“We must be nearly there – I’m sure I can smell the tang of catfish on Dolly’s breath guiding us home” – N.
Things didn’t get off to a good start. I chose the motel because the website said it was only a mile from Dollywood. What it didn’t say was that that a) we would have to play chicken across four lanes of traffic twice a day if we wanted to eat anywhere other than Dolly’s Dixie Stampede and b) that mile is really only as the crow flies; if the crow happens to be walking with blisters in his new Converse, it’s a good three-and-a-half mile trek under a blazing Tennessee sun. Imagine then, dear reader, how grumpy we were when we eventually got there. Now Dollywood may welcome 2.5 million visitors a year but glitzy it ain’t. My first instinct was to go round and give the whole thing a good clean and a fresh coat of paint. There are only about three rides and the place is 90 percent given over to souvenir shops and outlets serving gargantuan portions of fried pig and chicken. Lord knows, I’m no sizeist but I’ve never seen so many people on “fat carts” – you know, those little buggies people drive when they’re too large to walk without putting strain on their joints. We kept having to fight the urge to snatch food from people’s grasp, shouting “NO, you’ve HAD ENOUGH!” Genuinely scary. As was the “History of Country Music” show. Oh it started off harmlessly enough, I grant you, with a band playing country covers and some fake interaction with pre-taped segments featuring various “stars”. But then, from nowhere, a man appeared brandishing a huge American flag and we were all told to stand up and shout out our hometown and state while the guys on stage sang a rousing song about “Lovin’ our country”. Terrifying. On the plus side, though, we did get to see Jessica Andrews who sang the theme tune from “Sue Thomas, F.B. Eye” (I was particularly proud of the fact that I knew the chorus and could sing along). Don’t get me wrong, there were some good bits. The Dolly museum is massive – did she never throw anything away? – and really well put together, and we went to a show featuring her uncles and cousin Debbie Jo that was brilliant. We had fun and stayed all day (ok, we couldn’t face the walk back) but I don’t think it’s a “must see,” unless you’re really into pulled pork and Claire’s Accessories.