A bit of history
We had hardly left the hotel this morning than we came across the historic marker with the story of the Nashville sit ins. We were heading for Woolworths where we intended to have breakfast.
Except the place was deserted, even though according to the website, it opened more than half an hour ago. We looked around, spotting three women chatting at the kitchen door so we attracted their attention and asked if we could get something to eat - please. Everyone sprung into action - in a casually relaxed sort of way - and we were shown to our table. The gentle approach continued…we did eventually place our orders, though my caffeine-free hero was faced with no caffeine-free choices when it came to a hot drink. Whilst the kitchen crew got working on my sweet potato pancakes and his corned beef hash, I scuttled over to Walgreens, opposite, to buy a box of lemon and ginger teabags…
The food was good though the only other person moving was up there on the screen - I don’t think we have ever eaten a meal in quite such an empty space before! Very strange…
Thankfully, the coffee was good - as was the tea we’d brought ourselves! Time to move on, we thought.
We were continuing the historic theme of the day, taking the car out towards The Hermitage, home of 7th US President, Andrew Jackson. We came across the fire engine which had screamed past us earlier attending an incident involving a single car which seemed to have stopped in the middle of the road for no reason. Thankfully the traffic had eased and we continued on our way.
Arriving at the entrance to the park, we bristled slightly at the tag “The People’s President”, for since a similar soubriquet was applied to Diana, Princess of Wales, it has become a bit of a cliche.
We always enjoy visiting Presidential Libraries and though this was not described as such, the concept was pretty much the same.
We - no, I - had no knowledge of the man or of anything he had done beyond his Presidency. I knew the name but that was as far as it went. In the next couple of hours I was the learn a great deal about him and his wife and family, including the background to his “people’s president” label.
After a short introductory film, we set out to walk through the parkland to the house, where Andrew Jackson and his family had lived before his Presidency. It was to this house that he returned afterwards, leaving it in the care of his family following his death.
He had taken advice from Thomas Jefferson when constructing his home. His advice had been to align the house to take advantage of prevailing breezes to keep it cool in Summer and we could see how a variety of considerations had been made to accomplish this.
Another couple was waiting on the porch with a member of staff, awaiting our arrival to begin the house tour. No photographs inside, we were told, but there was just one I requested before going any further.
“I knew you were eyeing those mittens” said my Hero, as I snapped a picture with her (bemused) permission! I recognised the sari waste immediately (I think I have some at home!) but couldn’t recognise how it had been constructed into the mitten fabric, sadly.
During our house tour, we learned about Rachel, Andrew Jackson’s wife. It’s a sad tale and was quoted as one of the first examples of a woman in a prominent role being hounded by critical and disapproving opponents of her husband. She died as her husband was elected president, leaving him heartbroken and bitter towards his political adversaries.
The house was beautifully proportioned inside, nicely furnished with almost all original pieces. It was well presented to us by lively and personable guides and we left feeling glad we’d come. We learned that following his father’s death, Andrew Jackson Jnr lost interest in maintaining the family plantation and declared bankrupcy. He moved his family out of the house, paid his debts and left the estate in trust. We learned that the last remaining parcels of land have just been purchased and brought back into the fold, restoring the original footprint of the estate at last.
Walking back to the exhibition space, I couldn’t resist taking a photograph of these gorgeous oak leaves, still there on the trees when most of the others have fallen. The temperatures have dropped considerably today, there’s a stiff breeze and perhaps the leaves will not last much longer.
We concluded our visit in the shop, answering once again “What brought you to Nashville?” with the answer “British Airways”. Judging from peoples’ reaction, English voices are seldom heard here still and on several occasions today, I’ve had someone remark on “my accent”. They included one woman who followed me to the counter to listen in on a conversation with a shop assistant because “I just love to hear you speak”!
Whilst in this neck of the woods, we thought we would take a look at the Opryland complex, so we crossed the Cumberland River by means of the Old Hickory Bridge. But we weren’t sure if we were heading for Opryland, or the Grand Ole Opry resort or Opry Mills the shopping centre - we would see when we got there!
The drive wasn’t exactly scenic!
When we got there, it was all a little bleak. Though it was surely buzzing with activity yesterday, today there was simply an enormous hotel complex (with gated parking at a bargain $27 per day so we didn’t explore too far) and massive car parks for busy summer days and holidays. We followed the signs to the Grand Ole Opry then; the current alternative venue to the Ryman Auditorium where we had been on Saturday.
Having made the effort to get here, we considered taking a tour of backstage, though ultimately decided that we’d enjoyed the Ryman experience so much, more wouldn’t necessarily be better,
Mooching around the gift shop confirmed that we are Opry’ed out. Yes, it’s fun being here and we enjoy the country music vibe here and there, but perhaps enough is enough.
We also felt that the featured stars in there fitted the theme of the day pretty well: most were a bit of history themselves!