#92: Andalusia

Yesterday, the Traveling Literati (Harvin, Ticcoa, and I) along with Michele and Stephen took a trip down to Milledgeville, GA, to visit Andalusia, the farm where Flannery O’Connor lived as an adult. All of her works were published while she lived on this farm with her mother Regina.

It’s about a three and a half hour journey to Milledgeville from Greer, so we were on the road by 7:30. We arrived at the farm a little before 11. What a beautiful place it is! The house is a two-story, white house with a red roof and a huge screened-in porch with rocking chairs, Southern and inviting (of course!).

Because Flannery had lupus and was unable to navigate stairs well, the front parlor was made into her bedroom. Inside, you can see the bed where she slept and some other original furnishings. There’s a desk and typewriter placed where they would have been when she lived there; however, because those original pieces were donated to the college in Milledgeville in the 80s, the desk and typewriter at Andalusia are period pieces and not Flannery’s.

The best part about Andalusia is the grounds. The house sits on over 500 acres of land still (though we didn’t see all of that, obviously!). There’s a pond at the bottom of the hill, and we walked around it, pointing out all the fish inside. We also looked at the outbuildings still there–a storing shed for milk from when Andalusia was a dairy farm in the 50s; an old house where a family named the Hills lived (which is falling apart–the foundation will soon be raising money to rescue the building from collapse); and various other farm-related buildings. Also, because Flannery is known for having raised peafowl when she lived there, the farm has recently build an aviary and acquired three birds: two females and a glorious peacock.

After leaving the farm, we headed into Milledgeville, stopped for lunch, and then drove to the cemetery where Flannery is buried. We found her grave rather quickly (much faster than when we explored for Thomas Wolfe’s grave in Asheville!), and then wandered around the cemetery. I love old, Southern cemeteries. This one had lots of trees, of course, as well as old gravestones of Civil War soldiers, and a meditation garden, with shrubs arranged in a six-pointed star (Jewish folk, perhaps?).

After leaving the cemetery, we headed downtown to find Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where Flannery attended. We first stopped at the visitors’ center, then walked down to the church. We found several antique shops and a comic book store on the way back, which we stopped in, and we also admired the lovely antebellum architecture. Milledgeville was once the capital of Georgia, before the capital was moved to Atlanta, and the town is quite proud of its history, naturally.

We finally dragged ourselves away from the awesomeness of Milledgeville around 3, in order to drive the 20 miles back to Eatonton, which is the birthplace of both Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. One of the most visited places in Eatonton is the Uncle Remus Museum, which is composed of three old slave cabins. The tour guide who was working was named Georgia Smith, and she was as wonderful as Miss Nannie was at The Wren’s Nest. She told us the story of Joel Chandler Harris, writer of the Uncle Remus tales, and she gave us a lot of history of Putnam County, as well. For example, Putnam was the wealthiest county in Georgia pre-Civil War, but when Sherman marched through and burned all the cotton fields, all the wealth was lost seemingly overnight. No one even grows cotton there anymore because, as Miss Georgia told us, all the farmers are scared after the blight of the boll weevil. Understandable.

The museum also has a lot of history on the Turner family, who owned the plantation where J.C. Harris got his first job writing for a newspaper published by the plantation. At Turnwold, the teenaged J.C. Harris met the slaves who would tell him the critter tales that would later become the stories of Brer Rabbit and the rest of the gang.

The best part about yesterday is that it ended up being a continuation of previous trips. Last March, we visited The Wren’s Nest, which is still one of the best experiences we’ve had at a house-museum. The Wren’s Nest is the home where Joel Chandler Harris visited in Atlanta, so visited the Uncle Remus Museum was almost like getting the prequel to the story. And in January, we visited the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah. Also, as Flannery’s birthday was just this past Thursday, it was the perfect time to visit!

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#76: The Wren’s Nest

It’s spring break at NGU, and for the first time, I have the entire week off. When I found out, Ticcoa and I started planning all these potential daytrips for this week, and she and I, as well as Harvin and Jess took one of them yesterday to Atlanta, GA.

wrens-nestThis beautiful home in Atlanta was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, creator of the Uncle Remus tales (Brer Rabbit, the Tar Baby, etc.). Visiting this place was absolutely fantastic. Our tour guide was a 78-year-old woman, Nannie, who’s worked there for 13 years. She was funny, engaging, overflowing with Southern hospitality, and generally just a delight to be around. She gave us anecdotes from tours she’s given for school children; she also talked up the current executive director (who is 25 and a descendant of both J.C. Harris and Shakespeare) and strongly stressed his young age and English degree to us four girls :).

Seriously, the experience was fantastic. Nannie knows her stuff. We learned so much about Harris’ life from birth to death and about his writing (both journalistic and Uncle Remus). I won’t hesitate in saying that it’s the best author house/museum tour I’ve ever been on (including the one with the delightful Louise at Connemara last year!). I heartily recommend it, and I feel sure I’ll visit again (soon, hopefully…Nannie plans on retiring when she turns 80!).

After leaving the Wren’s Nest, we headed downtown to the Varsity drive-in for lunch. Delightfully retro. And they have great fries.

Next, we got lost with all the freakin’ roads named Peachtree in Atlanta! (And yes, I was driving. I knew we’d get lost…I can’t go someplace without getting lost, it seems.) But finally, we found the right one and headed to the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum in Midtown Atlanta.

Let me sum it up for you: DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME! margaret-mitchell-house

After the fabulous tour at The Wren’s Nest, we hoped for an equally enjoyable experience at the Margaret Mitchell House. We didn’t get it. Our tour guide was, as Ticcoa lovingly dubbed her, an “off-putting cynic.” She preached about the younger generation’s rudeness with cell phones (when we made up half her tour group and had done nothing to provoke the lecture). She tried to be “hip” and use slang that would appeal to the younger generation. She gave more history about Atlanta itself than about Mitchell’s life and writing; in fact, about half the museum was devoted to Atlanta’s most famous native son, Martin Luther King, Jr. (whom I deeply admire…but I’ve seen his house…I was there for Mitchell!). We learned very little from the 50 minute tour, actually. I learned more from reading the displays inside the lobby than from touring the apartment where Gone with the Wind was penned. And, in fact, the apartment contains absolutely no authentic artifacts from Mitchell’s life. It’s an “interpretive museum” with furniture and such from the 20s and 30s when Mitchell and her husband lived there. And after awhile, our tour guide’s attitude and abrasive voice were exhausting. We left pretty disappointed in the whole Margaret Mitchell experience.

But despite that, I had a great time with my best friends. Any day where we can be nerdy English dorks and get excited about literature is a fantastic day. If that day involves miles of driving and a superior photographer, then it’s even better. And I got to mark off my 11th item from The List. Swell. 🙂