Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Birthday Trip Pt 2~Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

I can't say I've always wanted to visit Monticello. That would imply I've known about it since the time I was a coherent enough child to know that it existed. American nickels float through Canada, so I'm sure I'd seen it when I was a kid and had no idea how damn cool it was.

Throughout my education in Canada, I was forced to learn a ton of American History. Does forced sound harsh? It would probably sound better if I said 'coerced enlightenment'.

Although I rolled my eyes in school wondering why I'd ever need to know which President was which, or what the capital of Vermont was, now I'm very glad that I learned as much as I did from both school and Comedy Central.

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would ever live here in the United States of America. I was a very happy Canadian, living in my happy (slightly frosty) Canadian world.

Then I met Chuckwagon. And suddenly, I had a use for all this American knowledge! I had someone to impress!

And impressed he was. I'm married to him now, aren't I? And knowing that there are nine Supreme Court Justices will come in handy on that pesky Citizenship test. Thank you Mr. Stewart!

Somewhere along the line I became fascinated with the American Revolution. I learned everything I could learn about the first four Presidents. I became particularly interested in John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Both as individuals, and in their long, rocky friendship.

As I said in my last post, Monticello is my Graceland. I think I was doing this exact dance while I was waiting on the steps for the tour to begin.

Our tour began at 2pm, but we arrived early to stroll the grounds and gardens. It was a beautiful day.

I LOVED the gardens. Obviously.

A view from above.

I somehow didn't picture any Yucca in the gardens, but here they were.

I loved all the tuteurs they had in the garden, to grow various types of bean.

Curly onions.

Some Leek Porn for IG.

LOVED all the French Mallow. This shot is probably my favourite flower shot...with a little bee rolling around in the pollen :D

The scent from the drifts of lavender was AWESOME. Lavender makes my brain happy.

I think that Monticello was the butterflies' Graceland too.

This is Cleome (Spider Lily), is it not?

Chuck kept walking around sniffing the air like he smelled something weird. He walked up to it, rubbed the leaves and sniffed his fingers. His eyebrows flew up and said, 'I knew I smelled pot! Kyna! This smells just like marijuana!' And then he smelled his fingers some more.

All I could do was sigh and shake my head. Here I was in awe of everything, and he's amazed that he found a plant that smells like weed. And is shouting about it. I think I walked away and pretended I wasn't married to Cheech and Chong.

This was from Mulberry Row, the road leading from the house where all the slave dwellings were. This seems to be the only thing left from that time. Sad and interesting at the same time.

There were many cool trees on the property. The guide said that none of them were from TJ's time though. Chuck bought me a book from the gift shop for my birthday, about the gardens of Monticello. It said that when he died, many of the rare plants and trees he had up there were looted or cut down. I liked these trees:

We also got some nice shots that were closer to the house.

This one's probably my favourite.

The woman in blue seemed to REALLY want to be in all my pictures. (the other woman in blue)

Side view.

Gardenias and Meyer lemon trees had some wonderful smelling blooms on this part of the deck...

View from the other side.

Chuck on the steps looking hot.

I'm sure this tree was from TJ's time.

It looks big with Chuck sitting on it, looks even bigger from up above with me sitting on it (like a doofus).

Saying goodbye to Monticello.

Stopped at the Jefferson cemetery on the walk back down to the visitor's center.

Almost impossible to get a shot of TJ's monument, there was crowd like you wouldn't believe.

Posing with TJ at the visitor's center. I was was proud of myself for not being too silly with it. I have a tendency to get silly with statues. Is that kind of creepy?

Some random fun things I learned on my summer vacation to Monticello:

~Thomas Jefferson played the violin. I didn't know that before, but I'm not surprised. That ended kind of early though, because he broke his wrist when he was in France, and it never healed properly. The story is that he broke it jumping over some hedges trying to impress a woman named Maria Cosway. Just like a man...

~TJ did not like to waste space when designing a building. That's the reason he didn't like stairways. There are only two in the house, and they're extremely skinny. I had this vision of myself trying to ascend, and getting wedged like Winnie The Pooh in Rabbit's hole.

