|After driving to Charlottesville, Virginia on Tuesday with an afternoon to relax-we visited Monticello--Jefferson's Virginia Estate and then drove a few miles to James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland Plantation. The day began with a huge thunderstorm very early in the morning and we awoke to humid, cloudy conditions. Fortunately the temps were in the 70's and as the day went along--the sky cleared. Monticello was designed by Jefferson to be his home on the mountain top. That alone would make it unusual for the period because there is no water on the mountain top and everyone else lived near water. Jefferson studied architecture and designed all the unique features of the home and the site where it is located. The land was part of the Jefferson family estate and was given to him along with 3000 acres of land. In this part of Virginia, the forest is very dense--so the first 2 years was spent clearing the mountain top and then lowering the top by about 10 feet to prepare the foundation. Jefferson spent over 40 years designing and building features on Monticello. This was after he had spent 33 years in public life, serving as delegate to the Virginia Assembly, minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President from 1801-1809. On his grave marker he had on 3 events listed--he wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Virginia Freedom of Religion papers, and founded the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He did many other things during his life of 83 years. The Monticello grounds are really beautiful and the tours are done by very well prepared guides in suits. The house tour is about 45 minutes in groups of about 20 but the grounds are open for as much touring as you want. We enjoyed the huge garden--probably 150 yards long and about 40 yards wide. The gardener was harvesting sweet potatoes that looked very nice. I talked to him a few minutes about the garden as compared to gardening in Texas. He was really surprised at what we had to do in San Antonio to have a garden. After the tour and lunch we drove over to Ash Lawn-Highland where James Monroe our 5th president. Monroe held more major offices than any other President. He bought this property after visiting Monticello and liked the land as well as being close to Thomas Jefferson's home. This is an entirely different home and plantation. The home is fairly simple in design but well furnished inside. It was much bigger than the typical Virginia home of that time but as compared to the 11,000 square foot Monticello--it was probably only 1500 square feet. The home and land is now owned by William and Mary College and is a working farm with animals, staff in period costumes, and many barns and other buildings. One staff member had baked a fresh apple pie in a dutch oven and took it out of the oven while we were there. She was very proud of the pie--and should be-it smelled wonderful. We did not get a slice! Since it is smaller, the crowds were smaller, the tour very informal, and a nice ending to a full day of touring.