Thursday, December 15, 2016

Epic Fall Road Trip - Part XII: Virginia and West Virginia

Monday, November 14th:

We spent the next few day exploring beautiful Virginia (with a little bit of West Virginia).

We checked out of our Pentagon City hotel early and headed south to Alexandria, Virginia. When we arrived it was still pretty early and everything was closed. We decided to park anyways and take a look around. 

[Market Square]

[The Carlyle House - Built in 1752]

[Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary]

After exploring this cute little town we continued our drive south to George Washington's Mount Vernon!

The Mansion was constructed by George Washington in stages between 1758 and 1778, which occupies the site of an earlier, smaller house that was built by his father. During the Generals life Mount Vernon consisted of the Mansion (and all the other buildings) plus 8000 acres.

We went on the "Premium Mansion Tour" which took us into the Mansion, the basement and the kitchen with a guide (no pictures, of course).


[Main House] 

[View of the Potomac River from the back porch]

After our tour we explored the stable, the slaves quarters, and the coach house.


Then we walked down to were the General and his wife are buried.

[During the Civil War, Mount Vernon was considered a safe place. So, soldiers from both sides came during the war to pay their respects to the General. Some of them would carve their initials and the date in the brick surrounding the tombs] 

Next, we walked to the Slave Memorial where ongoing archaeological excavations are taking place.

Then we walked down a path to the wharf.

[The beautiful Potomac!]

After checking out the foggy Potomac River, we walked back up to the Mansion for a few more pictures. 

After exploring the grounds we left Mount Vernon and headed west to Front Royal where we drove the Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park.

This road follows the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains for 105 miles. At its southern end it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway, which stretches 469 miles to Great Smoky Mountain National Park (which we see later in our journey).


The drive was very pretty but it was overcast so our pictures didn't turn out very well.

We drove about 40 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway until we reached Highway 211. We took this road west through the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest to Franklin, West Virginia. While we were driving through the National Forest it started to rain which put a damper on our plans.

[Franklin, WV]

There wasn't a whole lot to see or do in Franklin, so we turned around and drove to Charlottesville, Virginia. We checked into our hotel and then went and got dinner at BJ's. When we were leaving BJ's we spotted these two young ladies who were trying to change a flat tire in the rain. They seemed to be struggling so Josh stopped and helped them. Seriously! He's such a stud!

Tuesday, November 15th:

By the next morning the rain had stopped and we were ready to explore Thomas Jefferson's Monticello!

Thomas Jefferson began designing and building Monticello at 26 after he inherited 5000 acres from his father. He lived here and owned the property until he died on July 4, 1826. When he died he had a lot of debt and the house along with all of his possessions were sold to pay his dues. 

[Selfies with Thomas Jefferson]

[The Main House] 

We had signed up for a "Behind the Scenes Tour" of the main house so before our tour started we went into the cellar, walked around the West Lawn, and explored the North Pavilion (carriage house, stables, and the ice house).

[Wine cellar]

[Josh playing with the locks]

[Carriage House]

[Odometer for carriages]

[Josh drinking Monticello Root Beer]

We then went for a walk along Mulberry Row and the Vegetable Garden.

[View of the Vegetable Garden from Mulberry Row]

 [Original structure on Mulberry Row] 

We the took a bunch of pictures outside of the Main House before heading to the back of the house to wait for our tour to start.


[Jefferson installed this inside his house so that he could tell which way the wind was blowing without having to go outside]

During our tour (no pictures please), we went to the first, second, and third floors; saw Jeffersons bedroom (where he died), his study, and his books; went into the dining room, all the bedrooms, and the Dome Room.

We were allowed to take pictures in the Dome Room because there was nothing in it. So we did!


The tour was really great! We learned a ton about Jefferson, his life, and this beautiful house!

After the tour we walked to the Cemetery to see where Thomas Jefferson was buried.

After paying our respect to Thomas Jefferson we walked back to the Visitor Center.

[I love that it's still Fall here!]

We then drove all the way to the Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center in eastern Virginia. We got there right as it was closing, so I got a map, made plans to return first thing in the morning, and we went on a scenic drive around the swampy island (where we saw a ton of deer).

We then drove to our hotel in Williamsburg, dropped off our things, and then went to dinner at Food for Thought. This place was delicious! I got a steak, crabcake, mashed potatoes and cheesy grits! I have never had grits before but these ones were cheesy and super delicious!

Wednesday, November 16th:

We arrived at the Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center right when it opened. We first went through the small museum before heading outside to look around the site. 

In 1607 vessels carrying 104 colonist anchored in the James River where they established the colony of Virginia (with Jamestown as the capital). This particular group stepped on a lot of toes when they landed. Not only were the French and the Spanish nearby, but the island that they claimed as theirs was prime hunting ground for the Powhatan tribe.

We walked around the archaeological site for a few minutes before heading to the Tercentenary Monument for our tour. 

