Thomas Jefferson’s home
in Charlottesville, Virginia:
Above, the back side of Monticello
Lilacs in bloom: At right >
Regardless of your feelings about the man, Thomas Jefferson did pick a beautiful site upon which to build his home. Now, notice I said beautiful, I didn’t say practical!
Now, there was a big storm across the mountain pass to Monticello, and we got stuck in a accident (tree fell across the road) so we arrived late to the home and museum. The tickets were not cheap, just like any other place, and the gentleman helping us put us on a list to come back the next day, on the same ticket. Because of the weather conditions, many people were delayed, so we got a full day in even though over a two day period.
The house itself is fairly small, but well built. Pictures are not allowed anywhere within the house, so nothing to show you for that venture. You enter through the front and can see the clock that Jefferson had built that indicated each day by where the rope ended on the wall. The wall was printed with each day of the week, and by miscalculation, Saturday ended up in the basement. The front entry also showcases some of the finds from Lewis and Clark’s Expedition. Now, I am a major fan of Lewis and Clark, and really that was one of my two reasons for actually going to Monticello. I was quite disappointed that besides a few artifacts, there was very little to see in regards to the Expedition. The museums had a few pieces of information too, worth seeing, but nothing very “in depth” like I had imagined.
There are two floors of museum (two small floors, but well done) and a movie theater that plays a film about Jefferson. About half the area is taken up by a huge store, including a very small bookstore area (I am interested in his daughter, but no one has written a book about her and her important role in history. No one at the museum store could help me. What a shame!)
Here’s my second reason for really wanting to come to Monticello: The great part of the store is the front end, which has an outdoor section of heritage plants grown at Monticello and an indoor section of heritage seeds! I bought a type of corn and Adzuki beans, a bean that Lewis and Clark discovered on their journey! I planted the beans and corn and plan to save the crops for future seeds.Outside, Jay and I picked out some perennial plants: Asparagus, Garden Sorrel (a perennial lettuce with a lemony tang!), Skirret (still not sure what it is, but it’s pretty), Wild Ginger (the find of the day!), Bloodroot (red roots used by Indians for color, my chickens ate it before I got the area fenced…), and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea). Each came with an information sheet.
Anyway, back to the house and gardens…
You walk up steps from the main level and wait for a bus (comes very often, no long waits) which takes everyone up to the house and grounds. A house tour time is given to you at the time you purchase tickets. The lower level of the house and the gardens and grounds are open all day to everyone.When you get tickets, they will tell you which events are open and at what times (and they’ll mark your map with the times, very easy.) We took the afternoon “Garden and Grounds” tour, where a fellow took us around a section of the property and talked about the flowers, the plants, and some of the trees and their role at Monticello.
The tour was around an hour long. Started behind the house and looped around down to the garden. The distance was not far and was an easy walk. The tour guide was able to answer all our questions and was very informative!
WHAT ELSE TO SEE WHILE YOU ARE IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY AREA:
Where we stayed:
Jay and I stayed in the little town of Buckingham, Virginia, a very quiet spot south of Monticello and Charlottesville.
We were the only ones at the Inn, an H shaped house owned by Nancy’s ancestors. She brought over a great farm meal for the two of us and was very helpful. We appreciated the quiet atmosphere after a long day!
Where we ate:
Staunton, VA: We arrived just as the Farmers Market was closing on Saturday, but one of the farmers recommended the Mockingbird Cafe, so we walked up the hill and found an excellent place to eat. The prices seemed a little high at first, but the portions were huge AND the food was sourced locally, like so locally that canvas pictures of the farmers who provided the food (including the lady from the farmer’s market who recommended the cafe) hung around the room as artwork. The building has a tall ceiling, booth or table and chair seating, and a kind of 1920’s artsy flair to it. We ate the “Farmers Brunch”, available Saturday and Sunday. http://www.mockingbird123.com/
Another short trip within driving distance: The Natural Bridge!
On the road into the area, there is a sign for “Natural Bridge Cavern”… Jay had never been into such a cavern, but as we pulled in, we realized we were about a half hour too early. So we drove down to the Natural Bridge, which has a massive hotel and buildings out front and you have to pay to see it. Bleh, we thought. So we kept driving on the road and saw a road to the right. Off for just a few minutes of sightseeing, we happened to take a road that would drive us right past the bridge (photo left). We then drove back for the cavern tour, which was kinda spendy, but was around an hour long and pretty interesting. It’s not the most interesting cavern I’ve been in, but it was a good one for Jay to start with. The bats are teeny tiny and asleep, so don’t worry! The coolest part is when the guide turns the lights off for a few seconds. It’s PITCH DARK! So amazing! I forgot my camera, so no pictures to show, but they do allow photos.
TIP: Arriving right at opening, we got in on a tour with a lady and her (unruly) child. As we were leaving the tour, we noticed the shop was filled with tons of people! So we’re glad that our little group of four got in before it got busy!
(Note: Though this was finally published in August, we actually visited mid-April 2011.)