Thursday, August 27, 2015

George Washington's Mount Vernon, Virginia

If you can't get a tour in the White House, you can enjoy a tour at George Washington's home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. The first President of the United States certainly lived like a king and he well deserved to as our tour guides emphasized on his humble nature. They kept saying he was a great President that was never influenced by Power. The drive down from Maryland took about an hour, it was a quiet Sunday so there was no traffic. A friend of mine paid $17 each for us to go with my daughter to the mansion, the tour was free for her though as it is for kids 5 years and below.

Walking towards the house, which was under construction, I was so astounded by the huge land in front of me. It was literally the size of the biggest park we have back home in my country. Beautiful is an understatement, the view was Phenomenal!  Our tour began and there was a waiting line to group visitors in small numbers for the tour.

Tip: Make sure you take the kids early in the day or after nap time because strollers are not allowed in the mansion. Strollers are parked outside the Mansion before the tour and there is a no food or drinks rule. Also, no animals and no pictures in the mansion.

We began our tour inside the Mansion, there were many different sections, space for dining, living room, a lot of guest rooms and guess what, no bathrooms. There was a wash room outside though but back then you only had your bowl and your cloth to clean up in your room and you were good to go. It was great living for an old school house. Apparently the late President hosted many guests within his mansion and most times because traveling was more hectic then, guests stayed over for quite a couple nights. The tour was well organized with a guide in each room to explain the rooms brief history. We spent about 5 minutes in each room.

Tip: Wear comfortable shoes because there is a lot of land which of course is lots of walking and yes there were stairs back in the day so you will do a little work-out here too.

There were outer rooms for the slave workers and the estate had different buildings with their different specialties. There was literally a house for sewing, a shoe shiner shop, there were stables for the horses, the land was well equipped with everything needed to run a town basically.

What I found interesting was the kitchen arrangement. There was a deep floor to keep water cool and a huge storage shed outside for keeping ice from during the winter, apparently for meat storage. There was a smoke room for meat to be, well smoked :). I also noticed that candle lights were placed in front of mirrors to help illuminate rooms. It was all so interesting how things were run then without electricity.

When we were done with the Mansion we walked to the backyard, this was my best part I think. The view of the river was priceless. I didn't expect it so it was a lovely surprise. The Potomac River runs right through this backyard. We walked down to the Washington's Tomb where the late President and his wife were laid to rest. Beside this was the slave Memorial where former workers were laid to rest as well.

View of Potomac River

George Washington's Tomb

Slave Memorial

We thought we had seen it all then we discovered this quiet path leading down to the wharf. There was a sign to get on a boat ride, I didn't see any boats but I assumed they had taken passengers on a ride at that moment.

Tip: After the tour trust me you need some water, its lots of walking, there are fountains stationed all around the estate or you can purchase a bottle by the wharf. There are vending machines for that.

After the tour we took a tour of the inner museum. There is this fantastic 3D image of the President's face that literally turns toward your direction. I was a little freaked out about it. You seriously have to see this to understand what I mean. I'm still screaming in my head. The museum had a cinema where some visitors stopped to view history movies. There is a hands on history center for kids 3-8 where the kids get to learn a lot too. There is a cartoon screening of the Presidents childhood and also a section with miniature sculptures of the wars fought in his time.

There is a bus to take visitors over to the Distillery but we were exhausted, it was really hot that day. We got hungry after this and had a craving for milkshake so we head to the food court back at the entrance. There are different stands at the food court for snacks and drinks. The museum was to close at 5pm so we used up our time quite well. We enjoyed our visit and the freedom to roam this grand estate. This is a great place to take the family to brush up on important history, it is way more enjoyable because unlike museums, this was the late President's actual home.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

National Harbor, MD.

I always enjoy the patriotism of this country. I went to lunch with a military buddy at the National Harbor and he got us great seats on the balcony of the restaurant Bond 45. 

Since I was by the sea, I just had to have some seafood on my plate. We had the best view of the U.S Navy Band Sea Chanters show. They wowed the crowd with their incredible voices, first the National anthem and then some great songs from back in the day. 

Tip: The screen behind the performers usually plays an outdoor movie on some evenings. Another fun activity for the family. Check National Harbor website for details of movie days on their calendar.

The show started at 7pm and ended an hour later. After the entertainment and great food we walked around a little bit.

