My travels in America began in Nashville, giving a talk in their amazing new convention centre to some 2,000 people. With new hotels and the feeling of energy and business, Nashville has other sides apart from the wonderful Honky Tonk street. Southern hospitality proved more than true and a whirlwind trip from old houses, such as Cheekwood to private homes, much laughter in the evening preceded a too early start to travel towards Williamsburg.
Williamsburg was a revelation. I dined with Thomas Jefferson, rode in a carriage, walked through cold clear streets, through where the dreams and challenges of America began. Bill Kelso at Jamestown rolled back the awnings over archaeological digs where brave travellers first cooked and survived – just. I went to House of Burgesses and sat quietly in the room where Carnarvon ancestors, the Lees, came to debate and discuss early legislature. It was an extraordinary coincidence of the where the fictional “Downton Abbey” had led me through the real stories at Highclere to the real stories of America in a town conserved through a special man’s vision. It was humbling to understand the scale of the generosity and determination of the the Rockefeller family to try to share the past, to preserve it and to underpin the importance of understanding and history. I left feeling inspired, whilst learning that Thomas Jefferson was now entertainingPresident Obama and Mr Hollande at Charlottesville.
Even better I had signed perhaps some 600 books for readers at a talk – I hope they are immersed in her story, laugh, cry and are as fascinated by “Lady Catherine” as I have been.