May is here heralding the UK summertime - and right away it makes me think of the song 'Summertime' in which Ella Fitzgerald tells us that 'the livin' is easy'. And how good do those words and that music make you feel? Music is the sound track to our lives and, for most, brings back memories and shapes our mood. That song also makes me think about holidays, and with two UK Bank Holidays coming up on on 7 and 28 May, it's the perfect opportunity to take some time out over those long weekends to indulge in some holiday planning. The best holidays require a bit of effort in the planning stage, not least your long-haul escapes. Here are some ideas for the ideal music lover's holiday in the southern US states, the birthplace of jazz and Elvis, where it won't just be the music that moves you.
Looking at a map of some of the southern US states, song titles seem to jump off the page, just begging to be sung. I can’t help but notice a few of these towns and states have inspired rail-based songs, from the 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' by Glenn Miller and his band, to The Monkee’s 'Last Train to Clarksville', and Gladys Knight’s 'Midnight Train to Georgia'.
Then there are the emotion-stirring melodies of 'Galveston' by Glen Campbell and Gene Pitney’s 'Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa'. I can literally lose myself in these moving lyrics just scouring the map. I’m sure you can spot many more! Of course, the rich musical history of some of these states goes far deeper than references to the sprawling train tracks criss-crossing the states and song-inspiring town names.
New Orleans, Louisiana
I defy anyone to hear the name New Orleans and not immediately think of jazz music - well, immediately after thinking about the delicious local food that is. The birthplace of jazz music, which was formed from a fusion of ragtime, Creole and Cuban influences, has an exciting and vivacious vibe.
The city offers the best of authentic live music venues and wonderful restaurants, hosting traditional cuisine, from Cajun to Creole, and pretty much anything else your taste buds desire. The people of New Orleans are happy to accommodate with a smile - it’s not called the Big Easy for nothing.
Although there is no definitive answer as to why it is called that in the first place, many believe it derives from how easy it was for struggling musicians to make money, either playing in venues or busking on the streets.
There is an abundance of activities in New Orleans, not only the many museums, but the wide variety of ways to tour the city. Take a walking tour of the French Quarter and stroll along the famous Chartres Street, venture out on a swamp boat tour through the winding bayous, or immerse yourself in the times of Huckleberry Finn and enjoy a steam boat cruise. Not forgetting how the French Quarter comes alive, pretty much around the clock, with live music streaming from the open-fronted bars and restaurants. New Orleans really is a treat for all your senses.
Nashville is synonymous with music, so much so that it's hard to know where to start! From the iconic legends of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline, to the modern day music makers such as The Kings of Leon, Paramore, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, it is easy to see why Nashville has earned the name Music City.
Popular local fare and beverages include cayenne spiced hot chicken (and it really is HOT), fruit tea, Bourbon, and the curiously named Goo Goo Cluster; a disk-shaped mixture of marshmallow, nougat, caramel and peanuts, smothered in chocolate.
Top tip: The Goo Goo Shop can be found in Downtown Nashville, right next to the Johnny Cash Museum, so you may want to fuel yourself with a few sweet treats before embarking on a tour of the museum.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is undoubtedly a must-see attraction in Nashville, however it is the Grand Ole Opry that actually tops the visitor lists as the number one place to visit in Nashville. With its unforgettable live shows and back-stage tours, you get a glimpse of what goes on behind the curtain.
Memphis sits on the border of Tennessee and Mississippi, and is the home of the world-famous attraction, Elvis’s Graceland. With many different tour options available, including wedding packages, Graceland is a magnet for Elvis fans the world over.
The palatial building and grounds showcase Elvis’s personal life in what was once his home. Inside the house itself, visitors get the opportunity to see up close many of his extravagant stage costumes and to browse around his iconic car collection.
Away from Graceland, make a beeline for Beale Street in Downtown Memphis. The area is full of popular blues music clubs and restaurants, including the famous B.B. King’s Blues Club. For grub on the go, look out for the Memphis food trucks, parked up at farmers' markets or standing by the brewery taprooms, offering fresh fried shrimp, barbecued meats, burrito and tacos.
Why not walk off the calories on a historical walking tour of Memphis which includes the Lincoln American Tower and Calvary Episcopal Church. If walking isn’t your thing, the Main Street Trolley is a cheap way to tour the city, accompanied by some amusing stories from the helpful trolley drivers.
You can even take a music bus tour, led by a local musician, who offers up behind the scenes stories, entertaining with songs along the way - you may even feel inspired to take a turn on the tambourine yourself!
For jazz and blues music lovers, as RCI members you can choose from 71 resorts across the US southern states highlighted in this blog that are affiliated to the RCI Exchange Holiday network which could become your home away from home on your adventure stateside. Click on the button below to explore some of them.
If you already own timeshare but don't feel that you are getting the best out of it by returning to your home resort year after year and not having more destination choice, in just a few simple steps you can become an RCI member and start seeing more of the world for yourself. Click on the button below to start your journey...