A Little Wine, A Little Regional Tourism, A Little Family

I spent a few days in Fredericksburg, Virginia with my cousin last week as part of my mostly stay-cation. Fredericksburg is a lovely old town on the Rappahannock River (yes that of the famed oysters). It is the site of Ferry Farm, where George Washington grew up, and Kenmore plantation, where his brother-in-law Fielding Lewis helped finance the American Revolution with his merchant wealth and his fleet of blockade runners.

The entrance to Kenmore. See the link to the site to see the plaster work.

The entrance to Kenmore. See the link to the site to see the plaster work.

If you are a Civil War buff, it is absolute heaven, with everything from the Chancellorsville and Wilderness battlefields and sites to Ellwood Cemetery where Stonewall Jackson’s arm is buried (I’m not kidding).

This is not Stonewall Jackson's arm's grave marker. It is a little lizard at Montpelier. Isn't his blue tail something?

This is not Stonewall Jackson’s arm’s grave marker. It is a little lizard at Montpelier. Isn’t his blue tail something?

It is also very close to Montpelier, James and Dolly Madison’s home, and smack in the middle of some fine Virginia wine country, fulfilling one of Thomas Jefferson’s fondest hopes.

We saw acres of grape vines.

We saw acres of grape vines…

...and some very nice bunches of grapes.

…and some very nice bunches of grapes.

Like parts of West Virginia, it also has a substantial arts community, attracted originally by its relatively low cost of living. The Liberty Town Arts Workshop was a lovely stop in between historic homes and glasses of wine. It has works by potters, paper makers, weavers, painters, glass blowers, and sculptors. It also has classes in many of those arts and crafts. I was unable to resist two pottery vases, a mug, two handmade paper cards, and a beautiful woven dish towel. There was a whole roomful of looms.

This is Linda George, spinner, weaver, and knitter, threading her loom for a wool blanket.

This is Linda George, spinner, weaver, and knitter, threading her loom for a wool blanket.

And this is a towel she wove, that I now have in my kitchen.

And this is a towel she wove, that I now have in my kitchen.

We combined touring some old homes with visiting wineries and eating good food. Kenmore Plantation, on the edge of town, was fascinating. A typical, symmetrical center hall colonial, the house had very elaborate plastering and carving. Like most large farming endeavors in the south at that time, the plantation depended on slave labor. It also had rooms one would never see and doors one would never enter if not a member of the gentry. Tradesmen, visiting captains of Lewis’s fleet of ships, and hired farm workers had their own door. It gives me pause to reflect on the severe stratification of society at that time. (I have always been amused by people who wish they could have lived in a time when there were servants, based on a usually unfounded assumption that they would be the ones being served.)

This is the key to the front door of Kenmore, wielded by our tour guide.

This is the key to the front door of Kenmore, wielded by our tour guide.

Nonetheless, these are people who made great sacrifices, in Lewis’s case losing his fortune supplying the revolutionary army. Another thing that comes clear is how smart and skilled and independent the women of these houses had to be. Often they were running large concerns while their husbands were away, educating children, and in some cases debating Enlightenment thinking with their husbands in letters. Abigail Adams, though running a farm in New England, is famous for her letters to her husband at the Continental Congress urging him, among other things, to “remember the ladies.”

This is the garden side of Kenmore. Apparently the pillars are not original to the structure.

This is the garden side of Kenmore. Apparently the pillars are not original to the structure.

This was my second visit to Montpelier, James and Dolly Madison’s home. I had come when it first opened to the public a number of years ago. Since then, curators have done more research, archaeology, and acquisition. The grounds contain the family cemetery, where Madison is buried, a slave cemetery, and extensive gardens, both formal and natural. Madison is most known for strongly shaping the new Constitution and being an intellectual force at the Constitutional convention. Along with George Mason (with whom some bloggers posed in April), he is known for shaping and championing the Bill of Rights. He and Dolly were the first husband and wife political partnership in the new nation and she was the first spouse to be called “First Lady.” One political opponent is reported to have said that he could have defeated Madison alone, but not the two of them together.

Here is the entrance to Montpelier, with two of our guides waiting to meet us. There was an enormous praying mantis on the porch above the second story windows.

Here is the entrance to Montpelier, with two of our guides waiting to meet us. There was an enormous praying mantis on the porch above the second story windows.

This is the view from the front porch. Between the tree line and the clouds, you can see the

This is the view from the front porch. Between the tree line and the clouds, you can see the “Blue Ridge” of the mountains. Β The grounds are used for steeple chases, hunts, and jumping events, the legacy of the DuPont family, which owned the house for Β 80 years before donating it to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Now the new nation had to have building materials, and L’Enfant himself found the site of what is now Government Island. At one time, it supplied the sandstone for the Capitol and the White House. It was easy to carve, came out whole in the cutting (as opposed to splintering), and had an enviable location on Aquia Creek, where it could easily be transported to Washington. Today, it is really a wetlands preserve with some lovely shaded walking paths and a nice variety of plants and birds to see.

Walking in, we noted that Aquia Creek appears to be a local swimming hole.

Walking in, we noted that Aquia Creek appears to be a local swimming hole.

Deep in the woods, we found the sandstone outcrops.

Deep in the woods, we found the sandstone outcrops.

Quarrymen would carve around a piece of rock, then slice it out and down.

Quarrymen would carve around a piece of rock, then slice it out and down.

Before the Quarry, we visited Potomac Point Winery for a tasting and some lunch. All in all, we had a few days of lovely local tourism and some very nice wine and meals.

Our shady table had a view of colorful umbrellas.

Our shady table had a view of colorful umbrellas.

