After spending 12 days in Nashville, what “impressed me most” were the city’s residential streets lined with lovely homes of all shapes, sizes and architecture. They were made even more inviting to explore on foot by their large porches.
Not only did I love the porches, but I loved the rocking chairs and porch swings that adorned most of them. They create a unique sense of place that said sit, relax and watch the world go by. While I didn’t see a lot of people sitting out on the porches, those that were, always smiled and said “Hi.” It created a wonderful welcoming pedestrian streetscape.
Urban vs. Rural
Nashville’s residential streets are also unique in that they look like rural community roads with few sidewalks and roadside mailboxes. It was very surreal to be in the middle of the city and see these country mailboxes. A Facebook friend told me it is very common to have mailboxes next to road in the south. You learn something everyday!
Another defining feature of the streets was the number of flags flying from the porches, not just American Flags, but most often university flags. And not just local universities but often out of state. It always amazes me how proud (perhaps fanatical) Americans are about their alma mater.
Walk at your own risk?
What was really strange is how many of the established neighbourhoods didn’t have any sidewalks, or sidewalks that stop and start for no reason or just on one side of the street. As Shania Twain once said, “you don’t impress me much.”
We were constantly being told nobody walks in Nashville, they drive or take Uber. But that didn’t stop us. I walked 45 minutes from downtown to our Airbnb in the early evening, about the same distance as walk from my West Hillhurst house to downtown Calgary. We walked 20 minutes to the grocery store, which we were told was unheard of. FYI: Most Nashville Airbnb ads don’t list the walk times to amenities or transit stops, it was much more common to list the Uber cost.
And, I am not talking about new suburban neighbourhoods, we were staying in 12 South a very trendy community just blocks from restaurants, cafes and shops (included Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James), yet there was nobody walking expect along the few blocks of pedestrian oriented shops and a few dog walkers.
If we went to 8th Ave South, (which also has several restaurants and new condos) or other trendy areas it was the same - sidewalks seemed optional. And while there are signs saying motorist are suppose to YIELD to pedestrians it also seemed optional for motorist to stop.