Thursday, 30 June 2016

Cycling the Mount Vernon Trail to Tudor Place and Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, Washington D.C.

The Mount Vernon Trail in Washington DC runs for 18 miles (29 km) from Mount Vernon in the
Tudor Place, Georgetown, Washington DC
south to Theodore Roosevelt Island, just past Arlington Cemetery - click here for a trail map. Still jet-lagged and nowhere near as fit as we would have liked to be (are we ever!), we parked the car at Daingerfield Island about 7 miles from our objective at Georgetown. I know, I know 7 miles is pretty whimpy but we had just flown from Sydney,  Australia.

The sealed surface of the trail made the cycling easy - thankfully! Even the few small uphill sections slipped easily beneath the rhythm of our wheels. With a single interruption where we passed Ronald Reagan Washington Airport (I love airports as long as I don't have to arrive or depart from them) this section of the trail runs along the western bank of the Potomac River and has some beautiful views across the water. There is nothing like a nice view to make the cycling easier.

Georgetown

Georgetown is the Paddington of Washington D.C, - with its period terraces, quaint little cafes and well-preserved streetscapes. Sprinkled here and there are grand homes; reminders of an earlier era. Our objectives were Tudor Place and The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.

p.s. - Paddington is a suburb of Sydney, Australia -  a well-heeled, inner-city, small blocks of land, chardonnay socialist sort of suburb. David hates the place - lol!

Tudor Place
Tudor Place, Georgetown

Tudor Place

Tudor Place, one of America's few intact historic urban estates, was built by Martha Peter, a granddaughter of Martha Washington, and Thomas Peter, the son of Robert Peter, merchant, landowner and Georgetown's first mayor. The grand neoclassical house was completed in 1816 and owned continuously by the Peter family for six generations until 1983 when it was given to the Tudor Place Foundation. The gardens cover 5½ acres of grounds; an impressive size for an inner-urban location.

Tudor Place
A quiet corner of the garden
Our visit to Tudor Place coincided with preparations for the annual Garden Party fundraiser. The front lawn was a hive of 21st century activity, with a half erected marquee, piles of scaffolding, lines of potted plants and other decorations, and general mayhem. It was a pity the workers weren't in period dress. You could close your eyes and imagine the same frenzied activity preceding Tudor Place social gatherings down through the centuries. By comparison to the controlled chaos outside, our 3 pm house tour was an oasis of calm.

Tudor Place
Setting up for the Garden Party.

Tudor Place is filled to overflowing with a huge collection of objects (15,000 of them) ranging from fine decorative arts to common household items. Our tour guide had stories to tell about them all. Some, like the sad story of the two young cousins hanged during the civil war, held our steadfast interest. Family legend has it they dressed up as Union soldiers for a prank, found their way to a Union camp and, claiming to be military inspectors, were wined and dined before being discovered as imposters and hanged as spies. Other stories, relating intimate details or provenance of one object or another, had us glazed over and longing to escape to the anarchy of the garden.

A word of warning about the tour. If you are interested in object d'art, period furniture and other small museum pieces you will love Tudor House. If however your main interest, like ours, is in the lives of the people who lived in the house you will be left a little disappointed. It would be nice if Tudor House offered two different tours - one focused on the collection and another for people like us who are principally interested in the social history.



Tudor Place
The garden had many lovely, quiet corners.
For the opening hours and tour prices of Tudor Place click - here.

Dumbarton Oaks Gardens

Our next stop was the Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks - not to be confused with the nearby Dumbarton House just a few hundred metres away. Trust me I made this mistake more than once when I was researching our trip. Somewhat surprisingly Dumbarton Oaks is owned by Harvard University, having been willed to them by a donor.

I dodged a bullet on this one. I thought our plan was to visit the gardens - take in the beauty of the flower beds, admire the rhododendrons (D has a particular love affair with rhododendrons) and perhaps contemplate nothing in particular at the Lovers' Lane Pool. David's plan was to do all this AND visit the adjoining museum. There is nothing like a good dose of Byzantine, pre-Columbian and European masterpieces to make me wish I was curled up with a good book at home. I got lucky though - the day before we arrived the museum was closed for renovations. It won't re-open until 2017 - no point in hanging around for that! Sometimes the holiday gods smile.


The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks
The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks

The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks


Back to the gardens. For the most part, flowers are just flowers to me. I can't tell the difference between a camellia and an azalea  - well maybe those two I can. Generally I leave the cataloguing to the experts - and to D who has an encyclopedic knowledge of these things. Have I mentioned how annoying it can be to be married to a man who know's everything?

I do like gardens though, and while I may not be able to name too many plants, I can photograph them. I won't try to describe the loveliness of wandering through the many acres of Dumbarton Oaks Gardens. You can look at my photos and make up your own mind. Suffice it to say, the gardens are huge, so leave yourself plenty of time.


The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks

The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks

My Tip: - Not actually mine but given to us by the very nice lady security guard near the gate. When you enter the gardens turn right and stroll the gardens counter-clockwise, heading first toward the Lovers' Lane Pool - or better yet pick up a pamphlet and follow the suggested path so you don't miss anything.

For the opening hours and tour prices of The Gardens at Dumbarton House click - here.






The Mount Vernon Trail

Don't panic! I won't bore all my non cycling readers senseless with a detailed description of the trail - not in this post anyway. When I write my Mount Vernon Trail post I will include a link to it here.
However if you do want to cycle the trail it is worth knowing a few things.

