a trip to nellysford & “expanding horizons”

Saturday, November 2:  I drive to Nellysford, Virginia this morning to visit my old friend Susan, who lives near Wintergreen Ski Resort.  It’s still lovely in the mountains, with red leaves now brightening the landscape. 

This is the first time I’ve met Susan in her new home.  In the years since I’ve seen her, she’s retired from her job as a stockbroker, sold her Richmond house, and moved out to the country.  When I arrive, she takes me to Blue Mountain Brewery for lunch and then we head into Charlottesville, where we wander around the Downtown Mall.

Charlottesville's Downtown Mall
Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall
Susan at an outdoor vendor's table
Susan at an outdoor vendor’s table

We take a two-mile walk through the farmland around her house and, later, we meet a good friend of hers, Mary Ann, at a Nellysford bar.  Here a small cast of local characters huddles around the bar, listening to a trombone-playing astrophysicist and another electric piano-playing musician.  We enjoy Pinot Grigio from our convivial bar seats, and while Susan and Mary Ann eat tacos, I enjoy every bite of a smoked hot dog with chili, cheese & mustard.  I descend into my bad eating habits, as I do from time to time.  Never mind; it’s a great evening all around.

me, Susan and Mary Ann
me, Susan and Mary Ann
Susan and Mary Ann
Susan and Mary Ann

Sunday, November 3:  This morning, while Susan goes to church in Nellysford, I revise chapter 31 of my novel: “Expanding Horizons,” for a total word count as of today of 7,082 words for 3 chapters.  I know I need to cut more, as my goal is to have each chapter no more than 7 pages long; this one is 10 pages.  This is where an impartial editor would be helpful; this editor would probably have me cut out some questionable sections that don’t really move the story along.  I cut from 11 to 10 pages and my total page count for the novel at this point in the story is 237 pages for 31 out of 50 chapters.

Oh, it’s so hard to discard words you wrote so painstakingly.  I’m sure they’ll have to go in the end. 🙂

When Susan returns from church, we go out for brunch at Stony Creek; we both eat chicken sausages and French toast with bananas Foster.  Not very healthy eating this weekend!

Nellysford, Va
Nellysford, Va

I completed Module 1 of the Travel Essay writing course by Thursday night, since I knew I was going out-of-town this weekend.  This morning, I listen to our instructor evaluate our assignments.  We were supposed to find “niche” publications to pitch a story to; but sadly I didn’t have time to peruse niche publications at the bookstore to find ones that publish travel articles.  I used the Washington Post Travel Section for the assignment, which was not really what the instructor was looking for.  Hopefully, since I’m not going out-of-town next weekend, or probably for the rest of November, I’ll have more time to focus on the exact assignment (a travel angle for a story about Tasmania) by the due date.

Nellysford, Va
Nellysford, Va

Back to work tomorrow, after spending three hours driving back from Nellysford, and two hours marking essays for my Advanced Writing Workshop. 😦  Work, work, work, and only some of it is fun.

I’m afraid there won’t be much excitement happening in my blogging world for the next month. It’s all I can do to keep up with my challenges for the month!

thomas jefferson’s monticello & jefferson vineyards

Thursday, August 15: Monticello was the plantation home of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, who started building the estate when he inherited a large tract of land from his father at the age of 26.  The plantation was originally 5,000 acres, with cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops by primarily slave labor.

Jefferson designed every aspect of Monticello, an icon of architecture and a World Heritage Site, constructing and modifying its buildings and landscape over 40 years.

Entering Monticello
Entering Monticello

Even though I’ve visited Monticello many times in my life, as I’m a native Virginian, it’s been many years since I’ve been here.  Today, Sarah and I visit the plantation, first seeing a film about Thomas Jefferson and then taking a shuttle up to the mansion for a house tour.

A side view of Monticello
A side view of Monticello
Monticello
Monticello
me at Monticello
me at Monticello
Sarah at Monticello
Sarah at Monticello

I’m impressed by the 15-minute film because not only does it discuss Jefferson’s accomplishments, but it describes his angst over not being able to see a solution to the problem of slavery in the early American economy.   His slave-holding directly contradicted his beliefs about equality among men, as espoused in the Declaration of Independence, which he authored.  The film also discusses historians’ belief that Jefferson fathered children with one of his slaves.

Monticello
Monticello

The claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings, a slave at Monticello, entered the public arena during Jefferson’s first term as president, and it has remained a subject of discussion and disagreement for two centuries. Based on documentary, scientific, statistical, and oral history evidence, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) Research Committee Report on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (January 2000) remains the most comprehensive analysis of this historical topic.  Ten years later, TJF and most historians believe that, years after his wife’s death, Thomas Jefferson was the father of the six children of Sally Hemings mentioned in Jefferson’s records, including Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston Hemings (Monticello: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: A Brief Account).

