Places

Collingwood Picnic Area, Virginia

I hope I won’t spoil this little spot by telling you about it. On one of our visits to Mount Vernon, we decided to meander on down the road, following the Potomac, to see where we’d get.

We stopped at a place called Fort Hunt, which is across the river from Fort Washington (you can see a map of them here). I guess at some point these two forts were used to control water traffic toward the capital, but they weren’t in use anymore. They are now parks and they are open to the public.

As we continued driving south, a little place called out to us. From the road, it only looked like a little parking lot, and perhaps we were simply looking to stretch our legs once more — or something told us to stop. We did, and as you’ll see in the photographs, it was well worth it. The shoreline of the Potomac is special there. The river flows by quietly and you get these little ripples in the water that look wonderful in the light of the late afternoon. Round little pebbles of all colors are mixed with the yellow mud and brown sand on the shore, and when the light hits all of them just right, it makes for magical little vignettes that capture your imagination.

I didn’t have GPS with me at the time, so I had to guesstimate the location 10 years after having visited it, but after spending about half a day looking at maps and satellite imagery, I believe this spot is the Collingwood Picnic Area on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. Perhaps it’s changed since we visited it and these photos represent a certain moment in time when things simply came together. I don’t know. I’ll let you rediscover the place. Enjoy the photos!

Standard
Events

A late winter snowstorm

One thing about winters is they don’t like to leave. Just when you think they’re packing to go back north, they settle back down for at least a few more days. And they’re not shy about it, either. They’ll let loose and bring on a bonafide winter storm.

This particular one happened just about six years ago. The set of pictures you’re about to see were taken in Grosvenor Park and Cabin John Park, MD, and in Tyson’s Corner, McLean, VA.

Things can start out picturesque in the morning…

… and turn into this by evening.

By morning, things are back to picturesque — a beautiful, white winter picturesque.

Sadly, that doesn’t last long. In a day or two, rising temperatures melt it away.

By the way, there are few things that cheer me up better than warm miso soup and veggie sushi after exploring in the snow.

Standard
Events

A freezing spell

Exactly six years ago to the day, there was a freezing spell overnight. It rained over fallen snow, then it quickly froze, encapsulating plants in a sheath of ice. This sort of thing is dangerous for trees, because it makes their branches so heavy that it can split them apart. Back in college, in Vermont, we had a serious freezing spell one winter that broke apart many of the trees on campus; thankfully, this wasn’t that serious. It helped that we were in Virginia at the time, where winters aren’t that rough.

Standard
Places

Upperville in the spring of 2005

Upperville is a quaint little town on Route 50 in Virginia, about 50 miles from DC. We visited it twice, once in 2004 and once more about a year later. We loved its historic church and library. The stone architecture and cobblestone courtyard had an immediate appeal to us, as the buildings seemed to have come to life from the pages of a fairy tale.

We loved being able to walk about the buildings unhindered, and the orderly appearance of everything around, including the furthest grounds of the church.

Let’s go inside the church for a bit.

Have you ever seen a smaller and more endearing public library?

If you get the chance, please visit it. According to Wikipedia, there are a number of thoroughbred horse farms in the area, so that might be of interest to you as well.

Standard
Places

The John Douglass Brown House in Alexandria

The John Douglass Brown House stands apart from the rest of the houses you see in Alexandria because of the choice of its building material: wood. (Most of the houses in that part of the town are brick.) The simple, rustic architecture talks of an early, more modest beginning as a farmhouse, not a townhome for a wealthy trader, like the rest of the places around it.

Built in the 1700s, the house was owned and occupied by the descendants of the John Douglass Brown and Mary Goulding Gretter from 1816 until the 1970s-80s. When we visited it (it’s not open to the public), not knowing anything about it, we realized something was different nonetheless, and began to look at its exterior more closely.

The neighbors came out, and we talked to them. They graciously offered to introduce us to its current owner, Mr. Charles J. Reeder, who couldn’t have been nicer. We got to talking, and asked if we could come inside the interior courtyard to photograph it. He allowed us in.

Continue reading

Standard
Places

Alexandria, Virginia

The city of Alexandria (Virginia, USA) began its life in 1749, as a port for Scottish and English merchants. Alexandria is located in Northern Virginia, across the Potomac River from southern Washington D.C. The city encompasses 15.75 square miles at an average elevation of 30 feet above sea level.

