I feel much better about my propensity to buy too many books when I am traveling after hearing one fellow bibliophile call it patronizing the arts. Yes, I am a patron of the arts. And it is much easier to tuck a beautiful special edition of The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield in your bag than a painting or sculpture!
My Auntie J and I volunteer to send postcards to potential voters to encourage them to be a good citizen. She found a box of The World’s Greatest Bookstores. There are 50 featured, and one is for Hatchard’s in London. I’d somehow never heard of it or been there.
I love Foyle’s in London. It is popular with television writers too and appears in the Netflix adaptation of Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War is named for the bookstore. It didn’t rate a postcard though.
I have only been to a couple of the book shops featured: City Light Books in San Francisco, The Strand in New York City, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee and Powells Books in Portland (as often as possible). With bookstores in Goa, India and The Bookworm in China, I can’t commit to visit them all. One thing I can safely guarantee, I will always return with more books in my bag than when I left home.
Okay, okay, you have full permission to go to Nashville and do nothing but eat and listen to music. You could easily focus on these two activities and have an unforgettable experience. In case you need to do something between meals to help you digest, here are a few ideas.
Go to the Men’s Room at the Hermitage Hotel
When we told people we were staying at the Hermitage Hotel, they’d say “Be sure to check out the Men’s Room. It’s famous.” So late one night we had Chuck check for occupants and when he gave us the all clear we went in. There is a blocked tunnel legislators used to go to and fro from the Capitol. The lavatory is beautiful and unique with green subway glass and art deco décor. Then my sister-in-law’s mom, Chetty, came to give me a tour of Nashville. First stop the Men’s Room, but from a slightly different perspective. Chetty sourced the glass for the bathroom and the lobby stained glass when the hotel was restored to its former glory.
Ride a bike along the Cumberland riverfront
Not so appealing in January–when I was there it was too cold. Nashville has a city bike program so you can rent, grab and go. The last mayor promoted building lots more trails and connecting greenways, plus there are new bike lanes on roads. Start your adventure near the Shelby Street Bridge and park by the Titans’ stadium. Bonus: get a great view of downtown Nashville
See the Parthenon
This replica was built for the USA Centennial celebration in 1876 and maintained by the citizens of Nashville. (They heard the other one was falling down.) It has an art gallery inside, check for hours.
Shop for books
My friends bought boots on Broadway at one of the 3 or 4 boot stores. I made a beeline for Parnassus Books. A citadel for independent bookstores and owned by author Ann Patchett, you can purchase all of her novels signed and request to have them personalized. Or you can discover a new author. We spent over an hour here (and I will not admit how much money. I spent) They ship to your home—one day soon it will be like the day the Scholastic books arrived in the classroom. Yippee.
Soak up some history
Nashville is rich in history: Native American, Natchez Trace, Trail of Tears, Daniel Boone, Civil War, Civil Rights, Country Music. Everyday we were there we overheard people talking about the war. At first we were not sure what war. Upon more careful eavesdropping we realized they were talking about the Civil War! (Let it go.) We made quick stops at Sunnyside antebellum plantation home and Travellers Rest where the Confederate generals were headquartered during the battle for Nashville.
If I had more time, I might have also taken in the Johnny Cash museum or the Country Music Hall of Fame. Or go shopping in Franklin or The Gulch. My list is based on recommendations from locals we met along the way and my sister-in-law’s family who hosted me one afternoon.
For more ideas check out the fun little guide Nashville: Wildsam Field Guides. Or watch the HBO Sonic Highways episode on Nashville.