As part of my new job with a local library, I am required to complete a few online courses and I chose (shocker, I know) WRITING CLASSES!! Frequently, I plan to share some of my assignments with you for feedback and exposure. Today’s assignment is about writing with the senses. As writers our job is to transport our readers to experience the sights, sounds, feelings, smells, and tastes of our story. Our job for this assignment was to choose two places: one place we’ve been to, and the other someplace foreign we wish could visit. I hope you enjoy and I hope that I can transport you somewhere other than in front of your computer screen. Can you tell by the writing where I’ve been, and where I’ve wanted to go?
Anyone who has been to Nashville, and even those who have not, can tell you it’s called Music City for a reason. With famous country artists plastered on billboards, cowboy boots on every bar sign, and the smell of fried chicken filling every street, it is hard to mistake it for any other city in America. There is, however, one time of the year that is the most exciting time to be in Nashville. The second week in June of every year, Music City is the host to the biggest country music festival in the nation; the CMA Music Festival. We’re talking thousands of country music fans descending upon the city listening to dozens of famous country music stars and small-town hopeful bands on multiple stages. The huge convention center is open and fans can meet their favorite artists, enter contests, buy merchandise, and participate in the silent auction. Restaurants and hotels are full to the brim of traveling tourists from all parts of the world, bars offer wicked drink specials, and LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans, turns into a concert party every night with four or five A-list performers. Nashville is a city on fire most days of the year, but for four days in June, Music City hosts country music’s biggest party.
The first time I attended the CMA Music Festival, I met some friends outside the Country Music Hall of Fame and this is the perfect place to introduce someone to Nashville. It is in the heart of the city and is surrounded by the convention center, multiple stages, food vendors, and across the street is the bridge taking fans to LP Field and the parking lots. There is such a bustle of excitement downtown, especially the day before the festival actually starts. The city is loud from bands and crowds of people in the street but it is not an unbearable loud. The bars smell of beer and fried chicken; the scent of which seeps into the streets and mingles with the odor of cigarette and cigar smoke. Nashville is so vivid this time of year you can practically taste everything you smell. You taste the fried foods, the beer, and cigars as if you were consuming them yourself.
Amid all the hubbub and noise, there is incredible sense of community during CMA Fest. When you stand in line in the convention centers to meet artists, you meet the most amazing and friendly people who have the same passion for country music and are just there to have a good time. You make friends with the people in line and you look out for one another. One year, my friends and I were standing in the back of LP Field listening to the nightly concert and beside us stood a young man with Down Syndrome and his aging mother. He was having the time of his life but we could tell that his mother was having a hard time standing up for that extended period of time. My friend leaned over and encouraged her to go sit behind us on one of the benches and that he would keep an eye on her son. She did so, thanked us profusely, and enjoyed the concert from a comfortable distance while her son danced and sang safely within her eyesight. This is the type of comradery that takes place in Nashville. It’s just that kind of a friendly town.
The best place to be during CMA Fest is at LP Field for the nightly concerts. Although the tickets for this event are fairly pricey, they pale in comparison to the cost one would spend individually at concert for each artist who performs. The NFL stadium holds nearly 60,000 people and when the party gets started in this facility, this place starts rocking! There was just an amazing moment one year when Lee Greenwood performed his famous song “Proud to be an American,” and the entire stadium of tens of thousands of people joined together to sing with him. It sent chills down my spine. When an artist has a famous ballad or religious themed song, many people will pull out lighters and cell phones and the whole stadium lights up in the darkness singing along. These are the moments that, despite being aired a few months later for the whole world to see on public television, cannot be duplicated or even properly explained. You just have to be there.
Nothing can compares to Paris in springtime. Paris is nice all year round, but something about spring makes the city come alive like no other time of the year. While walking through the heart of Paris, you can smell the freshly baked baguettes as the local bakeries attempt to meet the demand of both local Parisians and the tourists. I was a bit surprised at how many bakeries were in the very center of town and how strong the bread scent was; I found it rather stereotypical. The occasional smell of pipe tobacco can be found from the old men sitting outside the pubs and drinking ale. Unexpectedly, the locals favor the same spots as the tourists and the two dwell together in a beautiful harmony. Despite the buzz of being a major city, there are tons of plants throughout the city. Walk down any side street and you’re bound to go past a restaurant or a bookshop that is littered with flowers and shrubs in gorgeous planter boxes. Their fragrance mingles with the smell of the fresh food and it is just intoxicating. The smells may well be the best part of a trip to Paris.
All roads lead to the Arc de Triomphe; at least that’s how it feels when you visit the famous monument. It is surrounded by a circle to which all major roads in and out of the city connect. While you’re there you can’t help but feel a cool spring breeze brush across your face since it has easy access to you with no buildings too close to block it, and the wind is assisted by the speed of the cars going by. These same cars are filling the air with the sounds of their horns and the occasional brake squeals. Sometimes when you’re standing there, looking at the history of one of the world’s most beloved cities, you feel like you’re in an international airport. Dozens of touring families who are not fortunate to call Paris home are taking pictures of one another, speaking in their native tongues, adding an aura of appreciation to the historical structure. I made a point to approach the Arc and gently place my hand on the cold stone which was constructed so long ago. I can almost feel the weight of history on it as I hear the tour guide explain its significance in a heavily French accented English.
There is no better way to see Paris and all that it has to offer than being in the Eiffel Tower. The hours long wait is totally worth the final result. You can literally see the entire city. Your eyes cannot fake the pleasure they receive while on the observation decks of the Eiffel Tower. A friend who was studying in Paris at the time had met us for this visit because despite being in the city for a year, she had not yet visited the Tower. Being in that visual spot with someone who knows the city makes it all the more special. They can point out things that we would never have thought to look for; the street she lived on, her favorite restaurant, our hotel. It is even more remarkable once you are up that high, when you consider that this monument has survived multiple wars, air raids, bombs, terrorism, and the test of time. You earn a whole new level of respect for such an awe-inspiring sight, from the ground and from above.