Monday, 23 July 2012
Up early once again to get in a full day of driving and history. We grab a quick breakfast in the hotel cafe and then enjoy a pleasant drive north through hills and forest to Montpelier. (I’m still not positive how they pronounce it around here.)
James Madison’s home is gorgeously restored to the period when he and his wife Dolly lived there following Monroe’s retirement in 1817. The home, added onto twice during his time there, is lovely, comfortable with lots of natural light, porches and beautiful vistas. Our tour guide is terrific, another font of American history and local information, who took plenty of time to answer the many questions posed by our group, all of which led to additional interesting tidbits.
After the group tour, we spend a bit of time wandering the grounds and the formal garden (the rest of the DuPont family additions were thankfully removed during the restoration of the house.) The cafe in the visitors’ center was unimpressive so we decided to drive into the nearby town of Orange for lunch. A wise choice, as we discovered a local BBQ joint serving delicious pulled-pork sandwiches with the requisite Southern side of fried dill pickle spears.
Because of the late start and the length of time spent at Montpelier, we’re not able to take the Sky Line Drive through the Shenandoah Mountains. We have someone waiting for us in Manassas, so take a more direct route and save the Sky Line for another trip.
After a few hours on the road, we finally arrive in Manassas with the rush hour traffic and check into our hotel. We meet Tony, a member of the family and our resident Civil War expert, for dinner where talk revolves around Jefferson, Monticello and fascinating background information for tomorrow’s Civil War battlefields tour.