Miami Girl Goes Country in Nashville

Saturday, June 06, 2015

cat blogger, BlogPaws, Nashville TN, Opryland
Christine Michaels arrives in Nashville for BlogPaws

Another year gone by and another BlogPaws pet conference (related to my nonprofit for pets and blogging efforts). This year it was held in Nashville, TN. I have to say I felt like a kid going to Disney World for the first time and I had no idea why I was so excited. But then I realized this trip had all the ingredients of my favorite things-- seeing all my online pet blogging friends (we communicate year round online); attending seminars to learn new tips and techniques to improve my writing/blogging efforts; and getting to explore a new city and culture AND taking someone else's tour; a reason to go shopping; AND a reason to get into character (wear cowboy hat and boots). I love costumes and dressing up; there's something alluring about the cowboy theme--all Americana, ruggedly handsome men, songs where you can understand the lyrics, polite people...! Yes this was a great trip and a bigger surprise was in store for me towards the end!

As I paraded through the Miami airport, heads were turning. Purely for my pronounced outfit--my cowboy hat and boots were screaming "country".  Homeland security officers along the walkway asked me if I were going to Texas. I said "No the other "T"--Tennessee, Nashville". "Aah yes", they nodded. As a marketing lover, Branding is my favorite role.

From the airplane on our descent into Nashville, immediately I noticed the rolling green hills, manicured lawns, and friendly smiles. Nashville oozes southern hospitality and charm and also carries a celebrity vibe given that it's home to Opryland, the greatest country singers. The ABC television series, "Nashville" is also filmed in the namesake city.

TV SERIES Nashville --

 As a fan of the ABC TV series Nashville, I've come to learn a lot about the culture of the city. Country music is the heart and soul of Nashville. No bones about it!

On Thursday afternoon, a couple of blogging friends from the conference and I signed up for the bus tour of sites filmed for the TV series.  Unfortunately the Ryman auditorium was closed but we visited the "homes" of characters like Scarlett, Will and Deacon.  The homes are privately owned and rented to ABC studios during filming season from November to April.  Production costs are therefore higher and I was surprised to learn that Connie Britton only makes $100,000 per episode.

Scarlett's house

Deacon Claybourne's house

99% of the tour was on the bus so picture taking through the bus windows was not ideal. The buses are not permitted to stop and unload.  With so many stops, it makes sense.  However, we were permitted to go and sit inside the original Bluebird Cafe.  It was here that one true life artist was discovered after he was rejected more times than a guitar has strings.  His name is Garth Brooks. Another artist, Taylor Swift also caught her break at the Bluebird.  The cafe is so popular and packed each night that ABC had to recreate it in a studio. According to the long-time manager the stage crew took the tables clothes, napkins and other objects for an authentic replication.

A Visit to the Grand Ole Opry

After our Nashville tour, I could not wait to visit the Grand Ole Opry. 

Grand Ole Opry tour
Christine Michaels in front of Grand Ole Opry House sign

The Grand Ole Opry is a temple for recognizing, honoring and celebrating the best country music singers. Prior to its current location, the "Mother Church" was located at the Ryman Theater in 1943 which also housed other events and productions. The Ryman was home until 1974 when a new stage was built right outside of Nashville in the themed Opryland where hotels, outlet mall and restaurants exude the Opry spirit. 

Deb Barnes and Christine Michaels

Main entrance doors to public

While there are 19 numbered rooms, there are physical only 18 dressing rooms. The number 13 was skipped for superstition. 

Minnie Pearl's dressing room
Another ladies dressing room


Green Room

Christine Michaels green room Grand Ole Opry
"Ready for my performance! Too bad I can not sing. But I can line dance!"


In an effort to maintain continuity with the Opry's storied past, a large circle was cut from the floor of the Ryman stage and inlaid into the center of the new Opry stage. During our tour we stood on the stage and the circle.  I  almost expected a lightning bolt to zap me for standing on that hallowed circle given my lack of singing ability.

Cat ladies Grand Ole Opry

Sadly a devastating flood in Nashville in 2010 caused massive damage to the Grand Ole Opry including the stage. Miraculously, the circle was untouched.  The circle was not broken.  It was lovingly preserved during the round-the-clock renovations. Having performed on stage (as a classical dancer), gazing up at the seating, despite the blinding spotlight, I could see the crowds,  feel their gaze, their embrace, hear the thunderous applause, the appreciation of the performance and artistry, the acceptance into a family. There's no feeling in the world to compare it. How I miss performing.

Girls Honky Tonk Night Out

Now that we saw Nashville in the daytime, it was time to experience the downtown at night.
So what do I wear--a Victoria's Secret sundress with cowboy boots.  Yes I'm representing Miami proudly with a nod to Nashville. I even brought my cowgirl hat but Rachel wants to visit a souvenir shop and what do I find?  A PINK COWBOY HAT! Now I expect this in Miami, but did not expect it in Nashville. Of course I purchased it and wore it that evening. Why not?!

Christine Michaels finds pink hat in Nashville
 Of course who else do I run into outside the souvenir shop in Nashville, but Elvis! OK a wax Elvis.  He wanted to dance. But of course!  Ill let him lead.
Christine Michaels Miami Elvis Presley Nashville Blogpaws
Dancing with Elvis Presley

Now I was ready for Tootsie's the most famous dive bar in Nashville.

Deb Barnes & Christine Michaels at Tootsie's bar in downtown Nashville

After one drink, the night is young, we stepped outside and headed left and came across a boot shop.
Oooh I love boots. This could be very dangerous. Thankfully I have a strong will.

Price is Right beauty showing off the boot

cowboy boots fashion Nashville
We found our favorite boots! Mine has pink, Deb's boot has leopard design.

boots shopping Nashville
I'm inlove and hate to part ways

After window boot shopping, hunger pangs struck and we headed to Ripley's for pulled pork with BBQ sauce and fries. When in Rome...Mouthwatering!

As we headed back to pick up the transportation bus to our hotel, we passed several bars. We had a long wait for the bus and it started pouring rain. While we sought shelter under the overhang of a building, I could hear music playing across the street.  I told the girls I would return in literally 15 minutes.  But then I stayed. I was going to savor every sight, taste and sound of Nashville.

Legend's Corner Bar
For someone who doesn't listen to country music this band was great!
Kept me toe-tapping.

What a great intro to Nashville for a brief  three day conference. I will definitely be returning for more sightseeing and culture!

For an all around review of the conference, visit Pawsitively Humane.
For a cat-centric review of the conference, visit Riverfront Cats.

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