It was named in honor of John Alexander, the Scott who purchased the land in 1669, for 6,000 pounds of tobacco and cask, from Robert Howson, an English ship merchant. Howson had received it as a land grant from Sir William Berkeley, the Governor of Virginia, for bringing over 120 settlers from England.

The town was incorporated in 1779, and by that time it had become a bustling port, filled with brigs, schooners and ships who came there to trade in flour, hemp and tobacco. In 1789, the town was ceded to the Federal Government, to become part of the new District of Columbia. It was retroceded to Virginia in 1847. In 1852, it gained city status and a new charter.

By the time of the American Revolution, it was one of the principal colonial trading centers and ports. George Washington, America’s first president, maintained a town house in Alexandria, and was on its Board of Trustees. During the Civil War, it was occupied by the Union Army and was a major logistical supply centers for the federal army.

Continue reading

Standard
Places

Natural Bridge: 20 stories high

Formed who knows when, by the collapse of a cavern, Natural Bridge, located in Virginia, is a monument that has been admired by people for over two centuries.

Legend has it that George Washington surveyed it in his youth, for Lord Fairfax. What we do know for sure is that Thomas Jefferson bought it, built a log cabin nearby, and upon his death, left it to his heirs, who later sold it.

The property (157 acres) changed hands over the course of time, gaining more and more public attention, until in 1988, it was declared a National Historic Landmark by the US Department of the Interior.

Although it has remained in private hands till today, it has been open to the public since the early 1800s, and it has been developed in such a way that visiting tourists may find plenty to do while they’re there. Continue reading

Standard
Places

Photos of spring in the Mid-Atlantic states of North America

The spring season in a temperate climate is a wonderful time, isn’t it? If one is affected by such things, and I am, the colors, the new life, the fresh air, the sunshine, and the chirping of the birds can make you ecstatic with joy. Just as winter can be a time for quiet thought and reading by the fireplace, and that sort of thing is much-needed after a full year of work, spring is when you can get out of the house once more to explore nature as it comes back to life.

I thought I’d put together a little collection of some of my best spring photographs, taken in states such as Maryland, Virginia and DC. There are 50 photos in this post, all of which you can see individually below, or in the embedded slideshow.

Continue reading

Standard
Places

George Washington's Mount Vernon Home

We visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s own estate near Washington, DC, this past summer. If you don’t live in the DC area, you don’t necessarily get to appreciate one of the grand gestures done to honor George Washington’s memory, namely that of building a parkway (named after him) that starts right at the gates of his estate and becomes a major thoroughfare that winds its way parallel to the Potomac River, through Alexandria, past the Ronald Reagan National Airport, through DC, and upwards, past the CIA Headquarters, right to I-495. Getting to his home becomes a pleasurable drive on a scenic parkway for the DC area driver, particularly those who are traveling South from DC and Maryland.

The location for Washington’s farm, and particularly his mansion, couldn’t have been chosen better. Even today, the view is spectacular, and one can only imagine what the surrounding area looked like during his time, unspoiled by modern “advances” and urban planning. An aquatint from Francis Jukes, done in 1800, gives us an idea, though I have a hunch he embellished things a bit.

Ligia and I visited Mount Vernon on two occasions, and took plenty of photographs each time. I picked the best ones from both sets and published them at my online photo catalog. There are 70 photos in the Mount Vernon set there, and all of them are available in HD (1920×1200 pixels, 16:10 aspect ratio). I selected a representative sample of those photographs for you to see right here. The gallery is shown below.

I hope you enjoyed the photos, and that you will find time to go visit Mount Vernon if you’re ever in the DC area. I for one am heartened to see that we are still paying respect to one of our nation’s founders and our first president, even in these very unpatriotic times, when we are getting involved in wars that our founders would have nothing to do with, and when fear-mongering has taken the place of freedom, and liberty, and justice for all.

One bit of advice: if you’re planning to visit the estate multiple times, get the yearly pass. It pays for itself in just two trips. We’re glad we got it. Our third visit, if we should go again, will be free.

More information about Mount Vernon can be found directly on the estate website, or at Wikipedia. Google Books also lists two books on Mount Vernon. The first is called “George Washington’s Mount Vernon – At Home in Revolutionary America“, and is written by the Dalzell brothers, and the second is called “Mount Vernon: Washington’s Home and the Nation’s Shrine“, by Paul Wilstach and Henry Saylor. The great thing about the two books is that they can be read online in their entirety.

Standard