At the beginning of June I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Alexandria, VA. to attend a conference at Virginia Theological Seminary. It was a fantastic experience, and I learned so much— but I was also really excited to be staying in a city so rich in history— so after the conference was done for the day, my friend and I drove down the road to Old Town to take in the sights— and also went on a night tour of the monument of Washington D.C., which was literally just down the road!
Ah but let me back up; like any good history lover, I hit the library before I even left the state for some reading to get me good and inspired. And as luck would have it, I happened upon the book “The Mistress of Tall Acre” by my lovely friend Laura Frantz, who I’ve been reading for years since I found her first book “The Frontiersman’s Daughter.”
I always enjoy Laura’s book because she is a passionate history lover, and has a great way with weaving historic detail into her wonderful stories. She also has the amazing talent of exploring her characters’ faiths in ways that dont feel heavy handed or preachy. In short, she’s an amazing talent.
But this book I had yet to pick up, and so I was glad to see it and thrilled to see that it takes place in post-Revolutionary War Virginia!
The story follows the character of Sophie Menzies, the impoverished daughter of a Tory who has fled to Scotland, leaving her to manage an estate that’s in shambles in a community that hates her because of her father’s political leanings.
The story opens with the recent arrival home of a neighbor and decorated war hero General Seamus Ogilvy and his young daughter. Sophie’s deep friendship with little Lily Cate Ogilvy (isn’t that the sweetest name) soon entangles her with the plantation across the field from her— Tall Acre— and its widower owner. So much happens— all against the background of a newly forming nation— it was such an enjoyable read. And thrilling too because some of the travels of the characters go right through Alexandria and the surrounding area, it was the best book to pick up before my travels.
And what travels they were! We were lucky to be there in summer when there was still hours of daylight to explore the town after our conference was done for the day. The seminary (which was beautiful and special in its own right!) was just a few miles away from old town, so we were able to travel down and see some beautiful historic sites and pretty shops.
First on my list of places to visit was Christ Church, George Washington’s home church– and also the home church of Robert E. Lee, who was a local boy.
Christ Church is still an active parish and is also Episcopalian, so it was wonderful to feel so at home there.
The church is open during the day and there is usually someone on hand to give you a tour, or you’re welcome to just walk in, take a seat, and say a prayer.
I love too that it is still very much “Early American” in it’s feel. Its so easy to imagine the Washington coming in to worship, and amazing to think of how many generations of people and how much history has happened within its walls and in the streets outside of it.
There are several wonderful historical sites— like the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothocary Shop and the Carlyle House— to visit in Old Town, but perhaps my very favorite was The Gadsby Tavern. The first time we walked by it was during the very last glimmer of dusk, and the whole place was lit up with candle light and you could see the waitstaff in the windows in their colonial period dress. It was simply magical! We were also lucky to be walking by on a Tuesday evening, when their gift shop was open later than usual, and I was able to get some treats for the kids.
We went back later in the trip when it was still light outside and enjoyed some fabulous food and got a peek at the rooms in the museum— including the ballroom upstairs where George Washington celebrated his birthday with a ‘birthnight ball’ and Thomas Jefferson held his inauguration banquet!
Dining in the tavern was also so special— complete with pewter plates and drinks in glass goblets. If you indulge in one treat in Alexandria— a meal at Gadsby’s is what I suggest!
And ofcourse, being right outside of our nation’s capitol, we had to go take a peek! We went with a new friend we met at our conference who came in from South Carolina and went to William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.-— so you know she soon found out about my undying love for Colonial Willamsburg 😉
We ladies boarded one of those two tiered buses and toured around the monuments Washington D.C.— and had a grand old time even if the “90 minute tour” stretched into more of a “three hour tour.” I think we saw every angle of the Washington Monument possible 😉
My favorite view, though, was The White House all lit up at night, with the big statue of Teddy Roosevelt on a horse in the foreground.
But before we knew it, it was time to come back home— and now I’m back in Oklahoma, working on book projects and thinking about Christmas art! I really fell in love with Virginia though, and hope to go back one day!
How about you? Have you traveled to Virginia? What is your favorite place to visit? If I’m able to return one day to Alexandria, I’d love to visit Mount Vernon. We just didnt have the time to do it on this trip, but I’m happy to have another place to explore if I’m able to return!~