Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Atlanta

USA – Deep South – 4



Wednesday 1.11.23

Today we are going to see Nashville itself.  We take a drive alongside the Cumberland River and see the older parts of the city although it is currently one of the fastest growing places in the USA as the local authorities have gone out of their way to attract businesses into the area.  Settlements in the area commenced in 1689 however the first permanent construction did not come until 1779 with the establishment of Fort Nashborough and by 1806 was incorporated as a city becoming the county seat.  By 1843 it was the state capital of Tennessee.  Our tour enables us to see the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry for a long period before relocation and from time to time since,  We also pass the Woolworth Theatre which was a key location during the sit-in civil rights protests in 1960 which led to the desegregation of such facilities.

The prime attraction is Broadway Street where many of the outlets are honky-tonk bars serving music and food to the visitors and we will return here later.  Honky-tonk is regarded both as a style of bar and music dating back to ragtime possibly deriving from poorly maintained pianos.  Or possibly to pianos made by the Tonk brothers.  The linked article does not seem to support the name really relating to prostitution – but who really knows?  The most famous is Tootsies and our party enters – with me in the rear.  I am stopped by the doorman who is unwilling to let me in with my Canon camera.  And around here you do not argue with a doorman!  So I do not get to see the inside!

However our main stopping point this morning is the Country Music Hall of Fame, a modern building telling the story of country music over the last 100 years and paying homage to the many famous names which have graced the country music scene over those years.

Lunch proves slightly difficult and we end up in a food court where none of the food on offer actually appeals and the noise levels are off the scale, so that I can hardly hear what is happening.  In my view best avoided.

RCA Studio B

RCA Studio B

Our visit this afternoon is to RCA Studio B which was one of the major recording locations through the country music years.  It was built in 1957 and was the origin of the “Nashville sound” initially under Chet Atkins who was the RCA Musical Director in Nashville.  A later larger studio became Studio A and the original became Studio B.  Elvis Presley recorded over 240 tracks here whilst Dolly Parton was allegedly so nervous on her first session that she accidentally collided with the building when parking her first new car!

The studio is now primarily a history lesson and tourist site but some recordings are still undertaken although it appears pretty low tech compared with the inside of a modern studio and maybe that is the appeal.

Earlier in the day as we progressed along Broadway Street we had identified a likely looking spot for dinner, where we go in the evening.  Their attitude to low alcohol beer and service means that I cannot recommend it.




USA – Deep South – 3

Jack Daniels - new best friend

Jack Daniels – new best friend

Tuesday 31.10.23

Coach travel today as we move on.  We head in a north-westerly direction through the southern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains.  Only now do I realise that when we visited New England in the Fall some years ago we were also on the same mountain range – but much further north than we are today.  The weather remains slightly grey but it is now mainly dry.

Our first destination today is the Jack Daniels distillery on the edge of Lynchburg.  We have a guided tour of the distillery and are shown the processes.  Plus the secret of Tennessee whiskey  is that it must be filtered through maple charcoal using the Lincoln County Process and then aged in charred barrels.  And with any distillery tour at the end there has to be a tasting of the product – which might not quite be Scotch – but is definitely fit for consumption.

The associated museum tells how Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniels worked with Nathan “Nearest” Green who has now been given the title of the Master Distiller – an enslaved man who taught Jack the trade.  The other major supply is the quality of the water which has been filtered through the adjacent hillsides and provides a very pure water supply.  Alongside this Daniels cultivated a particular image in the clothes he wore –  particularly a long black overcoat and a stylish square bottle.  He was obviously keen on a brand image – and I wonder where Sandemans got the idea of a man in black when “inventing” that in 1928!  We both remarked on the likeness having not long since been in Portugal!

Lynchburg provides lunch and the opportunity to wander around “small town” USA – a small square, a few shops and a couple of places to eat.  In deference to the tourist trade there are some other shops.

Onward to Nashville and the home of Country Music.  Entertainment this evening at the Grand Ole Opry which since 1974 has been sited about 9 miles away from the town centre in a purpose built 4000 seat theatre.  Whilst the place is not completely full most of the seats are taken and dining is a case of buying some food – pizza – and drink and then eating before the performance commences.  Eight acts appear this evening:

Rhonda Vincent, Bill Anderson, Brian Bates, Steven Curtis Chapman, East Nash Grass, Jim Lauderdale, Dylan Schneider, Stephen Wilson Jr.  East Nash Grass were making their first appearance on this stage – and were an interesting change from the others most of whom appear fairly regularly I suspect.  Country music is not to everyone’s taste however but we have now been here and seen it.

