June 30th, 2006

little review

Lyrics for Friday

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We woke up Thursday and drove from Memphis back to Nashville, which we had passed on the highway from Kentucky but didn't stop. Our first stop in the city was the Parthenon, because how could we resist? Though the building itself and its giant gilded statue of Athena are very neat, I was also pleasantly surprised by the art museum inside -- a decent collection of American landscape artists, Church, Bierstadt, et al, and a special exhibit on a Virginia painter, Elliott Daingerfield, who appears to have been a student of both Hudson River School artists and their peers (Inness, Gifford) and the Pre-Raphaelites, so I found his work very appealing. We had seen most of the originals of the sculpture from the Parthenon -- Tennessee's are copies of pieces in the British Museum for the most part -- but the giant temple is still an amazing sight!

The kids had strongly vetoed the idea of going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and apaulled and I were ambivalent -- it's expensive, and while we listen to some country music, there aren't really any musical stars of whom we'd call ourselves real fans except Johnny Cash. So instead of going there, we drove around Music Row, where the studios and publishers are located, and went to the Tennessee State House, which was closed to the public but a guard let us park in one of the handicapped spaces long enough to get out and look at the building and take photos. Then we came to the hotel to check in and let the kids swim so we could go out in the evening.

We ate in Opryland Mills across the street from the Grand Ole Opry House -- an enormous mall with a 20-theater multiplex including an IMAX, a Barnes & Noble, Tower Records and all the expected mall stores from anywhere in the US, and several restaurants including one with live music and the one where we had dinner, which is now younger son's favorite restaurant in the world -- the Aquarium Restaurant. There are two little aquariums in front, including a tunnel like the ones in the Cincinnati Aquarium, but the restaurant's centerpiece is a 200,000 gallon tank with sharks, rays, giant eels, a "guitar shark" named Gibson and dozens of species of fish and coral. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable both about local music and about the fish in the tank, and the restaurant also has a wandering magician doing card tricks, balloon man twisting balloon animals, and its own arcade with a ray touch-tank and sea-themed arcade games and a carousel, plus a gift shop rather like the Rainforest Cafe's -- there was one of those in this mall too, but the food at the Aquarium Restaurant was vastly better than I've ever had there (we had three different kinds of shrimp, I couldn't bear to eat salmon while looking at a fish tank). Considering that it was a free visit to the aquarium the prices were reasonable and the kids had a wonderful time.

We paid a brief visit to the Grand Ole Opry House which was closed tonight -- there are only performances certain nights of the week, and we didn't try to time our trip around them because again we thought the kids would get restless and it would be a lot of money. So we didn't linger, but went to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which my in-laws had had seen and told us we might want to check out. The place is beyond description -- it's like a city, with its own indoor river and boat rides in one section, an enormous jungle room with waterfalls in another section, a recreation of a Southern city with little shops and fountains, three swimming pools, indoor and outdoor courtyards, numerous restaurants, all the mall-type stores not in Opryland Mills itself...a convention center, an enclosed theater and a public courtyard where at 8:30 a troupe of Chinese acrobats performed. It was like a Southern Las Vegas without the sleaze (though I must note that for such a Southern Baptist city, there are a lot of porn shops and gentleman's clubs advertising prominently around Nashville!)

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Friday we will be seeing our last group of penguins this trip, at the Knoxville Zoo, and later cara_chapel!