The trip began after I only just caught the Stirling train to meet up with Ellen and Kay. We set out early on Monday morning to get the flight for Dublin but were rerouted via London. It was a long 8 hour flight squashed between a rather large woman and a man who had taken his own food. I was happy not to interact with my fellow passengers and just watch movies. So much for my grand intentions to make quilt sketches...
We arrived at the Chicago hotel at the equivalent of 3 am then excitedly ordered a pizza from room service.
Wide awake at 4.30am USA time, I made cups of tea before heading back to the airport to fly into Nashville. Ellen bravely drove the automatic car onto the 5 lane interstate and battled with honking trucks. We made a slight detour and had to ask for directions at a seedy loan shark joint but the guy was very helpful and printed us off a map. There was a brief thunder storm with impressive lightning as we drove into Paducah 2 hours later and found the beautiful Queen Anne style house that we would be staying in.
We dashed straight to the awards ceremony after going to the wrong venue first, just missing a downpour. It was great to see the show quilts on sneak preview night before it became crowded. There were many stunning quilts and some more everyday ones but all admirable in their own right. Kay was thrilled to have had two of her quilts juried into the show, "Flower of Scotland" and "The Horse". She met many friends and fans over the next few days. Our British accents were much admired and we picked up as many local phrases as we could to use in conversation later. I loved "Robber's Roost by Joanne Baeth, Oregon. Some of my favourites were not prize winners. As a quilter, I felt both overwhelmed by the skill on display but I also felt that I could create equally valid work.
It was lovely to meet online friends and friends whom we had met at other shows.
Despite having had a long day, I still woke at 5am to make cups of tea, keen to get to downtown Paducah! I enjoyed a Jesse James breakfast at the Gold Rush Cafe despite the copious, weak coffee and then enjoyed rummaging in one of the amazing junk emporiums where Kay and I bought 1930's quilt tops for $40. This turned out to be a great bargain as there were similar flimsies for sale in town ranging from $150-$500!
The next mission was to view all of the quilts and vendors upstairs at the show and in The Pavilion. It was really busy and after a while I glazed over as everything seemed to blur together in a massive quilt overload. It was time to wander back into town for a refreshing craft beer, mosey around town then walk back to our house. Later we walked back into town for a pleasant supper at The Italian Grill wishing that we had been wearing a pedometer to see how far we had tramped. Despite wearing my comfy Docs, my feet were aching.
The next morning we breakfasted at another local diner before heading out to Hancocks.
After a reviving ginger lemonade and Elvis cookie we visited the National a quilt Museum. It is a purpose built museum with temperature controlled archives. A selection of American Quilt Society prize winning quilts was on display in spacious, well lit galleries. SAQA's "Food for Thought" exhibition was in one wing; old and modern 9-patch quilts were in the other wing.
I had an impromptu meeting with representatives from the AQS Museum, tourist board and the Mayor to discuss my offer of donating the Scottish Yurt to the City of Paducah. They were incredibly enthusiastic and spoke about how they could use the Yurt for a variety of festivals and educational projects. It was refreshing to meet such visionary people who are happy to commission their own wooden frame and pay for me to ship the coverings. We briefly discussed the possibility of publishing some sort of book and patterns to recreate the panels. I am delighted to have found such an appreciative foundation at last that will curate and celebrate the Quilted Yurt. It really is amazing where that project has led me...
After a deserved glass of wine we headed back into town, meeting a couple of re-enactment Confederate soldiers. The lower ranked soldier advised me where to look for Moonshine. He told us in broad Kentuckian that he was "packin' a drum cos his friend couldn't carry it for himself". We enjoyed an excellent supper with live music at JP's and by the time we walked all the way home we were so exhausted we could barely move. We decide that it was because we are so unaccustomed to pounding pavements.
There was so much to fit into our last day that I felt obliged to wake up at 5 am again.
We encountered a Mrs. Overall at the Gold Rush who sloshed coffee and gravy all over herself and unwary customers. It was our last opportunity to catch up with folk from APQS and other online friends, before buying thread and other last minute purchases.
We drove to Nashville, rather wishing that we had a Satnav to direct us. We were met by "Indian Elvis" at the front desk of the hotel the headed into downtown Nashville, flashing with neon signs. There was loud live music everywhere, cowboy boot shops and plenty of hen/stag parties.
My gold boots matched the shiny satin decor at our more basic hotel. Before even reading a whole chapter of my book, I fell asleep.
On Saturday morning we has a slower start, watching marathon runners from our hotel window. I thought it would be quiet downstairs so I nipped down to fetch some breakfast in my PJ's and boots. I had not expected to enter a crowded elevator, walk past some cowboys then negotiate a buffet full of fully dressed people. I felt like trailer trash!
The town was already heaving with people at 10am live bands competed with each other to be the loudest. We wandered around for a while, stopped for a reviving beer then took in the Tennessee State Museum which taught us much about the American Civil War. There were even a few vintage quilts and a reproduction settler's cabin. It became hotter and hotter so we felt that it was necessary to stop and drink cocktails and people-watch at the Hard Rock Cafe for a couple of hours.
On Sunday we headed to Franklin, a small town outside Nashville. There was a tremendous crafts and music festival in the Main Street. We all managed to buy some handcrafted souvenirs and enjoyed a generous slice of pecan pie in Merridee's coffee shop.