To all my travel aficionados:
Today is not another account of my exotic excursions. Today’s blog entry is about my own backyard. This story begins with a visit from an old friend of mine. She came to town with her parents who had business in Washington D.C., which is connected by the 14th Street Bridge to Alexandria, Virginia, where I have grown up. Unlike most out-of-town visitors she had no interest in the attractions of our nation’s capitol. It was Alexandria that she wanted to see. She had watched a special on the History Channel about George Washington and was intrigued by how often her friend’s hometown was mentioned. She wanted to see more.
We began our day with a bike ride to Old Town, the picturesque region of Alexandria that borders the Potomac River. The architecture of Old Town is well-maintained and preserves the integrity of the taverns that were once frequented by George Washington. As I pointed out the history all around us, I realized how often I fail to see it myself. It was everywhere from the cobblestone streets all the way up to the iron snow guards on the roofs of the traditional dwellings. Even in the modern conveniences there is history. We stopped at a modern Starbucks, but the interior walls were made of the same bricks that supported the building when Washington played cards there as his horses were kept nearby. We capped the evening with a ghost tour where a colonial expert led us around Old Town telling engaging tales and revealing historical relics.
The next day, we walked to the towering George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Erected in 1932, this landmark pays homage to Washington’s status as a Mason and provides a bird’s-eye view of the not-so distant D.C. and its other surrounding suburbs. My most treasured childhood memories include watching fireworks from the steps of the memorial on Independence Day and sledding down the hill the building sits atop after snowstorms as old George must have done with his family. The memorial is also conveniently located just steps away from the loading station for the King Street Trolley, a free public transportation system that is part of Alexandria’s environmental conservation efforts. We boarded the trolley and hopped off at the legendary Torpedo Factory. This building was used for the production of torpedoes and other ammunition from 1918 until the end of World War II. The edifice is now a converted art gallery where local artists can display their masterpieces, but still contains a green Mark XIV torpedo from 1945. To finish day two, we took our journey to Fort Ward Park where visitors can examine the cannons and ditches used during Civil War battles.
The morning before my friend’s departure we took a jog around the track of my high school, T.C. Williams. She was more excited than you would expect one might be about a morning jog because T.C. Williams is the setting for her favorite movie, Remember the Titans, starring Denzel Washington. We took some photos and said our goodbyes. As she drove away I realized that in showing her my hometown I was actually showing myself. I was able to see my “backyard” in a whole new light and have a much greater appreciation for the most underrated historical city in America, Alexandria, Virginia.
Interested in exploring Alexandria? Check out these sites to plan your own visit!
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