Tennessee – A State of American Classics

A really exciting aspect of living in a totally different part of the country is traveling to the little areas that would we probably never make it too had we stayed in Michigan. While Fabien & I have only been in Tennessee for 1 month, we have found time to explore. Through these explorations, we have found Tennessee to be a state of true American Classics.

Country Music Culture. Other than Baywatch, there is nothing outsiders associate with America more than Country Music and its surrounding culture. When we were living in Detroit, Fabien and his friends loved to go to a Coyote Ugly-esque bar called ‘Coyote Joes’. On any given night you would find the girl next door shaking her barely dressed body in an American flag bikini top to ‘Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy’. This American flag wearing, cowboy boot sporting, country music listening scene is oozing from Nashville and the whole state.  Having been a fan of the music for years, I love it.

Jack Daniels. Say you live in Tennessee to a foreigner and they’ll picture you sitting on your wooden porch, shotgun at your side and a Jack on the rocks in your hand. Lynchburg is an hour from our house and while some friends were visiting we ventured to the one and only Jack Daniels Distillery.   While I’ve never tasted whiskey without gagging, I really enjoyed the tour. The grounds are absolutely beautiful and are similar to a Michigan Cider Mill, but in the mountains. I love that their business is run in a simple and grass-roots manner. The headquarters is no bigger than the office at my last job and once a month employees walk away with a free bottle.  My favorite fact surrounding the brand is that the headquarters is located in a dry county which has been since Prohibition (1920-1933).  It’s a vicious cycle really- the county does not have enough voters to overturn the law and no one will move there because they can’t drink. However, through a huge financial bribing disguised as taxes, the company has arranged to legally sell alcohol on their grounds.  The rule is: you can buy, but you can not consume. To see pictures of our visit at the Jack Daniels Distillery, click here.  One tip if you ever find yourself in Lynchburg – go on a weekday when the actual bottling takes place.

Elvis. Okay, seriously. How can you not love Elvis? He is such an endearing icon of American culture and the driving force behind Memphis’s tourism industry. I could not wait to go to Graceland, so as soon as Fabien got a couple of days off, we drove 3 hours west to see the King’s Castle. From the front, it doesn’t look like much, but the property is impressive in the way of elaborate decor, rooms full of awards, a car museum, planes (yes, planes) and countless wardrobe displays. It should be a sin to go to Memphis and not visit the home, just be sure to bring some cash. To cross the gates, it costs $35 causing Fabien to say “Elvis raped me.” for the rest of the day.  However, if you visit the attraction website (Graceland) and become an Elvis Insider (free), you get free parking and a few dollars off your tickets. For pics, click here.

Fried and Fattening Anything. No wonder this season of the Biggest Loser had two Nashville area residents as finalists. Everything is fried, dipped in BBQ sauce and then refried. Recently, I went to lunch and in lieu of french fries asked for the vegetable of the day. Guess what I got? Fried pickles. As yummy as I find them, I don’t consider anything fried a vegetable.

Total Cheesiness. Note the bullets above and all of it has an element of American cheese. This was most evident when we visited Ruby Falls in Chattanooga. As a teenager, I visited Lookout Mountain in the area and thought it was only a tad smaller than Everest. So, when we arrived and Fabien said, “That’s it” (He’s such a mountain snob), we decided to go to Ruby Falls instead. As your driving to the city there are literally 200 signs located on farm lands, billboards and painted on barns urging you to “See Ruby Falls”. Upon arrival, you can expect to pay $17.95 per person and  to get on an elevator that takes you a 1,120 feet towards the earth’s core. The falls were quite beautiful and interesting, but whoever manages the attraction slathered them in cheese. Our guide thought he was a comedian and his plan was to hold us all hostage for an hour to listen to his stalagmite and stalactite jokes. And when you finally arrive at the falls, dramatic music and disco lights are queued on the water.  “Why can’t they just shut up and leave the beauty alone?” (Fabien) If you are ever lured to the attraction via the highway signs, go to the Falls. It’s neat. Skip Lookout Mountain and drive to Point Park for even more beautiful, natural (and free) views. Pics are here.

Having been in the state for only a month and finding all of these great things to do, we are really looking forward to exploring even more American Classics over the next couple of years. Feel free to leave comments of not to miss places in the great state of Tennessee and/or other areas in the south.

