’t rush back as we got to everything we wanted to. Perhaps we actually need to go back to see everything we didn’t realise we needed to see!