Visiting Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, seeing so many magnificent sites, and reading about the Civil War has made me think about how blessed we are to have lived through such tumultuous times and have survived as one country. I’ve thought about how the United States cannot be painted with one broad brush and labeled blue, red, or green. We are a multitude of colors and shades with nuances that are difficult to describe and sometimes comprehend. Everywhere we go, we are surprised by what we see and how often our preconceptions about places or people are wrong. Each day of travel opens up our horizon as we sometimes have to look back to appreciate the present fully and have hope for the future.
I love finding the unexpected, and this last portion of the trip has given me plenty to love. I will start with the Witness Tree we saw at the President James Monroe Highland home in Charlottesville, Virginia. Over three hundred years, it has witnessed the coming and going of many families and generations. I imagined growing up under the shade of that tree and noticed how a subtle change in words like changing the name of the slave quarters to the home of the enslaved can make a big difference in our perception of a place.
In Harpers Ferry, where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers meet, is where serendipity happened and why I say I’m not only blessed but lucky. I never expected it and didn’t plan it, but I got to walk up the steps of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where one of the scenes of my upcoming book, For Freedom’s Sake, takes place. As I walked around Harpers Ferry, I became my book’s main character and tried to imagine more vividly what she saw and felt. I will revisit that chapter with a fresh new outlook.
The Point - convergence of Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers.
If you’ve followed my postings, you know I love taking pictures of flowers, so imagine my joy when we visited Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and found peoples’ gardens were open to the public. We went into several gardens and met the owners: their pride over their masterpieces evident in their stories. From what we saw and heard that day, Shepherdstown is a nice place to live with lots of cool green-thumb people; no wonder it’s been voted one of America’s coolest towns.
Cute street benches around Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
And for one more stroke of luck, we got to eat at L’Auberge Chez Francois when we visited Great Falls National Park in McLean, Virginia. Even though we are vaccinated, we’ve avoided going to restaurants, especially indoor facilities, during this trip, so I wasn’t terribly disappointed when we called L’Auberge to make reservations and found they were full. Regardless, after we visited Great Falls National Park, we decided to pass by the restaurant, just in case. Well, we not only got to eat at L’Auberge, but we dined outside in their beautiful garden, and even met Jacques, the eldest son of Francois Haeringer, who founded the original restaurant in DC. The restaurant has been at this location since 1976, and when his father died, Jacques took over. The food was delicious and the service excellent, but we got the biggest kick out of meeting the Chef and seeing him walk around his vegetable garden picking up vegetables for his scrumptious meals.
Last view of Potomac River in Great Falls National Park. We will be back!