This post is a continuation of a weekend trip my wife and I made to Nashville, IN in Brown County.
There’s a lot to do in Nashville, Indiana, and there truly is something for everyone. There’s an arts scene with more artists per capita than any other tourist town. There’s music, whether you want musical theatre, live music, or even coffee house singers. And there are some great restaurants with great food. And they didn’t forget you outdoor types, with hiking trails, horse stables, and a gorgeous state park that looks brilliant in the fall.
It was Saturday, December 17th, and I was in Nashville with my wife, Toni, to celebrate our 18 year anniversary, courtesy of the Brown County Visitors Center. We had just finished a light day of horseback riding, dinner, and a musical theatre performance, the previous day. Today was a whole new palette of activities, plus a dinner and overnight stay at a haunted inn in Indiana’s smallest town.
We stayed overnight at the Artists Colony Inn, and woke up in the T.C. Steele room. The weather had been a great fall day, and we had spent enough time walking around, spending time outside, that we had a great, comfortable sleep that night.
Breakfast the next day was great, thanks to the buffet that featured as much bacon as you could possibly want. I’m a bacon fiend, and so anytime there’s bacon on anything, I’m a guaranteed fan for life. And they had a nice selection of eggs, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and of course, sausage (which is a more-than-acceptable alternative to bacon).
The staff was very attentive, and we chatted with our server for a few minutes and got to know her history at the Artists Colony Inn and in Nashville. It was a nice breakfast, and one we didn’t want to rush over. Good food, good coffee, and nice staff, and you’ll want to allow a few extra minutes just to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. And to get more bacon.
And I have to give special thanks to the Artists Colony cleaning staff for finding my cell phone/Kindle charger and having it waiting for me at the front desk the following morning (Sunday), where we returned from a night in Story, ready to pick it up.
Raku is a pottery glazing technique that relies on the unreliability of the colors used to paint the pottery. And we were going to be given a special lesson in raku by noted Brown County artist, Jan Spears, who ran the Spears Gallery on Van Buren Street (the main street running through Nashville).
Basically, to make Raku pottery, there are few different glazes to choose from — a blue, a white crackle, and a copper. The great thing — and most maddening thing — about raku is that its unpredictable in its look after it has been fired. You can have a deep metallic copper, or it can end up green. The blue can be thick and rich, or it can be pale and translucent.
Jan, wife of Larry Spears, the noted potter and ceramic artist, showed Toni and I how to apply the raku glaze, and explained what we could expect to see. She said that less is more when applying raku; that you shouldn’t glop it on and think that you’ll get better coverage or deeper colors just by doing it. In fact, it can run off in the kiln during the glazing process, so we tried to be as careful as we could. I was very pleased with how our vessels turned out, and surprisingly, the one glaze I didn’t think I would like — the white crackle — is my favorite part of the whole piece, and I wish I had just done that for the entire piece, with a hint of blue for an accent. Ah well, maybe next time.
We were still full from breakfast, and we hadn’t checked out, so we took our time wandering around town, before we finally made it to the Brown County Playhouse for a showing of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.
“Jacob Marley?” I thought. “But he was such a minor character. Why do a play about him?”
Good question, and it was one that the Brown County Playhouse was able to answer.
Tom Mula wrote the story about how the ghost of Jacob Marley became the spirit who led his former business partner, Ebeneezer Scrooge, down the path of Christmas redemption and holiday spirit. Performed by veteran actor Ian McCabe, this one-man show gave us a look at Dickens’ Christmas classic from a different pair of eyes. We got to see why Marley was so concerned with Dickens, and what he got to see as he “tagged along” with Scrooge on that Christmas Eve night.
Although Christmas, and the show, have since passed, it’s one that I hope the Brown County Playhouse — newly restored, and still in need of financial support — brings back every year.
But even though Jacob Marley is gone for the year, the Brown County Playhouse will continue on. The Playhouse was closed in 2010, and has since reopened. The staff of the Playhouse are in dire need of financial and volunteer support, especially after the Little Nashville Opry Fire in 2009. Thanks to places like the Playhouse and the Palace Theatre (where we saw a Christmas showcase performance the night before), the theatre can continue to make its presence seen, heard, and felt in Nashville.
The Story Inn can be found in Story, well, IN. It’s a very, very tiny town in Brown County, with 7 – 15 people living there, depending on who you ask. The Story Inn, which is reputed to be haunted, is also the home of the much sought-after Victorian Dinner.
At the dinner, guests are treated to a beautiful candlelight dinner, served by staff dressed in Victorian costumes, and to the sounds of Christmas music on the guitar. Toni and I spent several hours hanging around in Nashville, enjoying the sights and sounds of the little town the week before Christmas. But by 6:00 we were ready to visit Story, and see our room.
Dinner itself was excellent. Victorian fare, as you would expect, expertly prepared, and they stayed true to the recipes and tastes of the era. But that doesn’t mean bland and boring. No, the food was outstanding, and well worth the trip 13 miles south of Nashville.
The Victorian Dinner is a much sought-after event, and getting a table is next to impossible. You can’t just show up and hope to get a seat. You need to call well in advance to reserve your table. We were lucky to get one of the last tables for the night, even working with the Nashville Visitors Bureau three weeks in advance. We even bumped into friends from church who made the 80 mile trip for a special dinner with family.
The one thing you may be disappointed by is that there are no televisions in the rooms, and almost no mobile signal for anyone hoping to catch Netflix on their smartphone. Be sure to take a couple of good books, and someone you enjoy making conversation with.
The Story Inn has been refurbished and maintained where appropriate, but it hasn’t been modernized too much. It still maintains that rustic, country charm (translation: things are still old, so watch where you sit), but it’s a cosy inn on a chilly fall night.
The Story Inn is also haunted, although the ghost — called the Blue Lady — only confines her activities to one room, the Blue Room. Luckily, we were in a completely different room.
Unluckily, we were right next door to that room.
Luckily, the ghost did not bother us for the night.
Unluckily, my wife is married to a guy with a poor sense of timing and humor. Still, other than this one mishap the following morning (seriously, check out the link if you want to see what I accidentally did), we had a great sleep at the Story Inn. And we even had a great breakfast the next day before we had to walk across town to get to our car.
Nashville and Brown County are one of my favorite places to visit whenever I want a quiet day away from the city, or a pleasant weekend away with my wife or the entire family. If you’re looking for something to do, regardless of the time of year, Brown County has something for everyone to enjoy — art, nature, food, music, and theatre. Just drive in and see what you can find.
Photo credit: Erik Deckers (Picasa)
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