October 19, 2011

Monticello Glistens on a Glorious Fall Afternoon

Last Saturday I woke to a beautiful fall day. For the first time since the car crash two months ago, I felt like getting out and doing something. We decided to check out Charlottesville and the University of Virginia campus, designed by Thomas Jefferson.

A few miles out of Washington in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we wondered if we'd made a good decision. Then I remembered that the road to Charlottesville was also a route to the Skyline Drive in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where the fall foliage was approaching its colorful peak. So we took a different, longer route.

When we finally arrived in Charlottesville, we discovered another unfortunate coincidence: it was homecoming weekend at UVA, featuring a football game with Georgia Tech. Lots of traffic. An army of pedestrians. But -- as these pictures show -- what a beautiful day!

The "Lawns" and Rotunda at the University of Virginia 
The Jefferson-designed "Lawns" at center campus were welcoming, as you can see by the groups of partying students and alumni: 

Jefferson still presides from his post inside of the Rotunda:

By now it was after 3pm. Hoping to escape the crazy campus traffic, we headed for Monticello, Jefferson's magnificent home atop his "little hill."
Great decision! I'd been to Monticello several times before, long ago. Those pilgrimages were always morning visits, usually in summer heat and humidity. But a sunny, cool October afternoon was perfect.

Jefferson designed Monticello to capture the hilltop light. Our assigned time for the house tour was 5:40pm, when the low sun casts a special magic. Visitors can't take photos inside the house. But here's what we saw outside:

We had an hour before the house tour to stroll around the gardens and enjoy the mountaintop setting. These shots were taken earlier in the afternoon:

The Vegetable and Flower Gardens
Are these grapes or beans?

There were interesting flower beds all around the house, but I'd forgotten my notepad and couldn't write down the different varieties. Do you know the name of these blooms?

Jefferson's Grave
Jefferson was perhaps our country's first complicated Renaissance man, a true polymath. There are many things he might have written for his own epitaph, but he choose these words:  "Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia."

The "Dependencies" -- Where the Slaves Lived and Worked
The kitchen, wine cellar, smokehouse, dairy and slave quarters were all built into the hillside below the main house, to preserve the landscape-only vistas from Monticello.
Restoration on the dependencies is underway. Here are a few shots of completed areas:

More Views of the House
Extending from the main house on both sides are two pavilions and terraces. Here's the North Pavilion:

Here's a view of the back of the house, spoiled by a tourist forcing his way into the shot:

Here's the front of the house, where the tour starts:

Finally, a fond farewell to Mr. Jefferson:

I'm pleased my first major outing since the Pacific Northwest tour turned out so splendidly:


Mpswords said...

Fabulous pics, John ! Glad you are feeling better!

Madhav said...

So  glad to see you John, at least in the pics! You look great!

John said...

Thanks, Madhav. Hope you're enjoying the fall colors at Penn State.

John said...

A fabulous place. And I'm also glad I'm feeling better!