"Philly Stringer" and daughter do Virginia

... "Foreign correspondent" discovers new territory

from Eleanor Jenkins

Editor's note: Eleanor Jenkins lives outside Philadelphia and is a steady reader of our Melrose Mirror -- mainly because daughter Karen is a resident of our fair city. She has written several pieces since popping up at a Stringers' meeting two years ago, and now our group has officially signed Eleanor on as another Mirror "foreign correspondent". She joins such illustrious company as Jerry Norton in Seattle, Steve Johnson in Arizona, and Paul Hupper in Florida. Her latest piece follows:

Karen and I just spent a week in Virginia. It was Historic Garden Week and many of the homes in the area were open for tours. When we looked over the homes that would be open for tours, most were built in the 20th century and were as new as being built in the 1990ís. We decided that those homes we didnít need to tour. We chose to select the ones that were listed in the garden book as ďalso of interest nearbyĒ group of older homes and plantations that were featured.

We spent our first day at Mount Vernon exploring the gardens in full bloom. The dogwoods were just beginning to bloom and we toured the home of George Washington.

The following day our visits to the Shirley and Berkley Plantations on the James River covered the colonial period to the present. The families of both of these plantations were involved very deeply in the history of our country. The Berkeley was the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison, signer of the Declaration of Independence, William Henry Harrison, the 9th president of the United States and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States. We lunched at a local restaurant which had outdoor dining facing the James River. It was a delightful stop, the crab cakes were delicious and the chocolate pecan pie was out of this world.

We arrived in Virginia Beach late Monday afternoon and early Tuesday we drove to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens. The trees were all in full bloom and the azaleas were just beginning to open. It was very colorful. We took the tram to tour the whole area first thing in the morning, then took the boat tour which traveled through miles of canals within the gardens. A bonus for this trip was an eagle raising an eaglet just off from the Rose Gardens. It was beautiful in April and when the roses bloom in May and October I am sure it would be another great time to visit. Since there were 12 miles of trails (we didnít do the twelve miles, we relied on the tram, although my daughter would love to have been able to walk through the whole area) we returned to our hotel facing the beach and sat on our balcony watching the waves of the ocean.

The next morning we strolled the beach for about an hour then off again to tour some more of Virginia. Virginia Beach had many homes to visit, but we chose only one, the Thoroughgood House which was the home of an indentured servant from England who arrived in America in 1636. We toured the 17th century garden and the home of Adam Thoroughgood.

By mid-afternoon we were nearing Richmond and decided to stop at the Maymont before looking for a place to stay. This was the Victorian show place of Major and Mrs. James Dooley. The 100 acres of gardens were beautiful. Again we relied on the tram to tour the gardens before taking the tour of the house. The gardens had been restored in the late 1990ís by the Garden Club of Virginia and they were magnificent. There is also a small petting zoo on the premises if you would want to take your grandchildren to visit.

We stayed overnight in Richmond and the next morning, we headed to Fredericksburg, where we strolled the streets and shopped in the quaint shoppes until it was time for the trolley tour. This tour is 90 minutes long and is well worth it. In addition to learning the history of some of the buildings in the town, it included much of the history of the entire area surrounding Fredericksburg.

After a delightful lunch at a sidewalk cafť, we visited the old Apothecary Shoppe that has been in existence since the colonial times. While waiting (a group of school children were in there when we first got there), we toured the herbal gardens outside. When the docent started our tour, we were glad we had seen what was growing in the garden, as she mentioned the uses of them for medicinal purposes.

We originally thought that we would be finished in Fredericksburg by noon and would be heading back to Philadelphia, but there was so much to see and do there that we didnít leave until late in the afternoon. We started up the road towards Maryland and found a place to stay just outside of Leesburg, Virginia on Route 15.

Route 15 has signs all the way as the scenic route and it was indeed that. The rolling green hills, the trees in blossom, and the easy-paced traffic made it a very pleasant drive. We had breakfast in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a casual drive on the Pennsylvania Turnpike back to my home, where we could regroup and Karen could prepare for her flight home to Melrose, Massachusetts.

When you get those winter doldrums next January/February plan to make plans to visit Virginia. It is a great place to visit. We just saw such a tiny bit of what is there to see. Most people think of Virginia and Williamsburg, but I saw Williamsburg before The Rockefeller Foundation ever started the exhibit that is there today. Most of Williamsburg today is only about 50 years old, but my daughter and I saw so much more of the original colonies and homes that are much more interesting.

June 3, 2005

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