The night before, W- mentioned that since we would be so close to Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, and neither of us had been before, that we should add it to our itinerary, which turned out to be possibly the best idea of the entire trip.
Touring Monticello requires a ticket, so I highly recommend purchasing one in advance. The day we went turned out to be the same weekend as a local university graduation, so it was swarming with families looking for a way to spend an afternoon together. W- and I took the bus through the fog up to the top of the mountain (yay air conditioning!), and suddenly the house and estate came into view.
We had some time to kill before our official tour time, so W- and I walked through the flower garden out back and looked at some of the rooms underneath before lining up in front of the house.
Monticello is absolutely beyond gorgeous, but sadly no photos are allowed inside. Even though Jefferson died completely broke, the majority of the items inside are originals because the family who purchased the home took great care of everything, and worked to actively preserve it, until eventually turning it over to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1923. The house is really my complete ideal – there’s ton of natural light in every room, books in multiple languages on dozens of shelves, a dumbwaiter designed specifically to transport wine from the basement (I don’t drink wine, but I’d happily convert it to a margarita dumbwaiter in a heartbeat), and Jefferson’s bed was in an alcove between two rooms – he could close it off with curtains on each side or roll out of bed into either his bedroom or his cabinet, which is similar to a study. Ever since seeing that set-up, I’m obsessed with getting an alcove bed of my own, if I’m ever lucky enough to have a hand in designing a future home of my own.
Our tour guide was amazing. He was informative, clear, and always made a point to ask in each room if there was anything on the walls or in the room itself that we wanted to know about. On one occasion when a woman asked about which artist(s) created two busts in the parlor with which he was unfamiliar, the guide made sure to get the answer from someone else and provide it to her before leaving the next room. I even saw him after the tour in the cellar pointing out something to a woman on our tour who had shown a particular interest in what was down below.
After the tour, W- and I took a quick look around the cellar and toured the vegetable garden, which is still highly impressive to this day.
Instead of taking the bus back down, though, we walked the short trail past the Jefferson Family Cemetery. There are actually two cemeteries on the property, starkly different from one another. The Jefferson cemetery is guarded by a large fence and contains several opulent headstones, monuments, and plaques. The other cemetery is found by the parking lot and is where the many slaves belonging to the Jefferson family are buried. There are no fences and no markers – save for the signs the Thomas Jefferson Foundation erected – and the disparity between the two locations is powerful. W- and I both mentioned later on that it was one of the few things we’ll never forget.