I love love love the new Beauty and the Beast movie. One of the best parts, of course, is the Beast’s library, so I wrote “Belle Would Be Enchanted by These 10 Lovely Libraries in Hotels” for USA Today 10Best.Read All Entries
my buick bucket list trip: gaylord opryland, part 1
We’d already stayed in three different hotels in three nights – all fun, all very different – and now we’d be spending two nights here, which was great because the place is enormous and it would take longer than that for us to be able to find our room every time. Not kidding.
Opryland is a world in itself, with more than nine acres of indoor gardens and almost 3000 guest rooms. It’s all encased in a Hunger Games-like atrium which is filled with waterfalls, lush landscaping and thousands of exotic and tropical plants. It’s so beautiful, it’s easy to forget you’re still inside.
We dropped off our bags in our room, which was in the Delta section of the hotel and had a fantastic balcony where we would end up spending an inordinate amount of time. It’s important to remember what section you’re in because you will get lost. Over and over again. And you will laugh and enjoy the challenge because everyone else is lost, too. In fact, it becomes a real bonding experience among guests.
We were advised to keep an eye on the carpet, which was different for each section of the hotel. The Delta carpet was red so once we saw that, we’d know we were in the right place. We found the whole experience hilarious.
We thought it would be nice to take a boat tour – yes, there is a quarter mile river running inside Opryland – so we could learn more about the hotel. I definitely recommend this as a great way to explore and get a fascinating history lesson.
Our tour guide told us some amazing stories about the Nashville flood and how the hotel manager had thankfully made the unpopular but ultimately life-saving move to evacuate everyone early to be on the safe side. Just look at this red line, showing how high the flood waters came.
She also explained how, when the hotel was re-built, they sent out small Jack Daniel’s bottles (this is Tennessee, after all!) to every state in the country plus cities around the world to fill with water from their rivers. It was all poured together, representing 1700 bodies of water, and it flows beautifully and peacefully.
We loved this idea! And, apparently, so do many fish, including one the staff lovingly refers to as “the shark” because it usually has a fin above the surface, almost waving.
The boat ride was so relaxing, we could have floated around, admiring the scenery, all day.
But it was time for dinner. There are more than a dozen restaurants in Opryland and, after going through menus and “ooh”-ing and “ah”-ing a lot, we decided on Jack Daniel’s. You know, when in the South …
It was a great decision, although we did worry that it could be a problem because Michael has recently become a vegetarian and we were smack in the middle of barbecue heaven.
And I do mean heaven. Our waitress, Danielle, suggested we start with the pulled pork quesadilla which I immediately agreed to. I ordered ribs and Michael ordered a Caesar salad, explaining his situation.
Within minutes, Chef Jared was out of the kitchen.
“You can’t just have a Caesar salad here!” he chided him, telling him he would happily make him something special. When Michael said he didn’t want to put him out, Chef Jared looked at him and laughed. “I’m a chef,” he said. “I like to make different dishes.” (Important note: Chef Jared said he would do this for anyone who had any kind of dietary restrictions so don’t ever feel shy about asking.)
So while I was happily eating this
Michael was happily eating this!
And then, Chef Jared brought out a portobello mushroom creation that was so delicious, Michael asked him if he would come home with us. I nodded, eagerly, because my mouth was full of ribs and a honey roll was poised to be next.
Although we were so full, they could have rolled us out of there like one of those Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels, we, of course, ordered dessert because, well — banana pudding cream pie.
We’re not stupid.
Chef Jared asked us where we were eating tomorrow night — a question that seemed unfathomable after we had just stuffed ourselves. He suggested we eat at Ravello, where his mentor was the Chef, and we immediately agreed to make a reservation.
As we waddled out of the restaurant, we realized we were right in time for the nightly Fountain Show.
With water splashing 85 feet high to colored lights and music, it was beautiful and a perfect ending to a perfect day — and only a prelude to what would follow tomorrow.