It was a gloriously sunny day in Nashville today, all the better for daytripping! Our first point of order today was to get in the car and drive to the Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s plantation only about 20 min east of Nashville.
Once on the grounds, they gave us the receiver for an audio tour and ushered us to a theatre. We saw a stocktastic video about the life of US President Andrew Jackson narrated by US President Martin Sheen (what? He is to me!). In stark contrast with Graceland, where Elvis’ life was completely whitewashed -they don’t even say how he died, just tell you the date- the Hermitage speaks about the controversies and deplorable things of Jackson’s presidency a lot more openly and in-depth than I expected. Of course, they highlight his military victories, his temperament and his work securing rights for the common man, but also discuss how he had displaced thousands of Cherokee Indians in what became known as the Trail of Tears, his contempt towards suffragists or his unapologetic slave-owning.
As for the place itself: by comparison with the gorgeous and lavish sugar plantations we saw in Louisiana, this cotton plantation in Tennessee looks austere and cold. It reminded me more of New England, in a way: rolling green plains, red brick houses and white churches, modest furniture… It’s a completely different experience. It’s aesthetically much less impressive, but it’s historically significant.
Talking about the furniture: interestingly, because the plantation was sold to the government by Jackson’s direct descendants, it’s never changed hands and so pretty much everything inside the mansion is original.
Although the grounds are huge, it’s mostly just a green prairie. The small mausoleum for Jackson and his wife is beautiful, but Rachel Jackson’s garden looked a bit dry.
After The Hermitage, since we were driving off, we decided to drop by Fontanel, the mansion of country star Barbara Mandrell, to see whether we wanted to visit. When we got there we weren’t seduced by the surroundings, so we just had lunch at the Italian restaurant there, which was terrible, and promptly drove off as fast as we could!
Our next stop in our small roadtrip all around the Nashville area was the town of Franklin, Tennessee, a small town from before the Civil War that’s been very carefully preserved and now works as an affluent satellite to Nashville. Its town centre is comprised of colonial red brick buildings housing all sorts of chic fashion, stationery, antiques, cafés and, sure, the occasional tourist shop as well.
It was sunny, it was warm, and it was really fun to walk up and down Main Street checking out all the different stores. We also briefly went to The Factory, an old factory on the outskirts of town now converted into an antique/gallery/retail space, but it wasn’t very interesting at all so we just left.
After all this it was still only 5PM, so on our way back to Nashville we stopped by the Tennessee State Capitol to take in the view of Bicentennial Park from above. The park looks nice, but the surroundings weren’t very inviting to get down from our perch. On the upside, Legislative Plaza right in front of the capitol looked stunning with cherry blossoms all around its fountains.
One short drive back and one stop at Mitchell Delicatessen to get a couple of delicious sandwiches later, we’re safely back in our rental house. That was our last day in Nashville, but tomorrow we’ll still have time in the morning, and we plan to use it to check out… the Parthenon!