The post about FOOOOOOD! If you are a lover of tortilla, Guanajuato is the place for you. Unlike more touristy parts of Mexico (Cancun, etc) that caters to the desires of its tourist with chains like margaritaville, Joe’s Crab Shack, etc Guanajuato is littered with street vendors most of which are making some version of a quesadilla stuffed with cactus and chihuahua cheese (I think it comes from the chihuahua district of Mexico). I cannot seem to get enough quesadilla in its many forms, Rhodes and lux are now tiring of the regularity, but lux’s love of engaging the corner quesadilla man is far stronger than his desire for frozen microwave pizza. So I continue to get quesadillas.
Fruit plays a very large part in the local cuisine, even more so than in the u.s.a. Many of us have a constant produce flow into our homes at dollar amounts that would shock these people, but fruit is everywhere here and so reasonably priced. There are street carts selling containers of fruit with creme drizzled on it, fruit for breakfast and the fruit juices are divine. After our brief experience here I will most definitely look at the Hispanic isle of our grocery store in much different light. The other morning lux said “the oranges here look horrible, but they make amazing orange juice.” We had this wonderful conversation about allowing things to ripen the way they were intended. In the u.s. we pick things way too early to ship around the country and appear pristine in stores so that you want to buy them, but here they are harvested when they are actually ripe or when they fall off the tree and they are not treated with anything so when you buy them on the street they look a bit rough, but they’re perfecto!
Our sugar intake here has been interesting. My mother would claim that they just haven’t quite tapped the true potential of sugar here, which I’d have to agree at least in the things we have tried. The ice cream is odd, not very sweet. The candy tends to be spicy. At least by American standards. The boys were so excited to use their pesos to buy something from a candy vendor and they bought what appeared to be a mashed fruit roll up on a stick, but once a few bites in they started using words like; watermelon-ish, spicy-kind of, that seedy thing, it’s too hot. Very odd phrases to describe candy. All of these ‘observations’ could easily be chalked up to the United States’ over use of sugar as well, but it’s just that, personal observation.
Sticky, spicy, hot, seedy, watermelon thing on a stick.
For our long bus ride we tried to buy some snacks. We bought “regular nacho” Doritos. I even asked the girl if they were regular, not hot Doritos. She said yes, no no no. Hot hot hot. Their normal version of our normal is significantly hotter across the board. It was the same with Cheetos. So if those are spicy I can’t even fathom what the things with flames on the labels taste like.
Let’s talk about Rhodes’ bowels for a moment. . .corn (elote or maize) is fairly common here and most places have a corn tortilla option, but it turns out that the flour tortillas do not bother him. After I saw numerous ladies making the flour tortillas by hand this past week, we decided to give it a try and viola! He didn’t get sick!
Lux’s new favorite, refried black beans, are a breakfast staple here. Turns out we’ve been eating them wrong the whole time and they are delicious with eggs!
And just like anywhere else in the world, the best places to eat are where the locals eat. Lunch at Mercado hildalgo (hildalgo market) was wonderful and so inexpensive. We had huge helpings of food made right in front of us for the u.s. equivalent of $3 a plate.
Water and fruit, filtered water is easy to find here and in abundance and dirt cheap. I’m no longer worried about the fruit being contaminated, I wash it anyway with veggie wash just like I do at home in the u.s. but I’m no longer doing it out of fear.
There are so many incredible things about this place, the food is just one of them, but I’ll tell you more about the tourism and people later.
Very early Sunday morning I woke the boys to get on the hotel shuttle to the airport. Not knowing what the day would hold, if we would make it to our final destination as planned, if that destination would actually have the reservation I had made four months prior, and even more if my massive checked bag would make it there.
We said gooodbye to daddy at the TSA pre check. Lux tried not to cry, I tried not to linger too long for fear that I would and Rhodes said “I’ll see you when we get back dad!” Completely oblivious to the fact that we won’t no matter how many times we have talked about it. We went through security with no issues, not removing anything, including electronics and shoes. TSA pre check was worth every penny with only one experience. We got to our gate and in the first 10 minutes of a 30 minute ‘wait to board’ I had the entire crowd terrified that they’d be seated near us on the flight. Atlas was a tired mess, the boys never stop talking. One man told me I was his hero, a grandpa made conversation with he big boys about Moana and frozen the two things he knew they had seen that he knew all too well. Another woman inquired about their ages, stating that hers were the same distance apart, which choired a “mine too” and another and another from the women in line behind us, followed by a “you have the sympathy of the crowd with you this morning.” Ah yes thank you, sympathy that’s what I need.
