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24 Hours in Music City: ICE, Music, and a Hapsburg Connection?

24 Hours in Music City: ICE, Music, and a Hapsburg Connection?

Old Dec 5th, 2019, 06:27 AM
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24 Hours in Music City: ICE, Music, and a Hapsburg Connection?

Travelers. DH (meetings) and I. DDog was home testing out the new sitter, whom he apparently convinced that he required an extra walk. Our senior puppy is still wily.

Transportation Highlight. I crossed a time zone (East to Central, and back) for the first time ever in a vehicle! I am easily amused.

Lodging. The Gaylord Opryland
As a beggar (someone else was picking up the tab for this overnight junket) I generally refrain from complaints about “free” travel. For this trip I shall make an exception with respect to the lodging.

The atrium of the Gaylord was betwinkled with 6.2 million lights, and it was spectacular. One could take a delta boat around the “canal” in the complex as well (we did not). It was all so festive, and there was a Chihuly sculpture in the lobby!




Everything else about our stay was less merry and bright. Parking was 32/40 USD for self/valet. The self-park lot seemed to be located back in Knoxville, so valet parking it was. The room was surprisingly ordinary; our window was locked shut on the inside and spider webby-dirty on the outside. Yuk. The complimentary Netflix streaming did not work. The shower head was terribly low; the towels were more antiseptic than cozy and no robes were provided. But the worst offense, to me, is that housekeeping banged on the door at 0830 to ask when we were checking out! DH was long off to his meetings and I was laying out my day over a cup of tea so we were awake, but still. Is this something new in America? For Marriott?

To our reservation we added (on our own tab) tickets to ICE!, a themed walkthrough at a frosty 9℉, with this year’s theme being the American holiday classic, A Christmas Story. An incredible 2 million pounds of ice was carved by a team of Chinese people; I guess they had carved the initial show a decade ago and somehow have been carving the changing show since. We did wonder what they thought about carving the scene near the movie’s end when the family has to go out for Chinese because the hounds ate the Christmas turkey.




Dinner was surprisingly good++ (and of course, expensive+) at the Jack Daniels restaurant within the resort (perhaps I came with assumptions about resort restaurants.) The shot: my first ever of Jack over a ginger ice cube for a holiday twist; and the chaser: a “Meat and Two” (it’s a Southern phrase, we’re learning) of a half-rack (meat) with green beans and mashed potatoes (two sides). The rib sauce was a little sweet for my taste (perhaps the whisky?), but all of the food was very good. Though, I did take an Aleve for a headache once back in the room, DH teasing me that I can’t hold my liquor. And then it was lights out.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 07:49 AM
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Wonderful pix, 44trav! I also am easily amused and had probably the same reaction the first time, DH and I drove from Md to his Ole Ky Home.

I usually put the 'do not disturb' sign on my hotel door in the a.m. but the cleaning person asking when you were leaving was rude!

DH and I stopped at that hotel on one holiday trip--they really do go all out with decorations.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 09:26 AM
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It IS an amazing place. I pretty much hate it when we are there for work meetings. It takes forever to walk from one end to the other. It is simply too big. They do great Christmas lights though. A friend was posting photos last night of the ICE at the Gaylord in Texas. That one is of the Peanuts characters. Would love to see that! The food is pretty good. I think the housekeeper knock in early morning is because it's a convention hotel and they need to get things ready for the next inlux of people. I hate it too.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 10:22 AM
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The Continental European breakfasts that were nearly always included with our reservations in Austria and elsewhere in Europe is a thing of the past for us, so it was to the Room Service Menu we turned. You know what that means. $21 for a flat bread with smoked salmon, capers, and a sprinkle of “Everything Bagel” seasoning for me; and $18 for an omelet for DH. Though, the breakfast was rather respectable.

