Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Day 10: Mount Vernon (which was definitely not designed by Frank Lloyd Wright)

Monday morning we packed up our rental car and moved north in Virginia, ready to take on the nation's capitol. But first - a visit to the home of our first president, George Washington, located just outside of Washington D.C.

While we were on vacation, our neighbors Jeff, Noel, and Tatianna were also on vacation, making a huge driving circle from St. Louis to Niagara Falls to Boston and down to Atlanta and home. We had compared our itineraries, and somehow it ended up we would all be at Mount Vernon on the same day. What are the odds! It took some wiggling to make it fit, but we all met up right before our 1pm tour of the house.

The kids were excited to see each other, and I think Jeff, Carl and I were equally excited to let the four of them go off a bit ahead of us and give us a chance for more grown-up chats.

When you arrive at Mount Vernon, the kids were all given an Adventure Map.

They had fun filling it out, and working together as we went on a scavenger hunt around George Washington's vast property. And when you finish your map, you get a special souvenir pressed penny, "For Free!!" as Ryan put it. The boy loves his pressed pennies. (I like them, too, since they are at most $1.01, and sometimes 51 cents)

Washington's home has been carefully preserved, like Jefferson's was, but unlike Jefferson's, all of the huge outer buildings, slave quarters, blacksmith shop, carriage houses, and various other buildings have all been preserved.

Each plantation was a mini-town, and it was fascinating to see how it was run. We had heard about it at Monticello, but seeing it is SO much better. Alex was especially interested in seeing some slave quarters, so I was glad these had been preserved and maintained.

George Washington's carriage was even still there. Amazing!

It was also interesting to see the archaeological dig going on outside the kitchen. They apparently find all sorts of things on a daily basis, and when you are older, you can go to an archaeological camp at Mount Vernon. Both Ryan and Noel seemed interested in this.

We got to see where Martha and George are buried, outside of the family crypt.

They were originally buried in this old vault, but were later moved to where they are now. Kinda creepy, in my opinion. (I'm also pretty sure this old vault was used in National Treasure 2. They have a special tour related to the movie you can take - you meet here, and then it opens to the secret tunnels. I had bought tickets for this extra tour, but when the time for that tour came up, the consensus from 3/4 of Team Danger was that we were toured out. I'll let you guess which one of us wanted to go on the tour I had spent $5/person ordering in advance.)

The kids other favorite part of Mount Vernon? The farm and animals.

Could they see these animals anywhere? Yes. Did it make it any less fun? Not in the least.

I'm using pretty reluctant to ask strangers to hold our camera, but thanks to Jeff, we were actually able to get a family photo for once on this trip.

Instead of our usual photo of just the boys... or sometimes me and the boys.

You can't take any photos inside the house when you are on the tour, but the one thing that stayed with me was that this house seemed much bigger than Monticello to me. It might be because you only see a one floor at Monticello, and you get to see two here at Mount Vernon - but I don't think so. I'd love to know the square footage of the two homes. Oh, the other thing of note from this tour - he was always "General" Washington. Never President Washington, never Mr. Washington. And I'll end our Mount Vernon recap with our requisite presidential statute photo, which the boys decided was almost as good as the real thing. Okay, boys. If you say so.

After we said goodbye to Jeff and the twins, I had Carl backtrack a few miles to the sign I had seen for the Pope-Leighey House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Many moons ago, when Carl and I were dating, we were spending a weekend in parts of Pennsylvania. We had visited Gettysburg, and we went white water rafting in Ohiopyle State Park. On our way to the rapids, we had passed a sign that read, "Fallingwater." I was so excited - Frank Lloyd Wright's home! - but due to time constraints, Carl said we would stop on our way back from the rapids. Well. Let's just say that Carl's "near-death" experience, as he puts it, meant we didn't stop anywhere on our way out of Ohiopyle. Which meant I did not get to see Fallingwater, and almost two decades later, I have still not seen Fallingwater. Nor have we ever been rafting on any rapids again, either. I have yet to let him forget how close I was to Fallingwater, and its something of a joke with us. Especially every time I see the Lego set in the Lego store for what is certainly the most famous Frank Lloyd Wright house ever. 
Suffice it to say, when I saw a sign on this trip for the Pope-Leighey house, I wasn't going to let hell or high (river rapid) water keep me from seeing this Frank Lloyd Wright house. Well, nothing but the simple fact that it was 4:10 p.m., and they close the house at 4:00 p.m. Mother f@ckers. I did, however, walk past a sign that says "all visitors beyond this point must hold an entrance ticket" and snap this picture.

Which is, apparently, as close to a Frank Lloyd Wright house as I am ever going to get. 

Fortunately, the drive to our new hotel wasn't too much further. And we arrived just in time for our free happy hour, with unlimited wine and beer from 5:30-7:30 p.m. every day, and free unlimited popcorn and other odd snacks. Let's just call us all very happy with the Embassy Suites happy hour.

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