Charlottesville is a very beautiful city and we were lucky to have perfect spring weather. Many flowering trees and shrubs were in bloom, and our lovely hotel was well situated on the historic downtown (pedestrian) mall, considered one of the finest urban parks in the country.
Rosemary Gould, much beloved poetry seminar leader for Classical Pursuits, led discussions which focused on the writings, architecture and gardens of native son and third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. With Rosemary’s skilled help, we considered Jefferson the artist, a man who concerned himself with design in all aspects of his life – from the vision of a democratic republic to the reliance on classical forms and proportions in the layout of his home and gardens at Monticello, to physical and pedagogical design of the University of Virginia, to the careful self-portrait he painted of himself for posterity in his autobiography and his many letters.
Our days started with animated discussion, wrestling with Jefferson’s always eloquent and sometimes contradictory words. One of our excellent guides, Leni Sorenson (a research historian at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation) characterized our discussions succinctly when she said, “There are days when I want to kill him. Then there are days, I am in utter awe of the man.”
In the afternoons, we embarked on private tours of historic Charlottesville; Monticello, the magnificent home on a hill he designed; the University of Virginia, founded and designed by Jefferson; Montpelier, the home of James Madison, author of the US Constitution, 4th President of the US, and friend and confidant of Jefferson.
We also had a tour and tasting at a local winery. Thomas Jefferson has been described as America’s “first distinguished viticulturist,” and “the greatest patron of wine and wine growing that this country has yet had.”
Although Jefferson aspired to make a Monticello-grown wine, his continual replanting of the vineyards suggests a perennial and losing struggle with grape cultivation.
HERE WAS BURIED
AUTHRO OF THE
STATUTE OF VIRGINIA
AND FATHER OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
Interesting, isn’t it, that Jefferson chose to be remembered in this way, but not as the U.S.A’s first Secretary of State, or the third president of the United States?
I took an iPhone video of Rosemary on the final day of our time together. Click here.
And stay tuned for a slide show, thanks to Torontonian, John Otter, who possesses both an excellent camera and a fine eye.
It may be a bit late to join us in Germany this June. And our August, In Search of the Newfoundland Soul has two remaining spots. Do consider our fall trips to Vienna and Budapest (Sachertorte and Paprikash: Musical meanderings along the Blue Danube) and Art and Life in Renaissance Florence: And why it continues to matter.