Thursday, December 30, 2010
Two days in Charlottesville
Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed out for our mini-vacation to Charlottesville. It's only a 2-ish hour drive, but there were a few different things we wanted to see, so we opted to stay overnight. As we were driving, we started seeing a bunch of signs for James Madison's home, Montpelier. We decided to stop in and have a look.
As ours were the only kids in our tour group, the guide let Soren "help" by pushing the buttons on these little audio player stands that were in some of the rooms. They played snippets of people reading letters written by/to/about Madison. He found this task exceedingly thrilling. Poor Eleri was just about due for her nap when we started the house tour. She made it about halfway through before deciding she'd had quite enough, thankyouverymuch. So I took her outside for a bit, and she eventually calmed down. One of the other docents took pity on us, standing out on the front porch in the cold, and invited us back inside to stand with her in the hall until our tour group was done.
Montpelier has only recently (in the last 6 or so years) begun to be restored to how it looked when the Madisons lived there. The docent in the hallway told me they'd stayed open and continued to give tours throughout the renovation process, often having to shout over jackhammers and the like. Crazy. Currently the house is pretty much restored as far as the building itself is concerned, but many of the rooms are still empty or unfinished.
The grounds are, no surprise, extensive. The last private owners of the estate were the duPonts, and they were really into horse racing. There is still an annual steeplechase right there on the (enormous) front lawn, every November. The gardens behind the house are also really neat, and Soren had a fine time frolicking through them. And of course, I took a bunch of pictures.
We ate some lunch and then continued on our way, checking in at our hotel and then driving over to check out the UVA campus. It was pretty neat. The student housing that's along both sides of the center pavilion is interesting and old. There were piles of firewood outside every third or fourth door, and chimneys coming out of the roof. Fireplaces in dorms? I can't be the only person who thinks that sounds like a bad idea. ;) That part of campus (among others) was designed by Thomas Jefferson, so I guess unless there have been major renovations since the school was built, those fireplaces might actually be the only source of heat for those rooms? In which case, brr.
Before too long, it was dinner time. We'd arranged to meet one of Tom's blogging friends for delicious tapas. It was super busy, and we had to end up waiting kind of a long time for a table, but it was definitely worth it. We've had nothing but good experiences thus far, meeting internet friends in real life, and this was no exception. Toward the end of dinner, Soren said to our new friend, "You're a favorite man for me!" Hehehe and awwww.
Also, we had a little bit of a celebrity sighting at the restaurant. Charlottesville resident Dave Matthews came in while we were waiting for a table and stood not 3 feet from us for a while. Amusing!
Wednesday we got up and made our way over to Charlottesville's Downtown Mall for breakfast. It's an open air pedestrian mall that was, sadly, mostly closed when we arrived, but we eventually found a restaurant (Cafe Cubano) that was open for business. Stuffed to the gills, we got back in the car and drove to Monticello, the home of President Thomas Jefferson. Soren was super excited that we got to ride a shuttle bus from the visitors' center to the actual house. Hehe. I was a little worried about taking Eleri on another house tour so close to naptime, especially since she started fussing while we were waiting for our tour to begin. Fortunately though, she fell asleep right before we headed inside and slept the whole time! Of course, we couldn't possibly have perfect luck with both kids; Soren was the whiny and disgruntled one this time, but he managed to hold it together enough that we didn't have to leave.
Again, I took a bunch of pictures (coming soon to Flickr), and soon we were on our way home again. Eleri howled in protest for much of the drive, eventually falling asleep when we were about 5 miles from home. Figures! All in all, a very fine trip. I'm glad we went!