This monument was erected in 1907 for the 300th anniversary of the landing.

Our tour guide was amazing! He was loud, spit when he spoke, was entertaining, and extremely knowledgable about the history of the site! He actually reminds me of Mr. Arrow (aka Sam the Eagle) from The Muppets.

We gathered around the Tercentenary Monument for a few moments while our tour guide told us all about Jamestown.

We then walked over to New Towne were we saw a few ruins and an old street called Backstreete (Frontstreete ran along the river... pretty original, huh?).

[James River]

 We then walked over to Old Towne where we saw were the 1607 James Fort was. Of course, the original fort was destroyed but the recreation they have is very accurate and each post is installed in the original post hole! Yeah! Archaeology to the rescue!

[Memorial Church - also built in 1907]

[Pocahontas Statue]

[John Smith statue] 

 While we were in Old Towne our fantastic tour guide told us about John Smith, Pocahontas, the "starving time", slavery, and the relationship between the colonist and the Powhatan's. 

 After our tour we left the site and headed to Duck Donuts in Williamsburg. These doughnuts are amazing! They are made to order and you can choose any toppings and frosting that you want! We were a bit overwhelmed so we ordered from the "local favorites" list that the owner had.

[Super fresh!]

These were some of the best doughnuts I have ever had! (It seems like I've been saying that a lot on this trip)

After enjoying our breakfast we drove over to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center. We bought a one day pass and tickets for the nighttime Ghost Walk.

We took the shuttle from the Visitor Center to Colonial Williamsburg. When we arrived we headed right over to the Magazine Yard where the troops were preparing to fire the Noon Gun.

After hearing the loud blast we walked west along the Duke of Gloucester Street to the Palace Green so we could go on a tour of the Governor's Palace.


[Governor's Palace]


[Main Hall of the Governor's House]



[The Gardens]

After seeing the Governor's Palace we walked to the Randolph House to go on a tour there.

We then walked all the way down (east) the Duke of Gloucester Street to the Capitol.

I love all these cute historic buildings!


We then went on a tour of the inside where we learned all about the government around the time of the Revolution.

We then walked over to the Jail house and took a quick tour.

Next, we walked over to the Tin Shop and the Blacksmith before attending a lecture about oxen.

[Tin Shop]



At 4:30 we left the oxen and headed west along the Duke of Gloucester Street towards the Courthouse and Market Square to watch the last show of the day: "On to Yorktown and Victory!"

As we were walking there we heard a band coming up the road and saw the soldiers from the noon gun marching down the street.  


We followed them to the Market Square where they lined up and were told about the upcoming battle at Yorktown. Then General Washington showed up!!

We waved goodbye to the brave troops and then headed to the Chowning's Tavern for some dinner.

[Yum! Warm apple cider!]

We had a nice, warm, hearty meal before walking to the Art Museum to kill time before our night tour started.

[Apparently the museum use to be a hospital and insane asylum]

[In the basement there were all these beautiful silver platters]

After walking around the museum we walked back to Colonial Williamsburg where we met our Ghost Walk tour guide.

She took us all over town telling us chilling stories about ghost sightings and hauntings. Turns out the Randolph House (which we toured earlier) is the most haunted of all the buildings! She told us a story about how a security guard quit his job after one day because of what happened to him in that house! Eek!

We were also told about an old shop owner who haunted his old shop and old house. Apparently he doesn't like it when people say bad things about his store or when they stay in his house!

[Bruton Parish Church]

The Ghost Walk was really cool and I loved Colonial Williamsburg. I think you could honestly spend days here and still not see/experience everything. I love how all the people are dressed up and are so polite!

Thursday, November 17th:

We checked out of the hotel and headed to the Yorktown Museum and Battlefield. 

[Josh with the General]

We didn't have time to wait to go on the walking tour (you know how much I love tours), so we went on a self-guided driving tour around the battlefield. 

During the tour we saw the British Inner Defense Line (where Cornwallis pulled his troops back to after Washington and Rochambeau's troops arrived), Redoubts, the Moore House (where the terms of surrender were negotiated), Surrender Field (where Cornwallis' army surrendered), General Washington's Headquarters, a French Cemetery, the American and French Artillery Parks, and more! 


[Augustine Moore House] 

After the driving tour we went back to the Visitor Center where we parked the SUV and then walked to Historic Yorktown.

[Yorktown Victory Monument]

First we stopped by the Yorktown Victory Monument before walking down Main Street to see all the historic houses.

We then walked to the Riverwalk Landing where we got a quick bite to eat before walking back to the Visitor Center.

We then drove all the way to Asheville, North Carolina where stayed the night.

We ended up spending a lot more time in Virginia then I thought we would. Not only does this state have an amazing history, but it is beautiful! I loved seeing all these historic sites and learning from our amazing tour guides. Virginia, we will be back!

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