We ate on the gate floor, a breakfast of fruit with a smidge of cheese. I was praying the baby would sleep on this short, but potentially miserable early flight into charlotte, nc. For enquiring minds, it was $100 more per ticket to fly out of Charlotte as opposed to connecting to charlotte from Raleigh. Annoying. Anyway, Atlas was perfectly happy until we started boarding the plane. When I got to the threshold between the gate tunnel and airplane door and he could hear the noises outside roaring he lost it. He screamed, blood curdling screams, from the cockpit door to our seats in row 27, we were the last group to load. I walked the entire length of the plane with a screaming child, the entire plane full and watching (praying we weren’t sitting close by). I felt like I must have grown a 2 foot beard in the last hour as the freak show passed through the plane Atlas calmed down and didn’t make a peep that flight.
Atlas slept off and on for both flights and overall they all did wonderful on two flights totaling 4.5 hours. When we got to Mexico City, we waited in the customs/immigration line for what seemed like a life time due to some human factors of starvation and sleep deprivation.
When we finally emerged on the Mexican sidewalk we got a taxi and tried to communicate that we needed to go to the north bus terminal (autobuses del Norte Mexico). It appeared that he did not understand where we needed to go, though I thought my language interpretation was going ‘ok.’ He continued to ask for more information so I tried to supply him with an address. Thinking to myself that the cab driver should, most definitely, know where the north bus terminal is???? How is it even possible that he doesn’t??? Eventually I mentioned something to mom about Guanajuato and the bus driver experienced a huge epiphany with an “Ahhhhhh Guanajuato! SI OK!” Why he felt that our destination (9 hours later) was important information to our taxi destination I’ll never know.
We arrived at the bus terminal, somehow and with little struggle I might add, I managed to order four bus tickets and choose seats on a primera bus to Guanajuato at 1600. We tried to eat lunch, a nun tried to help me order, but in the end my five orders of food was handed to me as two orders with two fountain drinks.*facepalm* we loaded up on snacks from a shop for the long , 5 hour, bus ride. After paying for my first public restroom since the Turkish toilet hole incident of 2009. The bathroom ate our money and we went to catch our bus.
The bus experience as a whole was wonderful. I did bust my shin trying to get on when my suitcase fell over, taking me down with it. The girl that checked our tickets handed out a bag of chips and drink per ticket, nice touch. The bus was so comfortable, has a bathroom on the back, reclining seats and each seat has a tv playing Spanish movies. Well American movies in Spanish. The boys watched ‘the secret life of pets’ on repeat in Spanish. Atlas was not a bus fan, he wanted to walk around, but of course couldn’t much so hours 3 through 5 were rough and dark, which didn’t help.
The bus pulled into Guanajuato at 9pm in pure darkness and cold. We grabbed our luggage and looked for an available taxi, no taxi were found. Eventually my mom tried to call one, still not sure if the one we got into was the one we called or not, but we finally made it to our hotel room around 10:30pm. After some questions and trial and error we finally got hot water flowing and showers taken. One of the best showers to date. I can only compare that shower to those I’ve taken post child birth. Washing the stress, anxiety, facade away and emerging new and ready to take on a new role, a new adventure. We went to bed relieved and woke up rested to take on the city and everything it had to offer, after food of course.
We are down to a few days left with my husband Greg. He is deploying for 6+ months while the kids and I are traveling. You might think that preparing for a deployment is solemn and depressing and I’m sure it can be and believe me it has had it’s moments, but a lot of the preparation for this deployment has come with some joy. We are doing our final “things” as a family of 5 for right now. We celebrated new year’s at great wolf lodge. We have attended winter birthday parties as a family, enjoyed neighbors and tackled ‘honey do’ lists, but there is also a plethora of things happening here that you wouldn’t naturally think of. For one, a deployment binder has been created and meticulously added to over the course of the last month.
