Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pete and David Do the Founding Fathers (and Frozen Custard)

First things first. Carl's Frozen Custard, in Fredericsburg (since 1947), is the perfect place to stop for a treat between Monticello and Mount Vernon. And custard it is, egg yolks and all, not some lily-livered soft-serve masquerading as custard. There are only three flavors, and you know what they are. I tried two, vanilla and chocolate, on a cone, for $1.89. The flavors were fresh and delicious. If you're a history tourist to this part of Virginia (be it American Revolution or Civil War), a stop at Carl's is de rigeur.

Less memorable was our lunch stop, at Allman's Bar-B-Q (since 1954), also in Fredericsburg. The atmosphere is great, a little roadside joint with a counter and a few tables, and "Mom" in the kitchen. But the pulled pork sandwich left much to be desired; it was dry, low on flavor, and without a trace of smokiness. The hush puppies were actually the highlight of the meal.


I'd been wanting to visit Monticello for the longest time, but not being a driver my options were very limited. Surprisingly there's no public transportation from Charlottesville, and only a Gray Line tour from Washington. Several years ago I proposed a trip to Charlottesville to my friend David Mindich, whom I met, appropriately, in the doctoral program in American Studies at NYU. Our schedules finally meshed last weekend. We hooked up in D.C., where we had a fantastic dinner at Zaytinya, which assured its place as my favorite D.C. restaurant. The following morning we set out for Charlottesville, stopping for a serviceable southern buffet lunch at historic Michie Tavern.

I'll say little about Monticello, having nothing of value to add to the preponderance of information about Thomas Jefferson's home. If you want to know just about everything, you'd do well to read Jack McLaughlin's Jefferson and Monticello.

Mount Vernon

Our first and third Presidents both lived on Virginia plantations when they weren't living elsewhere. While Jefferson's Monticello is on a secluded hill, Washington's Mount Vernon is actually on the banks of the Potomac. Both homes were on land inherited from their respective families, but Jefferson built his house from scratch (twice), while Washington expanded the existing house. While Jefferson's ingenious innovations are a delight to the visitor to Monticello, I find the riverside location of Mount Vernon more hospitable.

In Charlottesville we also visited Jefferson's other architectural triumph, the University of Virginia.

Rotunda Skylight, University of Virginia

Though Edgar Allan Poe only spent a year at the University (he had to give Charlottesville wide berth after that, due to considerable debts), his room (appropriately, number 13) on Jefferson's original "Academical Village" is now maintained as a shrine of sorts where one can peek through the window.

Poe's Room, U. VA, with the Spirit of Mindich


Blogger The Wine Mule said...

Frozen custard. Not to be confused with frozen pudding. I hope?

7:35 PM  

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