We decided to take a quick trip down South over the Christmas break and check out some of the places we had been wanting to see while enjoying warmer temperatures than New Jersey was offering. We were only gone six days and one of those was a full day of driving so it felt like we only scratched the surface in many ways.
We reached our first stop of Charlottesville late in the afternoon and squeezed in a visit to Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. We had just enough time to tour the house, explore the grounds and walk back down to the visitors center just as the sun was setting. There is a family friendly tour that is about 15 minutes shorter than the regular tour but we just missed the last one.
The shuttle bus takes you up the mountain and drops you at the back of the house. We had time before our tour started to walk around and look at the outbuildings such as the kitchen, wine cellar and storage areas and take some pictures of the grounds.
The kids and I (mostly me) were impressed at the "stove-top" in the kitchen and all the beautiful copper pots.
Seeing some of the slave's rooms generated a fair amount of discussion from the kids about slavery and how they were treated. Sally Hemmings is mentioned during the tour as it is the belief of The Thomas Jefferson Foundation (which oversees the house) that Thomas Jefferson is the father of her children. This necessitated a brief explanation for Jack but went right over Ava's head.
The house tours are on a timed basis and last approximately 45 minutes. They are informative but move quick enough to keep everyone's interest. Pictures are not allowed inside the house so all photos are courtesy of The Jefferson Foundation.
As the tour ended, the sun began to set over the surrounding hills and we headed down the hill to our car.
Later that night we had a delicious dinner at Shebeen Pub and Braai, a South African restaurant in downtown Charlottesville. The kids and I all had fish and chips which were fantastic and Alan had a tasty west african ground nut stew which is similar to a ratatouille. I would also highly recommend the "hammies" appetizer which are small square-shaped yeast biscuits with harpers county ham and brown sugar butter.
The next morning we looked around the UVA campus before setting off for Raleigh. There are walking tours available when school is in session but we settled for poking around on our own. The symbol of the university, the Rotunda, is undergoing restoration work and will not be open until next summer, but it was still nice to wander around the grounds. All of the early university buildings were also designed by Jefferson and then, later, by Stanford White. Everything was eerily quiet as it was holiday break but it was easy to imagine it bustling with student activity on a brisk winter morning. There are shops and restaurants across the street if you are looking for a quick bite or to pick up some Cavaliers paraphernalia (we escaped with just a T-shirt for Jack).