Friday, November 26, 2010

The Turkey, the History, the Pig, and the Glitz

We arrived on Thanksgiving afternoon at Jerry and Susan Meyer Kornegay's beautiful home at about 3 PM on Thanksgiving, having driven through both rain and sunshine. On arrival, it was 71 degrees in Knoxville !

The Kornegays put on a Top Chef cooking show for us while we nibbled on cheese and pita crackers and sipped good wine from Australia.  Dinner was a traditional Thanksgiving feast with magazine cover turkey, stuffing with gravy, cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes with the most divine maple butter on top.  Yes, of course I got the recipe!

Susan and Jerry live on top of a very high hill with a fantastic view of mountains in the distance.  They also have a koi pond that they put into their back yard.  They have a koi named Tyson and then some other koi and goldfish living in this delightful running pond that makes tinkling sounds of running water. We forced Susan and Jerry to sit on their screened porch late into the night, long after it had gotten chilly outside, partly to listen to the running water in their pond.

We didn't get to bed until nearly midnight, then slept through the night peacefully, and awoke at 6 AM today.  After another culinary fete in the Kornegary kitchen, this time steel-cut oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon bagels,  Randy and I were on the road heading west.

We gained an hour sometime along the way to Nashville, so by the time we arrived at The Hermitage, it was only 10 o'clock. 

The Hermitage was the home of  President Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife, Rachel.  Since my last visit to The Hermitage, a huge visitor center has been added complete with museum, gift shop, and a 22-minute movie during which I took a cat nap.

I've been to The Hermitage several times as my mother used to stop along the way to visit her family in Alabama.  Back then you didn't need a ticket to walk around the grounds and get the feel of the place.  Mom and I took one full tour on an early trip, then sort of just stopped by to check on things, eat a snack, peek into the kitchen and slave cabins, and then we'd be on our way again.  I was there last in 1972 on a trip to Phoenix with my first husband, also.

I have a thing for Andrew and Rachel, actually. I must have read Irving Stone's The President's Lady about four times and seen Charlton Heston's Andrew play to Susan Hayward's Rachel another four or five times. I don 't know what it is about their love story that I found so appealing, especially when I was very young, but I did.

We enjoyed the entire tour. I took a particular fascination with the hand block-printed wallpaper that depicts stories of Homer's classic literature. Randy decided to build a smoke house in our back yard (to go along with the koi pond) that can also smoke roughly 300 pigs per year. It was a good three hours.  It doesn't seem like a real vacation unless we add something historical into it.

We then asked Thelma to take us to the new Opryland Hotel.  We really did not know what to expect, but we've toured large and famous hotels before, so wanted to see it, whatever "it" was.  After charging the $18 parking fee and finding a parking space in a lot filled to the limit, we entered a combination of Disney World and Las Vegas all wrapped up into one enormous building.

Unbelievable is probably the best word for the Opryland Hotel.  The glass structure has several levels with different names.  We walked through somewhat of a rain forest with plants and trees that are gigantic.  Christmas decorations of mammoth size hung from the beams under the glass panels, and on the lowest level the entire Riverwalk of San Antonio seems to have been recreated where poor weather cannot bother the traveler. All of this glory is surrounded by tall inner walls of the hotel itself (yes, they actually have hotel rooms in this hotel....) and cute little balconies with black tables and chairs (all facing the same direction) on each balcony.  We even saw a few people who were staying in this hotel!

It lacked the grandeur of Mackinac's Grand Hotel, and lacked the dignity of Hot Springs and The Greenbriar,  but the clientele of this place is mainly Country Western devotees, after all. 

Forty million people shouldered their way past us, around us, and over us. All of the employees killed us with kindness. Nobody hummed twangy music at us, and two people even volunteered to take photos of us together, without being asked!  (That's usually what I do for others, so today must have been Payback Day.)

We had hoped to find a barbecue place for a late lunch there, but there were too many people and not enough restaurants.  Instead we went to locate the Comfort Inn that had reserved for us.

Now, I am an open-minded consumer, and I have already confessed to you that I used that website to book the hotel and show tickets in Nashville.  Suffice it to say that I have already made one phone call to VME this evening to let them know that the hotel they sent me to is NOT the one I ordered when I chose a Comfort Inn closer to downtown Nashville.  Not a huge issue, as the one we are in seems to be  fine, but it is NOT the one I clicked on during this transaction.  The desk clerk has been more than accommodating, and it is not his fault.  Nevertheless, we are not downtown.

SO, if you have been even considering using their service since I first mentioned it,  hold off.  I could have made these reservations for the same price, or less, frankly, so I am not giving high praise, and actually only warnings about it at this point.  I will let you know if that opinion should change after we get home.

We had dinner at Jack's Barbecue, which has been in Nashville since Jack Cawthon started it in 1976.  We had Texas Brisket, which was delicious.  The hotel desk clerk recommended it, and the pink pig out in the front was the final lure. You can sing the jingle and read all about it at

After our BBQ dinner we took a ride downtown to see the big city lights, locate where everything is, see the state capitol, enjoy the crowds a bit, and then go back to our room.  It's pretty cold out there, the parking spaces were few and far between, and we are tired from our touring.  We've agreed to go back downtown tomorrow morning when the crowds thin out and we can actually see what we're seeing.

More later!