It became the 10th US state on June 25th, 1788. Birthplace of eight Presidents, including hugely popular figures such as Zachary Taylor. Oh, and George Washington. Nearly forgot that one. One of 21 states with the square dance as the official state dance, out of 28 states with an official state dance. Birthplace of jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. The most common names are William and Emma, for men and women respectively. Home of the Pentagon, the world’s largest office building at 34 acres, and Dock Street Theatre, America’s first theatre. And it’s the birthplace of the wonderfully named George Crump, who, in 1804, became America’s first recorded streaker. He later became a member of the House of Representatives. Ah, America. Today, we’re visiting Old Dominion, Virginia.
The Commonwealth of Virginia is a beautiful, historic and relaxed state on the east coast of America, bordered by Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, plus the Atlantic Ocean. It is the 35th largest state at 42,775 square miles, with the 12th largest population with just over eight million people. It was named after Queen Elizabeth I, often considered the ‘Virgin Queen’, even though we know she wasn’t. I mean, really, really wasn’t. The motto of the state is a shortened version of ‘Sic semper tyrannis ad mortem’, which is Latin for, ‘Thus I always bring death to tyrants.’ How jolly.
The state flag has a seal at its centre, and draws inspiration from Ancient Roman culture due to a strong admiration for that period by the state founders. The woman in the middle represents the Roman virtue of Virtus, a Roman symbol of peace and… erm, manliness. She is standing victorious armed with a spear and a dagger. The figure she stands over represents Great Britain and Virginia’s defeat of the country, hence the crown and broken chain. Her exposed left breast is the only example of nudity on an American state flag. During the American Civil War, some joked that the state motto was Latin for ‘get your foot off my neck.’ Amusing…
This traditional and green state is a diverse mix of the urban and the rural, of forests and farmland, of world-class beaches and rolling scenic landscapes. The ocean on one side, the mountains on the other. The warm and welcoming Virginians are proud of their colonial heritage, often reflected today in the architecture and furniture of the state, but the old-timiness permeates this entire place, from the wonderful old towns, to the traditional music scene filling the Virginian air with soulful tunes from old-time string, bluegrass, gospel, blues and shout bands. But Virginians also love their cuisine and drink, a state famed for its breweries and wine industry. A chilled out place occupied by a friendly and kind people.
There are sights to see such as the amazing and ominously named Great Dismal Swamp, oozing an alien charm with its warped trees and ethereal mist.
Then there’s the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, opened in 1984, a toothful gem almost appearing to be from another time, a graceful and sumptuous marvel.
But my favourite sight of Virginia is Monticello, a gorgeous house mixing the neoclassical and Italian renaissance styles effortlessly. Built by Thomas Jefferson in 1772, this wonderful gallimaufry of quaint charm and timeless beauty beats to a supratemporal rhythm, nestled majestically in incicurable and kempt gardens. A truly lovely place indeed.
The Commonwealth of Virginia. The state of history, music and streaking.
Images (Click on Them to Enlarge)
1) The flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia
3) Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
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