Leaving Maggie Valley early Claire and I skirted the beautiful eastern side of the Smoky Mountains to the fascinating town of Cherokee, populated by the Cherokee Nation and featuring the expected casinos, craft shops and native cuisine. It is all developed very nicely though, and barely an intrusion to the mountains.
We stopped to visit the museum which was a stunning mind opener for us. So many of their stories and traditions are exactly the same as the ones we share with visitors to Ireland. The corn celebrations are so much like our Imbolc, Bealtine, Lunasa and especially Samhain. Their reverence to corn was like ancient Ireland reverence to apples. Their game of stickball is so much like Ireland’s hurling, especially in origins. Overall, the Cherokee museum is a very moving experience.
Of course, within the museum and around the town Cherokee people were also eager to share that they were part Irish and where in Ireland their Irish grandmother or great grandmother came from.
After some browsing around their craft shops, it was time to cross the Smokys.
The Cherokee museum stated that 75% of the species of USA flora are found on these Appalachian mountains. The Cherokee nation were drawn to settling here by their medicine man for that reason many, many centuries ago, and it showed.
It was a beautiful drive up and over these mountains with the sometime loop over loop roads. Lots of stops to take in the scenery, smells and variety of trees. Bit of a hazy day but the pastel variations of blues, pinks and greens through the haze was still very beautiful. Lots of water, bubbling rivers and waterfalls. This is white water canoeing country too.
The other side of the mountain was a shock, the town of Pigeon Hole, or something like that. Compared to Cherokee Town, this was white man city to the full complete with its headline of Dollyworld, Dolly Parton’s theme park. This is fully a family resort combining a multitude of theatres, ballrooms, theme parks and dining experiences for miles and miles. We did not stop but kept movin’ onto Nashville.
Moving onto Nashville the cloud and haze was replaced by bright warming sun and a much more subtle rolling hills landscape.
Our campsite for the night, by the new 1975 built Grand Ol’ Oprey, was a surprise model of superb service, efficiency and cleanliness. It was like being camped within a five star hotel. Registration was fast and friendly, an escort to our very well equipped and clean site, then discovering it also had lightning speed online service, but we did not have much time to try that out much.
Within 30 minutes we were onto the shuttle service into Downtown Nashville, Yeehaw! …… or was it.
Our shuttle bus driver was also a superb tour guide with an infectious passion for his town. He drove us all around showing spots and giving us tips before dropping us off. Nashville is a surprisingly small town, but every building seems to have some action in it, mainly what they call country music … but we soon had our doubts about that.
Almost every building has a restaurant, bar and stage. Like Hollywood CA its where people still come to follow their dreams and most fail. I found this surprising considering the stunning opportunities today for musicians to make a decent life being independent, but there were 100s here still arriving and still looking to find that multi million dollar record deal.
Nashville has geared itself much more for tourism than Hollywood, though. That side was very impressive. The music was a surprise, though. It really is all loud rock music now with a bit of twang from the guitars and wearing big hats. Still mainly a male domain with young model manicured men trying to woo the young women with the tightest Wranglers and biggest hats, but women fiddle players also seemed to be a new trend, every band must have one. There was a “struggling upcoming star” in every building all tightly packed together. Walking past them was like tuning into FM stations as you move along the dial.
There were many buskers, people who had not made it as far as having their own gig in one of these “storefront” stages, but alas every busker was, I’ll politely say limited, in what they shared.
We thought we would vary our visit and go into BB King’s “joint” but was quickly disappointed with the band and quickly left before being seated for a meal.
However, Claire and I found the music and the concept of it all quite disappointing. We had already discovered and shared the joys of real USA country music high up in the top of the Smoky Carolina mountains.
After eating we headed to view the original Grand Ol’ Oprey, a magnificent old building converted from a church, which we did not know. Our shuttle bus man pulled up there and we were surprised that all of the other folk that came in on the shuttle bus were leaving the same time as us.
I do not think either of us will return to Nashville.