Virginia Mountains - Vistas, History, & Wineries

Discussion in 'Travel Stories' started by giradman, Aug 23, 2015.

  1. giradman

    giradman
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    Susan and I just returned from a 4-night trip to Charlottesville, Virginia (VA) - we've visited the area a half dozen times over the decades but has been 4-5 years since our last trip - I mainly wanted to return to see the progress on several historic houses of a number of the early Presidents of the United States. So, I'll start by describing our short journey there w/ a day to day account of our activities; then subsequent posts will describe some of our previous trips - as usual, I'll use some of my photos and borrow many images from the web.

    Charlottesville is surrounded by mountains and is near the Shenandoah Valley - map below shows our route from Winston-Salem; we went via HW 29 through Lynchburg (to see one of Thomas Jefferson's homes - will be part of the next post) - there are a number of driving options including I-77 to I-81 which runs through the beautiful valley w/ a number of historic towns to visit. Charlottesville is the home of the University of Virginia, one of the best schools in the Southeast part of the USA - check the link, if interested; Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence & the third United States President) designed the Rotunda and adjacent wings (a couple of pics below after the map).

    There are plenty of motels, hotels, and other housing option, but we have usually stayed @ the Boar's Head Inn, which is the official 'inn' of the University w/ an outstanding fitness center and restaurant; however, this time we splurged a little (kind of a second 45th anniversary celebration for us) and stayed at Keswick Hall, a historic property converted into a 48-room hotel w/ several restaurants, spa, and a gorgeous golf course designed by Pete Dye - below are my pics of the hotel from the front & back w/ some panoramic views - the grounds are landscaped beautifully - we really enjoyed our stay there.

    Upcoming posts will describe our daily activities which varied from mountain scenery, visiting President's houses in the area, and also finding a number of the excellent wineries. Dave :)
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  2. scifan57

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    Thanks for another interesting travel thread. I'm looking forward to the next post as I've always been interested in historic homes.
     
  3. giradman

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    Hi Scifan.. - enjoying your conference pics! :)

    We've been going to the Virginia Mountain area for years and was surprised that I had not put together a travelogue of the region - plan to summarize the current trip and then add more posts of other past visits - great area to visit for many reasons. Dave
     
  4. giradman

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    Poplar Forest - Tom Jefferson's Getaway House

    First day of our recent trip - on the way to Charlottesville, we visited Poplar Forest near Lynchburg, VA - he inherited the plantation from his father-in-law in 1773 and began construction of an octagonal house during his presidency (quotes below from the start of a Wiki article & the link given). We first visited the property about 4-5 years ago - the house has been reconstructed (much destroyed by fire) and is in the process of restoration - the changes since our last tour are amazing - historic (Jefferson wrote a LOT of letters and used a polygraph that made duplicate copies - so much of his writing is left for study) and archeologic investigation. Restoration of the brick work & wood details are done by standards of the time, e.g. wooden woodworking planes of various types are used (John Hemings, a Jefferson slave was one of Tom's favorite woodworkers - see last quote below, also a Wiki reference).

    Pics below - first a floor plan of the eight-sided house; the central dining room extends to the roof w/ a sky light - the frieze is only partially restored (SO, we'll have to return again in a few years!); the next two images show the front and back of the structure - a number of huge poplar trees remain, likely 200 or so years old. Jefferson designed one wing (for storage, kitchen, smoke house, and other purposes) - the following pics show that wing and also the top roof which was like a walking evening porch for him and his family. The remaining images show some interior scenes, including his bedroom which is now much more restored; kitchen w/ heating sites; and a portion of the museum which occupies much of the lower floor.

    Jefferson's main house in the Charlottesville area is known as Monticello (an upcoming post) - Poplar Forest was his 'escape' retreat - he went alone or w/ close family members, such as his grandchildren - after his presidency and because of his fame, many people would just show up at his 'big' house often unannounced and staring into the windows to see him eating his meals - SO, easy to understand his joy to return to his secret home near Lynchburg - now less that an hours drive by car, but then a 2-day trip on horse or a 3-day trip by carriage. Dave :)

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    #4 giradman, Aug 23, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  5. The OB

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    What a fabulous drive and great photos too, Dave. A most enjoyable travelogue, thanks:)
    Andrew


    Sent from my iPad Air2 using Tapatalk
     
  6. scifan57

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    It will be even more interesting to see the house when the restoration is finished.
     
