|Subject: Monticello and Washington DC|
Taking advantage of Spring Break in our school system we decided on a mini-vacation. My first choice was Key West, however after learning hotel and B&B rates tripled for Easter week we looked elsewhere.
We decided on a plan to see Monticello in Charlottesville, VA and more of Washington DC.
Monticello is the home and burial site of Thomas Jefferson, the United States' third president. Driving time from Philadelphia was about 5 hours with traffic. As evening approached we were treated to a beautiful sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Our hotel reservation was at a Courtyard by Marriott about 15 minutes from the site and centrally located to the highway and restaurants. The drive from our hotel to Monticello was easy and clearly marked.
After paying admission there is a shuttle to the main house, followed by a greeting and a tour. The tour encompasses the first floor area and affords a good historical perspective. After the initial guided tour there are tours of the garden and burial site.
Mr. Jefferson was a farmer at heart and experimented with hybrid technology throughout his life to increase crop yield and variety. The burial plot is about ¼ mile from the home and down a steep pathway. Considering the man’s contributions to the United States his grave marker is simple as he requested.
The last tour is called Mulberry Row and follows slave and hired help life at Monticello. Remains of housing have been unearthed and conserved along with many artifacts chronicling life at Monticello.
After these tours there are many cellar level areas to explore, including the kitchen, wine cellar, laundry and privy. It would be best to arrive early and plan on about three hours to see all the sites.
After leaving Monticello, we stopped at the Thomas Jefferson Visitors Center. Housed there are artifacts and papers describing the life and accomplishments of Jefferson. There also is a movie running to expand upon the displays. Showtimes vary according to season.
Off to downtown Charlottesville for some lunch and then to the campus of the University of Virginia. We enjoyed lunch sitting outdoors at a small café on the pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville.
Lunch concluded, we explored parts of the campus. The rotunda, an original part of the main building was Jefferson’s design and is the focal point of the college.
The following morning we were on our way to Washington DC. Due to a navigational error, mine, we ended up on some back roads heading towards highway I95. It all worked out as we visited the Manassas Battlefield, from the Civil War, and Montpelier, the home of James Madison. Madison was the US forth President and married to Dolly. She is well known for rescuing the most famous portrait of General Washington, when the White House was burned during the war of 1812.
We arrived in the Washington DC area and headed to the hotel in Arlington, VA a 10 minute Metro ride from DC. First on the agenda, our US Senator's office had arranged a tour of the US Capital building. After the requisite security check, we were escorted to the Senator's office to join the balance of our group. The tour included the original Supreme Court, the Rotunda where many leaders have lain in state, statues of many politicians and murals depicting many well known events in US history. The highlight for me was a ride on the Senate subway which connects the different office buildings and the Capital. The dining room was available for lunch if we chose.
The next morning, early, we were off on the Metro towards Alexandria, VA. We transferred to the "Fairfax Connector" which stopped at Mount Vernon, the home and final resting place of George Washington. Arriving early we were in one of the first tour groups and enjoyed free time to explore the gardens. Before the crowds and groups descended, we had some enjoyable conversations with tour guides and docents. Being from the Philadelphia area we were able to impart our knowledge of George Washington, as he had commanded our forces in the war for independence and many decisive battles were waged in our area.
A major construction project is underway to build a visitors center and we enjoyed a mini-tour and lunch before departing.
>From the bus to the Metro we traveled into DC and the World War II memorial, a stunning edifice spearheaded by Tom Hanks to preserve the history of the USA’s Greatest Generation. The memorial, separated by a water feature into Pacific and Atlantic, includes recognition of all the US states, our Allies and where the battles were fought. Many plaques throughout the exhibit have quotes from world leaders of the day. Well worth the visit. As we were finishing up touring the memorial, a man approached us to take his photograph. The gentleman was from Perth, Australia and we spent the better part of an hour discussing the historical perspective of the monuments in the area. The other monuments included the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam and Korean War memorials. The man had served in Southeast Asia in the late 60s and looked forward to visiting the other memorials.
After a long day of touring we enjoyed a leisurely dinner in the Crystal City Underground in Arlington and packed to head home the next morning. We drove about 950 miles, pleased at having enhanced our understanding of our nation's history.
Safe traveling to all, Vince and Gerry Philadelphia, PA USA