Washington’s Home

Washington’s Home

Mount Vernon, Virginia – August 15, 2014

Leslie and I took a boat from Alexandria to Mount Vernon. I had done that a year ago, but Leslie had never been there.
We took the Metro to the King Street station. It was too early for the free King Street Trolley, so we began looking for a taxi. While we were standing on the curb looking for a cab in the traffic, an unmarked vehicle pulled up. The driver asked us if we had called for a taxi. That was a little creepy. We said no and sent him on his way.
Shortly after that encounter, we were able to flag down a marked taxi, and the driver got us to the waterfront quickly since there was not much traffic at that hour.
The taxi dropped us off near The Torpedo Factory building. Since we had time, we decided to get a coffee and something to eat. We stopped at the first cafe we came to, and each ordered a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. It took forever to make the sandwiches. When we finally got the sandwiches and coffee, we sat at a table right beside the marina. It was a beautiful sight. The lunch was not very good. Each one had just one link sausage split lengthwise. It was a good thing the view was so lovely.

The dock area in Alexandria, Virginia. The Torpedo Factory building is in the distance.
The stern of the boat that takes tourists from Alexandria, Virginia to Mount Vernon.
A US Airways plane on final approach to Reagan National Airport.

We finished our breakfast, picked up our tickets, and waited to board the boat, the Miss Christin. Once aboard, we took the first two seats on the starboard side, near the captain.
As the boat pulled away, one of the crew picked up a microphone and began telling us stories and interesting tidbits as we motored along.
Our first stop after some fifteen minutes or so was National Harbor. The boat stopped at two different docks. We picked up some passengers at each stop. All totaled, our trip from Alexandria to Mount Vernon took about one hour.

Some undoubtedly pricey townhomes fronting on the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia.
Signage on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge. The bridge connects Alexandria, Virginia and Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
The Capital Wheel is a Ferris wheel in the National Harbor.
The Sea Star motor yacht docked at the National Harbor.
The Capital Wheel with Maryland in the background.
American Way ends at the sign for National Harbor.
The National Elite docked at the National Harbor.
The cityscape at National Harbor, Maryland.

Continuing down the river, one keeps looking for the first glimpse of the Mount Vernon estate. The first view from the river is a postcard spectacular.

Mount Vernon as seen from the Potomac River.
A sailboat motoring on the Potomac River. Mount Vernon is visible in the distance.

When we disembarked, we received tickets for our tour of the mansion. Printed on the cards was the time, 12:30. That meant we could get in line for the mansion tour any time after 12:30. We walked from the dock to the shuttle bus. The shuttle took us to the visitor center. We opted to go to the gift shop first.
After a quick walk through the gift shop, we stopped in the cafeteria. A couple of slices of pizza later, and we were ready to stand in line to tour the mansion. First, I had to take a photo of the head of Washington in the back-lit glass. It turned out well.

In the education center at Mount Vernon, one can marvel at the larger-than-life convex face of George Washington. As the viewer changes location, the face seems to follow the viewer.

Somewhere I heard Mount Vernon has over 1,000,000 visitors each year. With numbers like that, they have the tour down to a science. Every bit as iconic as the view of Mount Vernon from the Potomac River is the view of the mansion from the west side.  The well-manicured lawn, the Bowling Green, makes it look particularly inviting.

The Bowling Green leading to the west side of the mansion. Many of the trees on the sides were planted by George Washington circa 1785.
The west side of the mansion.
An octagonal privy. At about 50 meters (165 feet), the privy is well away from the mansion.
The west side of the mansion.
The north side of the kitchen building.
Candle lanterns were once used to light the driveway on the west side of the mansion.
A covered walkway leading to the west side entrance point for the mansion tour.
The kitchen building as seen from the covered walkway.
The lines of people to visit the mansion seem endless. That stated the time to wait goes very quickly.

From the time we began to stand in line until we entered the mansion was only about 15 minutes. Given the number of people there that day, I do not think it took very long.

Leslie summed up the tour the best; she said it gave her goosebumps. It is worth the trip to Mount Vernon. Readers interested in a virtual tour of Mount Vernon can click on the hyperlink.

When we left the mansion, we looked at a few of the outbuildings. Then we made our way to the piazza on the west side of the estate. The patio looks over the Potomac River. There are numerous chairs on the veranda. We sat there for 15 or 20 minutes. It was very relaxing. We could imagine the Father of our Country sitting there enjoying a cigar or pipe after dinner with friends. That is a part of history that not everyone gets to enjoy.

People in the queue to enter the Servant’s Hall. That is the starting point for the tour of the mansion. One can see the queue goes well back into the trees.
One of the tour guides in period costume.
Washington’s carriage in the stables.
Detail from the side of Washington’s carriage.
The piazza on the east side of the mansion. Sitting in the chairs, one overlooks the Potomac River.
The east side of the mansion.
A very happy tourist sitting at the piazza.

Descending from the mansion area toward the Mount Vernon Wharf, we stopped to pay our respects at the Washington crypt. It is both eerie and fascinating.

Visitors file by the “new” tomb.
The “new” tomb structure. The Washington family remains were moved to this tomb in 1831. Martha Washington is on the left and George is on the right.
The marker for Jane Charlotte Blackburn (1786-1855), wife of John Augustine Washington. The “new” tomb is in the background.
An archway on the path to the Mount Vernon Wharf.
The path descending to the Mount Vernon Wharf.

A little farther below the crypt is the monument to the slaves. I had not viewed the memorial on my previous visit. I am not sure what I was expecting, but I found it to be a little disappointing.
At the pier, as we waited for our boat to take us back to Alexandria, we saw a fireboat come by the dock. There seemed to be no reason in particular.

A Fairfax County Fire & Rescue boat approaching the Mount Vernon Wharf.
The Miss Christin returning to pick up tourists from Mount Vernon.
A knot on a tree at the Mount Vernon Wharf.

Something else at the pier that caught our eye was a Golden Retriever. The dog was so used to people that all of the comings and goings did not phase it one bit. The dog reminded us of our beloved Biscuit.

A sailboat on the Potomac River.
Fort Washington as seen from the Potomac River. The fort is about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) north and east from Mount Vernon.
Some homes on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
The Spirit of Washington passing under the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge while a jet passes overhead.
The Spirit of Washington on the Potomac River.
Signage at water level below the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

We made it back to Alexandria at about 17:30. The King Street Trolley was operating, so we hopped on. We took it to the King Street Metro station.

A Free King Street Trolley waits for pedestrians to cross.
An emblem in the Free King Street Trolley.

Right across the street from the Metro station is Joe Theisman’s Restaurant. That is where we decided to have dinner. It was just as good as I remembered from my trip there a few years ago.  Leslie enjoyed the dinner.

We got back to the Metro station just in time to see the sun going down behind the Masonic Temple.

The sunset behind the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. This is the view from the King Street Metro stop.

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