I’ve been pretty spoilt this year and have done a fair bit of travelling already, but few trips could live up to my epic stateside adventures at the end of March.
I love American shopping trips (who doesn’t?!) and I bet that more than half of my clothes were purchased in the good ol’ US of A. Nearly all my skincare purchases are made over there (blame an unhealthy obsession with Kate Somerville, Ole Henriksen and Sephora generally) and if I think there’s even the slimmest chance that I’ll be in the US any time soon, I stop shopping altogether and save up for the deals that I just *know* I’ll get at Premium Outlets and the like. Even aside from the outlets, the shopping everywhere is comparatively cheap. We all know that of course, that’s why any trip to the states – no matter how cultured – usually still involves a mall trip.
There’s no point pretending that there aren’t certain states which people will always visit ‘first’ – New York, California and Florida being the obvious ones. But as much as I *love* all three, I’m enjoying discovering other parts of the US now as I attempt to fill up my passport. My trip to Philadelphia last year was insanely good and this trip I’ve just done to Nashville and Austin may have even been better, so it’s about time I bloody blogged about it!
Nashville and Austin are easy enough to combine into one trip – you can fly direct between the two in 2 hours – and I was amazed to see how many people commented on my Instagram posts while I was out there to say that I was doing almost the exact route of their honeymoons. I know a lot of people who have been to Austin (I honestly feel like the only person who hasn’t been to SXSW!!) but I rarely meet Brits who have been to Nashville.
So let me just make one thing clear: you should go to Nashville.
If you like music, GO TO NASHVILLE.
I will blog about Austin separately because there’s just far too much to say for it all to fit in one post, but here’s what I got up to in my 48 hours in Nashville, Tennessee…
Breakfast – a Goo Goo Cluster en route to the mall
I can’t say I’d ever heard of Goo Goo Clusters, but I needed something to shove in my gob in the taxi and I was promised that these were a Nashville delicacy. And let’s face it, you can’t really go wrong with milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat.
IT WAS SO GOOD.
They’ve been around since 1912 and claim to be the world’s first ever combination candy bar. Invented and still made in Nashville, you will see them everywhere and you need to eat at least 18 during your visit. It’s Nashville law.
Morning fun – Shopping at Opry Mills
Opry Mills is Tennessee’s largest outlet and value retail destination, so if you want to go to just one mall and ‘get it all done’ then you’d be hard pressed to find a better place.
It’s an indoor mall (yey! non-weather dependent shopping!) and boasts 200 + stores including Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, Coach, J.Crew, Victoria’s Secret, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren…all at outlet prices. The bargains were insane, made better still by picking up a coupon book from Guest Services (a nice perk available to all international visitors) and finding various coupons on the Opry Mills website. ALWAYS look for coupons when shopping in the US, they are much more ‘pro-coupon’ than we are here (have you seen Extreme Couponing on TLC?!) and it feels like the checkout staff actively want you to get a better deal. Be shameless with your coupons and plan your spending if you’re after products that are available in multiple retailers…it’s worth it.
The mall is big but easy enough to navigate, especially as all on one level. I fought off jetlag with a coconut milk cinnamon dolce mocha (!) as I nipped from shop to shop. I’m not sure this concoction really counts as ‘coffee’ but when in Rome (AMERICA).
I picked up new jeans in True Religion (American denim seems to be much more forgiving for women who dare to have curves), a ridiculous number of cheap Yankee Candles as gifts (some were a dollar!) and some more gifts at Icing (a shop a bit like Claire’s but less kiddy, I got some great presents in there as well as $5 ‘diamonds’ for me)…
…and was then ready for lunch.
Lunch – Quesadillas at Dave & Buster’s
I needed to eat in the mall as there was still SO MUCH SHOPPING TO BE DONE but there are plenty of places to eat at Opry Mills so that’s easy enough. I’ve never been to a Dave & Buster’s before but they’re basically sports bars (they have *so* many TVs!) with humongous arcades attached to them. This location even had a bowling alley within it. So if you want to eat whilst watching basketball and then kill some zombies all before bowling a strike, you’re in the right place.
I had super spicy veggie quesadillas (divine) and something like 5 litres of pink lemonade. It’s important I never move to America or I will literally become a pint glass of pink lemonade. Mmmmmmmmmm sugar water.
Afternoon fun – more shopping at Opry Mills
I wanted to save the biggest chunk of shopping time for Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, as I’ve been to Saks outlets before and knew I’d be in for a treat. I can’t really stress enough how good these Saks outlets are, they’re better than the real Saks in NYC if you ask me. It’s all designer and you can find everything from Valentino handbags to DVF dresses to Paige denim. You’re always guaranteed to be able to stock up on Wildfox (and I did, natch) and the shoe department is out of this world. 70% off Jimmy Choos, anyone?
I spent a lot of time in here and was very pleased with my purchases. I managed to find some nice homeware bits too, even though they usually don’t have much in the way of homewares. There’s a men’s department and plenty of kidswear, so it’s worth taking your time to scour the rails. (It’s all very nicely laid out though, it’s not like TK Maxx or anything).
After that, credit card maxed out, I thought I should go and see something a bit more ‘Southern’ and headed to Boot Barn…where I promptly fell in love.
I swear down, you don’t know what sexy is til you’ve heard a Tennesseean describe his love of boots.
I didn’t buy a pair because I’m trying to not be that girl who buys things which are fabulous on holiday and then left at the back of the wardrobe at home, but I was sorely tempted.
