Monday, November 10, 2014

George Washington's Mount Vernon

The last stop, before we left the Washington, D.C. area, was Mount Vernon, Virginia.  We had visited there many years ago and, although the original buildings remain the same, the area around it had changed greatly!

It was a chilly day but plenty of people were lined up to get a look inside our first President's home.  Like the majority of the homes we've visited "no photography" was allowed, which is a shame because the mansion is detailed to look as it did in 1799.  It features a large collection of furnishings owned by the Washingtons.

One of the biggest changes to the property was the large museum where you purchased your tickets and began your tour.  There is also an inn, where we had a delicious lunch, and a huge gift shop.  Dawn and I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for souvenirs.

Washington acquired Mount Vernon in 1754 and spent the next 45 years of his life expanding his home to reflect his status as a Virginia gentleman. After shuffling through the house in a line of other sightseers we began our tour of the numerous outbuildings.

There are more than a dozen original structures.

Among the many outbuildings is this reconstructed slave cabin.  A tour guide inside explained the life of a slave.  A large family lived in cabins like these sleeping on the dirt floor.  They had no beds, or much else in the way of furniture.

In contrast, the overseer had a much more comfortable life.

George Washington thought of himself, first and foremost, as a farmer.  He pioneered innovative methods for the day, including crop rotation and the use of fertilizers.  In fact, he operated four successful farms at Mount Vernon.

Another cash crop was dried fish.  Fish also helped to supplement the diets of the slaves at the farms.  When schools of fish were sighted on the Potomac everyone stopped whatever they were doing and helped bring in heavy nets of fish.

Another change at Mount Vernon was the addition of a delightful "Martha Washington."  She told her audience all about life with George and at Mount Vernon.

George Washington died at Mount Vernon on December 14, 1799.  His will directed that he be buried on his beloved estate.  He also selected a site for a new brick tomb to replace the original burial vault.  His final resting place was completed in 1831 and the remains of Washington, Martha and other family members are interred there.

In 1793 George Washington said, "No estate in United America is more pleasantly situated than this...."  He may be right.  We sure enjoyed our visit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

Our first stop on our whirlwind tour of Washington was the International Spy Museum where we learned all about the world of spies.

It is appropriately located near the FBI building.

We learned all about the "game" of spying.

The museum covers the secrets of the second oldest profession.  Even Moses sent spies into the Promised Land!

Ninjas are (or were) considered spies too!

They even had a German enigma machine.  It produced a cipher thought to be unbreakable.  Allied cryptanalysts finally succeeded in cracking it during WWII.

The museum also demonstrated different ways of killing your enemy with poisonous gas.

An American diplomat used his son's toy to smuggle sensitive information back to the states.

One of the most interesting exhibits was a special one celebrating 50 years of Bond villains.

Who doesn't remember the ultimate spy car?  James Bond's Aston Martin is fully loaded with tire shredders, machine guns, and rotating license plates.

While James Bond is a fictional spy, his creator, Ian Fleming, was a real spy.

There was a LOT more to see at the spy museum - but it's a secret.