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  Set on a shallow bluff overlooking the broad Potomac River, Mount Vernon (March SeptOct daily 9am5pm; AprilAug daily 8am5pm; NovFeb daily 9am-4pm; $8) is among the most attractive historic houses in the US. The country estate of George Washington, with its eight thousand acres of landscaped and planted grounds, has been maintained virtually intact since his death in 1799. At just fifteen miles from downtown DC, it's close enough to be reached as a day-trip on the city's Tourmobiles ($20)。 Besides illuminating the life and times of the leader of the revolutionary armies, and the first US president, Mount Vernon also provides an eye-opening look into the lifestyle of the colonial gentlemen who founded the USA.

  A small museum gives an overview of Mount Vernon's history; in the house itself, the furnishings and decoration reflect Washington's preference for plain living, but few items a reading chair with built-in fan, and a key to the destroyed Bastille, presented by Thomas Paine on behalf of Lafayette give much of a sense of his character. The four-poster bed upon which he died stands in an upstairs bedroom; he and his wife Martha are buried in a simple tomb on the south side of the house.


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