Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 18, 2017

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Nashville strikes a chord

An MD visits Music City and finds art and culture beyond all the honky tonk, but he likes that too

There are lots of surprises in Nashville. Music City is a destination for those who just love music of almost any kind — as long as it has a country twang. Whether you enjoy hearing live music or want to immerse yourself in county music history, Nashville is the place to go.

Begin with a stroll down Lower Broadway better known as Honky Tonk Highway. Live music spills out from a multitude of pubs and joints with names like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s Bar and Grill, Legends Corner and Nudie’s Honky Tonk. It’s all music, all the time from 10am ‘till closing time at 3am. Even if country and western music are not your shot of bourbon, you can’t help but be caught up in the love fest of performers, and just being there where so much American music history has been made. The heartbreak lyrics, fiddles and banjos, and the sheer exuberance of the place had even me tapping my toes by the end of my four-day visit.

Don’t leave Nashville without taking in a show at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry (opry.com), the world’s longest running radio show. At the Opry, you get to enjoy some of country music’s rising stars. Since starting as a radio show in 1925, it has seen performances of all the great country stars. If you can swing it, go backstage, see the dressing rooms and perhaps even meet some of the movers and shakers of this Nashville tradition.

For guitar addicts, The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (thegigatbelmont.com) at Belmont University is a must. Here you'll learn about the history of guitar making, and get to see some famous instruments including Martins and Fenders and Gibsons, and even play a few old models known for their beautiful sounds.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (countrymusichalloffame.org) located in downtown Nashville is another must see. One exhibit features my favourite songwriter, Bob Dylan, and his relationship with Johnny Cash, and the Nashville Cats. It also houses the Johnny Cash Museum (johnnycashmuseum.com) and the recently opened Patsy Cline Museum (patsymuseum.com).

Time for some art

The music is the big draw, but there’s more to Music City than, well, music. In the late 1800s, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University was a centre for philosophy and learning. It gave the city its other enduring nickname, the Athens of the South.

A full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens was built in 1897 as part of Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition. Located in Centennial Park just west of downtown, today it’s The Parthenon art museum (nashville.gov/parks-and-recreation/parthenon.aspx). The collection of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings are worth a peek, but what you don't want to miss is local artist Alan LeQuire's meticulous re-creation of the Athena Parthenos, which first graced the original Parthenon in 447BC and remained there until it was dismantled by the Romans in the 5th century. At almost 13 metres tall, it’s the tallest indoor statue in the Western Hemisphere and was crafted by LeQuire in 1990 and covered in 24-carat gold leaf in 2002. The sculpture bears a striking resemblance to the original and gives visitors the impression that they are truly inside an ancient place of worship.
I had the good fortune to visit the sculptor at his gallery and preview his new work titled Monument to Women’s Suffrage. LeQuire works are well known in the southeast for his public commissions and sensitive portraiture. One of his better-known creations is Musica, a 12-metre-tall bronze that features nine naked male and female figures dancing in a circular composition. It was unveiled in 2003 and sits on a grassy knoll in a traffic circle in the Music Row area. The undressed nature of the dancers caused immediate controversy with Christian fundamentalists on one side and defenders of art on the other. In the end, the privately funded $1.1 million monument was allowed to remain. In recent years, pranksters have clothed the statues as part of St. Patrick's Day celebrations. Meeting the remarkable artist and seeing his work was one of the highlights of my visit.

If you're interested in art, other venues worth a look are The Arts Company, Tinney Contemporary and The Rymer Gallery on 5th Avenue (nashvilledowntown.com/go/fifth-avenue-district). There’s also the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (fristcenter.org) located in the former US Post Office building downtown. On the last Saturday of every month, the art community has an Arts Crawl with an opportunity to meet local artists.

For garden lovers and fanciers of turn-of-the-century architecture, there’s Cheekwood (cheekwood.org). Once the private estate of the Cheek family of Maxwell House coffee fame, it’s now home to 22 hectares of botanical gardens, a sculpture garden and a museum of contemporary and decorative art, paintings and sculptures. The mansion is very well preserved and shows what it’s like to be wealthy in Nashville in the 1930s.

Foodies

If you’re a foodie, then Nashville has some special restaurants. Le Sel (leselnashville.com) offers fine French-style food as well as more modern creations. Grab a pint of local beer at The Filling Station (brewstogo.com), which features 24 craft beers on tap, with rotating seasonal selections.

Enjoy a coal fire dinner at Nicky’s Coal Fired Grill (nickysnashville.com) where dishes are cooked in a four-ton oven. Coal-fired pizzas are the focal point of Nicky’s menu along with great tasting house-made pastas and antipasto selections.

Another highlight of my visit was the Bluebird Café (bluebirdcafe.com). Enjoy a meal while watching songwriters performing original material in an intimate “in the round setting.”

Feast on a true Tennessean BBQ treat at Martin’s Bar-B-Que (martinsbbqjoint.com), and enjoy classic Lebanese dishes and friendly service at Epice (epicenashville.com). You won’t go hungry in Nashville.

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