Ryman Auditorium is known as the “Birthplace of Bluegrass.” // © 2017 Ryman Auditorium
Feature image (above): Spend the night at Monmouth Historic Inn in Natchez, Miss. // © 2017 Monmouth Historic Inn
The fiddlers’ fingers moved effortlessly across the stringed instrument as the other musicians beat their feet to the music. The crowd clapped in time as they stomped their feet on the floor. On this particular Saturday night, the historic Ryman Auditorium thundered with country charm.
Located in Nashville, the theater is known as the “Birthplace of Bluegrass.” Built in the late 1800s, it was the original home of the famed Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 before the show relocated. But each year, the show returns to the historic theater for limited engagements, adding to the allure of the famous structure that has hosted some of the biggest names in American entertainment. It has also been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001.
The music- and history-filled evening was just one stop of many on an eight-day trek across America’s Deep South with Insight Vacations’ Luxury Gold tour. The aptly named Southern Grace tour took us from Nashville to Memphis; followed by Natchez, Miss.; and lastly, New Orleans.
The Luxury Gold tour focuses on creating and offering authentic experiences with local people. To that end, we were able to have behind-the-scenes moments, including taking part in a session with Richard Leigh, a Grammy-award-winning songwriter, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville; touring Graceland with George “GK” Klein, one of Elvis’ best friends; dining at the Elvis Presley Automobile Museum; visiting New Orleans’ neighborhoods; and more.
In Nashville, a trip to the legendary Studio B was extra-special thanks to a 30-minute, choir-style recording session. Guests on the Luxury Gold tour are able to take home a copy of the session. In Natchez, which was founded by the French in 1716, we checked into Monmouth Historic Inn, where we enjoyed a mixology class to learn the taste, science and history behind the South’s signature drink — the mint julep — before enjoying a delectable multicourse dinner.
The tour offered many insights into America’s South; however, because a majority of the travelers on Insight Vacations itineraries are from Europe or Australia, the history provided was basic. I would have liked to have more in-depth information explaining the reasons for the South’s disparities compared to other parts of America. But, overall, it was still informative and fun, giving me a look into life in the southern portion of the country.