Tomorrow I will do a short live video covering some of the items that we have chosen to include in our deployment binder. AND I will give you the free link to download your own template if you should ever need it. This life that we live is stunning and awe-inspiring in so many ways. There are many sorrows and silver linings to Greg’s deployment. I get the “oh you poor poor thing” comment quite regularly, or the “I’m so sorry” as if he is dying. The kids and I are ok, I’m more worried about Greg actually. The bigger boys will miss him, there’s no doubt about that, but they have been away from him for the better part of the last six months and in that time we have had plenty of conversations about this ship on the horizon. I, though love the adult conversation and companionship of my husband, am looking forward to nights of good books, new friendships, cultivating old friendships, visitors, getting to know my grandmother as an adult, raising our children on the edge of the world knowing I have Greg’s blessing and that this is what he wants for them too.
I would have never guessed 7 years ago when Greg proposed that here I would be all domesticated (insert chuckles), raising three boys, homeschooling and married to a Marine pilot preparing for deployment. I would have told you then that there was no way, why would I deliberately put myself through that? There’s no way I could handle that. But now? I’m not even nervous. I have a general idea of what to expect and even lower expectations in regards to communication, agendas, timelines. I have never been more emotionally flexible in my life and I’m not afraid. I’m hopeful that Greg will enjoy himself where he can, we will try to rendezvous where we can and the kids and I will be our usual busy selves, but this time we won’t be staring at his empty chair at the dinner table.
Last week, Luxor asked me “mom do you think things will be different when we get back from our big trip?” I responded with a simple, yes sweetheart, very different. I can’t help but wonder how the boys will be different, not size wise by height and weight, but the size of their spirit, their zest to know more about the world around them, their level of responsibility, their awareness. . .will they struggle horribly to re-assimilate back into American culture like I have for the last 10 years? For their sake, I hope not, but lucky for them this trip to Mexico and then abroad for 5+ months is just the beginning.
Greg and I, July 2011, 4 months after engagement and 3 months to wedding day. The beginning looked pretty good 😉
The Return “home,” it has become a lovely home, but what is ‘home’ when you live on the cusp of nomadic-ness with travel and military home roulette?
The return home took much longer than the drive to Missouri because we only conquered about 4 to 6 hours a day and stopped for all the fun and memory making! Our first stop was Louisville again, but this time it was to tour the Churchill Downs. I found it to be very interesting, but the kids were bored. It was a long tour and had more of it been outside they would have enjoyed it a bit more, but it wasn’t and they were over it. They did however, really enjoy the museum.
Some of you know what my master’s degree is in, but almost no one ones the depths of what I was really studying. “Museum Science” is a vague umbrella of intensive exhibit design, organic material conservation, humidity levels, temperatures, different types of insects that cause threats to museum collections, loans, label font and size to cater to all levels of literacy and education. ANYWAY, my point, is that when I go into a museum I am very observant of the museum and permanent/traveling exhibit design. Now that I have children, the interactive aspects are becoming more important to me. The Churchill Downs museum has some incredible interactive displays for children. I apologize for the long windedness, but it is so incredibly important to expose your children to good museums when they are young so that they learn the joy of a well executed exhibit.
Our second stop was actually the Mary Todd Lincoln house in Louisville, but for lack of photos I won’t spend much time on it. Very affordable entry. An incredibly long and in-depth, personal tour of almost the entire home, which differs from most historic house tours. The tour guide was personable and answered all of the boy’s many questions. From the gift shop, I purchased a beautiful Caldecott award-winning book about Abraham Lincoln’s life that the boys and I just finished in school.
Most of my return photos are from Dollywood. I have wanted to go to Dollywood for quite a while, but upon looking at prices, yikes, it has been pushed off over and over again. We finally went on the return trip, bonus it was decorated for christmas. It was beautiful, very christian oriented, family friendly park. BUT my children are adrenaline, roller coaster junkies and there were almost no rides that they were tall enough to go on. They still had a great time, but price to product evaluation and we won’t be going back until my children are all MUCH taller.
Our last, but never least, stop was the Biltmore Estates. I love this place so. Being one of the Curators on staff has been a dream of mine for a very long time. After my first exposure to the Biltmore a year ago May I said “we need to go back when it’s decorated for Christmas!” That we did! My dad has also always wanted to see it and never had so we went and took our sweet time seeing as much as we could. You see, hear, learn something different every single time you go. There are so many incredible things to do and see in and around the Asheville, NC area, but perhaps the best thing my kids saw was the faces of our beloved neighbors at the end of this month-long trip.
