Showing posts from 2015

River Street, the Owens-Thomas House, City Market

Last day in Savannah, last day of holidays... It's coming to an end, peeps!

Allegedly we were going to suffer storms today, but while it was cloudy most of the day, it didn't rain at all, so we got to be outside as long as we needed. Our first task today was to walk the length of River Street, the avenue that runs next to the Savannah River. Unlike Broughton Street, which mixes locals and visitors together, River Street is strictly touristy. The shops here can't hold a candle to the ones in Broughton: here it's all about cheap souvenirs. As always, it was nice to see water, but like all of our previous destinations the coast here isn't much to look at. Industrial buildings, a massive tree tall enough for all those gargantuan freight ships to pass under, the occasional 20-storey big-chain hotel... There is a fun peanut store with loots of different sweet and savoury varieties that you can sample!

All in all, it's the last walk you should take in Savannah, only a…

Bull Street, the Telfair museums, Bonaventure Cemetery

'What a day! Today it was sunny and a balmy 28°C!! Inside a store I overheard the owner say he was from Florida and for him this qualified as "cool". Well, I live in Versailles, and for me this qualifies as August!!

Our main mission today was to walk the length of Bull Street, a scenic street that runs North-to-South across the entire Historic District, all the way to Forsyth Park, crossing some of the most iconic Savannah squares in the process.

Savannah has lots of small squares at the centre of each ward, with beautiful trees and normally a monument at the centre and lots of benches. It's refreshing to see benches everywhere; what with defensive architecture being par for the course now, in Versailles and Paris you barely can find a place to sit outdoors. The thing about these squares, though, is that they're all crazy mismatched in their names and monuments. Let me walk you through it:
Johnson Square doesn't have a monument to Johnson, but to Nathanael Gr…

Beaufort, road to Savannah, Broughton Street

Today we had to leave Charleston behind -I didn't get to take a picture of the pineapple fountain! I'll have to go back- on another gloriously sunny day, but before heading out to Savannah, Georgia, we stopped by Beaufort, South Carolina, at the behest of our guidebook. It's a small town on the coast, and against all logic it's pronounced "BYOO-fert", because reasons.

Well, this section of the guidebook was clearly written by the same guy who recommended the awful Aiken-Rhett House, because it isn't that fancy. Bay Street, which is allegedly its main street, has pretty uninteresting stores and one bookstore specialised in local literature. We had lunch at a restaurant that wasn't anything worth writing home about, and then went house-watching.

This, finally, is a beautiful thing to do there, if not completely worth giving up half a day in Charleston for. There was a neighbourhood of beautiful old houses, impeccably maintained, surrounded by huge, croo…

King Street, Nathaniel Russell House, The Battery

We got off to a rocky start in Charleston last night when we landed at Charleston International (sigh) Airport and went to pick up our rental car. Turns out we had made a mistake in our reservation and booked the car to be returned one day early, and trying to make any change in the reservation resulted in a $400 price hike!! So we're stuck with the original booking and we'll have to spend our precious last holiday afternoon driving to the airport, returning the car, then going back into town, and then go to the airport again the next day for good... Always triple-check your dates, y'all!

Today began equally ominously as it started to rain the minute we left the apartment, but thankfully it only went better from there: the skies cleared and the sun began to shine around noon, and Charleston is sooo beautiful! It's completely different from all the other Southern cities we've visited in pretty much every imaginable way. This, finally, is an actual city with walkable…

The Parthenon, driving to the airport

Today we had to get up bright and early, pack our bags and leave our rental house... We had a great stay here, so we were sad to leave, but we had all morning for ourselves, so we hopped in the car and drove to Nashville's Centennial Park to see the Parthenon.

You read that correctly: Nashville has an exact, full size replica of the Athenian Parthenon. It was built in 1897 as a temporary feature of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, but it proved to be so popular with Nashvillians that they decided to rebuild it as a permanent building in the 1920s. It goes on, though: in 1990 they built a full-size statue of Athena inside the temple, like the original Parthenon had. It looks like they were really committed to being as historically accurate as it was possible back then: the sculptures were all made using plaster molds made directly from the original statues, which are in the British Museum of London. For those parts of the frieze that are missing, they based their design on desc…

The Hermitage, Franklin TN

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 suff…

Country Music Hall of Fame, Broadway, Not The Bluebird

It was a cold but sunny morning in Nashville today. We took our sweet time getting ready and left at around 11 o'clock, headed straight to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum! It's quite a mouthful, and also the best possible first contact with Music City!

