Day 46

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

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Flag of United States  , Virginia
Thursday, February 9, 2012

day 46
Slow start again this morning - we're taking it a bit easier since we're in Virginia for about a week. After breakfast and a discussion with the manager about places other than fast food to have dinner, and the best way to get to Old Town Alexandria and Washington DC - she was very helpful and gave us some useful brochures - we crank up our navigation girlfriend and set direction for Manassas National Battlefield Park - not far, about 40 mins drive. It's north-east of our hotel. Compass directions are very important in the US and we haven't quite got the hang of it yet. We arrive with 10 mins to spare to watch an introductory film, which helped orient us and was very interesting. Manassas was the site of 2 battles - called different things by the 2 sides - you may recognise it better as the battle of Bull Run - but there were actually 2 battles here - the first one was the first significant battle of the Civil War - both battles were won by the Confederate army (the south). From the film, we moved into the museum - really wonderful displays and an interactive map of the first battle which centred on Henry Hill. As we finished here, we were in time for a personal explanation (there was no one else there for his tour) from a park ranger of the second battle of Manassas, using the 3D topographical map in the museum - he went into the events which led up to the battle and discussed the personalities of each of those in leadership positions, when he discovered we were not Americans (despite Peter's New Jersey hoodie). As he finished, they announced a walking tour of Henry Hill by another park ranger - I have to say, all park rangers really know their stuff - and I know it's their job, but it's more than that - we've been really fortunate to have met such committed, knowledgeable people - out into the cold wind we go and join another couple prepared to brave the elements and walk around this exposed hill - again, Peter's hoodie sends an incorrect message, and when the park rangers hears us speak, he assumes that we are from 'across the pond' - I don't have the heart to tell him that it's the Pacific pond, and not the Atlantic pond - once again, he really knows his stuff and answers all the questions the other couple ask - and they asked lots. We visited the Henry house - the old woman who lived here was the only civilian casualty of the first battle and she is buried in the family plot in the backyard. When her son took possession of the house as his inheritance in the year following her untimely demise, he discovered that the Union army had erected a monument to the killed, wounded and captured Union soldiers of that first battle. Just what you want in your backyard, particularly if you have Confederate leanings! We also stopped at the statue of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, who acquired the nickname 'Stonewall' in this battle - because he and his troops faced the Union soldiers like a 'stonewall', according a Union leader, who sadly died in this battle - therefore, the legend lives on unchallenged. We finished up about 3 pm, and decided against doing the entire battle driving tour, but made 2 stops - at the Stone House, significant during the 2nd battle as a Union field hospital, behind which the Union leader, Pope made his headquarters. Our other stop was the Stone Bridge, across which the defeated Union army withdrew toward Washington's defences (the city). Lots of information to process - but a thoroughly enjoyable day. Homeward bound, with navigation girl, and afternoon tea since we completely missed lunch - the park visitors centre doesn't have any food facilities. Up the street from the hotel is a cupcake shop, so after parking the car and purchasing four delicious-looking cupcakes, we help ourselves to the coffee available in the hotel's foyer and consume a delightful snack before dinner. As a result of our chat with the hotel's manager, we ring Cedar Knoll Inn to make sure that they're open for dinner and armed with navigation girl, we head out. 20 mins later we arrive at a wonderfully old building with a view of the Potomac out the front windows. We are seated at a table where we would enjoy the view if we could see it in the dark. However, this does in no way diminish my delight at dining with real cutlery (instead of the plastic variety) and on real china, with real broccoli and carrots. I order a baked pecan crusted salmon (Maine, I think), which is served with the aforementioned vegetables, and a serving of linguini tossed with fresh spinach leaves, liberally sprinkled with parmesan - am I in heaven, or what - tasted as delicious as it looked. Peter ordered a 12 oz New York cut angus beef - rare - with broccoli, carrots, onion rings and baked potatoes, doused in a Bordeaux wine glaze - he couldn't have made a better choice. Both of us had a glass of Californian wine. Peter always has dessert, and tonight's choice was creme caramel - as official taster, I can say this one was closer to the real thing, almost as good as mine! We really enjoyed the ambiance, and the food - there is something more than fast food! The Inn itself is on farmland once owned by GW, and is only a mile north of Mt Vernon. We have enjoyed ourselves today. I wonder what tomorrow holds?
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