Monday, October 14, 2013

Mont-u-mental field trip

Last Thursday and Friday, in the chilly October rain, my RCC classmates, my amazing instructor, Holly, and I, all set out for a Presidential Passport field trip to the Charlottesville VA area.  We spent quite a bit of time planning our adventure, mapping out where we wanted to stay, and eat, and sites we hoped to see.  The trip was planned for October in anticipation that the fall foliage would be in its peak. We made plans to stay in the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, eat some yummy food along the way, and visit Montpelier and Monticello.

Our first stop was to get to Charlottesville for lunch at the Nook.  After eating a great lunch, we headed on to our Founding Father of the Bill of Rights, James Madison's home, Montpelier. James Madison was our fourth President of the United States, and helped to write the Constitution that sets the framework for our government.  He married Dolley Madison who was born right here in NC very close to Greensboro.  Dolley was a widowed Quaker who won the eye of James Madison and became his wife.  Dolley was really the original First Lady of the White House, and took great measures in creating a beautiful and social environment.  She won the heart of the nation when she saved the portrait of George Washington from being burned in the War of 1812.

James Madison

Dolley Madison

Dolley Madison saving the portrait of George Washington

Upon approaching Montpelier, we first noticed the pastoral fields and horses.  We stopped in the visitor center and watched a very short film about the Madison family and the home's history.  The home had once been much smaller, but as James Madison gained prestige and married, he added an additional wing to the home that allowed separate spaces for James Madison Sr., and his wife Nelly as well as James Jr., Dolley and Dolley's son, Payne.  I would have to say, that other than the salon that features busts of famous politicians and beautiful paintings, that the gardens were my favorite part of the tour.  I did also enjoy seeing the neat pocket windows that flanked the doors to allow for air circulation.

Below are a few more pictures from Montpelier.

Mini James and Dolley
Dolley set the bar pretty high for Jackie and Michelle
 James and Dolley and Montpelier along with a telephone, walkie talkies and a boom box!

 a soggy entry
 God is in the details
 entry way
 Paolo, the pensive lion 
Baptisto the bashful
 beautiful formal gardens
 I lichen you
 portilaca grandiflora

After a rainy night in Charlottesville, we left our hotel to head to Monticello, the home of third president and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson's estate was much more grandiose than Madison's, and featured many more original pieces that have been returned to the estate. Mr. Jefferson spent much time in France as Minister to France, and combined with his stays there, and his studies of Andrea Palladio's The Four Books of Architecture, drew up the plans for his home, Monticello, which means "little mountain" in Italian.  Over the years, Monticello grew in size to eventually encompass 11,000 square feet.  I truly enjoyed most every room that we were able to see beginning with the main entry and it's second floor overlook, the great clock that tells the time in seconds, minutes, hours, and days.  I also loved the collected and curated pieces from the Lewis and Clark exploration.  An interesting fact is that Jefferson did not have a formal staircase, and considered them to be a big waste of space and energy; instead, he had 2 very narrow spiral staircases.

Thomas Jefferson

Front Entry

Front Entry

Curated pieces in front entry

 Jefferson's study
 Front entry

Jefferson's dining room was a great space, and our tour guide showed us where dumb waiters for wine were on the sides of the fireplace and must have been used non-stop during the great reunion of the reunion of Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette where they partook in almost 300 bottles of wine in less than a weeks time!  Jefferson's office and library were also quite impressive and some of his inventions were on display.  His bedroom featured a neat built in bed between an alcove and a walk-up closet above!  Mr. Jefferson was quite the scientist, and his gardens and grounds were a beautiful reflection of his curiosity of horticulture and plant life.

Dining Room
 Dining room and smaller room 
 built in bed and walk up closet over head

Unfortunately, we weren't able to take pictures of the interior, but luckily, there were a great deal of interior pictures of Monticello available on the internet.

Both of the lives and accomplishments of these men, and their homes are quite impressive, it is also a harsh reminder of the dichotomous lives that they led.  Both estates relied heavily upon the work of slave men and women who were most likely mistreated.  Madison and Jefferson both are on record as to speaking of the abominations of slavery, yet they both relied on slavery, and Jefferson owned more than 600 slaves in his lifetime, yet only granted freedom to 10 of them.   I'm sure that there have been studies on the subject, but it definitely cast a shadow on their character on an already cold and rainy trip.

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