o just six miles below Washington D.C., turn right, and you’ll be looking across the Potomac River at Alexandria, Virginia. Alexandria is worth a look– a long one. And fortunately there’s a very fine timeshare resort there to stay in while you’re looking.
Almost 50 years older than Washington D.C., Alexandria is one of America’s most historic communities. In 1999 it observed its 250th anniversary, which is admittedly not very old by Old World standards but carries some weight in the USA. The city has many authentic eighteenth-century buildings, and the charm of the “Old and Historic District” has been carefully preserved and restored by strict architectural and demolition control.
The town has been home to many notables over the centuries and claims both George Washington and Robert E. Lee as native sons. In fact, George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, is only 9 miles away.
In its early days, the port of Alexandria overflowed with brigs, schooners and other ships that sailed the high seas, engaging in international and coastal trade.
Laid out in 1749, Alexandria was founded by merchants to serve as a port and point of commerce for the plantations and communities of the region. They were very successful, and within 50 years Alexandria was an important trading center, recognized as one of the finest towns in Virginia. Today, this historic haven offers a welcome respite to travelers and tourists busily taking in the sights of Washington D.C., just across the Potomac.
Alexandria is still an important commercial center, but now it is more noted for tourism and upscale shopping than agricultural products. Many of the streets are lined with 18th century buildings and strict regulations serve to maintain the historic atmosphere. Old Town is considered a model for historic redevelopment. Do not mistake this place for a Williamsburg, VA recreation or one of the redeveloped historic districts of places like Old Sacramento, however. Old Town Alexandria is a place where people have continuously lived and worked during all this time; it is a real place, in real time.
If you are a person who likes comfort, shopping and dining along with your history you will be in heaven here. Not only is the architecture of the city from a time gone by, but the shopping district will boggle your mind with the vast number and variety of merchants. Not your normal tourist trinkets and tee-shirt shops here, but an assortment of solid goods, mostly unique, along with antique shops and clothing boutiques.
Dining? You’ll need to eat at least 6 times a day every day for a week just to make a dent in the available choices. With well over 200 dining establishments here, you will be hard pressed to decide where to dine next. And there are few fast food franchises littering the Old Town, so you may choose inexpensive but delicious seafood, a steak sandwich at the local deli, candlelight dining overlooking the river, or coffee and donuts at a sidewalk cafe. Thai, Pakistani, Mexican, Chinese, French, Italian– you name it, you can eat it here.
Figure on cooking most of your meals in your condo? The Farmer’s Market at Alexandria City Hall is thought to be one of the nation’s oldest continually operating farmer’s markets. Farmers, bakers and artists have been selling their wares in this spot since 1753. The market is open every Saturday morning from 5:30am-10:30am year ’round, rain or shine and features produce vendors, framed art, handicrafts, jewelry and other wearable art, and baked goods.
There is a great deal of African American history preserved in this city, too. Although Alexandria was a slave sale and trading location prior to the Civil War, it also had a history of several free Black communities. African-American life flourished with the establishment of churches, social and fraternal organizations, and businesses. Many early Alexandria African-Americans were skilled artisans. According to the first federal census in 1790, 52 free blacks were residents of the city. By 1870, that population exploded to 5,300.
The Alexandria Black History Museum houses a permanent exhibition that recounts the origins of Alexandria’s seven black neighborhoods. It has a commitment to collect, preserve, and interpret the African American history and culture of Alexandria, Virginia and to assess its impact on the greater metropolitan area. Three facilities comprise the Alexandria Black History Resource Center. These are the restored Robert Robinson Library and its addition, the adjacent restored Watson Reading Room (a former African-American school), and the new Alexandria African American Heritage Park.
It’s well worth a serious browse-through, no matter what your race.
Besides the delights of Old Town and the harbor area, there are other interesting things in the immediate area too. The Alexandria National Cemetery is one, at Wilkes and Payne Streets. One of the 12 sites established and dedicated by President Abraham Lincoln in early 1862 to serve as military burial grounds, this cemetery contains some 3,500 graves of Civil War soldiers, including men who served in the United States Colored Troops and four soldiers who lost their lives chasing President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Other graves of note include Werner Von Braun, the man whose vision as a youth sitting in a cherry tree later developed into the world’s current rocket sciences and helped NASA land a man on the moon. You will find his grave at the Ivy Hill Cemetery.
And then there was Wilmer McLean, who died June 3, 1882 and is buried at the Saint Paul’s Cemetery. This was the only man to have the Civil War begin in his front yard and end in his parlor. In May 1861, his estate on Bull Run became part of the Confederate defenses and two months later his land became part of the battlefield. One of the first artillery shots went down his chimney and exploded in a stew that was cooking for General Beauregard’s lunch. Seeking peace and quiet he moved to a farm that he owned in Appomattox, and later it was his parlor that was picked for General Lee’s surrender to General Grant, which ended the war.
A timeshare resort worthy of the area is the elegant Wyndham Old Town Alexandria resort, an RCI Gold Crown property that is so conveniently located and so very nice that there should be a law against it. In the heart of Old Town Alexandria, it is set in a charming neighborhood known for its cafés and boutiques and just a short 10-minute drive across the Potomac River from D.C. or a 2-minute walk to the metro transit system– which will whisk you effortlessly to everything that Washington has to offer and back again.
This 86-unit resort offers spacious one-bedroom suites with mini kitchen; and two-bedroom deluxe suites with fully-equipped kitchens; dining rooms, large bedrooms with plenty of closet and storage space, and living rooms with pull-out sofas. Some deluxe suites offer a whirlpool tub in the master bedroom and also feature impressive city-view balconies, large enough for a table and chairs. The interiors of the units are furnished in period style and they do not all look alike, which is a unique feature that sets it apart from most timeshare resorts.
Wyndham Old Town Alexandria is within walking distance of many unique shops and restaurants and its access to the Metro system will transport you to the world-famous museums, memorials and events at our nation’s capital. When you return from modern D.C. back to Alexandria, the historical ambiance and quaint streets will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time as well. Take time to relax and recharge at the indoor pool and fitness center. Kids will enjoy pinball and video games in the game room. A variety of other activities, such as bingo, game nights and cookouts during winter months provide limitless fun for the entire family.
If you are interested in spending time in the Washington D.C. area you can’t do much better than this resort. Come back again and again, see the city in all its seasons. You’ll have a wonderful time!
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/DCAAV/main.wnt –Wyndham Old Town Alexandria
- http://visitalexandriava.com/ –The official visitor’s guide to Alexandria, VA.
- http://alexandriava.gov/BlackHistory –The Alexandria Black History Musuem
- http://www.electricscotland.com/usa/alexandria/ –Alexandria: The Scottish connection
- http://www.alexandria.lib.va.us/lhsc_online_exhibits/haid/frontpage.html –Database of images of Historic Alexandrea
- http://www.oldtownhome.com/ –A wonderful blog from a pair of homeowners who live in and love Old Town Alexandria
- http://alexandriava.gov/ –The City of Alexandria Web site
- http://www.dcvisit.com/ –The Washington DC Visitor Info Web site
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
The purpose of "On the Road" is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. 5-Star quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out--- enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
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