By Jug Varner

My wife and I have never permanently resided in the Washington D.C. area, but have lost count of the number of visits there. When the realization came that we had seen every important tourist attraction but one, we decided it was imperative to correct this mistake. Somehow we had never found time for that brief and beautiful 16-mile journey along the Virginia side of the Potomac River to see Mount Vernon.

It was like a fine dessert — saved for last.

Considering the hardships of those early times, the Father of our Country and his family lived quite well, even elegantly in some ways, on this 8,000-acre plantation of five working farms he personally managed. About 30-acres are on display today, including the house, many outbuildings, fields, and the gravesites of George and Martha Washington, their family, and slaves who worked hard to make this a productive plantation.

As his own landscape architect, Washington grew beautiful flower gardens that became famous. He often wandered through the swampland searching for various types of trees to transplant for his walks, groves, and wilderness areas. Stunningly huge specimens, many of which he personally planted, still stand today.

He chose a grand view of the Potomac as the setting for the main house, and the rocking chairs on the high-pillared rear veranda (shown at right) were quite an inviting respite for plodding visitors to sit and enjoy the scene of peaceful greenery to the water's edge.

The mansion's front facade has the look and feel of stone, but is made of wooden boards glued on other wood siding and treated with a substance to give it a masonry effect. It was just one of many unique and practical ideas Washington put to good use.

The park service has carefully restored the interior to the way it appeared in the last year of his life — with vibrant blue and green wall colors, wood graining, window coverings over the original leaded glass windows, and placement of the furnishings. Many of these are authentic, such as the bed in which he died, and some personal articles.

Visitors can drive their car, go by tour bus, or enjoy a cruise on the Potomac River. Whatever the means of transportation, this journey will be well worth your time and effort. Try not to miss the delicious Mount Vernon Root Beer, found only here. Young lads and lasses dressed in period costumes serve above average food (from vintage recipes) in the dining rooms, as well.

Good tasting, well-prepared food is always a priority in our travels, and well remembered when found.

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