Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 5: Monticello

The rotten weather in Shenandoah helped make up my mind that we were definitely leaving early in the morning and making our way to Monticello.

Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson, and neither Carl nor I had ever been there before. I was pretty excited about seeing it, but I worried how the boys would feel about it. I'm very glad we went, though, and they had a great time.

To get inside the house, you have to take a tour. We opted to wait a few hours and take the "Family Tour" that is geared towards kids, rather than go into the house right away. I'm so glad we did it this way! The Family Tour was fantastic, and on later tours in our trip, I would really wish that these other places had tours that catered towards families, because some tour guides are darn right mean.

We started off watching a film about Jefferson and his house in the Visitor Center. Once again, its an excellent introduction and often needed for the younger members of Team Danger. They would get so excited seeing things in person that they has just seen in the 'movie.' You then have to board a bus to the house and grounds (its about 1/2 mile uphill).

I wanted to do the 'Slavery and Monticello' walking tour while we waited for our house tour, but the rest of the family boycotted that idea, apparently still a wee bit bitter about the 1.5 hour Harpers Ferry tour. So instead, we gave ourselves a tour of the grounds.

Jefferson was known for being a gardener, so I was quite excited to see his gardens.

Check out the artichokes!

And this cabbage, which was HUGE. Alex stood nearby to demonstrate just how big it was.

Jefferson also started growing his own grapes, and bottled his own wine.

Apparently he picked up his love for wine while in France (when he was ambassador) and was one of the first in the United States to start his own vineyards, and is responsible for introducing to the United States the custom of wine as a beverage, rather than just as an after-dinner cordial. Yet another reason why he rocked in my book.

I was supremely jealous of Monticello's gardens.

This little alcove where the boys are overlooked his grounds - the film at the Vistors Center showed him in it a lot, so the boys were thrilled to sit in Jefferson's 'chair.'

After the horticultural gardens, we went to take a look at the slave's quarters. Turns out the slave's quarters are all gone, and all that remains are some outlining bricks (you can kind of see an example by Ryan below).

And here, although oddly a subsequent owner of the house buried his wife in one of the spots.

This long path is called Mulberry Row - it was the headquarters of slave life, and is down from the house, and above the gardens. Not being able to see the slave quarters made me extra disappointed we didn't take the slavery tour. Oh well. The children were happier exploring on our own, and reading about it as we went, but ... still.

We walked down to Jefferson's grave. He is buried at Monticello, inside this lovely little family graveyard.

Finally, we went back for our family tour of the house. You can;t take pictures inside, but it was a great tour I definitely recommend it to all travelling with kids - if only because the kids can sit down inside each room when on the tour, rather than standing for five minutes per room.

They also have a lot of fun exhibits and hands-on spots for the kids in the basement of the house - the boys loved this.

We were visiting on the 3rd of July - the 4th of July is a big deal at Monticello. Jefferson, of course, authored the Declaration of Independence. And then fifty years to the day after that history-changing document was completed and signed, Jefferson died on July 4, 1826. Monticello celebrates every July with a huge naturalization ceremony, to welcome new citizens to our country. Thus the back of Monticello - arguably its most famous sight, with the rotunda on full view, was mostly blocked off as they set up for it (see below). When I first looked at what Monticello would be doing on the 4th of July (it also included a symphony concert and fireworks in the evening). Still - while the naturalization ceremony would have been cool, I didn't think it was really the best way to experience Monticello for the first time. Turns out I planned this part too far in advance, because upon arrival, I found out that Dave Matthews was the featured speaker and singer for the Naturalization Ceremony.  Previous speakers were people like Sam Waterson, Nadia Komeninci, and I.M. Pei. - interesting, yes, but nothing the kids would get, and nothing to write home about. But Dave Matthews? Well, for THAT I would have found worth moving days around for. Color me massively bummed that I missed the May 30 press release from Monticello. :(

After this disappointment, it was time to head back to the visitor's center. This was our second presidential statute of the trip (after Lincoln). The boys were always thrilled to get their photo with the president!

We said goodbye to TJ and his house, and stopped at Michie's Tavern for a late lunch.

Its an old restaurant that serves you revolutionary style.

We ate at 3pm, and we were all starving. Since this was an all you can eat restaurant, we called it "Lunner."

Fried chicken = GOOD.

How cute was this place?

They even had some lawn games for the kids to play.

With our stomachs full, and games to play, everyone was in a good mood.

Which was a good thing, because we had a two hour drive ahead of us to reach Williamsburg. ;)

Up Next: Williamsburg, Virginia

Day 1: Blackbirds, Canals and Poison Ivy
Day 2: Antietam and Monocacy National Battlefields
Day 3: Gettysburg's 150th Anniversary
Day 4: Harpers Ferry National Park (and yes, that name is grammatically correct)
Day 4, Part 2: Shenandoah National Park
Day 5: Monticello

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