Monticello from the lawn
Monticello from the lawn
Monticello and surrounding gardens
Monticello and surrounding gardens

I’m impressed that the Thomas Jefferson Foundation doesn’t try to gloss over the contradictions evident in Jefferson’s vision for mankind vs. the way he lived his private life.  This admits to his fallibility, and his humanity.

gardens at Monticello
gardens at Monticello

The house tour is excellent, with the tour guide giving us a history of Jefferson’s involvement in Monticello, public affairs, horticulture, and family life.  Sadly, we’re not allowed to take photos inside the house.

Monticello
Monticello

The house, which Jefferson designed, was based on neoclassical design as described in the books of the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.  The house sits on the summit of an 850-foot (260 m) – high peak in the mountains south of the Rivanna Gap.  Its Italian name translates as “little mount.”

Monticello
Monticello

Our guide tells us that Jefferson left explicit instructions regarding the monument to be erected over his grave.  In an undated document, Jefferson supplied a sketch of the shape of the marker, and the epitaph with which he wanted it to be inscribed:

“…on the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more:

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
Father of the University of Virginia

“because by these,” he explained, “as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.” (Monticello: Jefferson’s Gravestone)

gardens at Monticello
gardens at Monticello

The plantation at full operations included numerous outbuildings for specialized functions, a nailery, and quarters for domestic slaves along Mulberry Row near the house; gardens for flowers, produce, and Jefferson’s experiments in plant breeding; plus tobacco fields and mixed crops. Cabins for field slaves were located further from the mansion.

butterfly at the Monticello gardens
butterfly at the Monticello gardens

After leaving Monticello, Sarah and I head to Jefferson Vineyards, where we sit on the lawn in Adirondack chairs and drink glasses of Merlot before heading back into Charlottesville to have lunch at Revolutionary Soup.

Jefferson Vineyards
Jefferson Vineyards
Sarah at Jefferson Vineyards
Sarah at Jefferson Vineyards

To read more about Monticello, see:
Monticello
Wikipedia: Monticello

a morning walk at the university of virginia

Thursday, August 15: In the morning, Sarah and I get up early.  She goes for a run and I go for a walk through part of the University of Virginia campus.  It’s a beautiful sprawling campus, with green lawns, stately trees and old brick buildings.  It’s a lovely place to take a walk.

University of Virginia
University of Virginia

Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1819. It was the first nonsectarian university in the United States and the first to use the elective course system.  It is now a public research university and is one of the eight original Public Ivy universities.  It is the only university campus in the U.S.A. designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.  In the 2013 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s National University Rankings, the school was listed as America’s 2nd best public university; tied with UCLA and surpassed only by UC Berkeley (Wikipedia: University of Virginia).

Jefferson considered the founding of the University to be one of his greatest achievements. Undertaking the project toward the end of his life—after a long, illustrious career that included serving as a colonial revolutionary, political leader, writer, architect, inventor, and horticulturalist—he was closely involved in the University’s design. He planned the curriculum, recruited the first faculty, and designed the Academical Village, a terraced green space surrounded by residential and academic buildings, gardens, and the majestic center-point—the Rotunda.

The Rotunda
The Rotunda
The Rotunda
The Rotunda
Thomas Jefferson and the Rotunda
Thomas Jefferson and the Rotunda
The Rotunda
The Rotunda

The most recognizable symbol of the University, the Rotunda stands at the north end of the Lawn and is half the height and width of the Pantheon in Rome, which was the primary inspiration for the building. The Lawn and the Rotunda have served as models for similar designs of “centralized green areas” at universities across the United States.

The Rotunda from the Lawn
The Rotunda from the Lawn
The Rotunda
The Rotunda
the view of the Lawn from the steps of the Rotunda
the view of the Lawn from the steps of the Rotunda

Flanking both sides of the Rotunda and extending down the length of the Lawn are ten Pavilions interspersed with student rooms. Each has its own classical architectural style, as well as its own walled garden separated by Jeffersonian Serpentine walls. These walls are called “serpentine” because they run a sinusoidal course, one that lends strength to the wall and allows for the wall to be only one brick thick, one of many innovations by which Jefferson attempted to combine aesthetics with utility.

Pavilions interspersed with student rooms
Pavilions interspersed with student rooms
Pavilions with student rooms
Pavilions with student rooms
serpentine walls
serpentine walls

The University opened for classes in 1825 with a faculty of eight and a student body numbering sixty-eight. Jefferson took great pains to recruit the most highly qualified faculty, five of whom were found in England and three in the United States. Instruction was offered in ancient languages, modern languages, mathematics, moral philosophy, natural philosophy, chemistry, law, and medicine. The students came from the American South and West; interestingly, though, most were not Virginians (University of Virginia: Founding the University).

an academic building on the campus
an academic building on the campus

In the late 19th century, community members raised funds to establish a non-denominational church on the University Grounds. The UVA Chapel is a Gothic Revival building. The University Chapel no longer holds regular religious services, but weddings and memorial services still take place inside.

