Sunday, November 3, 2013


After three days of gloomy weather, the sun finally came out today just as it was predicted.  We had been waiting for a nice day to come along when I was off so we could go to Monticello.  I have always admired Jefferson.  Heck, anyone on Mt. Rushmore really.  The chance to go visit the house he designed and lived in was just to awesome to pass up.  And it was yet another chance to try to sneak some actual knowledge into the heads of our children. 

It was only an hour or so driving, so we didn't even have to get up early.  The fall colors were amazing around here, but they grew just a little less spectacular as we went East and I think the altitude inched up a notch.

There was still some good fall color though. 

We got to the visitor's center and bought our tickets.  Then we made our way to the shuttle that takes you up to the house.  Prior to the shuttle arriving, we noticed a trail that walks up the mountain to the house.  Of course we took it.

A pretty walk through the woods or a shuttle van?  Not a real decision.

Midway up the trail is the Jefferson Family cemetery.  It was started when Jefferson and a friend decided they would be buried under a large oak tree.  It is still used by descendants today. 

He designed his own monument.  It lists the three things of which he was most proud.  There will be a test.
Continuing up the trail brings us to the grounds just below the house from teh West.  We can't see the house, but instead arrive in the gardens which makes Michael happy.  Like Jefferson, he enjoys studying plants.  When you buy your ticket, you are assigned a time to tour the home and so we can't stay and muck about in the garden as long as we might like.  The view down the hill and across the landscape is beautiful and it is easy to see why he chose this particular spot.

I believe that is Montalto in the background.

The garden pavilion. 

Michael like the snake gourds

Mulberry row, where the slave's shops were located. 
Then it was time to tour the house.  They gathered everyone together in a group and gave us a speech about preserving the place for future generations with the standard no eating, no drinking, no chewing gum stuff.  Then they dropped another hated little tidbit.  No photography inside the house. 


So you will have to settle for some outside shots, internet research and a few descriptions. 

One of the ten seconds this view didn't have people in it all day.

Some of the coolest things are the little details.  If you get curious, you can Google most of these things to get more information.  In the picture above you can get a taste of what I am talking about.  The first shot is an elevation of the front of the house.  Note the weather vane.  It is connected to the compass that you see in the second picture.  That way, you can see the wind direction from inside the entrance or on the porch.  Neat, right?  The clock face is actually only a small part of the clock.  The inside has another face of the same clock.  It is powered by weighted balls hanging on a cable.  The cable also, as it descends to power the clock, marks the days of the week.  There are tons of ingenious gadgets and inventions, many of them invented by Jefferson, scattered through the house.  You could spend days just soaking in the details.  The tour is guided though and you only get a brief time in the designated tour rooms. 

The first stop is the entryway where Jefferson set up a museum of things that interested him.  He had fossils, Native American artifacts, maps (He loved maps) and various other artifacts.  One or two of the artifacts were even original to the place like moose antlers from the Lewis and Clark expedition.  We got to see the North square room, Jefferson's book room (with a small number of his original books), his bedroom/study which was filled with many of his inventions and gadgets. Then we went into the parlor, which was where the much entertaining was done.  It was filled with paintings, musical instruments and artifacts.  I was entranced with the mirrors as they were original to the room.  It was very cool to think of seeing my reflection in those mirrors and think about who else has been reflected there.  Pretty cool. 

The tour finished by taking us through the dining room that has a wine dumbwaiter and an octagonal bedroom where the Madison's stayed when they visited.  Then it took us out on the walkway toward the North pavilion.  The tour ended and we were again free to wander and take pictures. 

So we did. 

A globe type sundial.  Needs winding.


C'mon, this is the Adventure Nickel...Get it?

Then we peeled around the side and checked out the dependencies.  These were the areas under the house where all of the work was done by the slaves.  And they go out of African American couples walking around on the tour and, after wondering if they were related to Jefferson, pondered how different their impression of the place was than mine. 

The corridor leading under the main house.

Apparently drinking was kind of a big deal.

The good stuff, no less.

Even beer. 

Needed something on your stomach after all that drinking.

This is where the Cook's room, Smokehouse and some other slave quarters were. 
Then we stopped learning for a minute and just enjoyed the beautiful grounds.  This place is really nice, well thought out and designed. 

By this time we were really hungry.  We went to the little cafe on site and expected the worst.  We were pleasantly surprised though at the good food and reasonable prices.  I even managed to have a Monticello Reserve Ale in a souvenir glass. 

Then it happened.

An attempted murder.
After lunch we went to the kid's discovery center where Michael and Max played and practiced their architecture. 

Then we made our way home.  It was beautiful, interesting and educational.  That is everything you ever want in a field trip.  Pretty great day over all.  If you are ever presented with the opportunity, I do highly recommend it.


  1. Beautiful pictures as always. Loved the Adventure Nickel shot. ;) Funny man.

  2. Thanks Kelli! Glad you made it back!

  3. Loved the Adventure Nickel shot and the "attempted murder". You gots funnies.

    1. Thank you. There was an actual murder shortly after, but it was just too gruesome to capture with the camera. :-)