Oxfordshire schoolgirl, and budding country artist, Susie Corfield, from Long Hanborough, made a pilgrimage to Tennessee, to pay homage to the music she loves. This is her diary......

Well! Susie and I are back from our adventures in Nashville, writes Susie's dad, Richard Corfield.

It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure and no sooner had we arrived did it seem that we were climbing on board a plane to come home.

Nothing seemed to go straightforwardly: from my car dying the week before our departure and the wonderful Peter Oliver of Oliver’s Garage in Long Hanborough stepping in with the offer of another car – which I have now bought!

Even the coach journey to Heathrow was exciting with our coach driver – who was obviously an aficionado of the Mad Max movies - swerving savagely to avoid a car which pulled out directly in front of us. He ionized the air with expletives and Susie’s vocabulary was instantly expanded.

US Airlines was woeful. Food portions you needed an electron microscope to see, gin and tonics priced at a level that only executives from the Royal Bank of Scotland could afford. Then stranded on the runway at Charlotte because of snow. The passenger terminal was bedlam – queues running the entire length of the building in multiple rows and then – if you were lucky – the offer of a cot in a departure hall at the end of it all, since all the hotels in Nashville were booked up.

Susie and I elected to hire a car and found the very last one available at the airport. An hour’s skidding around in drifts of snow up to two feet thick (North Carolina’s Highways Department makes our own Oxfordshire County Council seem the model of Swiss efficiency in snowy weather).

And then we arrived in Shelby, North Carolina for the night at a deserted motel that had everything but the word ‘Bates’ on the sign board.

Susie’s blog takes up the story.

Highways and snow

Well! What a day that we have had!

We have ended up in the town of Shelby just about 40 miles west of Charlotte, North Carolina and stayed the night in relative comfort despite the fact that dad say’s the desk clerk reminds him of Anthony Perkins and not to go down into the cellar. I can’t think what he means.

This morning we woke up with the snow lying deep and crisp, and decidedly uneven because Americans don't seem to have discovered snowploughs yet.

We set off into the Smoky Mountains. It reminded us of Germany's Black Forest we often visit, except that the trees were denuded and brown and stood out starkly against the crisp snow between their trunks.

After several hours driving, we needed to refuel. We stopped near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee – a place made infamous as the production site for the plutonium used in the atomic weapon used on Nagasaki.

The garage itself was not much more prepossessing since the proprietor looked like an extra from Deliverance and the loos made Paris’s meanest offerings look like an advert for the future of plumbing.

A little further down I-40 we stopped in Lebanon, (yes Lebanon) where we visited a cowboy outfitters, and dad bought cowboy boots and matching hat. I am continuing to search for something really eye-catching in the footwear line.


Richard comments: Then on to Nashville Airport where we negotiated with Alamo car rental over our impromptu hire of a car in Charlotte rather than in Tallahassee. They were easily as accommodating as a Syrian Peace Delegation so I now have to phone Opodo in England and then return tomorrow morning for another trip across the broken glass of American condescension.


Nashville at Last I love Nashville! If I could I would live in the Opry House. But we’ll get to that.

In the morning my dad and I went and explored Nashville and wound up going to the Ryman Auditorium for a tour. The Ryman Auditorium was the fifth home of the Opry Radio Show, it is also the most famous.

We had a fantastic tour guide, Danielle, who took us all through the dressing rooms and around the inside of the Ryman. Known as the ‘Mother Church’ of country music the Ryman doesn’t disappoint.

We then went back and explored Broadway - and discovered a lovely bar to sit in. It is called Margaritaville and honestly, it is brilliant. Everyone there was really lovely and our waiter, James, was a pleasure to talk to.

We stayed there for a while and then left to find our hotel. However we didn’t stay at the intended hotel because we couldn’t find it (Nashville is ridiculously hard to navigate) and ,anyway, from what we were told it was in a very bad area of the city. We decided to stay put at the Comfort Inn where we had stopped to ask directions.

At about 5.20pm we drove to the Grand Old Opry because we had back stage VIP passes. It was honestly amazing. We got to see the front entrance that the artists enter by, the post boxes for their fan mail and their dressing rooms.

We also sat in the green room where we met a member of the Grand Old Opry who was inducted in 1960. George Hamilton IV is a lovely person who welcomed us and told me that I would soon be back at the Opry – on stage. That made me feel very good!

Oxford Mail:

Our brilliant tour guide Jesse then took us into the wings of the stage as the curtain went up. That was one of the best moments ever!

After we watched a couple of songs from the wings we were shown to our seats. We then sat and watched the rest of the show.

