Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Montpelier, Monticello and Norfolk

When I went on my Lewis and Clark trip in 2001, the history professor asked us who had been to Monticello, where the Lewis and Clark story really begins. Almost everyone raised his or her hand (this was a bunch of Princeton alumni, after all!). I realized I had to go also. When it was Professor Billington’s turn to speak, he told us that when we visit Monticello we should visit Montpelier as well, and that Madison should be every Princetonian’s favorite founding father – he was a Princetonian, after all!

So my first stop was Montpelier; I arrived just in time for the last tour of the day. It’s not furnished – they’re working on it – but it interesting nonetheless, and an interesting contrast to Monticello. It’s a traditional colonial plantation house onto which Madison added wings; for a long time in this century, duPonts owned it. Madison is the Father of the Constitution, and there were good exhibits about him, the Constitution, and Dolley. I saw the temple that Madison built for contemplation, the garden put in by the duPonts, and the site of Madison’s birthplace and his grave. I’m glad I didn’t try to go Montpelier and Monticello in the same day – I could have done it, but it would have been information overload. Monroe’s house is nearby too – for another time!

My B&B for that night was the Acorn Inn, owned and run by friends of Bob and Linda’s. The husband had gone on a bicycle trip through Morocco with his brother while we were there. In fact, Youssef, Steve, Elisa and I passed them while we were going south and they north! It had to be them…. We also saw him briefly in Rabat when we arrived at the end of our trip/pre-mid-service-meds. So I felt like I was visiting an old friend! The again, maybe he treats all his guests like old friends. I saw his Morocco pictures – and then his Iceland pictures – and maybe more pictures…. And I slept in an old barn!

And didn’t get an early start the next day, but what’s the rush? I got to Monticello – big business compared to Montpelier. As expected, it looks like the building on the back of the nickel! Jefferson designed it and even though he had a lot of debts and they had to sell some of the belongings, I think they have most of them back. We toured the house, the slave quarters and the gardens and vineyards. And in the entryway, there are some relics that were sent from the Lewis and Clark expedition! I also had time for a little stop in Charlottesville – the University of Virginia was designed by Jefferson and, combined with Monticello, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it was nice to be able to see the historic architecture and the rotunda.

Then I took the three-hour hop, skip and jump to see Linda; Bob was away in France. Linda had a job offer from her old employer and started right away, adding a data point to my theory that those who started jobs right away have the toughest time with readjustment, because they don’t have time to process their Peace Corps experience. It was wonderful to see her; we took a walk around her neighborhood and talked and talked. I enjoyed seeing how they incorporated their Moroccan rugs into their d├ęcor, too! We went out for Indian food. The next morning we had breakfast and I drove back to National Airport (passing through Richmond without stopping; glad I got there this year) and flew to Chicago for the visit that was scheduled before the class was cancelled!

Just to close the book on 2009 – other adventures between my return and my departure included Reunions, a trip to Philadelphia for the Foreign Service written test (plus friends, the Franklin Institute, and a cheese steak), exhibits at the Cooper-Hewitt, Guggenheim, and Whitney, and baseball games at the brand-new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field! Plus reading, working on the non-profit certificate, biking, beach walking, seeing friends, and then it was on to the Philippines!

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