Whew! It has been a fast, yet long, three months of almost constant travel. After our Pennsylvania road trip the boys and I were home for a week before we drove to Charlotte, NC for the Thomas the train engine close-up. I was skeptical about this event because our Thomas the train ride was at noon and our Percy the train ride was at 5:15 so I’m thinking to myself “what in the world are we going to do for 5 hours?? How am I going to entertain Lux whom has already made it very clear that ‘it’s for babies?’ ugh.”
IT WAS AMAZING!! There was so much to do that we ran out of time and didn’t get to do everything. It was nice and spread out so there weren’t 45 kids in any one area. I cannot wait to go back. Wonderful bang for the buck. DO IT!
Two weekends later, Greg finally home, we went to the North Carolina Hot Air Balloon Festival. It was over our 6th anniversary (the first year we have been able to see each other on the date) and though it was a low-key, low funded event it was good and worth going. I want these blog posts to be honest so in the name of honesty we RARELY purchase VIP parking or pay extra to be closer, but we did this time not knowing what to expect. THANK HEAVENS we did. Holy walk. If you find yourself going to an event similar to this do yourself and your party a favor and purchase VIP parking. The areas for these types of events are typically large to protect property (cars, people, trailers) from potential balloon hazards. We still walked quite a ways, but it was definitely worth the money.
Ten days later, the kids, Dog, Poppy and I, hit the long road from Coastal North Carolina to Boonville (Mid-central) Missouri. 17 hours, that goes by rather quickly with good conversation, but has some pretty horrendous moments with 3 kids squished into a mid-sized suv with no movies or electronics of any kind. I have a few rather pious and also boring normal reasons for this.
I have an older vehicle, no built in fancy things.
In the past I have tried portable dvd players. one person couldn’t hear, then it wasn’t fair, then they didn’t like the movie. I put them away never to reemerge.
Maybe the biggest reason, the only way we went on vacation growing up was via road trip, this is how I saw a good portion of the midwest. I LOOKED OUT THE WINDOW, or I read, played games, many many other things. I learned all of my initial assumption about the world by viewing it and you miss out on so much of the adventure by not looking out the window and asking questions.
On the other hand, I completely understand a mother’s want to hand out the electronics, typically everyone is happier (kids and mom included). Too bad for my kiddos, I won’t budge on this one. A movie here and there if the equipment exists is enjoyable, but I’d rather they count cows :).
All of our attempts to sight see on the way to Missouri were a bust due to winter hours except at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Bat Factory. It was a last minute decision to go there and we loved it! Very kid friendly, great little museum, wonderful factory tour. It surprised me and now I’m recommending it far and wide.
Our trip back was immensely more fun, stay tuned. . .
Friends, I am behind!! Of course, I’m behind due to some very fun travels that you’ll hear about soon 😉 Here in North Carolina, apple orchards are like mythical unicorns. You really want to believe they’re right down the road and not 5 hours away deep in the swerving mountains of Virginia, but alas, Charlottesville, VA is where we went.
I was first introduced to this beautiful, mountain top orchard back in 2013. Desperate to find a quiet place in the craziness of Washington D.C. HOV lanes, we traveled south with our then 14 month old and pregnant with Mr. Rhodes. We fell in love with the drive and the views. We would come back two weeks later and then proceed to miss this special place for the next 4 years.
This time was exceptionally chaotic and fun because we met our previous neighbors there (now stationed near Washington D.C.)
When homeschooling/travel schooling, I tend to pack books that aid in our learning and bring a little tiny bit of structure to something that could otherwise be a crazy fury of apple cores. The orchard as a facility helped me greatly has they had interactive trivia boards everywhere and fun visuals for the kids. I brought a book about apple orchards (a girl who goes on a field trip to one) and we worked on our variety identification and based on what we learned we tried to pin down what varieties of apples we would be allowed to harvest that day at Carter Mountain.
Due to the steepness of the mountain, a person cannot leave clean. You have to hike quite a bit and reach taller than you thought your arms capable, but the fruit is perfection. If picking fruit is not something you find necessary, Carter Mountain Orchard is still worth your time for history’s sake. Thomas Jefferson gifted the Mountain to, his then neighbors, and in 1912 the mountain opened as a public orchard and has been open ever since. Get out there and enjoy the beauty friends, it’s worth the drive.
