Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I'm back

Virginia is a beautiful state, full of magnolia trees which fill the air with a perfumy scent that makes me wish I could have one or two of them right in my own backyard. The surroundings are green and lush with flowers everywhere and colorful songbirds flying all around. Settlers who arrived from the Old World in the midst of springtime must have initially thought they had found paradise.

Our first stop was Mt. Vernon. The home and plantation of our first president is quite beautiful and serene, nested high on a hill overlooking the Potomac River. The spacious mansion is three floors (tourists are only allowed to walk through the first two floors.) No one is admitted to the third floor for whatever reason. The house is full of interesting things and wonderful etchings depicting various historical events. George Washington was a man of many interests, and also a very private person who did his best to keep his family and home life separate from his public life.

Here is a view of the back of the house (left) where we sat for awhile and just enjoyed the view. The weather was wonderful, breezy and in the mid 70s. I am glad that we didn't wait till the end of our trip to visit Mt. Vernon as it was in the 90s the last two days of our trip. The house is air conditioned now, but there is a lot of outside walking to do to see the stables, greenhouse (right) and gardens, orchards, farm, coach houses, etc.

Washington's tomb is on the grounds of Mt. Vernon, his wife Martha buried alongside of him, his stepchildren and other family members are buried in the tomb, also.

To the
left is the home of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello). Jefferson's mansion is big, but there is no wasted space at all, no big staircases or huge hallways. Jefferson was very practical and efficient, making every inch of his home useful. We could only tour the first floor of his home because the stairways to go upstairs were too narrow and steep, and they do not want people to get hurt on them. Jefferson was big on knowledge and was continually educating himself. He was fluent in seven languages, and read books in their original language. He believed much was lost in the translation of literature, which is very true. Much is left out or altered when translated from one language to another. Jefferson loved books and his library collection was large.

Ironically, both Washington and Jefferson believed in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and devoted their lives to upholding freedom and justice, yet both owned many slaves, releasing them only in their wills upon their deaths.

While visiting with our daughter for a few days, we toured the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. James Monroe is buried there (grave left) and also John Tyler (right). James Madison is also buried here, but we couldn't find his grave and didn't feel like going all the way back to the office to get a map. The cemetery is full of those magnolia trees, and the air smells so good. The cemetery overlooks the James River. It's a beautiful place.

We also saw the state capital building in downtown Richmond. Had to be searched before entering, even our camera bag, purses, etc. which is sad, yet understandable in today's world. This building combines the old Confederate capital and a new capital built around it.

After leaving our daughter's place, we went on to Williamsburg which turned out to be a huge tourist trap. The information center resembled a large train station, with stalls for humans to be herded up to counters to choose which package they wished to squander their money on. To be able to even walk through the town of Williamsburg, one must buy at least the minimum ticket. There is no access to parking around the area without a ticket of some sort. So we said screw that part and went to Jamestown and Yorktown where we could buy tickets separately and there were free parking lots at both places.

Jamestown was very much smaller than I expected, and there were two of the usual three ships docked there that people could take a tour of. We went on the Susan Constant (pictured below) that was the biggest of the three ships. The other one was a tiny ship called Discovery. The ship, Godspeed was on the James River in Richmond for special events, and is where our daughter played with the orchestra on the dock in front of the ship. (Godspeed pictured above)

There was a small re-created Jamestown fort and buildings complete with actors in character doing chores and activities just as if they were back in the 1600s. It was very interesting, and lucky the weather was still cool or I would have roasted in the heat and humidity. I don't do well in extreme heat and humidity.

We went on to Yorktown Victory Center which was a Revolutionary War site. There is a recreated military camp and also a farm area with re-created buildings from that time, along with actors to tell about life in Yorktown during that time. There were also farm animals walking around, including a turkey that got pissed off when I got a bit too close with my camera. It turned its backside towards me and fluffed out its tail feathers and started gobbling. I am not really crazy about animals other than cats, dogs and Bearded Dragons.

Lastly, we went out to Virginia Beach and then the day after to Cape Henry Lighthouse at Fort Story. Virginia Beach is a boring version of Atlantic City, though the beach is very nice, Atlantic City and Brigantine Island Beaches were more fun, and more things to see and do, and more reasonably priced food places, places to go buy a lemonade. Virginia Beach is more "resort-ish".

The day we went to Virginia Beach was warmer than most other days on our trip, but the last day we went to Cape Henry lighthouse, it was hot and humid and I managed to get sunburned. Going back on a military base was like deja vu...and brought back lots of memories of our days when my husband was in the Air Force and we spend a lot of time going on and off the base, each time having to be waved through, and even stopped at times for the little "war games" the MPs play. We were stopped at the entrance to Fort Story, but it was no game. We had to get out of our van, open all the doors and glove boxes and engine hood and step far back away from the vehicle while military personnel made a search of everything. Once they were satisfied we didn't have any weapons or anything, we were given a pass and allowed to go on to the lighthouse and beach...but no farther.

The cost of going up into the old lighthouse was $4 each and I am afraid that m
y $4 was wasted because when I stepped inside and readied to go up the 172 steps to the top, I looked up and saw a very high, tunnel to the top and became very claustrophobic! I couldn't breath. I had the same reaction in an MRI machine a few years ago. I wasn't claustrophobic when I was young, it's a recent development. I waited in the hot sunshine, dodging the biggest flying insects I have seen since our days in Arkansas while I waited for him to go up, get some photos and come back down.

Afterwards we went across the road for a little lunch in the van, and then walked out the planked trail to the beach where soldiers were training in the sand and water, and m
ilitary families were enjoying the surf on a hot Saturday afternoon.

The next day we drove back to Richmond to have breakfast with our daughter and see her one more time before heading home. I hate saying goodbye to her each time we leave her. That part never gets any easier.

I have other stories but will write them individually as this is getting to be way too long!

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