Day 45

Trip Start Dec 24, 2011
Trip End Feb 27, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

day 45
Sometimes having to eat just gets in the way. I didn't say that. The weather man said that there was a possibility of snow this afternoon. Apparently the conditions are just right. I live in hope. It is very grey and overcast and the temp is about 34degF. It's a bit after 6:00 am and the news and weather man have just finished, hence the snow report. We are off to Mount Vernon. Mr Washington, no that's General Washington as well as President Washington's house. Breakfast is first. Cereal, yogurt, bowl of fruit, juice, English muffin and grape jelly jam and of course coffee. The robust blend is much better that the drip coffee. This will usually see me through to about three which is usually when we manage to have lunch on most days. Trying to have it early just doesn't fit in.
Where we are staying, the entrance the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Pope-Leighey house is a short stroll up the road, with Mt Vernon about 10 minutes away by carin the oter drection and Fort Belvoir, the army base, is about 5 minutes up the road in the same direction as Pope-Leighey. W e are about 24 miles away from DC and about 9 miles from Alexandria. Not the easiest place for getting to places on foot. The day after tomorrow we'll try the bus and trolley to see old town Alexandria.
A fifteen minute drive and we are pulling into the car park with a short walk to the shop and ticketing desk. We get the house tour and an audio tour for me. There are a few things happening today and hopefully we can join them together. We walk to the house and pass the blacksmith on the way. Mount Vernon is a working historic site. The gardens are kept, however not as the original owner had set up, and much to the dissatisfaction of the traditionalists. There are animals that are the same breed as were on the farm when Washington was the owner.
The smithy is working on fire place tools for one of the people who donates money to Mount Vernon. He is a smith by trade starting his apprenticeship at fifteen. On completing his apprenticeship he went travelling round the neighboring states and finally has a permenant gig at Mount Vernon fixing the exhibits in the manner in which they had been repaired when they were being used. That includes nails! We wonder to the house with the house tour about to begin. We pass through each room with a different guide giving us their perspective on GW, family, the room and the house. Apparently GW had control of the decorating the house except the master bedroom. The colour combinations of green and blue, which were the most expensive colours you could get at the time, are in each of the rooms. The house was built in several stages from the time he inherited the dwelling. While he was mixed up in the war and politics, six years or so, he still managed the farm via reports from his appointed overseer. The rooms are large, given the time, and adorned with some of the most exquisite things, after all, he was very particular about how people viewed him, as he did not have a formal education like his brother, and after all he was the president and a very popular person. What was a three bedroom house was turned into a nine bedroom two storey house to cater for visitors and visiting dignitaries. We proceed through each of the rooms looking at his personal things and imagining what his house would have been like to live in.
We exit the house and join the 'slave' tour. This tour not only gave us an insight into the daily lives of the slaves on the property but an extra insight on how the Washington's ran their staff. The tour guide is very knowledgeable about the Washingtons, but also as we found out later on the Civil War, as she she tells us about particular slaves and the antics they get up to to avoid work and their other duties. This tour is available because it is Black History month. After this tour, we follow the guide to the slave burial grounds for a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument and she explains how this monument came about. We detour to the original family vault, which is just a brick wall with a door in it - behind the door is a dirt mound. Although difficult, there is one African-American lady who can trace her family descendancy back to one of the slaves on GW's farm. We head back to give the current family burial memorial a better look, and then, as the rains gets heavier, we go in search of lunch. The food court offers fast food of every variety - it's cold and wet - I have soup - tomato florentine (with spinach and shell pasta)Peter has a burger. On another table, we see a huge cup of coke - it's called the big gulp, and the cup could easily hold 1.5lts - I struggle to drink 375 mls let alone 4 times that! Gives new meaning to up-sizing! Thus fortified and internally warmed, we brave the elements once more and re-trace our steps - this time to take pictures and visit the last few buildings we missed before lunch. The staff are moved around during the day so that no one puts up with an undesirable post for more than an hour. We meet quite a few, and since there are so few people around, we chat with each one, adding tidbits of information about life at Mt Vernon or the great man himself to our understanding and experience today. With pictures taken, we move onto the museum - just fascinating - we spend perhaps 2 hours, reading, looking, listening and watching - time flies. Peter ducks into the education centre, where he could spend another 2hrs, but closing time is getting nearer and the gift shop awaits - and what a gift shop! Purchases effected, we leave Mt Vernon, virtually as they are shutting the door behind us. GW is famous for a whole lot of things and people recognised his 'greatness' while he was still alive, but he really was an innovative farmer, always seeking new ways of improving what he was doing on the farm. If you ever get to Virginia, Mt Vernon is a must.
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