Chuck completely missed this stairway because he was so focused on something else cool during the tour.After the house tour, we were resting on a bench near the back where the stairway was. Somehow this came up in a conversation with a tour guide that was waiting for another tour to pass so she could go in that door. She was AWESOME enough to take him back inside briefly to show him...being a guy that has a hand in building houses, Chuck was tickled :D.

Well, not literally. If she had tickled him, I would have punched her.

~ TJ loved making copies of everything.

He had an early sort of polygraph sitting on the desk in his study, two pens set up on one device in exactly the same position. He would write something out, and the other pen would mimic his penstrokes and thus a copy would be made.

People thought he was an inventor, but it was more appropriate to call him an 'improver'. The only thing he actually invented from scratch was a part for a plow. Everything else, he just made easier to use.

~ This next fact, I knew already. And I'm sure many others know it as well, but I think it's one of the greatest coincedences of all time.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were fast friends when they were young, when the new government of the US was being formed. They had a falling out later on, because of political differences. They actually got really nasty with each other during their competetive presidential campaign, and didn't speak for years and years. When they were old, and retired from politics, they reconnected as friends and wrote some of the most interesting letters to each other.

They both died on July 4th, 1826. The 50th anniversary of Independence Day. When John Adams died, his last words were reported to be 'Thomas Jefferson survives.' He had no idea that Jefferson had already died a few hours earlier.

Neat stuff. Hope you enjoyed! Sad I couldn't get pics from inside the house, but that's not allowed. And like a good little Canadian, I follow the rules :)

My next post will be a much smaller interlude between President's houses. We took a trip down to Charlottesville's historic Downtown Mall to get some dinner and soak up the atmosphere of a college town.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

A great post Kyna. Someday I'd love to make it to Monticello myself. I didn't realize about the coincidence of Adams and Jefferson's deaths until I watched the HBO John Adams miniseries recently. I agree, it really is one of the most remarkable coincidences.

Becca's Dirt said...

I have forgotten so much of the history I learned in school. (I'm 55 so it's OK) Loved the tour with you. Really neat place. I do love history though especially old architecture and touring old homes. Thanks for the tour. Have a great day. Becca

Kyna said...

CVF: I always highly recommend that miniseries! I've also read McCullough's book "John Adams", that it was based on. Great read!

John Adams is actually a distant relative of Chuck, according to my father-in-law's extensive family tree. Everytime I'd read something about Adams' temper or pigheadedness, I'd have to say 'Look Chuck, he was just LIKE you!' lol.

Becca: I'm glad you enjoyed it :D I'm sure there were more things that I had to say that I've forgotten, but the post was long enough as it is lol.

Noelle said...

Oh, this is one place that I would love to visit someday. My sister went last year and just raved about it.

Funny how some people just have to get into all of your pictures, isn't it ;-)

Edith Hope said...

Dear Kyna, I cannot hide my disappointment. Monticello will always now be synonymous for me with Chuck performing cartwheels naked and, alas, no sight nor sound to be had. Oh well, such is life!

However, I did find all of this hugely interesting and learnt so much that I was unaware of before. One little thing, a product of my Latin classes, and which may help you with your citizenship test, the motto on the coin translates as 'Out of many, one', which has become adapted to 'In God we trust'.

Whatever, I have enjoyed this exploration of this wonderful place very much indeed. Thank you, as they say, for sharing!

Jayne said...

Great post Kyna. I've never been to Monticello, so it was very interesting to read about it and see your photos. I'm still chuckling at the thought of Chuck thinking that plant smelled like weed! LOL!!

Sounds like you had a great birthday :-)

Floridagirl said...

Beautiful photos! Love the old trees and that enormous stump especially. Thanks for all that info on TJ and John Adams. Very interesting. Love the deathbed stories! Will have to share that one with my kids. I have indeed always wanted to see Monticello.

The Garden Ms. S said...

What a great site! I think I liked the curly onions best - too cute! :)

Kyna said...

Noelle: You'd definitely enjoy yourself :D I've seen so many pictures from people, but it was different being there myself. And going in the house is magical...sounds cheesy, but there is such a feeling of history in that place. Thank goodness the man who eventually came into ownership of the place revered Jefferson and didn't change anything.

