During our kids April school vacation we didn't really have any plans, I didn't want them to just hang around at home and wanted to find something for them to look forward to during their week off. We've been to Washington DC a few times (you can see one of our trips here), so I wanted to try to do something more planned and structured and DC is just far away enough that it's a good car trip - but not crazy. So while this was a good place to keep as our home base for our three day trip - we didn't do much here but eat, sleep and a quick car-sightseeing tour ("oh look! there's the Washington Monument", "quick over there... Lincoln memorial...") as we pulled out of town.
Our main attraction was to see Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, I had read so much about it and I knew of his fantastic garden and I knew this was a perfect time to go with all of the tree's in bloom and it was.. the drive is about 2.5 hours from DC to Monticello, pretty stop-and-go through small towns which was really nice - instead of freeways. We were going slow enough to look at all the blooms, the farms and to take it easy and stop when we wanted to take a break.
We arrived in the morning at about 10 when they opened, which I think was a good idea. It was a weekday, our Spring break falls at the end of April so we usually miss any crowds, which is lucky. However if you wanted to take a tour of his home, which is a guided tour, they were already quoting 3pm, but we were only interested in the Garden Tour, which is open to anyone who is touring Monticello. When you arrive there is a 15 minute movie about TJ that will make anyone an instant fan and knowledgeable enough to have a few facts in your mind while touring.
First of all I have to say that Thomas Jefferson was one of my favorite presidents. I love to learn whatever I can about him so this was really a treat for me, I was just dragging the kids along - haha they loved it too! We had a fantastic time and there is just enough to make it interesting and not overwhelming. The garden tour was filled with just the sort of facts that I love to know... like this one, TJ espoused that if you plant a thimble of salad seeds every Monday you will always have the perfect amount. He always planted two rows of 'food' in his garden and then a row of something bitter to keep the bugs away. He was crazy about Kale, he knew that the ginkgo trees were beneficial for the soil and was always resist drought. He planted China berry trees at the perimeter of his property, these berries are a natural insect repellant, he has a ring of these trees that surround the communal area of his property. I think we were lucky to have the kind of tour guide that I love - she was filled with interesting facts about Thomas Jefferson and all of his gardening and architectural know-how.
In the middle of the garden stands a 'observatory' just at the edge of the hill and overlooking the entire valley. It's not only a gorgeous look out, but when you stand in the middle of the open-air room you can feel the stillness of the energy - it's amazing! TJ was obsessed about being the first to harvest the bounty of his garden, so much so that he built a micro-climate on the side of the hill so that he could plant early reaping the benefits before some had even planted! (they spent three years digging out the side of the mountaintop so that there would be a perfect spot for his garden). Most beautiful is the fact that he kept detailed drawings and notes on all of his plantings so that Monticello stands today almost exactly as it was when he lived there almost two hundred years ago.
I will never forget this visit and it leaves me wanting to know more! I bought seeds from his garden which they sell in the visitors gift shop.
plan your vacation by visiting the website www.monticello.org