August 30, 2011

8/26/11 - Monticello

Not every place we visit is a National Park; sometimes we actually have to pay to tour.   Today’s choice was between Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Madison’s Montpelier.  Hmmm…author of the Declaration of Independence or author of the Constitution?  Hard choice.  We decided to go for the one on the back of the nickel.  (Go ahead & check it--I know you've got a nickel!)
George talked the ticket guy into letting him use their receipt stamp for his Passport book.  As always, first stop was the auditorium to watch the video.  Nice auditorium, so-so movie.
A shuttle took us up the mountain to the house.  (They call it a mountain for lack of comparison to real ones—trust me, it’s a big hill.)  There was a guided tour of the home (no pictures allowed so don't go looking for any. )

Tour guide

Jefferson had beds built in alcoves like the French aristocracy did.  I think they'd be a pain to make--and not much fun if you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  Apparently the Madisons were frequent visitors, and Dolley didn’t like them either.  He had a dumb waiter in the dining room from the wine cellar.

 He had a huge library, which he sold to the country after the British burned the White House down during the War of 1812.  He wrote letters constantly--something like 20,000 letters!!!  AND he made copies of all his replies using a copying machine that duplicated his writing.  I bet he wished he'd invented a Xerox machine. 
After the tour we wandered around the “dependency wings”, rooms for domestic work like kitchen, smoke house, wine cellar, etc.  I guess we're dependent on the kitchen, but we haven’t filled the wine cellar since we started on this trip.  Oh, a jug or two here and there, but not enough to put in wine racks in the basement of the RV.  (Yes, there really is a basement in our RV.)
In the bookstore I found my very favorite Jeffersonian quotation.  I know there are some really good ones on government and liberty, but the best one of all is “I cannot live without books.”  I agree!!!
We rounded the side of the house in time for the Garden Tour.  Jefferson was big into horticulture and not only had a beautiful ornamental garden with island beds, but an experimental vegetable garden out back.  Lewis & Clark collected plants from their trip, and many of them ended up in his gardens.  He couldn’t sell them because they belonged to the government--but he could share seeds.  

What he really liked was the vegetable garden.  It was 1,000' long, so I'm pretty sure he didn't have to weed it.  He really liked peas, and had 15 different varieties in the garden--George would like that.
On the way downhill past the family cemetery, we started talking to a guy from DC who had evacuated from the hurricane.  He told us all about the work he did with computer programs to help Downs syndrome kids learn.  Fascinating, and rather humbling too.

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