A Visit to Monticello.
There’s a lot to say for taking a couple of days out of already extended itinerary to stop off at Charlottesville, Virginia, just to spend a couple or three hours at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home.
This is beautiful country and today was an especially beautiful day: clear skies and bright sunshine with temperatures I would guess to be in the mid-70s by the time I set out for Monticello.
At dawn, however, a mist was blanketing the valley between my hotel and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. It had lifted by mid-morning when I set out for Monticello, about a 20-minute drive from where I’m staying … fairly heavy traffic for most of the way, then almost abruptly turning into rolling, tree-covered hills.
The parking lot serving Monticello is on several areas and is very attractively laid out on several levels. It’s a climb to the visitor center where there’s a “museum/shop” (well, really, it’s a shop, but with generally high-quality items and almost no kitchy stuff.
From here, you’re bused to Monticello itself and the folks that operate this facility have the drill down pat. You’re organized into groups of about 20 and, after a five minute orientation, you enter the house, moving from room to room, with five minutes allotted for each. Photographs are not permitted inside the house, by the way.
First and immediate impression: everything is a lot smaller than I expected. There really isn’t what any of us would con side to be a large room anywhere in the house. Furthermore, as the guide pointed out and as became apparent during the tour, Jefferson was almost obsessed about “wasting space”. For instance, the clothes closets are built into the walls and, to get a change of clothes, Jefferson would have to climb a very narrow stairway, literally built into the wall separating his bedroom from his office.
One comes away from this experience appreciating the fact the Jefferson was an extremely intelligent individual, with an intense curiosity about absolutely everything. He could converse in six or seven languages and, according to the guide learned Spanish in a matter of a few weeks from a volume of Don Quixote. But, for everything we know about Jefferson — author of the Declaration of Independence, Secretary of State, president, author, philosopher, self-taught architect, scientist, renaissance man, and on and on–it’s clear that “eccentric” should be on the list, too.
Bottom line: a visit to Monticello was well worth stopping off in Charlottesville for two days. I certainly recommend it.
(Apologies for a very hastily written post today. I am catching Amtrak’s train 20, the Crescent, from here to Washington. It’s running on time and I have to pack and leave here in 20 minutes.)