UVA Chapel
UVA Chapel
University Chapel
University Chapel
UVA Chapel
UVA Chapel

Finally, there are residential colleges which are part of the campus, including Brown College at Monroe Hill.

Brown College at Monroe Hill
Brown College at Monroe Hill

After my walk and Sarah’s run, we shower and prepare to visit another part of Thomas Jefferson’s neighborhood, his home of Monticello.

a road trip to charlottesville: wandering the downtown mall & wine-tasting at pippin hill farm & vineyards

Wednesday, August 14:  There’s nothing I love better than a road trip.  Quite by accident this week, when trying to arrange a visit with my daughter Sarah in Richmond, I found she had Wednesday and Thursday off.   Suddenly, my wanderlust kicked in, and remembering that I had promised her a girls’ weekend because she never got the opportunity to visit me in Oman, I suggested we go on an overnight road trip to Charlottesville.

So, this morning, I drive to Richmond, pick her up by 10:00 and we’re on our way to the mountains of Virginia.  We’re both excited because it’s supposed to be a glorious couple of days, with sunshine and temperatures in the 70s and NO HUMIDITY, a rare thing in a Virginia summer!

Charlottesville is best known as the home to two U.S. Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, as well as the home of the University of Virginia, which, along with Monticello is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Monticello is Jefferson’s mountain-top home.

By the time we arrive in Charlottesville, it’s lunch time.  We’ve heard about a great lunch restaurant at The Historic Downtown Mall, Revolutionary Soup, but when we walk to the door, we find, much to our disappointment, that they’re closed for renovation.  Luckily, they have another location in Charlottesville that we can check out tomorrow, but today, since we’re downtown today and since a sign on the Rev Soup door suggests: “Try The Whiskey Jar!” we head there for lunch instead.  We’re not disappointed.

Windows of The Whiskey Jar
Windows of The Whiskey Jar

We each order a bowl of Chicken & Dumplings soup, and we share a sandwich: Egg Salad with Pimento Cheese, Forage Beans & Heirloom Tomatoes on Sunflower Wheat Bread.  I order a Torch Pilsner from a brewery in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

It’s a beautiful day to sit outside at the outdoor cafe and have a beer and a wonderful lunch and to spend time with my darling daughter, who I have missed dearly over the two years. 🙂

Sarah at the Whiskey Jar
Sarah at the Whiskey Jar
me at The Whiskey Jar with my Pilsner
me at The Whiskey Jar with my Pilsner
Chicken & Dumplings soup
Chicken & Dumplings soup
Egg Salad sandwich
Egg Salad sandwich
Inside The Whiskey Jar
Inside The Whiskey Jar

After lunch, we wander around The Historic Downtown Mall, an outdoor brick-paved pedestrian mall with an eclectic collection of shops and restaurants housed in the historic buildings on and around old Main Street. We dip into shops of funky clothes and jewelry.  Vendors are set up on the street selling scarves, skirts, sunglasses and hats.  These are interspersed among quirky outdoor cafes, giving The Downtown Mall a European feel.

strange sunglasses for sale
strange sunglasses for sale
vendors at The Corner
vendors at The Historic Downtown Mall
The Corner
The Historic Downtown Mall
Used books and prints
Used books and prints
The Corner in Charlottesville
The Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville
fountain at The Corner
fountain at The Historic Downtown Mall
Cute funky shop
Cute funky shop
famous brand name shoes & boots for sale
famous brand name shoes & boots for sale
Street art at The Corner
Street art at The Historic Downtown Mall

After exploring the shops, we drive out to the countryside for some wine tasting at Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards.  We’ve been told by one of the shopkeepers that, of all the vineyards around Charlottesville, it has one of the best views.  It is indeed a lovely spot, and after our tasting of 6 wines, we each order a glass and sit outdoors at a table overlooking the vineyards and green rolling hills.

Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Sarah at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Sarah at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
me at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
me at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Sarah ~ wine tasting
Sarah ~ wine tasting
Sarah enjoys a glass of wine on the deck
Sarah enjoys a glass of wine on the deck
the view from our table
the view from our table
Crispy Chesapeake Oysters with grilled scallion remoulade
Crispy Chesapeake Oysters with grilled scallion remoulade
Arrancinis, saffron aioli
Arrancinis, saffron aioli
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

After our lazy afternoon, we go back into Charlottesville to check in to our hotel and relax a bit after our wine tasting.  Later, we go out for dinner at The Local, where Sarah has crab soup and mussels and I have meatloaf wrapped in bacon over mashed potatoes, accompanied by asparagus.  The highlight is the dessert, a blackberry cobbler topped with vanilla ice cream.   What a beautiful eating-and-drinking kind of day. 🙂