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Nashville Friday Alone at The Hermitage, Civil Rights Room, Walking Broadway, Johnny Cash and Eating at Etch

I waved goodbye from my queen sized recently remodeled airport hotel room bed as Jeremy and Dan walked out the door to take their super easy flight back to Minnesota. My flight to Seattle, Washington didn't leave for another day as there were no decent Friday departures for the west coast.  It was sad to lose my traveling companions but I had a list of places we "didn't make it to" to cover this fine Friday – so I would stay busy exploring more of Nashville.


As I was already out of the city center by quite a bit I started my day by heading out to The Hermitage.  The Hermitage was Andrew Jackson's estate and plantation where he lived before and after being the 17th President of the United States


I purchased the "Presidential" level of tour package with a multi-media interactive self guided tour thingy and was on my way to catch my wagon ride of the 1100 acre grounds.  On my way to meet the wagon I was greeted by many small children dressed in weird garb who gave me halting versions of short memorized lines that were supposed to tell me about the history of the estate. These ladies let me take their picture. 


On my carriage ride (that included two people from Grand Rapids, Minnesota who knew my aunt's husband's family) we learned about Andrew Jackson the slave holder.  We learned that he was humane, but did nothing out of compassion, but purely business.  In other words, he allowed his slaves certain privileges so they did not run away, and gave them good rations and allowed them to hunt so he did not have to feed them as much etc. Meanwhile, he owned about 150 people at the height of the plantation and farmed cotton.  


He really loved his wife, who died of heart attack suddenly on the eave of his first term as President. As President of the United States he staunchly upheld the union, broke up the Bank of the United States and ordered the murder and removal of thousands of Native Americans.  I learned it is ironic he is on money because of his strong hate of banks.  He is a well-loved figure in Tennessee history however, because he is the only President from Tennessee and he retired there.  


This is an artful shot of Andrew Jackson's tomb where he and his wife are buried.  I traveled to The Hermitage, not because I believed Andrew Jackson to be a great man, I question the "greatness" of any propertied slave holding male of the 19th century, but because he is a slice of American history, and I am interested in history and how it is told. The museum at The Hermitage, despite Tennessee's love of Jackson is fair and does not gloss over the dark side of Jackson just because he was a President.  I learned, just in time to hear the announcement that he is no longer going to be on the front of the 20 dollar bill, that he is quite the controversial figure in American history from his choice to marry his wife while she was still married to another man, to his hatred toward the indigenous people of the United States.  I judge him less for marrying a married women than for being the cause of genocide of many Native Americans. I note he has a pretty tomb and his estate is well-preserved – and celebrate Harriet Tubman's promotion to take his place on the front of the 20 dollar bill.


After my thorough inspection of the grounds I then had a very unsatisfying chicken salad sandwich at the cafe before taking an Uber to the most disappointing farmer's market I have ever seen.


Or perhaps it would be better to say, not seen, because there was no one there. Maybe it is too early for Nashville farmers to go to market.  Either way I was now a long way out of the way from anything with no satisfaction of seeing a farmers market.  I walked the whole capital park and up the steps to go to the public library to check out the Civil Rights Room recommended by guidebooks to explore the little known Nashville Civil Rights Leadership history.



Before I found the Civil Rights Room I found the Emerald City made out of canned goods.




This area that looks like a lunch counter tells the history of the civil rights movement in Nashville.  Nashville was the home of the first lunch counter sit-ins and the first voluntary full-blown school integration efforts post Brown vs. Board of Education.


It appears a young Rosa Parks got some direct action civil rights training in Nashville as well, before she decided to not move on that bus ride home.  


As the clock was ticking closer to closing time for other historical locations in the downtown area I made my way to the site of what I believed to be Fort Nashborough.  


I found a dog park and some adult kickball players but no sign of the historic fort or any other information that this spot of land was the original pile of sticks that became Nashville. 


I decided it was a sign so I gave up on history and walked Broadway for a little bit taking in an eyeful of awe inspiring day drinking.



I tried a sunny looking saloon on for size


and a local beer.  It didn't make the amateur country music covers any better – but everyone else seemed to be having a super awesome time. It was not really a place for making friends or conversation – although I did take a happy couple's picture and gave them some portrait lighting tips.  I was very entertained by this advertisement I found on the back of the bathroom stall for a DUI attorney.


Despite all of this fun I did not think that Broadway was the place for me, single traveler, to linger.  Especially as night was falling and happy hour was ticking away. It was time for a visit to the Man in Black at the Johnny Cash Museum to complete my Nashville tourist experience.



The museum chronicles Johnny's life in great detail from his music career and personal life.  It includes artifacts from his music and his home, including the Cash family china.



And a wall from his home that was accidentally burned down by its Bee Gees buyer.  This wall was also prominently featured in the video "Hurt," Johnny's last video that won significant accolades and brought him a whole new audience of younger fans.  


This is the album that I remember from my childhood – the song "Highwayman" sticking out most prominently in my mind with its galloping horse guitar riffs bringing the narrative/storytelling song to life with the fours voices of Willie, Waylon, Johnny and Chris. Prior to this album arriving with my mother's "Album of the Month" club subscription from BMI, or whomever managed these things before CDs, I had a copy of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison that I played along with my ET "read along" album I got at McDonald's (to put the timing in perspective – it was 1984, I had a kid sized record player, and I was in elementary school listening to Johnny Cash sing in a prison).  I asked my mom once "How did Johnny go to prison and leave? I thought you couldn't leave prison?" I believe my mother told me that Johnny Cash was a very special man, instead of explaining that he went there to play concerts and was not an actual inmate. I thought he was magic.  In fact, he comes into the song "Highwayman" with the line "I'll fly a starship…" how cool is that?


He has enough gold records to be magic.  In fact, Johnny Cash has more hit singles, albums and billboard chart topping hits than any of the names you know from the Rolling Stones to David Bowie.  He also placed two singles per year on the country charts for 30 consecutive years.  Amazing.



After so much Johnny Cash I worked up a bit of an appetite – and I just happened to be down the street from Etch, one of the food places on the list that we couldn't get to as a group.  I had no reservation and it was happy hour – a perfect challenge for a single foodie tourist such as myself.


Etch was completely full, but there just happened to be one single spot at the bar for happy hour and dinner. Perfect!


I started with a happy hour beverage and a happy hour cauliflower, their house specialty.  I had not seen that many vegetables on a plate in a week – I ate all of them.  And then all I had room for was another happy hour sized plate because cauliflower is filling.


I ordered the pork belly because it was the most southern and came with pickled okra.  It was very tasty and rich, balancing out the fiber I ate for the first part of the meal.  I managed to somehow make friends with everyone around me at the bar and take about two hours to eat my two dishes – the people were all very entertaining company.  Everyone around me was going to see Mumford & Sons, not at the Ryman (I asked). When asked what I was doing, I said I was doing this and going home to prepare for my early flight home and journey across the country the next day.  


I finished my night with this decadent cake like thing – it was very much a chocolate wonder.  I was complete and all of my company made their way to their concerts, I called an Uber and went to my hotel room to pack.  It had been a wonderful vacation.  It was time to go home.






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