When you begin the drive from Gettysburg, PA toward Lancaster county (Amish country) and Intercourse, PA do your whole car a favor and fill up with fuel before leaving Gettysburg. Though you will see many cars, primarily tourists and Mennonites, driving around there are a scarce few gas stations and the prices are astronomical. Supply and demand is thriving in Amish country.
Our first stop was to a beautiful quilt store where everything was hand stitched by the Amish. Photos were not allowed and we had to put white gloves on upon entering. I have been to a lot of quilt stores and that was a first, but for good reason. After the quilt store our goal was to catch a buggy tour. Rhodes (middle child age 3) loves horses and all things that go. Therefore, pairing the two became a very important must do mission, despite it’s blatantly touristy ambiance.
The ride was quite comfortable, though packed with people. We toured an Amish dairy farm, had homemade Amish root beer and lemonade before re-boarding the buggy.
The dairy farm was very interesting. Apparently batteries and solar panels are exceptions to Amish rules of no electricity. Every religion has their loop-holes, but the part that was truly interesting was that numerous generations of family lived in separate homes on the farm. The father identifies as Amish, the son that actually owns the dairy portion of the farm is not Amish. The father, who is pictured, actually owns the land and crops that feed the dairy cows. They work together and thrive together. The son’s milk production is purchased every two days by Land O’ Lakes. The co-existence was everywhere. There were Amish and Mennonites working side by side using different techniques and yet honoring each other’s choices and businesses. There were some overwhelmingly tourist trap type areas. In theory, we thought we would love the “square” full of shops, but there were dozens of tour buses, thousands of people, we kept driving. If we are going to shop, I want it to be authentic. I want to see the faces our money is feeding and we were back on the road. . .
From Amish country we traveled to Mount Pocono, PA. Gorgeous! We were blessed with a beautiful lake house to stay in that had perfect water access and all the amenities we could possibly want. We enjoyed a beautiful three days there, relaxing, no t.v., no rushing, just enjoying the company of friends and celebrating the life of a mutual friend. We played so very hard, packed 11 bodies into a 3 bedroom house, cooked together, drank together, laughed and cried together. We will definitely be back.
The boys got some extra, unexpected freedom due to the lack of lake depth off of the dock. You could walk about 20 yards out before it got any deeper than 2 feet so they were able to play and play and play essentially unsupervised and with little risk of drowning. The paddle boat was tied to the dock and they would paddle it out and back in practicing their pirate siege techniques and pretend playing for hours.
Though a good portion of our schooling that weekend came from play I did try to incorporate some more structured learning. We worked on tree identification and forest classifications as the trees and resources for this lesson were in plenty around us. We picked our favorite leaves (red maple and yellow birch mostly) and waxed them together with an iron. They are still adorning my kitchen windows a month later.
Though Amish country left some things to be desired, it was very easy to see the enticement of Pennsylvania. Rolling hills, pristine farms frozen in time, nature in perfection. I feel as if we only saw one facet of a Gem. I suppose we will have to go back.
Hershey Pennsylvania. The brainchild of Milton Hershey, a local boy with a fourth grade education would buy enough farm land in Lancaster PA to obtain enough milk to develop his milk chocolate recipe, which would debut in 1900 as the milk chocolate Hershey Bar. In 1907 he developed the Hershey Kiss, which would be hand wrapped until 1921. In March of 1903 he would start construction on what would become the world’s largest chocolate factor a real life Willie Wonka.
Once you arrive at Hershey’s Chocolate world you are given a plethora of touring options ranging from Free to costing a Fortune and even developing your own candy bar! We of course opted to try the free tour first, which was AMAZING! You get on a little car that takes you through the different processes of developing Cocoa Powder, Hershey Chocolate bars with and without Almonds, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, Kisses and chocolate syrup. During this little tour you learn about the almond and cocoa bean sourcing. They have signs on the almond conveyor belts telling you where the almonds and cocoa beans from that day are sourced. Then they walk you through the roasting and grinding process to make cocoa powder before introducing you to their more famous products.
Occasionally, there are large windows over looking the merchandise floor, which is essentially a warehouse full of chocolate. Nothing more exciting for the kids or me. Let’s be honest.
Throughout the tour you see all of their products being packaged and flying down conveyor belts. There are fountains and white and dark chocolate flowing, chocolate bars and animated cows talking to you and of course at the end there is free chocolate.
