If you read this blog regularly, you know that when I travel, my favourite moments are when I can get away of the city. Washington D.C. is pretty and has a multitude of attractions, but after a few days visiting the US capital, we decided to do a day trip at Mount Vernon in Virginia to get out of the city and enjoy the beautiful fall colors.
Mount Vernon used to be the plantation of George Washington, the first president of the United States. His great-grandfather was the first to own the land in this area starting in 1674, but the plantation expanded in the following generations. By the time it belonged to George Washington, it included nearly 8,000 acres and more than 300 slaves were working there.
Washington inherited the plantation in 1761. He had the family home expanded, converting it into a Palladian style mansion. He bought neighbouring lands and stopped growing tobacco to focus on a mixed farming of wheat and corn. He remained the owner of Mount Vernon while taking part in the War of Independence, and later during his two terms as President. At the end of his last term, Washington returned to live full time at Mount Vernon, where he died in 1799.
To visit Mount Vernon is to dive into the heart of American history. There is something dizzying to think of all the historical personalities who once walked the floor of the house. Fun fact: there is in the house a copy of the key to the prison of La Bastille, given to George Washington by the Marquis de la Fayette.
In addition to George Washington’s home, the site has preserved many of its historical buildings, such as the greenhouse, the stables, the kitchen and the slave quarters. There is also a museum retracing the life of the first American president (a museum in which we find, among others, the denture worn by Washington, which actually seems to be a popular artifact).
It is also in Mount Vernon that George Washington is buried. The president was to be buried in the Capitol crypt in Washington, but it was finally decided that his last wishes were to be respected and he remains in the family tomb in Virginia.
Beyond its historical significance, Mount Vernon site is enchanting. Located on the banks of the Potomac River, the old plantation may not have the extent it used to have, but you can easily spend a few hours strolling there. There are gardens, a forest path and some farm animals. The site is also connected to the nearby city of Alexandria by a beautiful bike path along the Potomac. I must admit that I was a little surprised to discover that November could be so pretty in Virginia.
Mount Vernon is located about 30-40 minutes from downtown Washington D.C. It is quite easy to get there by car and some tour companies offer bus tours or taxi boat rides from the city center. The entrance ticket to the site includes a guided tour of the house.