Friday, September 28, 2012

“1,000 Places to See Before You Die-A Traveler’s Life List”

Ever hear of it??  It is one of our favorite resources as we travel - along with National Geographic’s “Guide to the National Parks (NP’s) of the United States” (and sometimes “Zagat – America’s Top Golf Courses”).  We have been ‘living’ out of these books for the last two weeks!! 

Actually, we started our trip in the Rocky Mountain NP and lunching at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park (1,000 Places).  Last week Kentucky was also a mixture of a NP – The Mammoth Cave – and 1,000 Places - the Bluegrass Country of Lexington, Kentucky and the miles and miles of green, mowed horse pastures.  Moving into West Virginia – The Greenbrier is one of two places in the state that is included in 1,000 Places. 

Since we spent one day playing golf at The Greenbrier (from Zagat), we had to return a second day to see the famous Bunker.  Built by our government during the Eisenhower administration through a secret agreement with the C&O Railroad (who owned The Greenbrier), the Bunker was built under a newly constructed wing of the hotel.  It was to house members of Congress in the event of a nuclear war (remember this was the late 1950’s early ‘60’s).  A secret for 30 years it became declassified in 1992 when the Washington Post reported its existence.   There are still no pictures allowed of the Bunker – but, it gave us a reason to be back at the grand old hotel at night for a beautiful night shot by our ‘super’ photographer – 

Twilight at the Greenbrier.

In Virginia we have worked our way through “1,000 Places” – The Homestead, Monticello, Shenandoah Valley and Colonial WilliamsburgJ!!

First - The Homestead in Hot Springs.  Built in 1766 for the likes of Thomas Jefferson to come and “take the waters” by soaking in the mineral-rich 98-degree waters.  It is a grand ole Georgian belle redolent of European spas like Baden-Baden, which now also includes three championship golf courses that have hosted seven USGA championships.  The Old Course (which we played) started as 6 holes in 1892 and was expanded to 18 holes in 1902.  It boasts the nation’s oldest 1st tee in continuous use and views of the grand old hotel from almost all the holes!!

The Homestead...another classic

Our view from one of the tee boxes.

Chilly morning..beautiful views!

Second – Monticello, or Little Mountain - the dream house and final resting place of Thomas Jefferson, statesman, visionary, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s only architect-president.  Jefferson designed every aspect of Monticello - in the Italian Palladian-style, although he was never to travel to Italy.  The interior was heavily influenced by his time in France as U.S. minister from 1785-1789 and decorated by many pieces he brought back from there (like 86 crates of goods!!).  He began the structure in 1769 when he was just twenty-six and worked on it for 20 years.  The back view may be familiar as it rests on our nickel – 

So, Mr. President, I think you should speak to both Obama and Romney about their behavior during the current Presidential race.

Monticello from the back yard - really, check a nickel.

Jefferson was not only proud of his home – but also of his garden.  In 1807 he planted one of the earliest crops of European grapevines in the New World.  His love for wine also came from France!!  He was also a man who loved books and education.  As a result, he founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, designing the buildings in the ‘academic village’.  The centerpiece is the Pantheon-inspired rotunda – which sadly was covered in scaffolding during our visit.   

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia.

Prime residential apartments  for certain professors and for select senior students who compete for the honor of living on The Lawn.

But, as is almost always true of our various visits – things always end with a little ray of sunshine or a rainbow – 

Look Haley.. Gramma is doing "tah-dah" for the rainbow over Thomas Jefferson and the University of Virginia.

Following in the theme of the President’s, we deviated from 1,000 Places to see two other homes – James Monroe’s and James Madison’s.

Monroe was our fifth President (1817-1825) - elected to a second term without opposition!!  Needless to say, his term in office is referred to as “The Era of Good Feelings”.  Monroe was a good friend of Jefferson’s – so much so that Jefferson selected the Monroe house site within sight of his and sent his gardeners from Monticello to start orchards.  Monroe and his wife, Elizabeth, moved into the house in 1799 and expected to retire there after his Presidency.  But, in 1826 finances and poor health forced the sale of the home.  Subsequent owners expanded the original Monroe home (the original home is the white portion and the expansion is the yellow portion).  Through good fortune, the home was bequeathed to Monroe’s alma mater, the College of William and Mary, in 1974, which has allowed us to now see this portion of history.  Subsequent efforts have been made to restore the ‘Monroe portion’ and to acquire original furniture.

James Monroe's modest home within sight of Monticello. 
(Monroe was the namesake of Gary's High School (go Vikings))

Montpelier - the lifelong home of James Madison.  This was his parent’s home, which he inherited.  Therefore, he was raised here, carried out his research and writing here, retired here after his Presidency and died here.  The last expansion of the house was made when he brought his new wife, Dolley, to the house.  Madison faced the home to the west – the new frontier.  The study where he wrote our Constitution was on the second floor of the home (above the front door) with wonderful windows looking toward that ‘new world’ and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  He, too, lived within a days ride of Thomas Jefferson.

James and Dolley Madison's Montpelier home.

Madison had a 30 foot deep ice house below the base of this gazebo.

A view from the Madison's front porch and study - Blue Ridge Mts in distance.

Back to 1,000 Places - Shenandoah Valley and Colonial Williamsburg.  Or, maybe we will save those for another day;-)  It's like "news at 11" - just a tease with the 'meat' a little later.

But, before we leave this post - a few more tidbits about 3 of our first 5 Presidents ---

Thomas Jefferson – Was a theorist of the American Revolution, drafted the Declaration of Independence with the immortal words “all men are created equal”, served as delegate to the Virginia General Assembly and to Congress, the Governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of State, Vice President, and our third President.  The Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition were just two of his accomplishments during his term as President.  He died heavily in debt on July 4, 1826 – the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

James Madison – His leadership brought about the U.S. Constitution, which he structured after much research on self governments.  His innovative ideas on 'publicity' made it a success by inspiring American citizens to support and ratify it.  As a leader in the first Congress, he helped shape the new government, introduced the Bill of Rights and ensured its passage.  As president, he guided the new nation through the War of 1812, proving that the new nation/government could endure through trials and tribulations.  Madison also died deeply in debt requiring his widow to sell their home.

Monroe - Served as a U.S. Senator, Minister to France, England and Spain, Governor of Virginia and Secretary of State and of War.  As President Jefferson’s special envoy, Monroe negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  Put forth “The Monroe Doctrine” in his 1823 message to Congress, which formed the cornerstone of America’s foreign policy.  Monroe died deeply in debt also requiring his widow to sell their home.  AND, he died on July 4.

These men SERVED their country because they had a deep faith and desire in this new country and the freedoms it held.  Not because they had a BIG pension to look forward to, or a BIG jet to jet around in or a potential multi-million book deal at the end of their terms.  They died deeply in debt because they were not around to care for their land and its operations.  As they were serving their country this was left to others who did not always do the best for their employers.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if our current representatives felt this same sense of duty and really wanted to SERVE this country!!  We happen to be in Virginia at a time in this election when our current candidates are here visiting because this is a current 'swing' state.  The ads that Obama is running at EVERY ad break (seriously - it is one of the ads at EVERY break, which means he is spending a TON of money) really make me sick.  (I can't say the same about Romney as have not seen any of his ads?!?!?!)  OK - my tirade is over.  It is also interesting that three of our first five Presidents died on the 4th of July - Jefferson and Adams on the same day! 

We have enjoyed our current history lessons, which were particularly pertinent as we are in the middle of this election.

More from 1,000 places in a day or two - E & G