  7. giradman

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    As to Poplar Forest, the previous pic of Jefferson's bedroom is what the room looked like on our previous visit, so now more fully restored - the walls are plastered but the historic records are vague about whether they were painted (and what color?) and/or wall papered (again, type?). A portion of the house will be left unrestored simply to show visitors 'how' the house was constructed.

    The dining room frieze (what is currently in place in the pic below w/ the sky light will be completely restored on all four walls). And despite Jefferson's voluminous letters concerning the house's construction, the other wall details in that room are not known, so a decision as to go as far as historically correct vs. choosing a period option, such as a wall paper? Roy Underhill who's PBS show 'The Woodwright's Shop' has been around for nearly 30 years has done episodes on both Poplar Forest and Monticello (and other houses & places), which are extremely interesting, just not sure if available online (vs. buying the DVDs as in the link given).

    And for those curious about Jefferson's correspondence, he used a 'polygraph' (reproduction below), so that he kept a copy of virtually every letter he wrote which has provided much information in understanding his times. Dave :)
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  8. giradman

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    Aboriginal Art, James Monroe's Ash Lawn, and Wineries

    As to our first full day in the Charlottesville area, the morning included a spa date for Susan and the fitness room for myself, followed by a light shared Caesar salad & a ham/veggie wrap lunch at the Keswick Club Grill restaurant (couple first pics below) - then off for just a half day's touring in the area.

    First stop was the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection on the University of Virginia campus - the museum is small and located in an old historic house - below the building plus just one example of an art work. Many larger American Universities have one or more 'museums', so always worth some research while visiting these campuses.

    Then off to Ash Lawn-Highland, the home of James Monroe (1758-1831), the 5th President of the United States (1817-1825) (also the fourth Virginian to hold the office - a dynasty!) - quoted below the beginning from the Wiki link given - the house is modest compared to the others in the area and comprised just the portion painted in white from the pics below (the yellow addition came later); also on the property are reconstructed outbuildings and slave quarters. The dining room shows a cabinet that has some of his china from the White House during his presidency - he was the first to have his own china made which of course started a tradition; also, noticed that he died on July 4, our Independence Day - both Thomas Jefferson & John Adams died on July 4th in 1826!

    The remainder of the afternoon included visits to two nearby wineries; first Burnley Vineyards and then Jefferson Vineyards near Monticello - much more on the Virginia Wine industry in the next post and other vinous visits - we brought back 12 bottles (2 each from 6 different wineries). Dave :)

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    #8 giradman, Aug 24, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2015
  9. giradman

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    Virginia - Wine History & Wineries Today

    The first permanent English colony here started in Jamestown (on the James & York River peninsula) in 1607 - attempts to produce wines began in America at that time. Thomas Jefferson, an ambassador to France before becoming the first Secretary of State under Washington acquired a taste for French wines and imported many in his lifetime; he also attempted to grow grapes at Monticello but the European varietals failed to grow successfully (because of vine/root diseases unknown then - the best example being phylloxera).

    Now, there are nearly 200 wineries in the state located in many areas from the coast (i.e. eastern shore near Chincoteague - part of another travelogue of mine) to the mountains, plus north and south (Ch. Morissette & Villa Appalachia on the Blue Ridge Parkway are just a 45 minute drive for me) - see the maps below; only California, New York, Washington State, and Oregon produce more wine - Thomas Jefferson would be proud! A brief description quoted below of the landscape and climate of Virginia and the many areas in the state where wine is produce - there are now 6 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) in Virginia (only 3 at the moment in my state of North Carolina) (Source) - take a look at the 'overview' on the link - there is a short video that may be of interest.

    As in North Carolina, a wide assortment of grapes and fruits are used to make fermented beverages, so there is plenty of variety for all to enjoy - these include the use of classic European Vitis vinifera types, such as Chardonnay & Cabernet Franc; French-American hybrids (e.g. Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc & Chambourcin); native American varieties (e.g. Norton) - often, these assorted types are blended together to produce unusual and tasty concoctions. In my upcoming posts, I'll include some of the wineries that we visited (only about a half dozen of the MANY in the area). Dave :)

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  10. scifan57

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    Keep up the good work, I'll be waiting for the next instalment.
     

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