Mount Vernon & Alexandria

9/22 - Wednesday

The car rental company failed to have the car we ordered available so they tried to give Will and smaller car <grin>. Eventually they gave him a Suzuki SR-7 which is a SUV similar to the Honda Passport. It served us well for the rest of our trip - big enough for 4 suitcases plus carryon and big enough for Will to drive relatively comfortably.

Mount Vernon is approximately 40 minutes from downtown DC - 20 miles down the GW parkway once you leave the DC main circle. It was a lovely day for a drive. Mount Vernon is under maintained under the watchful eye of the Mt Vernon Ladies Association. They finally are beginning to understand that they can learn from treating it as an archeological site as well as from contemporary accounts. Somethings still don't quite ring true (like the way they set the formal table), but they have done well for so few resources. There is no government funding for the site.

You take a guided tour through the house itself - no pictures permitted. There are 2 out buildings as you look at the main house. To the left was the visiting servants quarters and to the right the kitchens. [click to see pictures of the kitchens]. The remaining out buildings are for the functioning of the plantation and have been outfitted to give an idea of their purpose.

While it was interesting to see the living quarters, the most fascinating was the personal study of George Washington. It is filled with his items - books, papers, duplicating machines, survey equipment, Presidential desk and chair, maps, trunks, etc. It really gives you an insite into what how he lived.

Will went down to see the farming exhibition. I poked by nose into the kitchen gardens (remarkably small) and the workers quarters. LOTS of walking. We stopped for a snack at the visitors center and then proceeded back up the GW parkway to Alexandria.

Barbara and Greg are friends of mine from the '80's. Barbara and I both worked at BofA in the same area and we all lived in the same condo complex. I spent many evenings unwinding with them and enjoying Greg's wonderful cooking.

They have just finished renovating a townhouse in old town Alexandria a couple blocks from the water. The basement kitchen and servants quarters date to the 1790's but the upper parts have been rebuilt a couple times in the 1800's and 1900's. The house has 4 stories including the basement and attic levels. Barbara did great on preserving the older feel while blending in the modern elements. It is beautifully done. In addition, they are on a double lot and have transformed the open area into a lovely oasis of calm.

The guest room is on the basement floor and was transformed from part of the garage area. It is a quaint and comfortable room that we called home for a couple nights.

Wednesday dinner was at a local restraurant within walking distance. All of old town is cobblestone and difficult for walking but it is a city that needs to be viewed on foot. The waiter was a delight and the food wonderful. Of course Barbara and Greg are foodies and I've never had a lousy meal with them. Will got to try real southern crab cakes with a hint of creole.

Will and Greg retired early leaving Barbara and I to renew our acquantance. The house comes with 3 cats so I also was able to get my "cat fix".

9/23 - Thursday dawned on the muggy side. We enjoyed a late breakfast out in the back garden which stays remarkably cool and comfortable. Barbara, who is a relator in her current profession, drove us around the historic area and then off to run a couple errands. After, Barbara and Will took a walk around town. I'm not sure who walked whose feet off, but both came back tired and happy. (Barbara is 5'1" and Will 6'5").

Barbara's parents joined us for dinner. This was a big treat for me since I hadn't seen them for 20 years, but alway thoroughly enjoy them. The Colonel is West Point class of '40 and is a wonderful resource on many topics without being stuffy. The mother is a bundle of artistic energy that makes me just tired thinking of her. But what is the best part - is seeing how in love they still are after over 50 years.

Greg cooked a fabulous meal that met all the dietary restrictions of the group. And just for me he made Yorkshire pudding (and yes I snagged the remainder for breakfast the next day). Yummy meal, good conversation, lovely environment -- it doesn't come any better. The evening went by fast <sigh>.

9/24 - Friday. After a lazy start to the day and breakfast in the garden, we packed the car and said our farwells. The drive to Williamsburg was estimated at 3 hours and half a dozen changes of freeway/highway. We made it safely arriving around 4 pm.

Click here for the next installment.

The flags are the US flag, the Univ. of Oklahoma (Greg's alma mater) and the POW flag (see the article on Colonel Rosen for more info.)

The black stars are a type of early rebar. Each star is attached to a rod that goes through the whole house and out the other side to another star. On older brick buildings you will finds this type of construction.

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Photos and text copyright Robin Berry & William Ringer 2004.