Authors, Travel

The Home of Mark Twain

Last year, I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home way out in Missouri.

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It was one of the highlights of our trip and I felt so humble to be standing outside his fence and looking around his home near the Mississippi River, room by room. I absolutely love Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn – one of which I read while I was out there to keep me going throughout the trip.

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There was so much to see and so many places to go I actually didn’t end up reading very much, but it was a trip of a lifetime and I’m so glad I could take a copy with me to occupy me on my travels!

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Later on, we went for a walk near the Mississippi River, where a large statue of Mark Twain stood. The heat was so dense (it was August) and the water looked so cool, it took a lot for me not to just jump right in.

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We spent a long while there, just wandering around and sitting by the grass, trying not to get faint from the sun.

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We even got to see a freight train carrying loads of cargo as it passed through the stop sign barriers just before the crossing to get to the river. The railroad looked so atmospheric, so damn Southern, I almost wanted to cry. I love the Deep South and have always been fascinated by it, so to visit this place was such an incredible experience.

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I waited a long time to read Huckleberry Finn and saved it until I could finally go on this trip.

Do you have a favourite classic?

Music, Personal

Nashville: Why I Love Music City

Nashville – a place which has firmly taken up a huge space in my heart. Ever since I heard my first country song, or the unmistakable sound of a fiddle’s strings above the notes of a steel pedal guitar, Nashville has always been right where I truly wanted to be. Forget London. Forget Paris. I’d always dreamed about music city for as long as I can remember, never really thinking I’d ever in my life actually get to go. Nashville is over 4,000 miles away. How on earth was I going to get there if I was terrified of planes and defiant in my belief that if went on a boat across the Atlantic, it would surely sink?

But I took a leap of faith. If I was going to die, at least I was going to die trying!

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With my bags packed and a suitcase half empty just so I could fill it up with cowboy boots, I hopped on that plane and, last year, I finally made it to Nashville. I couldn’t believe I was right there, walking the streets, feeling that fresh southern breeze glide across my face, and taking in the sweet, heady heat of the vibrant music city amid the galore of cowboy boot stores, rooftop bars, and live music venues open all day long. I was in country music heaven. What was there not to love about this?

But it’s hardly just the music. I love the history too. From the bloody battlefield of the American Civil War, where thousands died, right up to the thriving modern city it is today, Nashville is steeped in history with vibrant stories laying open and ready to tell. During my stay, I visited a house that sits on a more unforgiving side of history: Belle Meade Plantation. Previously home to a wealthy confederate supporter, this rich family once boasted the largest slave holding in Nashville. And, astonishingly, almost as rich and powerful as it was over 150 years ago, Belle Meade is still a distinct area for homes belonging to the rich and famous. Needless to say, from a historical, political, and personal point of view, it was fascinating to drive around these stunning homes, many of them proudly flying their American flag high for all to see.

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Belle Meade Mansion

On a less miserable note, I think what I love most about Nashville is the fact that everybody is so welcoming out there. When I visited the Loveless Café with some new-found friends, a famous venue for ‘real southern food’, we had a busy table of over twenty people. When we apologised for being so loud, the waitress simply came back with, ‘Honey, I love a hoopla!’ The people there are full of southern charm and it was a quality I was surprised to notice in everyone, not just in the friendly Boot Barn sales attendant called Tyler (who called me Miss Emily), or the taxi driver who drove us everywhere, or even the pilot on our flight who braved a ferocious thunder and lightning storm, all while keeping us safe up in the air. (Not going to lie, I was terrified!) Of all the cities in this big wide world, there’s just something about this one which screams, ‘Welcome!’ It’s right there in people’s smiles, in their hello’s and even in their general mannerisms. Sadly, I can’t say the same about Chicago. That was a city that instilled all kinds of fear in me.

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Whilst spending time in Nashville, I learned that this sparkling city is the true ‘Hollywood’ of country music, where stars can walk right down the street next to you, or you can bump into them at a local restaurant devouring their favourite dish. This city has so much to offer, with bars, museums, stadiums, and filming locations dotting the famous Broadway boulevard alone.

To end, I’ve always believed that Nashville, for me, is another home from home. I just couldn’t believe my luck that, when I got there, I still felt the same. All throughout my stay, the air was balmy and the food was full of flavour like I’ve never tasted. The smell of the street on Broadway as you’re walking past open doored bars, star studded restaurants and the guzzle of petrol and diesel engines as you’re trying to get to your next music fix, was all incredible. Despite the full-on security of (still friendly) officials checking there wasn’t a gun tucked away in your purse somewhere, I was sorely sad to go home. There was still so much to see.

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A bustling hub of talented songwriters, powerful music and, most of all, endless inspiration, Nashville is an incredible place in this world and – surprise, surprise – I have every intention of going back.