Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Washington D.C. Part Four: The Pemberley of America

When Elizabeth Bennett visits Pemberley for the first time in Pride & Prejudice, she observes, "I have never seen a house more happily situated."  Though I don't have as much experience touring old mansions as Elizabeth, I would venture to declare that George Washington's estate, Mt. Vernon, is the Pemberley of America.

Hannah and I met up with her friend Cassi for brunch before making the relatively short drive to Mount Vernon from Washington, D.C.  We crossed from the Maryland side of the Potomac River to the Virginia side and drove through beautiful forests and vegetation, a common feature on the east coast that is few and far between on the west coast.  As we neared the estate, it became apparent that George Washington's house was going to be quite crowded.  After driving around for at least 45 minutes, a good Samaritan finally pulled out of their parking spot right in front of us.  We cheered and clapped and exclaimed, "It's a miracle!"  Other tourists weren't so fortunate but, I'll admit to my shame, I didn't care at all so long as I got the chance to see my hero's home.

We bought our tickets for our scheduled tour of the mansion, then headed into the reception building to watch a biographical film of George Washington.  The film and the tour was introduced by Pat Sajak (which was kind of random and slightly hilarious).  After watching the cheesy yet informative film, we walked over to the Colonial Market & Fair which was taking place on the grounds that day.  Vendors sold everything from glass witches' balls to quills.  This was where I bought my one and only souvenir from the trip, a really awesome wooden spoon that I was super excited about (don't ask me why).  We took pictures in front of the lawn at Mount Vernon (where every tourist and their dog asked me to take pictures of them) and then got in line to start our tour. 
A window in the reception building at Mt. Vernon.

Mt. Vernon in all its splendor.

(I wish I could take better selfies.)
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the mansion for obvious reasons but it was so cool!  The first room tourists walk into in the house is the dining room, which was the room Washington focused on the most to demonstrate his social status and wealth.  It was undergoing some renovations while we were there but, even with the furniture gone, we could tell that Washington spared no expense to make that room as lavish and beautiful as possible.  We went up the stairs and through the bedrooms, claiming which bedroom would have been ours had we been fortunate enough to be the Washingtons' guests.  The last bedroom we saw was the one Washington died in.  The tour guide must have said, "General Washington died in that very bed," about six times.  Supposedly Martha Washington never set foot in that bedroom again after her husband's death.  After finishing up the tour, we took pictures on the back lawn of the plantation-house.  Nestled against the shores of the Potomac River and surrounded by trees and beautiful landscaping, I don't believe there is a more perfectly situated house in the United States.  I absolutely loved the place!  If I were rich enough and the house were removed from the list of historical sites, I would have no qualms about picking up and moving there tomorrow.  If the American equivalent of Mr. Darcy lived in a place like that, I'd fall in love with him, too!  (Totally kidding...)
Hannah, Cassi, and I waiting in line before the tour.

The view of the back side of the house.

The view of the Potomac River from the porch of Mt. Vernon.  That scraggly looking tree was there when Washington lived at Mt. Vernon.

No historical site is complete without a few militiamen.

The tomb of George and Martha Washington.
We learned more about the life of George Washington in the Mount Vernon Museum.  We watched a video about the colonists' Christmas Day attack on the Hessians stationed at Trenton in 1776. Real snow fell from the ceiling of the theater.  I saw George Washington's actual dentures.  (Heck, if I ate his favorite meal at Gadsby's Tavern the night before, I might as well see the teeth he used to chew it with.)  Looking back, I think Mt. Vernon was my favorite part of the trip.  It was wonderful to visit the home and learn more about the life of my favorite American hero!

We rounded out the day with a meal at Ella's Pizza in Washington, D.C.  There are quite a few people from my home ward in California who have recently moved out to the D.C. area and we thought it would be fun to meet up for dinner.  So me, Hannah, Wes, Amy Lambert, Brittany Unalp Olsen, and her husband, Justin, got together for a little Clayton Valley 1st Ward Reunion.  It was great to see everyone again!

Still more to come!

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