Life after Work

Vacation Day 1: Frederick, MD – Shenandoah National Park – Monticello – Fredericksburg, VA

Fawn, Skyline Drive, Shenandoah National Park, Virgina

We had breakfast at the hotel in Frederick, Maryland, dubiously eyeing a mostly grey sky. By the time we reached the northern terminus of Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive a few hours later, the clouds had opened up a little but the big surprise didn’t arrive until we saw blue sky a few miles further on, after gaining a little more altitude. For the rest of the drive  we alternated between fog-like clouds creeping through trees and hanging over the road, and glorious sun. In short, it was gorgeous and in the end the weather staid sunny. We ran into a real treat when we spotted a couple staring at something by the side of the road and pulled over to investigate – a tiny fawn, curled up in the grass! Definitely a first on our wildlife viewing chart.

At another roadside stop John tripped and sprained his ankle. Luckily he was able to go on walking and driving (and, very importantly: the camera didn’t hit the ground).  A few more miles south, entranced by the beautiful scenery, we realized time was running away from us and we breezed through the remainder of the drive before heading to Charlottesville for a quick bite. At this point it was obvious that we wouldn’t be able to make all three remaining scheduled stops and decided on the one that seemed most interesting and easiest to reach – Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.

At Monticello, just southeast of Charlottesville, we found there were a couple of hours left before the next open slots for a house tour, so we reserved our spots, jumped in the car, and checked out scheduled stop number two, Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of President James Monroe, which lies just down the road from Monticello.

We really enjoyed the drive up to the grounds, with beautiful trees and meadows. But as we got closer we could hear the sounds of music – a wine tasting festival was underway. We purchased our tickets in the gift store and walked up to the front of the mansion, where a woman dressed in period clothing entertained folks waiting for the start of the next tour with historical tidbits. When it was our turn to enter the house we were terribly disappointed by our tour guide. He was talking so fast it was hard for John and I to keep up, let alone my mother. After being rushed through a few rooms we left the tour and headed back to the gift store where John complained about the guide and successfully asked for our money back. We returned to Monticello and joined a grounds tour until it was time to get in line for our house tour. Both of the guides were very good and we really enjoyed the tours. After we were done with the mansion interiors, we explored the remaining “dependencies” (outlying facilities such as storage, kitchen, stables) that we hadn’t seen yet and visited Jefferson’s gravesite.

Thomas Jefferson's Home, Monticello, Virginia

From Monticello we beelined to Fredericksburg and arrived just in time for our dinner reservation at Poppy Hill Tuscan Kitchen. The food was fine but we felt a little underdressed for the place. Funny enough, as we left the restaurant, it started to rain and within minutes the heavens opened up to a torrential downpour. Good thing all that was left to do now was to find our hotel!

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