Friday, August 19, 2005

Finding My Way In Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland


Weary travelers with confused looks and wrinkled maps are common sites on major city streets, say, Manhattan. One doesn't expect to see tourists with looks of frustration and weariness within a resort trying to find their room , unless they are staying at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville.

It's quite impressive that nine-acres of lush landscaping complete with a winding river and waterfalls are housed within a climate-controlled glass dome. I imagine it being a modern Biosphere 2. But unlike the Biosphere 2, the inhabitants could find their way within, and even (controversially) out of the dome with ease. Not so at the Opryland.

I had heard that the Opryland had a very confusing layout. Being navigationally challenged myself, I was curious as to how complex it could be. Little did I know that accepting my room key and map was like accepting a challenge. Something like "The Amazing Race." My smuggish road warrior instinct kicked in upon deciding that if families who travel once a year could navigate the maze, I certainly could do so.

I navigated fine through the first atrium only with minor barriers. Some tourists were taking pictures of a walking plant and wouldn't move so I inadvertently rolled my suitcase over Pa Kettle and knocked over Ma Kettle's sweet tea. I drudged on to be tripped up by the two mini-escalators that seemed to go no where.

Despite directional signs, the Opryland management is aware that getting lost is an issue (although, I don't recall seeing a "lost and found" nor a "lost child center.") because there are plenty of Opryland staff dotted within the complex to assist wary travelers. Of course, it would be real hospitable if they carried trays of lemonade or water, but I deviate...

With the assistance of a proper Southern gentleman, he walked me to my elevator where I finally reached my resting point. I missed most of the conference sessions because I could not find my way to the conference area nor to the specific meeting rooms. But, I did find my way to the evening events, which included performances by Donna Summers, BJ Thomas, Phil Vasser and LeeAnn Rimes (pictured above).

Despite being a tad overwhelming, the Opryland's staff does Southern Hospitality right to make every guest feel welcome. But next time, I'll be bringing a GPS. A trail of bread crumbs doesn't work - the staff cleans it up too quickly.

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