My former editor, Judy Christie, now a popular fiction writer, interviewed me for her book column in the Shreveport Times. We talked about reading books while traveling and books about where to find the best local food while on the road.
I’m not a whisky drinker, but I do like a good factory tour.
I’ve watched ice cream being made at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont and Blue Bell deep in the heart of Texas and Tabasco in my home state of Louisiana. Then, I sampled some ice cream with Tabasco at Tabasco’s headquarters in Avery Island.
So I was game when traveling with family earlier this month to the George Dickel Distillery in Cascade Hollow outside Tullahoma, TN.
It’s a homier feeling than the much larger Jack Daniels Distilery, just 17 miles away in Lynchburg.
One of the many interesting tidbits that I learned on the tour was the fact that the ethanol in the whisky causes a black fungus to grow on the bark of the trees near distilleries and their warehouses. It was this blackening that led authorities to the moonshiners back in the day of Prohibition
Regular tours at Dickel are free but we opted for the extended tour that includes complimentary sampling. (Jack Daniels has a similar setup). Our $10 tour price at Dickel bought us samples of four different aged blends. I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t care for any of them.
But I do recommend the tour for the fascinating history of whiskey/bourbon distilling in the United States and the beautiful Cascade Hollow setting — a thin valley with a quaint stream, created from the spring that is the water source for Dickel’s operations , right in the middle of Tennessee walking horse country.
I try to make a trip to the local farmers market when traveling and such was the case on this month’s trip to Nashville. It was too early for local vegetables but prime planting time. The hopping spot was a place called Gardens of Babylon, a permanent garden and landscape center that anchors the south end of the market.
Still, I didn’t come away empty handed. Here are a few random highlights.
Chess Pies: This is a Tennessee thing. Since it was my birthday, my sister-in-law and travel mate let me pick out any pie or cake from the Schrock’s Family Farm & Bakery booth. The array ranged from caramel cakes to Hungarian coffee cake, but I picked the simple buttermilk chess pie, which didn’t disappoint.
Another Amish booth had an array of cheeses . And there were cobblers everywhere. You could almost call this market the Nashville Cobblers Market. There was so much of it available.
The Market House Restaurants & Shops had a great store specializing in hard-to-find Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean groceries and even booths specializing in Mississippi-style tamales and another touting “a little bit of Louisiana (jambalaya, étouffée, etc.).
Cutest Vendor Name: not really a vendor but a sign I noticed promoting an upcoming musical event: Turnip the Beet.
Batch Nashville: It was fun browsing this booth, which started as a monthly subscription service featuring a sampling of locally produced products. I couldn’t resist the story behind Thistle Farms, a social enterprise of women who have survived prostitution, trafficking and addiction and are now making natural bath and body products. I came away with a couple of lavender bath gels.
Spring has become my favorite season in the south. Fall is hit or miss, mostly summer morphing into an icky cold winter. In nearly 58 years, I barely need two hands to count the significant snows I’ve experienced. So winter is no good here. And let’s not even mention summer.
But spring delivers every year. Yellow daffodils poke out in late February. Soft pink dogwood blossoms, though fewer than in the past, float in mid-air. Azaleas color the landscape in shades of red and pink. And, tulips in a riot of colors demand attention. It’s worth it to take a day and seek out the most outlandish display and soak it all in. Today, my daughter and I made a day trip to Garvan’s Gardens just outside Hot Springs, AR to see the Spring Tulip Extravaganza with nearly150,000 bulbs. It’s supposed to be the showiest display between Memphis and Dallas. Though we were a few days beyond the peak, we were glad we made this trip just three hours north of Shreveport.
We ended our trip with a visit to the beautiful chapel in the woodlands, an appropriate stop to remember what Christ did for us on the cross two thousand years ago!