Edith: Luckily there is always the possibility of chuck chucking his clothes and doing cartwheels whilst visiting a historical site. There's the Eiffel Tower (at the bottom of course, not the top, that would be too dangerous)...the Great Pyramids of Giza...the Washington Monument....every phallic structure you can think of in the world!! :D

Jayne: Chuck was a partier in his younger days, and sometimes I think he gets a little wistful LOL

FG: Speaking of deathbed was so weird to be standing there in TJ's bedroom (which was very cool , btw), standing next to his bed. The guide pointed past me, '...and he died right there in that very bed.'

O_O Just such a weird feeling. Felt like he was still all around that place.

Ms.S: Haha! I loved those too. My photo didn't quite capture how neat they were, but almost :D I never thought onions could be aesthetically pleasing lol

Laurrie said...

I loved going on your tour with you. We are now planning our trip to Monticello! I particularly want to see the gardens but to avoid crowds we'll probably go "off season" and there won't be anything in the gardens to see. But still, these posts have made me eager to go, at any time. Thanks!

Marguerite said...

So that's what that building is on the American nickel!! I just assumed it was the White House. I never paid attention in history, Canadian or American, but now you've got me interested.

Kyna said...

Laurrie:The crowds were quite large on May 29 O_O But not so large that they put a damper on my Monticello experience :) But the house is amazing, even without seeing flowers! And make sure you pay a bit extra and go on one of their rare 'upstairs' tours. The only thing I regret was not seeing the dome room. But we went at the wrong time to be able to see it. And you have to reserve tickets for that tour a bit in advance anyway.

Marguerite: Haha! Yep :) Like I saidm I never really looked closely at it either until recently. In fact, I never looked closely at anything on money. Then I became Head Cashier at the bookstore I work at...I took the time to examine the money because it's all I looked at, it didn't even seem like money anymore. And there's so much neat stuff to look at on it! :)

AaronVFT said...

nice post, Kyna! I love all the flowers!

Meredith said...

That is so cool, Kyna. I am now officially jealous. ;) Monticello is at the top of my "dream gardens to see" list -- but for slightly different reasons. Not 'cause I'm all about the president and revolutionary history, but because I find that heirloom vegetable garden, which TJ experimented with constantly, to be an inspiration.

Beautiful pictures. I especially like the shot with the home and the poppies in the foreground. :)

Roses and Lilacs said...

I'm so glad I stopped by to say hello. I learned a lot about Monticello, not the least of which is that it has some strange looking trees that look like they were designed by a Walt Disney illustrator.

Cleome does look a little like pot. I don't know this for a fact, of course, but I've heard smoking it isn't likely to produce any happy thoughts:)

Karl said...

This post lots of fun. I love it when people have fun with TJ!

Jennifer said...

It is also interesting to note that the American composer, Stephen Foster, was born on the day of Thomas Jefferson's death. J. N.

Carol said...

I love the garden too! and the Trees!!

camissonia said...

A great post, Kyna! I meant to check out your Monticello adventures sooner, but time just slipped away...Anyways, the gardens are spectacular, and I really enjoyed reading your fun, quirky tidbits interspersed here and there throughout the narrative of your excellent adventure.

Our local PBS station has been airing a series called 'A Taste of History' in which a reknowned chef by the name of Ariel Schwartz cooks several of Jefferson's favorite meals in the recently restored kitchen at Monticello. Menu included things like stuffed cabbage, fried asparagus and mashed potatoes, which I'm sure would have been readily available in the gardens.

Btw, is that a pic (dude with eyes wide open) of the charming uber-psycho, Alex (Malcolm McDowell) from Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange'? I was a college freshman back in 1983 when I first saw that film. Disturbing, but even more so because I now want to laugh when I see that shot (what's wrong with me??).

Kyna said...

Camissonia: Yep, that's him :D And nothing's wrong with you, it's ok to laugh at most things we're not supposed to lol.

Thank you everyone for your comments! I always seem to let them run away on me before I reply...

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Kyna, great post, as well as other "B-day" posts! I visited Monticello several weeks before you did, but some things look different already: blooming poppies, lavender, etc. A couple of guys from our group bought a vase and a bowl made from that cut down poplar which huge stump is featured in your post. Very interesting facts and great pictures. Thank you for putting together these B-day trip posts!!!