Monday, July 22, 2013

Virginia Vacation

After school got out we took a short vacation down to Charlottesville, Virginia for the weekend.  Mom and I left earlier in the day with all the young'uns and the other folks followed later in the day (after work and a youth temple trip).  It is supposedly a 2.5-3 hour drive from here and the plan was to get there and tour Montpelier then check in a swim at the hotel, eat, swim and go to bed.  Yeah, didn't work that way.  95 S. was stop and go the whole way.  Eventually we called in a navigator to give us a detour route.  The drive ended up taking us 5.5 hours.  EWW! (not what I signed up for!)  We didn't make it to Montpelier, the other peeps were late too (though smart enough to avoid 95), dinner was late, so we only got an hour of swimming in before the pool closed and we crashed in bed.  All six of us in one room is an adventure!

The next day, after a "good" night's rest, we decided to divide and conquer.  Mom and I went to visit Montpelier, and the rest of the peeps went swimming.

I LOVED Montpelier!  Montpelier is the home of James Madison, Father of the Constitution and 5th president of the United States.  This is the land that his father owned, that James was born on.  His father built the house (the right 2/3 of the center part) when James was a teenager. James added to it throughout his life, and his Mother lived with him (in the right part of the house) until her death, and he died there.  James' wife, Dolly Madison (famous for saving the portrait of George Washington when the British set the White House on fire -before it was the "white" house) was sadly forced to sell the house, land and slaves after James' death due to debt.  It was just recently acquired by a foundation and restored within the last ten years.

Montpelier is actually in Orange, VA (we actually stayed in Orange because it is closer to MD) about 45-60 minutes from Charlottesville where Monticello is.  We went first thing in the morning.  It wasn't too hot or very crowded at that time of the day.  The drive up to the house is stunning! A curvy driveway that goes up to the gate then around the side to the visitors center.  They have a small gallery of items from the Madison family and they show you a brief video before taking you up to the house for the tour.  The tour was beautifully done.  It is interesting to see and imagine what it was like to live there and in the time period of the American Revolution.  In Montpelier, and Monticello, there were large portraits and busts of their friends i.e. George Washington, Ben Franklin, Lafayette, Napoleon, Jefferson.  It's a bit odd.  They also have interesting tastes in wall paper and paint colors.  Bright, vivid colors and patterns were "in."


Original doors with the yellow color

View from the house.  This is the driveway onto the estate.
At the gift shop I picked up a simple book about Madison, The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz. It's a grade level book that I read quickly and have passed on to Elijah, but it gave me a greater glimpse into Madison and his role in American history. 


For lunch we drove down to Charlottesville.  The drive was gorgeous!  Country roads with dozens of signs for farms and estates.  It was fun to notice all the names.  Someday I want a house worthy of a name.

Lunch was an experience.  We went to the Michie Tavern.  It is a tavern established in 1784 that is open for lunch and serves authentic fair from the time period.  We had yummy fried chicken, stewed tomatoes, corn bread, beets, mashed potatoes and gravy.  Oh so good.  Served by people dressed in period attire and eaten on tin plates by "candle" light. So much fun!

Then we were off to Monticello, just down the road.  Monticello was drastically different than my experience at Montpelier.  It was a much bigger deal.  Huge gift shop, huge museum, theater, and estate.  You were bussed up to the house.  Monticello actually means "Little Mountain".  Jefferson designed the house on top of a "mountain" with a stunning view.

Jefferson was a tinkerer and it shows throughout his house.  There is a compass attached to the roof of his portico that is attached to the weathervane on top of the house.  Jefferson could tell which way the wind was blowing without going outside.   There were also clocks throughout his house.  He was very particular about time and using it wisely.  There was a big clock in his entry way (with a face also on the outside of his house) that had weights that needed to be reset once a week and depending on where they were along the wall could tell you the day of the week.   His entry included displays of artifacts from the Louis and Clark expedition as well as fossils. 
Front door of Monticello with glass doors, clock, compass on portico.
My favorite rooms in the house were Jefferson's library/book room and his cabinet room where he had a swivel chair and a polygraph copying machine.  You can explore the floor plan of his house and see pictures of his rooms here.  Like I mentioned, he too had many busts and portraits of his friends throughout his house.  Sadly, Jefferson too lost his estate after his death due to debt.  Happily it has been restored and still has so much history to tell.
view from estate

Couldn't resist taking a picture of this cool tree located in front of the house.

back side of the house

Me playing around with my camera. 

Sadly it turned out to be a very hot afternoon.  Mom and I about died and ended up going back down to the museum for a bit before our tour time.  The boys got to experiment with quill pens and learned about slavery at Monticello.
Ben being cute.  Of course he was fascinated with all the gravel paths.

Sam is always a goof

Elsa was an angel, as always.  Just going along for the ride.

Elijah infront of the view of Charlottesville in the distance.  Jefferson helped found the University of Virginia which you can see from his estate. 

Ben sharing his gummy worms.

The drive back was happily uneventful. It was a great little vacation.  I wouldn't mind repeating it sometime.  We didn't have time to see all the area had to offer including Ash Lawn-Highland the home of James Monroe which is also in Charlottesville. 

Visiting these homes gave me a greater appreciation for these two great men, with their strengths and weaknesses, and the contributions they made for our great country.

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