Having planned to return to Nashville after the New Year to see the Chinese lantern exhibit at the Zoo and tour the city a little more properly, I opted to online-purchase a ticket for the daytime backstage tour at the Opry for the first tour at 0930. ‘Convenience” fees for online ticket purchases irritate me enough, but in that Southern “more is better” style Opry tacks on an additional fee whether you choose an e-ticket or collect your ticket in person! Sigh.

As I walked up to Opry tour buses disgorged both a high school group and a group of pensioners. Which group would I be lumped in with?, I mused. The teens went into a separate building with their teachers, so my fate was sealed.

Or so I thought. As I moved along through security and then to have my ticket scanned, the tour guide said to me, "I'm sorry, but this is a group tour. You are scheduled for the 0930 regular tour." The group entered the building and I was motioned to a waiting area. The time: 0927. Three minutes later a tour guide walked up and said with a laugh, "It's just the two of us." I GOT A VIP TOUR!

The tour included an extremely well-done intro film followed by exactly what was offered: a look backstage at the themed dressing rooms, the private performers entrance, and an opportunity to stand on the stage itself. All of this punctuated by historical notes of this institution of country music.

Fun Facts:
  • All members of the Grand Ole Opry have a mailbox to receive fan mail. This post office, like the one at the White House, are the only two in the U.S. where no street address is required for the mail to be delivered. (Box 134 belongs to Alan Jackson, who once worked as a mail delivery boy for the Grand Ole Opry.)
  • The seats in the Opry (capacity 4400) are shaped like pews in a nod to the Opry's original building, the Ryman Theater, which was once a church. There are some original pews in the house, as well.
  • Once an Opry member, always an Opry member. Though, both Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were suspended for not living up to the membership rules of performing when being asked.
  • Gibson Guitars, manufactured in Nashville, donated more than $9000 worth of guitars to decorate the foyer of the theater.


The tour lasted a bit over an hour and then I went back to the hotel to collect our bag and the wagon, for I was heading out to Cheekwood before collecting DH for the return drive. The sun was shining and the day was a glorious 60F, perfect for wandering the mansion and grounds of a grand estate.

Oooh, the drive to Cheekwood is pretty. Treed lanes and stately homes all decorated for Christmas. My GPS warned, “Your destination is located in an area with restricted access” but we had plenty of those messages in Austria as we sought out a castle ruin or somesuch for hiking or exploring and so I was unfazed. Following my GPS I turned onto the Cheekwood property lane only to read, “Authorized Vehicles Only.” Oops. Just as I was about to turn around the security person at the gate came out and said, “Don’t worry, Ma’am. This is the old main entrance. I’ll bet your GPS sent you here?” and then he directed me to the proper entrance.

Cheekwood Estates is magnificent. About the only comparison I can make is to Hillwood Estate in D.C. The Cheek and Wood families came about their fortune in mercantile, and when the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company created a special blend marketed by Nashville’s then-best hotel, Maxwell House. It is lore that President Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed a cup whilst at Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage and declared it, “Good to the Last Drop." The slogan was born. Now you know, too.





The Cheek Family was well traveled, having taken a year to travel around the world with their children in addition to their annual jaunts here and there. Daughter Huldah even made her debut at Buckingham Palace. But more interesting to me was that Huldah wore, on her wedding day, a veil made of lace worn by the last Empress of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Empress Zita at her coronation in 1916. (For anyone tuning in for the first time, we lived in Vienna for the last seven years and learned our fair share about the Hapsburgs and their matters, so this was quite interesting to me.) Unfortunately neither docent I asked knew more about this matter.

I walked a couple of garden trails, and then from here the afternoon went administrative. I ducked into a café and cleaned up photos for an hour or so until DH’s meetings had finished; and then, on the sage advice of his morning Uber driver, ditched the idea of picking up some Nashville Hot Chicken from Prince’s in order to shave an hour off our commute east. According to the driver, over the last couple of years more than 100 people each day have been moving into the city; and the city bird has been nicknamed, “The Crane,” as in Construction Crane. I could entirely believe these words.

