03 July 2017

A Maple Festival, A Music Teacher's Convention and Some Awesome Historic Homes (including the West Wing of the White House)

As usual, there's always somewhere interesting to go and see in Virginia! One of my piano students told me about the annual Highland County Maple Festival, which is on the other side of the Shenandoah Mountains. It was about a four hour drive to get there and Kent and I did it as a day trip.
The first place we stopped was for all-you-can-eat buckwheat pancakes with real maple syrup and freshly made (never frozen) sausage.
It was in a community hall in one of the towns in Highland County.
 I'm not sure I'd ever eaten buckwheat before--I thought they didn't taste too differently from ordinary pancakes--but the real maple syrup and fresh sausage were very yummy!
 Our next stop was to a family owned maple syrup making business.
 They don't really collect the maple sap like this anymore, they just had them to show how the sap used to be collected. You can see there was still snow on the ground up in the mountains.
I think this is where the sap that was collected was stored until it was brought in to be cooked down and made into syrup. 
It takes an insanely huge amount of sap to make the syrup, like 30 gallons to make a gallon of syrup.
It was interesting to see the process, and now I can appreciate why real maple syrup costs so much!
 The town was selling all kinds of maple products, so we thought we'd try the maple doughnuts, since for some unknown reason there aren't any maple bars sold on the East coast. The doughnuts were awful--dry and tasteless, so after sharing one we threw the rest away.

On to my next adventure--I'd seen that the Music Teacher's National Conference was going to be in Baltimore, Maryland, just about an hour's drive away. I did some investigating and discovered that the vendor's hall was open to everyone, not just conference attendees. So I jumped in my car on a Monday when I didn't have any piano lessons to teach and drove to Baltimore

I didn't take many pictures, but it was pretty cool to see in person several of the people whose names are on the books I use to teach piano.
 I was fortunate to find a parking place on the street near the hotel where the conference was being held. This statue is called the National Katyn Memorial, and is the tallest statue in Baltimore.
Later in the month I organized a trip for my Bible Study group to an afternoon tea in the historic Rosemont Manor in Berryville, Virginia. It was the home of a former governor of Virginia. I didn't get a good picture of the outside, except this plaque
Here's our group in front of the fireplace in the dining room where we had the tea.
Here's the menu. I thought it was neat that they had a different tea served with each course. I requested non-caffeinated tea, so I had herb teas instead of the ones listed.
The picture below was the savory course. The course I was most disappointed in was the sweets course, because it was pretty skimpy. Just a tiny little chocolate ganache tart, a mini lemon cupcake and a small bowl of mint ice cream, only one of each per person. For the money we paid it I thought they could have been more generous and creative with the sweets. 
 At our table before the food was served.
 One neat aspect of the afternoon was that we were able to tour the house and look in the bedrooms of the bed and breakfast portion of the house.
They were named after different presidents of the US. The room below was my favorite because I liked the floral painting on the walls. It was a fun way to spend a spring day and drive through the countryside of Virginia on our way to the mansion.
 The mansion below is closer to home--it's called Chatham and it's right in Stafford County. It's owned by the National Park Service, and they were having a special event celebrating the arts.
It was used as Union Headquarters during the Battle of Fredericksburg during the Civil War.
I loved this view overlooking the Rapahannock River and the city of Fredericksburg, especially with the flowering trees.
 This gnarled old tree predates the Civil War and is behind the house.
 Inside the house there was a sampler on display that dates from the 1800's.
 It was stitched by a young girl. It's amazing that it's been preserved so long.
 The fence in the backyard has a musical theme. Not the treble clef sign and the notes.
 I had to pose by the musical wrought iron fence.
 The last historic home we visited was the White House. I've been on East wing tours of the White House before, and we've been on White House garden tours, but the general public doesn't have access to the West Wing.
This fine looking guy below is the Marine Military aid to the President, and he's allowed to take very small groups of visitors on tours through the West Wing of the White House. As he took us around he regaled us with first person accounts of his interactions with the president and experiences he's had on Air Force One. He rubs shoulders every day with people we hear about in the news. As a matter of fact, we've seen him a couple of times in videos of the President on the news.
We went with one other couple on Sunday afternoon after church. He even drove us in his vehicle so he could park in the White House parking lot!
We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside, but we were able to see the "Situation Room", the Cabinet Room and the Oval Office.
 This is a view of the White House from the press corps side. Kent thought he'd try to jump the fence to see if any Secret Service guys would take him down!
 One place we were allowed to take pictures was the press room.


 It was much smaller than it looks on TV! I thought it was interesting that each of these seats have a plaque in front of them with the name of a news organization. The front row was ABC, CBS and NBC, with CNN and FOX not too far behind.
 As we were walking to and from the car we passed by the Eisenhower building, which I've never paid too much attention to before. It's an Executive office building.
It was soooo interesting and beyond awesome to tour the West Wing of the White House, since it's not open to the public. Another case of it being who you know, not what!