The highlights of the show for me were Bill Anderson Hal Ketchum, Striking Matches and especially little Jimmy Dickens. I hope I sound like that when I’m 93! In short, I love the Opry!

A bit of a rest

Another great day in Nashville. We stayed at the Comfort Inn in downtown Nashville overnight, exhausted because we had got lost on the way back from the Grand Ole Opry and the jet lag was catching up with us.

We had changed cars on the Saturday morning and this one did not have a GPS. We almost went for a Mustang but decided that we wanted to save money for seeing and hearing more country music here in Music City.

First we went to Wal-Mart where we spent about an hour looking for T-shirts that were not extra extra large and looked like tents on us. I also went makeup shopping at which point dad seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth.

When we finished in Wal-Mart we headed downtown to Broadway where we attempted to find somewhere to sit down and eat.

Dad sat and chatted to the bartenders while I explored the boot shops. I looked in Boot Country, Boots ‘n More an Betty’s Boots. Betty’s Boots was amazing and I found the most gorgeous pair of Dan Post boots. However they were $410; that's $270 out of my price range.

Carter’s Vintage Guitars

The highlight of yesterday was ,without doubt, our visit to Carter’s Vintage Guitars on 8th Avenue where we were surrounded by so many beautiful instruments it was almost unbelievable.

They allowed me to play a 1902 parlour guitar which had a most amazing mellow sound, it was like swimming in birdsong. They also let me try out an Eastman Arch-Top which I used to sing Taylor Swift’s Stay, Stay, Stay.

To be in Nashville playing my inspiration’s music on a classic guitar… …Bliss!

There were also some very talented musicians testing out the guitars, including some particularly good mandolin players. Once dad had prized my fingers off the guitars we made our way to the Fiddlers Inn. The hotel is right next to some western outfitters.

I am very happy!


I got my boots! I bought a gorgeous pair of brown and turquoise Dan Post boots. They were fairly expensive at $290 but are worth it.

The day started for me at about 6am as my stomach began to sound like a dying whale. I hadn’t eaten for about 12 hours since dad had flaked out at 7pm the night before and I couldn’t wake him.

When we woke up we went to the Opry Mills Mall (the shopping centre in which the Grand Ole Opry is located) where I had breakfast at Starbucks. At this point I was so hungry I’d have eaten almost anything edible. A bagel saved me.

Once I’d devoured it we went to Boot Barn where I found the gorgeous boots I mentioned. They fit like a glove.

After that we headed over to the Opry where we had a daytime tour. Once again, it was with Jesse.

It was great to see the Opry in daylight. It is still fascinating and amazing even under the cold grey clouds of the Tennessee winter!

I’m getting used to Nashville!

Leaving Nashville

We left Nashville on Wednesday and headed south into Alabama. It was quite a contrast. There were little stores by the side of the road and some small, poorly-maintained bungalows. You can still see signs of poverty in the South.

We stayed the night in Montgomery the capitol of Alabama. We ate pizza in our hotel room since we were so tired after Nashville. Then it was on to Tallahassee, Florida, for our flight home. We stayed in a small motel again (I am getting tired of motels and am looking forward to mum’s cooking!) Then to the airport in the morning.


I’m glad to say that I am finally home. Although, I already find myself missing Nashville.

The flight home, as expected, was boring and frustrating as our flight to Charlotte got delayed multiple times, meaning we almost missed our connecting flight to Heathrow.

However, when we finally got to Charlotte, after a one and-a-half hour flight that I completely slept through, it turned out that our connecting flight was also delayed - not that anyone thought to tell us.

After waiting around in the terminal for a fairly substantial amount of time, we finally boarded our international flight a lot later than planned.

To be perfectly honest though, I was just happy it wasn’t cancelled. As I anticipated, the flight was extremely boring, apart from the bit when we flew through a storm - lightning and all. That’s really not what you want to see when you’re a few thousand feet over the Atlantic.

Although the turbulence was pretty bad, it didn’t last too long.

The flight was just over seven hours-long and when we finally landed it was about 8am GMT. We got through security, picked up our checked luggage and got on the bus to Oxford where my mum came to pick up dad and I and take us home.

So, as a final note on Nashville, for the time being, I would like to say a huge thank you to all the lovely people we met in Nashville and who made me feel so welcome, it meant the world to me. I would also like to say thank you to my family who made this trip possible and to my friends who coped with me incessantly babbling on about it for months on end.

But, for now, farewell Nashville!

Listen to Susie Corfield on our Oxford Mail MP3 showcase. Click here...