Our first stop was at Susan's lovely home in Keswick, just above Charlottesville Virginia, about 10 minutes down the road from Monticello, the home Thomas Jefferson had built for himself. This very small home (considering who he was) is at the top of a hill, with views all around. It ensures cool breezes in the hot weather, as the temperature is several degrees lower up there. Never mind about what his part was in American history - what a clever chap Mr Jefferson was! The architecture of Monticello is incredible. He was a well read man and had been to Europe and incorporated all sorts of ideas into his home, including sliding doors so that rooms used in the summer could be closed off in winter; There's a weather vane on the porch which has a compass at it's base. The compass is fitted to the porch ceiling, so that you can look out of the window and up into the porch to see which way the wind blows (especially good in winter, as you don't have to step outside!). Above his bed, which was built into a wall space between his office and his sitting room so that no time was wasted walking to another room, is an open cupboard with large round round windows with no glass. These are not windows at all, but openings to allow air to circulate - as this space was for clothes to air (don't forget that lots of heavy clothing was not washable, and the only way to get it to smell sweet(ish) again was to air it. He imported wines from Europe on a regular basis - spending a great deal of money in doing so; he kept slaves even though he was a great supporter of freedom; probably fathered several children by one of his slaves (he was widowed early and never took another wife). The gardens are laid out just as they were in his time, when we where there in early May they were just planting vegetables. There is a lot of archaeology on-going too, so things are being found all the time.
Take at least half a day to do this visit. Monticello is guided for you and you join a smallish group at the time printed on your ticket so that you can hear and see everything without a crush. The gardens can be done with a guide too if you want, and all staff are helpful. You can ask anyone anything. Don't miss some of Mr Jefferson's books behind glass, and find out why some of them are so small!