I just looked back at my blog now that the holiday rush is over and I cringed. No posts since October? Has my life been that uneventful since October there's nothing of noteworthy interest?
Mostly, yes. But not entirely.
In early December my husband and I went with a couple of friends to see the Christmas decorations at Opryland Hotel and take a weekend off during the holidays. As it has been in past years, they spare no expense at decorating on a grand scale with giant Christmas trees several stories tall, immense wreaths and ribbons. Throughout the garden areas numerous variations of poinsettias added perfect color to the lush green.
However, I think it may be our last trip to spend the night there. At one point, I was standing in fifth floor hotel hallway with my ear to a house phone, luggage piled around me a full five hours after my arrival at the hotel, feeling a bizarre blend of shock, humor and exhaustion. The front desk clerk was offering me a small hotel room with the only bed being a pull-out sofa bed, a stark contrast to the premium balcony suite with a king size bed I'd reserved. That was the last straw. Despite making reservations months in advance, the hotel completely bungled things up. The room we ended up with wasn't at all what we reserved, and out of the many trips we've made there, I think a trip we made there last summer is the first and only one I can recall where the rooms were actually correct right from the start. How a resort can do so much otherwise right but fail so miserably on the reservations is unbelievable and really inexcusable.
We did discover that there's a few restaurants on the property well worth a return visit. Actually there are three, but one isn't so much a restaurant as a dose of chocolate delight. The Godiva shop sells a concoction called a Chocolixir. One sip and its additive properties take over the taste buds. We discovered these sweet-tooth taunting drinks last summer and made it a point to go back for seconds (well, thirds as we went for two rounds last summer!)
Moving on to the true restaurants. (Chocolate is good but for some reason my body does require real substance once in a while.) The famed Old Hickory Steakhouse isn't bad, but it is definitely over-hyped. We went there for dinner one night and the best course by far was the cheese course. The steaks and side dishes were mediocre at best, and the quality for the cost wasn't what I would expect. The Italian restaurant Volare was quite the contrary, it was excellent! It may have been in part due to our exhaustion, after all, we'd been struggling that first night to get simply checked into correct rooms and were all frustrated and hungry, but the starting with the salads the food was quite tasty and that has to be some of the best fried mozzarella I've ever tasted. Everything at dinner that night was exceptionally good, from the pasta and seafood entrees to the spectacular sampler desert. Our favorite of the deserts was the Ravioli al Marscapone; I'd go back just to have this tasty and unusual delight. In an effort to make up for the lousy experience we had getting our room, one of the managers also provided us with vouchers for breakfast for four at Water's Edge Marketplace Buffet. Ordinarily I'm not a fan of buffets and certainly wouldn't wait forty-five minutes to get a seat but given our lack of choices at the time, we waited. As Alton Brown says "your patience will be rewarded" and in this case, it was. The eggnog bread pudding was definitely something to write home about and for a buffet, the food quality was noteworthy.
I wouldn't however spend the night on a sofa bed to get any of the restaurants mentioned here. I am just now getting over the shock, horror and bodily aches of hauling around luggage for five hours. Maybe the manager should have thrown in a long massage, that might have eased my misery at the time a bit more.
We made one other restaurant stop but it wasn't on the Gaylord Opryland property. On our way out of town, we went to The Cheesecake Factory for Sunday brunch. Thankfully, this one is about as close as they get to my home or I'd be there way more often than I should. I know it's a chain, and while I usually express a bit of chain snobbery, I see why they have enormous profitability per store, in fact is the largest of the chain restaurants in the US. They manage an impressively huge menu and the day we went it was all fresh and fantastic.
It was a worthwhile trip and the decorations are something of a spectacle, especially to those who've never been to the hotel. To really take in the hotel, I recommend going during a different time of year; to get a little taste of the holidays (including getting indoctrinated to the crowds) it's not a bad visit. Just be really, really sure of your reservations and presume they'll be treated as merely a suggestion of what you'd like in a room when you get there.