  • Parking - For your car, not for your bike. Parking bikes is ridiculously easy! We parked at Daingerfield Island, which put us about 7 miles from Georgetown. Strictly speaking there is a three hour limit during the week. The parking lot was almost empty when we arrived and our car was parked for much longer than three hours without getting a ticket. If you decide to chance it and you do get a parking ticket then you have my sympathy - but that's all. 
  • There is also three hour parking a few miles closer to Georgetown near Ronald Reagan Airport. They have tow-away signs so I wouldn't chance it. Getting fined is one thing; arriving back to find your car missing is a whole different level of holiday disaster.
  • For the cycling masochists among us, you can ride the whole trail from Mount Vernon (16.4 miles - and don't forget you will have to ride back). There are several small parking areas just off the road toward the start of the trail, or split the difference and park at Jones Point Park. Jones Point Park (9.5 miles) is also technically three hour parking.
  • Directions - Follow the Mount Vernon trail along the south-west bank of the Potomac River. That bit is easy! Honestly, for the rest you will be better off using Google Maps or picking up a bike map from a bicycle shop or visitors' centre. Travellers have been lost for years after following my directions. Even D's superb sense of direction deserts him on holidays. He navigates by the sun - well who doesn't really! - and when we are in the northern hemisphere he has a bad habit of forgetting the sun is in the south, not the north. 
  • The return cycle - On our return ride in the afternoon peak hour we were forced to keep a constant look out for commuter cyclists riding at high speed. Between dodging other bike-riders, joggers, walkers, in-line skaters, ducks, geese and mothers with baby carriages it was almost as stressful as peak hour driving.
  • Bicycle Hire - Honestly - it's Washington DC, there are bike hire places everywhere! I am not a great fan of bike share schemes because they are directed more to commuters than tourists but if you want a bike for 30 minutes for just $2 then you can do worse. Click here for locations and details.
I will publish a new post every Thursday/Friday (depending on your time zone). If you want to follow our travels check back each week or enter your email address in the 'Follow this blog by email' box in the right hand sidebar just below my profile picture.

For all the posts in this series so far click - here

David and I received complimentary entry to Tudor Place and The Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks.

32 comments:

  1. Dumbarton Oaks gardens looks beautiful! Great photos.

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    1. The gardens were lovely. We were there is spring which always helps.

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  2. I lived in the DC area for 3.5 years, and I never did anything in this post. I go back once or twice a year to visit friends, so I'm constantly looking for things to do as a tourist who once lived in the city and experienced most of the museums, monuments and attractions multiple times over. Thanks to your post I have a couple ideas I can add to a day in Georgetown! #WeekendWanderlust

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    1. If you really want to make it a fun day, hire a couple of bikes and cycle the Mount
      Vernon Trail to get there. There is nothing like being on a bike for really getting a feel for an area.

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  3. Beautiful photos! I love Georgetown an have spent plenty of time there, but have never explored Dumbarton House or Gardens, but I will now! #weekendwanderlust

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    1. I can recommend it. Both it and Tudor Place are such amazing green spaces in the middle of a urban area. It is so nice to see they have been preserved.

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  4. Your cycling tour lokks like fun.

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  5. Yep you dodged a bullet I think. What you did see was lovely.

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  6. What you managed to accomplish on a bike tour in DC is great. Dumbarton Oaks Gardens look great, I haven't seen them although I've been in DC several times so far.

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    1. This trip we decided to give most of the larger attractions this miss and concentrate on places a bit less well known.

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  7. I am not an avid cyclist but I would love to cycle this trail (I have my bike, so, I need to get in shape). With so many interesting sights, I think you will not feel that burn on your thighs!

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    1. The trick is to get in shape slowly. Just start with cycling on the flat for half an hour or so and you will be amazed at how quickly the fitness comes.

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  8. DC's really gorgeous. I lived there for about 10 years but never made it to Dumbarton Oaks. I'll be back there later this month - will have to go. Thanks!

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    1. It is a lovely place. I can highly recommend it.

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  9. The gardens are beautiful! I'm loving reading your biking adventures!

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    1. Bike paths and gardens - my idea of heaven.

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  10. Such positive summer images. Thanks for sharing, Lyn. Happy and safe travels to you and nothing wrong with sealed surfaces or seven honest miles.

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    1. Thank you. We enjoyed our summer sojourn - back in Sydney, Australia now and it is winter - oh well.

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  11. Super shots!
    Thank you for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-independence-day.html

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  12. Tudor Place looks like a lovely spot, Lyn. Thx for sharing. I've not yet been to DC, but I will add this beautiful place to the list for when I do get there.

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    1. I think you could spend months in Washington DC and not see all the attractions they have. Tudor Place is one of the lesser known ones.

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  13. Oh I laughed at your good fortune of the museum being closed until 2017. Holiday gods indeed. Sounds like the path may be more dangerous than road cycling with all of the users including the ducks and geese. Lovely images of the gardens too.

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    1. Haha - We have a real issue with ducks at one of the paths we cycle on in Sydney too. They are just so brazen and never make any attempt to move out of the way but in spring they all have babies so I forgive them because the ducklings are so cute.

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  14. Hi Lyn - success! I'm finally able to comment on your blog! Thanks for the tip :) I really enjoyed reading about your cycling trip. Much respect for your commitment towards using such an eco-friendly mode of transport! Plus, it's a good workout too.

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    1. Michelle. I am glad my suggestion worked. I am sure the same method will work for all the other blogger blogs you have had trouble commenting on. I agree with you about the workout. It always feels great to arrive home from a holiday fitter and trimmer rather than fatter and slower - lol.

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  15. What some fabulous suggestions! And that green! What a lovely colour the grass is all around :)

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    1. Talking of suggestions. David and I are off to W.A in September and I want to pick your brain about what we should do and where we should go. I know you are swanning around the world right now having a ball but I might send you a private message with a few questions if you don't mind.

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  16. Those look like beautiful gardens

    Mollyxxx

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