Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vacation Part III - Monticello

On Monday the 11th we got up at the crack of dawn - 8am. All of us suffered from stiff backs and sore necks, while the boys additionally suffered from stiffies.

After cleaning up and loading the car we took off for Charlottesville for breakfast. We grabbed bagels and bagel sandwiches from this cool place near the college. After eating we drove off to Monticello., the home of Thomas Jefferson.

By the time we got there it was between 10:30 and 11. The parking lot was already packed. They are building a new visitor's center and gift shop, which looks really nice. Looks like we came a couple of months early. We'll have to come back in a couple of years. Yeah, me!

We finally find a place to park in the east lot about 10 miles from the ticket office. I get up there and get in line. Some Donkey walks up to the front of the line and thinks he can casually pretend he's just asking a question and then sneak in his ticket purchase. Fortunately, the People's Liberation Army of Elders start waving their canes and corner him with Rascals. He aquieces and returns to teh end of the line.

I must have been in line a good 20 minutes. Every Lt. Old Guy has to ask 15 questions. "Is this to buy tickets to Monticello?" "Do you offer a senior citizen discount?" "Do you have a room where we can watch Wheel of Fortune at seven o'clock?"

Finally I get up there and my entire transaction takes 10 seconds. "I need 2 adults, 1 kid, and 2 children under 6." Oh, yeah. We had to convince my son that he was 5. He is short for his age. When we were at Montpelier, the ticket office office on more like a toll booth. My wife is driving so she tells the lady '2 adults, and i have an 8 year old, a 5 year old, and an infant.' From the back of the van he's hollering, "MOMMY!!! I'M 6 NOW!!!" 'shut up!" I start distracting him with varous questions about dinosaurs. It worked, but it was close. As we pulled away we explained that he's free if he's 5, but $8 if he's 6, so if he's 5, then we can use that extra money to buy more Star Wars light sabres. He agrees that this is a good idea.

So back to Monticello, after purchasing tickets, you get on the short bus and they take you up to the house. We get off of the bus and the tour guide takes our tickets and informs us that our tour will be at 1:30. Yikes! That's a lot of time later from now! And there's no cafeteria. How will I survive???

We tour the gardens and admire the magnificent views. I we then tour the slave quaters and the workshops. Much as I expected and similar to what you've seen on the history channel. With some time to spare, we make our way into the 10 foot box that they call the Gift Shop. I purchase some Monticello wine and some more books. My daughter gets another spoon and my son wants an oversized pencil and a gun, but we agree to the oversized pencil and a Coke. Oh, and I got a matted print of Thomas Jefferson that I plan to hang in my finished basement when I finish it in 2157.

Finally we are ready for the tour. This tour guide is super boring. And there are no old people in the group. I almost miss them now. Inside the house they explain the architecture and the construction. Surprisingly it is a lot smaller than I expected. As we enter each room, the guide closes the door. There are about 25 of us packed in these little rooms. The walls start closing in. The temperature rises and the ceiling starts to spin. I'm gettin claustraphobic. So are my kids. I tell them to sit on the floor. Some good-intentioned sunshine girl keeps asking the tour guide, as if she's on a school trip and taking notes, "Are these original?" Not once. Not twice. But in every room. And sometimes several times per room. Oy, vay!

The main room is big with a tall ceiling. to the side are smaller rooms, one of which is his study/bedroom, which I'm sure is where his concubine, Sally Hemmings, his favorite slave, spent much of her time.

Now, history has shown despite the extended travelling that TJ did during his time as the Governor of Virginia, the ambassador to France, the Secretary of State, the Vice President, and finally as President, Sally Hemmings always gave birth about 9 months after his last visit home. And many a traveler commented that Sally's children had a strange resemblence to the President. Sally was a mullato, the child of an slave and a slave owner. Therefore, her children, which probably were fathered by TJ, were quadroons and very light. Several passed as whites in their adulthood.

So anyway, the tour is just a circle of the house and we're not allowed to view the small upstairs. I only say 2 bedrooms and can only suspect that there's not that many upstairs. Where do all of the guests sleep? And I'm not allowed to take any pictures inside of the house, because as you know, old things blow up and catch fire when you take their picture.

The tour is quick but nice. We walk the grounds once more before deciding to walk back to the parking lot instead of taking a ride on the short bus. We stop and visit Thomas Jefferson's grave site. It's very quaint and there are several recent additions, so apparantly his family is still being buried in his cemetary. Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the same day? In fact, they both died on July 4th, 1826, exactly 50 years to the day after they crafted the Declaration of Independence. Providence? Perhaps.

On a side note, once home, I decided to look at Monticello from Google maps. (check out the ariel view!) In Jefferson's diary his wrote about long rides on his horse into the mountains and the vast views from his home. I now wonder if you normally used I-64, which must not be more than a quarter-mile from this house, or did you use VA Route 20. Sometimes I think it's sad that modern times are swallowing our history.

Another quick history lesson - Jefferson is considered the father of the Democratic-Republican party, the which split into 2 parties, one of which is the modern Democratic Party. Unlike his successors like the tyrannical Martin O'Malley, Jefferson believed in small government and rule by the people. Modern day Democrats like Martin O'Malley, on the other hand, believe in large invasive and over-bearing goverment that suppresses the people in submission.

No comments:

Who links to my website?
Add to Technorati Favorites Add to Technorati Favorites Add to Technorati Favorites