“Home”: Smyrna, Tennessee

Over the past few years, I’ve uncovered a hidden passion in my life – TRAVEL (hence, the travel blog). I love seeing new places, experiencing cultures, adding stamps to my passport and continuously topping the previous trips excitement with the next. However, I also love coming home. Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s something about coming home that reminds you of what you have.” Agree.

Websters defines home as “a place where one lives” which might be one of the most the most limiting and disappointing definitions I’ve ever read. This would mean my response to someone asking me, “Where is your home?” would be “Smryna, Tennessee”. While Fabien & I are here together, this place hardly feels like “home” to either of us, but let me tell you a little bit about this town where we are living.

    • Smyrna is home to approximately 40,000 residents and a 5.2 million square

      Our neighborhood with Nissan in the distance. Looks like we might be the only household without a big truck.

      foot Nissan plant, which produces over 500,000 vehicles per year.

    • On the town corners you will find just about every American chain and because of the large community of foreigners, there are also many independently owned mexican and asian restaurants.
    • Our local watering hole is called (blush) “Willie’s Wet Spot” and, like all small towns, has a super friendly bartender who already knows most of my life story.
    • We are a 5 minute walk to the Stone’s River, which is quite beautiful and dumps

      Stone's River Dam

      into Piercy Priest Lake in Nashville.

    • Downtown Nashville is 30 minutes north and provides anything and everything in the way of entertainment (but nearly no bookstores….grrr).
    • It’s approximately once a day that I get a “Where y’all from?”, which only makes Fabien smile since it’s normally a question he has to answer by himself.
    • Just outside our subdivision are some beautiful country roads. We were really looking forward to biking them, that is until Fabien and his friend were recently chased by 4 dogs.
    •  The downtown is almost cute and consists of establishments called “Country Bride”, “Pop’s Bar” and “Breakin’ Bread-Home Cookin'”.
    • Smyrna’s most famous resident is a confederate war hero named, Sam Davis.

      The cotton fields at the Sam Davis home.

      His home, along with the Stone’s River National Battlefield are local relics. I know it’s a more a matter of southern pride than celebrating the civil war, but I’m not a fan of what this celebration represents. And this Yankee would like to remind y’all who won that war and I think it’s time y’all move on…

All this sounds just great, doesn’t it? I’m sure some of you are cringing and maybe 3 of you are jealous. Honestly, I haven’t determined my feelings yet. I might really love small town, country life, but I also might demand to be taken within walking distance of civilisation at some point. Fortunately, with another adventure just around the corner, I don’t have too much time to stop and smell Smyrna’s roses. My “home” will soon convert into a little village in central France called St. Cyr en Val come January 1st.

Bonjour Y’all

Our new house in Smyrna

As most of you already know on Friday, Fabien and I are on our way to, what feels like another country, Nashville, Tennessee. Of course, we are very sad to leave all of you great people behind, but we are not in the habit of ignoring adventure and opportunity. Needless to say, life has been chaotic, but everything has fallen into place nicely. Our house in Michigan rented after 3 days of being on the market and we quickly found a house in the quaint town of Smyrna, just 5 minutes from where Fabien will be working.

And because Fabien & I don’t have enough going on, we have both decided now is the perfect time for me to finally learn to speak french fluently. As of last week, I have officially been accepted to the University of Orleans for their intensive, immersion french language program. This means, I will be spending January – May in Orleans, France taking an 18 hour per week class and living with Fabien’s parents in the village of St. Cyr en Val (pop. 3,251). I am really looking forward to tackling the language, spending time with his family (as 30+ of them live in the village), and experiencing all that Europe has to offer (between classes, of course). Sadly, this particular journey is one I will be taking on my own as Fabien will be working and getting us settled into living in the south.

When we were in Asia last year, I really enjoyed keeping in touch with all of you through my blog, therefore, I have given “Stacie in Asia” a European make over. The new site is located at www.stacieswanderlust.com. Like before, you can subscribe and posts will be emailed to you at a frequency of your choosing.

As for the French Wedding Festivities, they will be held on July 7th, 2012 in St. Cyr en Val. Let me know if you are interested and I can give you more details.

While this is a bitter sweet time, we truly appreciate the support of all our friends and family. The past year has been so amazing for us and we are truly grateful to have all of you in our lives. :)

The door to visit in France or Tennessee is wide open. Lots of love to “y’all”!

-Stacie & Fabien