The Chocolate World tour is just the tip of the Hershey empire. There was a whole amusement park that was closed for the season. The entire town exists because of Milton Hershey and his dream. He built the post office and school district for his employees and their families. In the 21st century the Hershey industry owns many other products to include (twizzler, Jolly Rancher and Reeses) they also have a Hershey ice cream line and are continuing the traditions and quality of where they started. This portion of Pennsylvania is definitely worth your time if you ever find yourself within a reasonable drive.
Gettysburg. At the very top of my list of things to do in Pennsylvania was to stand where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address and read it aloud. The solemness of the grounds is loud and overwhelming and peaceful, except for the screaming and crying of my three year old who only wanted to see the first cannon in the park not the other 50. . .
My five year old on the other hand is at the perfect age for first exposure to such a huge topic. He understood the mass, not to its fullest, but to some degree. There were moments when I could see him calculating what exactly happened in his head and still not understanding the hatred behind it. I hope he never does. We studied the civil war in depth back in June, he knew who was fighting and why, but this, this was big.
If you haven’t been to Gettysburg, or are planning a future trip, there is so much to see. I cannot wait to go back and explore more of the town. The National Park portion is vast, you need a car or tour bus. The battle fields are spread out over 25 miles of road surrounding the center of town. IT IS ALL FREE!!!!! Nothing better than putting history in the hands of the people for FREE! GO!
Everything is hands on, child friendly, open spaces, historic (all the restaurants, shops and hotels are original to the 1790s). But. . .My favorite part was the covered bridge.
I’ve seen Sach’s Bridge on post cards of Pennsylvania my whole life and boy did we go on a wild goose chase looking for this guy. It was so worth it. It has also been published in five books as being one of the most haunted structures in Pennsylvania. Considering the 10’s of thousands of people that were killed at Gettysburg, that’s really saying something. It was beautiful and full of locals fishing, which was a nice change from the tour buses of the battlefields. We climbed to the top of the observation tower and there you can see exactly how the battles of Gettysburg unfolded on July 1, 2 and 3 of 1863. I was able to point to different sections of fields and peach orchards and show Lux exactly where the armies approached and flanked and clashed. That was a surreal moment for me. A moment that fueled me to continue this journey with my children. On the days that homeschooling seems impossible I can reflect on this memory of what middle school, high school could look like with an engaged child learning in the place it happened.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of thatwar. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate
we can not consecrate
we can not hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
We recently went on a little road trip. We did not cover much distance in mileage, but we saw so much! We drove from North Carolina to Virginia, Virginia to Pennsylvania and back again. When you pass through Natural Bridge, VA the natural bridge and natural bridge caverns are worth your time. A land full of natural beauty, millions of years in the making. Some words of advice if you decide to visit and stay in the area; the hotels are limited, the available food resources are almost non-existent so stock up when you go through Lynchburg.
The Natural Bridge Caverns were a great “first exposure” cave system for my budding scientists. The cave system is well lit and your guides are local college students, most of whom have been working in the caverns since high school. The Natural Bridge and the Caverns are about one mile apart in a small town with almost nothing else around.Carter Mountain Orchard. An old favorite of mine from when we were stationed in Quantico, VA. This was my third visit to the orchard, the last time I was pregnant with our second son. We met our old neighbors here for some much needed friend time and apple picking. My dear friend and I wrangling 8 children 9 and under up the side of a mountain was an entirely different view. . .
*Fun Fact: Carter Mountain was gifted to the family from their neighbor Thomas Jefferson and has been open to the public as an orchard since 1912.
Monticello. Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece and land where his, over 200 slaves, made all of their own bricks and nails for all the buildings once on the property. In previous years I have toured the house, which is worth it, but this time with only two sets of adult hands and 8 children we opted to run the grounds instead. The grounds are littered with exotic flowers and vegetables sowed from seeds from the 1790s. It is incredible to see a legacy as expansive, in ideas as well as children.
Virginia has so much to offer. If you don’t mind crowds you can travel closer to Washington D.C. and stop at hundreds of civil war sights, battlegrounds and plantations. If you prefer a Shenandoah Valley view head toward Western Virginia, Jefferson did.
With all the evil rearing its head in our country, particularly in Virginia lately, showing my children where it all started (slavery, plantations, Gettysburg) and what it meant to be a slave in this area during that time, helps set the stage for the tough conversations I have to have whilst raising children in this society. I do not hide truths from my children, I expose them, so history doesn’t continue to repeat itself.