31 March 2016

Spring Break Spa Get Away

This marks the first year of several that hubby and I made no international travel plans for the Easter week. As an educator he gets that time off regularly and I’ve grown accustomed to playing the paid vacation card. This year, however, we picked up the house next door and planned to put in some sweat equity to get our newest fixer upper project off to a running start (more about that at a later date).

A week before the break my sister entreated me to join her in celebrating her milestone birthday by visiting a U.S. national treasure, the mountain estate of president Thomas Jefferson, and a nearby spa resort, Boar’s Head. I could not refuse.

On day one we raced to Monticello, and embarked on three mountain top tours, as well as visited the unmarked slave graveyard at the bottom of the hill. First we toured the gardens, learning of the trees, flowers, food, and useful plants that the experimenter in chief planted with varying levels of success. Apparently, his food gardens were not very productive, leading the Jefferson family to buy and barter with their salves to keep food on the table in the winter months.

This acre of garden was carved out of the side of the mountain by two slaves—over the course of several months—they cut down 18 feet then shored up the side of the hill with a two foot stone retaining wall; stones that were carried up the steep mountain on their backs.

Our second tour was an hour spent between a couple sturdy slave shacks that housed the Hemmings’, parents of Sally Hemmings, and their dozen children. The tour guide gave an impassioned account of the lives of the “enslaved workers” (that must be the new PC term for this country’s public shame). We learned about the several, mostly genetically white slaves that lived and worked under the whip of their father, and about how the five (out of 600) slaves who were freed, lived after their manumission.

The Hemming’s cabin was small, one room, with a brick fireplace and clay dirt floor. The room was much smaller from the brick observatory that was built so that Jefferson could look, undisturbed over his estate.

The final tour was of the mail level of the mansion. This was an incredible sight; art, artifacts, invention, and history collide here. The house—actually the whole place—leaves one feeling small and awed. From entering the double doors under the weathervane, to the weekday clock, to the temperature gauges, to the musical instruments, and architectural innovation, it’s blatantly evident that Thomas Jefferson truly was a complicated polymath. No pics inside the estate.

In the next couple days, we hit the gym, had exotic spa treatments, hiked the Boar’s Head estate, and dined on local fare. Then big sis and I drove north, back to our modern-day lives.