As was norm in our time in Europe, we’d pack our holiday bags, especially over “bridge days” and run off to neighboring countries. We visited France twice in two months. I still feel the saddest part about leaving Europe was Arles. And the very many ski resorts in Austria. And trains. And well, never mind. Now with European road trips behind me, I have to share my love for an evening at Nashville, Tennessee. It was full of legends, skylines, love, quirks and collard greens. I also finally ate fried green tomatoes to know what the fuss was about. I don’t know where to go next except roaming around in Michigan, all I ever wanted was Nashville. It was a good end of the year trip, last year, to start making new lists.
Just as we came to the US with our anniversary coming up, we decided to look up weekend holiday options. We had soon exhausted ourselves on search, because nothing really seemed close by. I’m still not used to the mega size of this country, and my husband has been recalibrating again. As I hadn’t been to any national parks, we chose that over glittery New York or Chicago for our first anniversary. Walking through the woods felt more us. And we don’t have the luxury of plenty holidays anymore. A Google search revealed, the rolling hills of Kentucky housed Mammoth caves that sounded fun. So, off we went. We drove near 8 hours, which from Ludwigsburg meant our entire road trip to the South of France. The road journeys in the US are different. Free highway toilets are clean (unlike Germany where only paid ones are worth a visit) and McDonald’s/ Subway lace every single highway exit.
Our First Stop is A Small Town of Glasgow, Kentucky
As we think through our new lives together, there are so many things that somehow don’t fit and we work on them bird by bird bound by Lotus stem. But out on the road, there’s magic. Even in small towns with three restaurants and one gas station. I still have vivid and imposing memories of Glasgow, in Scotland. Kentucky felt paltry, and yet significant in comparison. It’s like being all alone on the twenty-third floor in buzzing Tokyo compared to being in a sparse village home with two people, all together.
Our hostess in our historic AirBnB home (that belonged to Abraham Lincoln’s lawyer) was eager to make real breakfast. After showing us our retro (my delight and the boy’s horror) room, she immediately went on to our food allergies and asked if we ate everything. Our looks are a give away- and people try hard not to sound racist and call them food allergies instead. With our names and brown features, we are expected to be vegetarian or at the very least picky with our choices of meat. It’s almost disappointing to report that we do, in fact have no food restrictions. This relieved the hostess but she did warn us to not waste anything, and justified her stringent questioning, since in 2015, everyone has allergies.
Mammoth Caves, Kentucky
The tour that we really wanted was booked out (3 months beforehand). It’s so difficult that they even have size restrictions as to who can go for the tour. You basically need to crawl under deeply set limestone formations in small cavelings wearing overalls with a torch light. I saw the small circle where the troupe was getting out of and was not entirely unpleased that we didn’t get tickets. The boy was naturally jumping to get in.
Our forest ranger went on to describe the caves, formations and important “spots” in great detail. For a moment, I wanted to be a forest ranger. Unlike the Germans, many Americans and tourists around us were going hiking in sneakers. We felt over prepared for a small hike, just like we enjoy.
We did spoke and hub walks in between our tours. The frozen Niagara is still set in my head. It’s amazing how deep our desire to know what’s around us has pushed us for these discoveries. You wouldn’t imagine that you’re standing or driving atop the world’s largest cave system on those rolling Kentucky hills. But once under them, you will marvel, sometimes, with your mouth open, for effect.
At the end of one of our small river hikes, I got the most beautifully engineered object for my strangely folded neck. As his poor and deeply warm wife, I gave him socks and coffee mugs and with some difficult engineering formulae (he already had the periodic table).
I notice boards on a road, and out comes the surprise
Normally, I’m not the one with highly observant eyes in a car (which is proving to be a whole new issue for Elsie), but since I was on a holiday being driven around in good weather (despite the winter time), I noticed a green board that said, Nashville. Without any idea, I asked how far Nashville really was. (It was the only place on my list once we came to the US). He accused me of spoiling his surprise. I argued, I didn’t know. Besides, I hate surprises. I like preparing for a surprise and feeling excited about it.
The next day after we finished our last Mammoth tour, we changed in the restrooms, pretending to be seasoned Mammoth cave visitors. The Indians (or people who looked like they could be Indians) gave me those looks for daring to wear a dress to Mammoth (that too with heels and not sneakers).
There’s no reason why I always wanted to go to Nashville, except that every musician I discovered during a certain time span in my life, somehow came from the city. It had been in my mind for a while. And a surprise (planned by the boy but spoiled by a green highway board) evening towards Nashville was upon us.
We began at this hipster cafe, a little outside the main music strip, called Germantown. As one of the few Indians who has grown up on Collard Greens (hakh batta) for her entire life, it made sense to order those. With fried green tomatoes and other such niceties. The food was exceptional. I don’t know if I go there again, but it’s the only place I’d want to eat at. The coffee shop next door, Red Bicycle was our next stop for my late evening, non-Italian cappuccino and it’s just delightful. I am not even an aspiring hipster, but it does play well to my senses.
Finally, we drove to the music lanes. It was a bit spooky with the parking, but eventually, we hit one club – naturally called Legends, and just soaked in some good old country music. Live music always makes me happy. Even if I don’t know all the song lyrics and feel shy to hand out my request to the singer. On good days, they sing my cheesy LeAnn Rimes favorites anyway.