The museum is in the heart of downtown, just two blocks south of Broadway (or Lower Broad; Nashville's Beale Street, in short), occupying a beautiful and dashing building. The windows look like the keys of a piano, and I believe the structure looks like a sol clef when seen from above! As many other museums around these parts, it's quite pricey, but at least you get a lot of bang for your buck.

The visit starts on the third floor with an extensive exhibit on the history of country music, with ancient films and recordings, and bios on all the stars of the time. They also have plenty of historical objects that belonged to those artists. Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton... All of them!

The visit …

Stax Museum, road to Nashville, Grand Ole Opry

When I woke up this morning, it was snowing in Memphis!! Just barely, granted, but: bloody snow was falling from the bloody sky! All the Americans who told me the weather would be lovely this time of year: I hold you personally responsible! You know who you are (it's all of you).

Okay, it wasn't too bad in the end, there was no wind so in fact it felt less cold than yesterday. We had to pack our things and leave, but before saying goodbye to Memphis we wanted to make one last visit: the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, in South Memphis, on the former site of the Stax Records label.
Like the Civil Rights Museum, this visit also starts with a short video introducing what you're about to see, except this one looked like it was a VHS tape from the 90s that they just kept replaying. Not that the history of soul has changed since then, but a little update couldn't hurt...

I enjoyed the visit very much, especially because the museum strikes a very good balance between show…

The National Civil Rights Museum, Graceland

This morning we woke up to a freezing 4°C. Yikes!! Come to the South, they said! It'll be warm in Spring, they said!

So we wrapped ourselves in our warmest clothes and made our way against the cutting wind to the Peabody, downtown, just in time to see the marching ducklings! The hotel lobby was already pretty crowded when we arrived. It's a very silly thing to do, but it's also quick and harmless fun: shortly before 11h, the Duckmaster gives a very rehearsed introductory speech about the history of the ducklings, then rides up on the elevator and comes back down with the ducks, who dutifully march down a red carpet from the elevator to the fountain at the centre of the lobby.

The Peabody is only a couple of blocks up from Beale Street, which itself is only a few blocks up from the National Civil Rights Museum. It's really a very short walk, but it felt longer in the chilly wind!
The museum is based on the former Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot…

Road to Memphis, Beale Street

When we woke up today it was a cold, dark, rainy morning, and it's a bit unsettling to hear thunderstorms in the distance when you're in New Orleans! On the other hand, we took a moment to acknowledge how unbelievably lucky we were to enjoy a beautiful, sunny day yesterday: if we'd had this rain instead, we wouldn't have been able to enjoy the plantations the way we did. So we counted our blessings, packed up and left for Memphis, Tennessee.

The roadtrip took us about six hours total, and it couldn't be easier: it was just a matter of taking Interstate 55 and then riding on it towards the north, all across the state of Mississippi, and then across the border to Memphis.

Because the majority of the trip was just a very long, very wide, completely straight road with only light traffic, that left plenty of opportunity to enjoy the sight. Most of the beginning of the trip, in Louisiana, we drove over roads built over the water, surrounded by marshes and swamps. We only…

Oak Alley, Houmas House

Some time ago I decided that we couldn't leave the South without seeing at least one plantation, and what better phase of the trip to see plantations than New Orleans? There are quite a few to choose from: Destrehan, Laura, Nottoway, San Francisco... And then I saw pictures of Oak Alley, and I knew that was a place that I had to see.

We couldn't have been luckier with the weather, as the sun shone down on us as we walked to Canal Street to pick up our reserved rental car, which was a much more painless process than I expected. Then we hit the road following GPS instructions from my phone. I swear I'm not a paid spokesperson for a phone company, but seriously, an international data plan is the best investment you can make for your holidays abroad. I can't tell you how often I've had to use maps to find my way around and the Internet to check opening times.

Riding in a car above the swamps of Louisiana, listening to jazz on the radio, was quite an experience, and it …