Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

After a couple of very cold nights up in Shenandoah National Park, Charlotte and I decided it might be time to head toward the beach and thaw out. (I must digress to warn anyone who plans to take a road trip, that you should check the night time minimum temps, not just the daily highs).

We got our maps out and plotted a course for Virginia Beach. Seeing that it would take as right through Charlottesville, I immediately knew we had to spend a day there checking out Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

You see I’d heard about Monticello during my road trip down in these parts last year, but hadn’t been in the right area to check it out.

We spent the night in a gorgeous little spot nestled by a lake. There were birds, squirrels and we came across a big buck during our evening stroll. We both woke rested and ready to take on the world! On the way to Monticello, we were told we should stop in at Michie Tavern and grab an old-style southern lunch. This tavern is over two hundred years old! (in fact it was built a few years before Australia was even discovered!) The food was actually pretty good… deep fried chicken, bbq pork and the veggies were all cooked like my grandma makes ‘em – that’s to say, rather squishy.

This is a tea brick - used in place of currency back in the early days.

Next on our list was Monticello. To set the scene, it’s a mansion designed by Thomas Jefferson. It sits atop a cute little rounded hill, rising out of open forests not unlike those we see around Toronto’s rivers. For some readers of this blog not from America (perhaps most?!), you may only know of Thomas Jefferson as being the man who wrote America’s Declaration of Independence. Well let me tell you, he was many more things… The third President of the United States, an architect, gardener, scientist & botanist, inventor, plantation owner, and founder of the University of Virginia.

As we arrived on “the little mountain” (Monticello translation is little mountain) we were struck by the grandeur, serenity and natural beauty of the location. It was one of those sun-drenched but crisp days.. you know, where the sun is on your face but your butt’s a little chilly!

We decided to wander on the southern side of the mountain where the sun was a little warmer. This was where Thomas spent each evening, sitting in a small (20”X20”) window filled brick building amidst his garden, no doubt pondering his many ideas (we’re standing in it for the photo above – and yes, I need to shave). Charlotte and I sat there for some time soaking up the atmosphere. The gardens are still used and the produce gathered is shared among the staff to this day.

Below his garden the vineyard begins and falls down the slope deep into the valley. We wandered among the vines and then found ourselves amongst peach trees. When we returned to the top of the mountain we were ready for our guided tour of the house.

The tour took us through each room of the main floor, with all wall dressings, paintings, artifacts and maps being pointed out and explained to us by the guide. The main floor was packed with fascinating relics from America’s early years. We both found the tour fascinating and a very powerful way to be able to step back into the days of when the home was lived in.

As a bonus we thought we’d include some photos we took at a winery the following day… More about our road trip soon… coming up is “Nights in Rodanthe”.