Our waitress was kind enough to take our picture.

Our waitress was kind enough to take our picture.

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34 Responses to A Little Wine, A Little Regional Tourism, A Little Family

  1. reocochran says:

    I liked so much of this really nice day you shared with us. The door with key and tour guide was a nice peek into history. I like yellow, cream and blue towel for your kitchen. It was great to see yhe weaver and crafter who made it. I can appreciate the Blue Ridge Mountains more from your photograph. The final picture shows kind and cheery faces who love one another. πŸ™‚
    We have a few historic towns and I like Roscoe Village in Ohio. I usually purchase a candle or ceramic ornament for my tree. Last time (every few years will go) I purchased a set of salt and pepper shakers, with blueberries with a few leaves, on them.

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  2. This seems like a lovely vacation, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, right down to the lizard with the blue tail. I have not been to Fredericksburg, but I always associate it with Florence King, the writer, who lives there, and to whom I have addressed correspondence. I love her curmudgeonly and thorough command of the English language. I’m also always curious about the wines produced in various regions of this country. What did you think of the ones you sampled? Thank you, too for showing us the historic buildings and pointing out some of the ideas of the time. All in all, a good trip, vicarious notwithstanding!

    Liked by 1 person

    • arlingwoman says:

      Florence King! What a corker! Is she still doing regular book reviews? Goodness, who doesn’t feel like a failed lady once in a while–even if not particularly southern? The wines: Viogner and Norton are Virginia grapes; cabernet, cabernet franc, chambourtin, and merlot are some of the grapes. Potomac Point had the first unoaked chardonnay I had ever liked. Maybe that’s another blog!

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  3. Sylvie G says:

    What a lovely tour, with a little of everything we love. Thank you Arlingwoman πŸ™‚

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  4. Virginia is just so beautiful and so full to bursting with history – why would you need to vacation elsewhere? [Just kidding] Thank you for sharing this little peek into your wanderings with your relatives – I could feel the warmth and the American friendliness all the way over here! xo

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  5. Thank you for the tours, the history, and the blue tail. I’d not heard of Fielding Lewis

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  6. KerryCan says:

    What a fine way to spend some free time–you don’t need to go very far to have such an abundance of wonderful experiences. Of course, you had me at “handwoven dishtowel” . . . πŸ˜‰

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  7. A wonderful tour thanks. It is perhaps sometimes dangerous to taste the wine prior to visiting shops!

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  8. starkwe says:

    What a great tour! When I was growing up in Arlington we’d go to Harpers Ferry and Getttysburg on day trips, but we never went out to Fredericksburg. Funny, isn’t it?
    The lizard is a blue-tailed skink, I’m pretty sure. We have them down here, and they’re beautiful.
    I always think the same thing about people who want to live in a different era; all they know of those eras are how the wealthy lived and think that would be them!

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  9. What a great post!! Thank you for sharing and it is clear you had a lovely time! xo Johanna

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  10. Gosh what a beautiful place and so many interesting things to see. Thanks for the guided (virtual) tour. You look happy and rested in the photo.

    And oh yes, George Mason. I learned about him for the first time from you too, Lisa. Must go revisit our fun pic.

    I’m glad you had a getaway that didn’t require extensive travel. Those are often the best kind.

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  11. danellajoy says:

    Oh Lisa! what a wonderful post!
    The idea of having a holiday with wine, food and points of interest abound! hoorah!
    With my knowledge of American history being limited… ok, very limited, I loved this informative and fun post.
    If I ever get the chance to come your way you will have to be my guide! Especially as you include a vineyard in the tour!

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  12. Boomdeeadda says:

    What a fantastic post Lisa. Chock-a-block full of history and interesting details. I love history and you’re all so lucky to live surrounded by the homes and histories of so many important men and woman. I clicked over to all the links. I really like when they share before and after photo’s like at Kenmore. We were able to visit a number of important sites on a previous visit to Virginia, but honestly, I’d need the whole summer to see everything I’d want to. That little blue tailed
    ‘Side-Show-Bob’, while very small, put on quite the show. Good eye to spot him Lisa.

    Isn’t it amazing how Ms George can manage to put super fine threads in the exact right spot to create those beautiful textiles. Will you actually use your towel or just admire it like a piece of art? Your Staycation sounded spectacular to me. Wandering through history, country wineries and nice meals with friends is right up my alley. Love the photo to Lisa, you’re looking happy and healthy. Cheers my dear x K

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  13. LB says:

    Lisa, your staycation sounds just about perfect!
    Friends, history, wine … we really are fortunate here in Virginia to have so many places to explore.
    Your Abigail Adams quote is one of my favorites. What a woman she must have been!!

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    • arlingwoman says:

      Yes, we have so much to see and do in Virginia–I’ve decided to do more in-state touristing. As for Abigail, I find many of these women had such intelligence and grit. They had to!

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  14. Robbie says:

    staycation!I know this term quite well:-) We have had many over the years-lol I actually don’t mind them for they remind me what I loved best about where I live:-) My father is from that area and I remember visiting many of those places as a young person. A truly lovely place to have a staycation:-) Love all the history!

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    • arlingwoman says:

      It’s always easy to ignore the local spots, but in my experience, they’re very satisfying! I’ve been rediscovering spots in IL as well when I visit my mother. Lots of history there as well πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

      • Robbie says:

        Yep, and we had friends visit this summer. My husband and I went with them to some local places they wanted to visit in our town. We were surprised to “rediscover” old places we use to frequent before we raised our family!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Allison says:

    As many of the commenters said – it was a great stay-cation! And Bob and I are so happy to have been a part of it! Please do come again πŸ™‚ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

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