USA – Deep South – 2

Martin Luther King Memorial

Martin Luther King Memorial

Monday 30.10.23

Today is spent in Atlanta first with a city tour.  Prime destinations are connected to Martin Luther King whose father was a minister at the Ebenezer Baptist Church which remains much as it was, although no longer used as such.  A new Church has been built across the road adjacent to the Martin Luther King Centre which opens as we arrive and we can wander around the displays telling his story and view the exhibits on display.

The Church across the road is our next stop and we are able to join a 30 minute discourse on King and his family and the events of the sixties around the development of the civil rights movement before and after Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on a bus in December 1956 and the consequent steps taken when the buses were boycotted and the actions taken to enable travel to be maintained.

We then decide to visit the World of Coca Cola and I think it is fair to say that we are unimpressed – my advice is do not bother.

We are then on our first road journey – to Chattanooga.  Just outside the town is the Incline Railway on Lookout Mountain.  This is the first railway related activity of the trip and from the top there is a view over Chattanooga.  The weather is not the best today so photos of the view are not impressive.  It is approximately a mile from bottom to top and the power is two 100hp winches which take about 15 minutes to lift the car up the Incline.  The original line opened in 1887 and closed in 1899 after a new line (and the one still in use) opened in 1895.   It has been electrically operated since 1911 and the current cars fate from 2020 with one car of an earlier design being on display near the lower station.

Lookout Mountain Railroad

Lookout Mountain Railroad

Whilst on the viewing platform I can hear the horn of a main line train and looking out it is possible to see the locomotives at the head of an absolutely massive freight train which seems to stretch into the far distance.  It is impossible to accurately count the number of wagons and almost certainly there are further locomotives in the centre and at the rear of the train.  Another similar train is passing in the other direction

Being a Monday the dining options this evening are a little limited.  Some investigation had thrown up Bridgeman’s Chophouse inside The Reads Hotel which is a short walk from our hotel.  A cold and wet evening mars out walk but the warm welcome we receive in the restaurant allied with the excellent meal immediately puts things to rights.  Warmly recommended.  And we encounter an amusing quirk of local arrangements.  As we are a group of six, not all drinking I should note, it makes sense to order at least one bottle of wine.  Other drinks turn up rapidly but we later deduce that to access an entire bottle a manager has to arrange for it to be released from a hidden store where all bottles of wine are held captive deep within some cellar or similar.

The hotel has an interesting history and has been restored in recent years and looks magnificent honouring the Jazz era.  In 1932 Winston Churchill stayed whilst on a lecture tour and apparently slammed his suite door in the face of a journalist which made headline news.  The following day he gave the interview but announced that “Prohibition is a bad thing” – in hindsight one might wonder if that underpinned his bad humour the previous day!


USA Deep South – 1

Coca Cola HQ Atlanta

Coca Cola HQ Atlanta

Sunday 29.10.23

We have only been at home less than two weeks and we are away again.  Jackie started looking at this holiday as a trip for the “girls” but I was unhappy at missing out on a trip around the music towns of the south and also convince the participants to adopt the Great Rail Journeys holiday – Tracks of the Deep South – 2023 version.  The tour has been running for a number of years and little bits change every so often so the current version for 2024 is already different and no doubt it will change again – indeed one of the highlights for me has now been dropped!

We have been on a number of Great Rail holidays over the years – the itineraries are always strong in hitting the desired highlights and in most cases the tour guide looks after the participants very well and ensures that it all seems to go smoothly – I have no doubt that under the surface the guide is paddling very hard – but our leader on this tour ends up ensuring everything is smooth.

Phil meets us at the bag drop at Heathrow and we and the other travellers all seem to appear at the same time.  It is a daytime flight to Atlanta with BA so when we find our departure is from Terminal 3 it is a bit of a surprise.  Some time later I remember why.  The Coca Cola HQ is based in Atlanta and to enable easy connection for their executives they have agreed with BA that there is a direct connection from T3 for those arriving there and heading to Atlanta – that must be some corporate account!

It is mid afternoon departure and an evening arrival in Atlanta so making for a long day and by the time luggage has been collected and we have reached the hotel I am sure everyone is pretty tired.