The Uber driver was indeed wise. Traffic leaving Nashville at 1600 in the afternoon on a random weekday totally sucked, and we lost more than an hour getting out of the city. There are outbound HOV lanes but the penalty for abusing the lane is a pale $50, and so the lanes rolled as slow as the interstate because of the violators. Nashville has a major transportation problem. Add to this the time change of gaining an hour, we pulled into the drive a little before 2100. DDog rolled his eyes at us; I boiled some water for a quick pasta supper (Trader Joe’s Garlic Onion Crunch mix as the sauce to the rescue!); and this little junket was over.

Thank you for reading.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 10:31 AM
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Convention hotel or not, the housekeeping should not be banging on doors at 0830. The check-out was not until 1100; better that housekeeping check with the crew chief about checked-out rooms than to irritate guests. And based on the state of our window, it's not as if the staff was hoping to get in early for a thorough cleaning, either.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 10:32 AM
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Lovely trip report. We just saw ICE at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, theme being Polar Express. Quite a sight to see!
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by fourfortravel View Post
Convention hotel or not, the housekeeping should not be banging on doors at 0830.
I agree 100%.
But they do.
Especially if you are in the convention block of rooms. For business meetigs, they expect most (if not all) of the attendees to be back in meetings by then so those are the first rooms they are going to try to flip for the next incoming convention guests. I hate it too.

Checkwood sounds lovely. A Fodorite friend and I went to Hillwood last year and it was gorgeous decorated for Christmas. I need to add Checkwood. Thanks!

Since you live so close now, try to get to a show at the Ryman. It a great concert venue although the pews do get a bit hard after a couple of hours. I'm going in up a few weeks.

Love seeing the mail boxes!

Last edited by starrs; Dec 5th, 2019 at 11:46 AM.
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Old Dec 5th, 2019, 12:57 PM
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Thanks for the pictures of the Christmas decorations at Opryland Hotel. We had wanted to see them in person over our Thanksgiving visit, but alas.
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Old Dec 10th, 2019, 04:18 AM
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"Since you live so close now, try to get to a show at the Ryman. It a great concert venue although the pews do get a bit hard after a couple of hours. I'm going in up a few weeks."

We purchased season tickets for the KSO here, and attended the opening night performance. The Tennessee Theater is beautiful. I'll investigate performances at Ryman, thank you. Funny enough, we tuned into the Netflix (?) series of Dolly Parton's Heartstrings for the first time the other night and watched the episode "Joleen," and wouldn't you know, it featured "Joleen" singing at the Grand Ole Opry! I think a visit for a performance there is in order, as well.

If you like Hillwood you will enjoy Cheekwood, though do adjust your expectations as not all of the rooms are as decorated as Hillwood, and a couple of the gardens are presently closed for renovation. There is a Chihuly show coming in the spring, so perhaps waiting until then would add to your experience. I'm planning a return for the show, and to enjoy the Nashville Hot Chicken we missed on this quick visit.

Last edited by fourfortravel; Dec 10th, 2019 at 04:20 AM.
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Old Dec 10th, 2019, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by rncheryl View Post
Lovely trip report. We just saw ICE at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, theme being Polar Express. Quite a sight to see!
It is amazing what the carvers can do with the ice, agreed!
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Old Dec 10th, 2019, 12:00 PM
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We went to see the light show and mansion at Cheekwood last year - it was gorgeous. Anyone who is interested, just google "holiday lights at Cheekwood", and click on Images.
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Old Dec 10th, 2019, 12:20 PM
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‘Convenience” fees for online ticket purchases irritate me enough, but in that Southern “more is better” style Opry tacks on an additional fee whether you choose an e-ticket or collect your ticket in person! Sigh.

Not just a southern thing I'm afraid...there's also a fee for printing your own tickets at home here in the west (Colorado). Go figure.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 06:05 AM
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Concert at the Ryman. (Popped up in FB memories today)
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Old Dec 17th, 2019, 05:53 AM
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Wow, the Grand Ole Opry bears considerable resemblance to the Ryman. I am assuming this was by design?
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