Dinner – in a fish tank?! Yep, really!
I’d never heard of Aquarium before but they’re a small chain with locations in Colorado, Houston, Kemah (TX) and Nashville. The clue is in the name though, you basically eat in a giant aquarium! I love fish and could watch them all day so to dine inside a 200,000-gallon tank, home to everything from sharks to stingrays, was definitely my kind of dinner entertainment.
As a vegetarian I was surprised by how fish-orientated the menu was (hah!) but I had a lovely Greek salad whilst a stingray tried to become my new best mate.
It was a toss up between eating at Aquarium or Rainforest Cafe (both are in Opry Mills, which is pretty awesome after a hard day of shopping) and I’m glad we chose Aquarium as it really did feel like a one of a kind type of place. It would go down very well in Dubai…I suspect it’s only a matter of time til they have one out there!
Evening fun – at the Grand Ole Opry
I was lucky enough to have a Friday night in Nashville which meant I could go to the Opry to watch a live broadcast of the world famous country music show. The Grand Ole Opry is the world’s longest running live radio program and is currently celebrating its 90th year, I knew it would be a spectacle to see but didn’t expect to be as good as it was.
No word of a lie, it was one of the most genuinely entertaining nights of my life.
It’s fascinating enough to watch a live radio broadcast (I love that the commercials are recorded live too) but the acts we saw were so so so brilliant.
My fave was seeing Jim Ed brown and The Browns perform. They’re in their eighties now (!) so to see them perform was a privilege to say the least. I have no idea how they get their voices in perfect unison like that, it’s just heavenly.
I’ve always loved the song Three Bells (here’s them below performing it at The Grand Ole Opry in 1965)…
…so to think I saw this same formation singing it FIFTY YEARS LATER still baffles me. They sounded this good, too!
I loved their performance of Scarlet Ribbons too…
And another fave was seeing Riders in the Sky sing A Gay Ranchero…
We were also treated to performances from Trace Adkins, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, Deana Carter, Mike Snider and loads more.
You can listen to the show archives for free here (if you want to listen to the show I went to specifically it was 03/27).
Basically if you ever go to Nashville, BUY TICKETS TO THE OPRY AND PREPARE TO ENJOY YOURSELF. If you like country music and a brilliant show. (Tickets are between $32 and $72).
Late night fun – boozing on Broadway
It’s fair to say that Nashville is a party town…or Broadway is, anyway. I was there during Spring Break so of course it was more mental than usual, but the bar scene was electric. All the bars had queues to get in and brilliant live bands performing. There were lots of stag and hen groups and a general ‘fun vibe’. (Hi, am I my mother?!).
I became slightly addicted to American Born Dixie Moonshine and lemonade that night. It’s sweet tea flavoured and delicious enough to drink on its own. I *wish* we could buy it over here. Do look out for it if you’re Nashville way, it’s a local concoction and I wish I’d brought some home. Writing this is annoying me. WHY DIDN’T I BRING SOME HOME?!
Breakfast – the best sandwich I’ve ever had (no lie) in the hotel
Okay so let’s be real here, you don’t expect to have THE BEST SANDWICH OF YOUR LIFE in an airport Marriott. But hey, the kitchen staff at Nashville Airport Marriott clearly know a thing or two about fixing a moonshine hangover.
It was that lovely sweet and buttery American bread shoved full of melted yellow cheese, broken eggs, avocado and tomato. Oh and then proper hashbrowns on the side.
The picture does not do this creation justice. I must try and recreate it.
Morning fun – The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Obviously you have to visit this museum if you’re in Nashville, but I was so pleased that I went after going to the Grand Ole Opry as it just tied everything together. I can’t claim to know much about modern country music, but I’ve always loved the country music stars of old. This museum took you through the roots of country all the way up to the likes of Taylor Swift, with some fascinating cars and costumes along the way!
Definitely make time to look around the shop as there are some really gorgeous things. And you *have to* go to Hatch Show Print (within the complex), it’s one of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America…they’ve been making hand printed posters since 1879! You can visit the shop and Hatch Show Print without paying to go into the museum.
Lunch – aaaaaall the Southern goodness at Puckett’s General Store & Grocery
This was a very special lunch. I did not know that I loved deep fried pickles but ya know what? I REALLY REALLY LOVE FRIED PICKLES.
I was still on my sauce ban for lent at this point so I am tempted to fly back just to do the whole trip again with lashings of BBQ sauce and ketchup, but I had a very delicious Redneck Burrito. YES.
I didn’t snap it, but here’s one of their burgers for the carnivores amongst you…
Afternoon fun – Johnny Cash Museum
Like all people with ears, I love Johnny Cash. This tiny museum was really busy but you just have to put up with the hustle and bustle and get stuck in. If you bother to read all the signage and listen to the exclusive tracks you’ll find some fascinating things. Reading the handwritten lyrics which never made it and seeing the personal artefacts of Johnny and June was really special. Again, a great shop at the end! (Surprisingly brilliant baby-grows for mini Cash fans, too!).
Last hurrah – Tacky gift shopping on Broadway
Before heading off to the airport there was time for some wonderfully tacky gift shopping on Broadway. I bought everything from Elvis snow-globes to cowboy boot bottle openers to Christmas tree decorations.
I resisted this amazing hand sanitiser and immediately regretted it…
And then, just like that, it was time to head to Austin!
Congratulations to all that have read this far as I appreciate this is a long post….can you see why I loved this trip?!