There are lots of activities for family by the Harbor. You can go shopping in the stores or at the farmers market. You could take your kids to the beach, I'm not a fan of heights but the Ferris wheel is great for those who are. 

We strolled down to the beach to enjoy the lights of the Ferris wheel over by the dock. 

We didn't have too much time to get on a boat but if you like to cruise you can rent a boat to enjoy the sea. I had only visited one time before this and there was a carousel for the kids not too far from the beach. There is loads of restaurants around here and a bar right by the stage where the Navy Band performed. You don't have to worry about parking because there is a parking lot that's just a short walk away from the dock. We were there for about 4 hours and paid about $10 for parking. 

So take your family down there this summer. The fun there is contagious and its definitely a visit you won't regret. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Chesapeake Bay Fishing Piers, MD.

If you like fishing, you can drive down to the Chesapeake Bay Fishing Piers down in Maryland. It took me about an hour to get there but believe it or not I don’t do fishing. I was heading to North Beach when I stumbled across the Pepper Langley’s Fishing Pier. 

For those who do fish and prefer smaller crowds, this is the place for you. It seemed very private and serene in comparison to fishing at North Beach. If you don’t have your fishing rod, you can rent one from the small fishing kiosk nearby. There’s also a picnic area for you to catch your breath after all the hard work and luckily there's a place for refreshments. 

Like a lot of places in Maryland, you can catch up on your history as well. 

For me, I decided to enjoy the view then move on to North Beach because it also has other family activities. The North Beach is also one of the Chesapeake Bay Fishing Piers but here you can catch your fish and take a swim. During the summer, there is always buzzing activity and Fridays are especially fun here. Literally there’s something for the guys, for the gals and the kids. You can check out the exhibition of vintage cars lined up in front of the beach.

 You can walk down to the Farmers market to get some fresh fruits, vegetables, home made popcorn and all sorts of snacks. (Only on Fridays). There is a long line of indoor stores and restaurants right by the beach as well if you want to walk around a little more.

After walking around, I cooled off by the sand with my daughter. While she made her sand castles, I watched the birds and just enjoyed the colorful sky.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

West Virginia here we come.

I was minding my business when my sister asked me to go with her to Morgantown in West Virginia. She needed help moving apartments for the school year so she literally bribed me with a pic of a scenic view I couldn’t resist. I hit the road with my buddy and the kids as we always do. It was a perfect weekend for this because the sun was out all through and the road down was well worth it. There were several scenic sites we stopped to see, the first stop was the Monocacy National Battlefield in Frederick, MD. 

Not spending too much time there we jumped back in the car and drove off to the next scenic site which was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial located on Maryland's Interstate 68. Its location was between great mountains and a view that took our breath away.

We finally approached West Virginia and as I always do, I took a picture of the welcome sign which the beautiful sunny day decided to outshine.

Not too long after this we got to my sisters apartment and did a little packing then decided to call it a night. The next morning we U-hauled her stuff to the new apartment near West Virginia University. We literally got back on the road a few hours after all this, was a bit hectic but as I said the views were worth it. Just before leaving we stopped over to get the famous Sonic milkshakes, was unbelievably delicious, all I could think of in my head was gymmmmmm. Well worth it though :).

The first scenic view on our way back was Cheat Lake. We saw this view from the road, we didn't stop here but it was spectacular even from a distance.

So the scenic view my sister promised to take me to earlier was Coopers Rock State Forest. I was on a mission to get there while the sun was still out that evening. 

There was a narrow road leading up to the site, the trees on both sides of the road gave such a grand effect to our approach.

We finally got there. I was blown away at the view. No view I had ever seen before this could top this. It was breath taking. 

The great part about Coopers Rock is it has hiking trails, camp grounds and as we saw, open buildings for celebrations. When we arrived, the West Virginia University wrestling team were celebrating with family at the top of this mountain, there was just a great atmosphere all around.

So back on the road once more, it was getting really late so we stopped over at Frostburg, Maryland to call it a night. A favorite cousin of mine had checked us in at the Hampton Inn so we were early to bed for the drive for the next day. The view in the morning from our window was superb, another beautiful view added to this impromtu road trip.

After breakfast with the kids we got back on the road and mistakenly went off our route to come across this resort outside Cumberland, hopefully we will be visiting it again soon.

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