Monticello & Charlottesville

After three days in Williamsburg, we took an almost two-hour drive to Monticello just outside Charlottesville. While nickels have always made me wonder about Thomas Jefferson’s famous house on a hill top, I was surprised at how small it actually is. We were given a tour by a nice fellow named David who told us about the myriad novelties in the building and some related tales. The touch screens (a fun & informative display) were in the visitor’s center and the nickels are in our Holiday Inn…

According to David, Jefferson was not an inventor but an adopter. The cannonball powered clock not only gave seconds but also days of the week (however, his adoption put Saturday below the floor). There is a dumb waiter for wine bottles, an automatic french door (both sides open/close together), and long windows that can become doors. We didn’t see the indoor toilet I’d heard about, but I did find the privy air vent.

In addition to the tour of the house, we took the Slavery Tour given by a former teacher named Tom. The story of Jefferson is a paradox. While he famously wrote that “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, he owned slaves – over 600 of them during his life (and only freed about 10). Nowadays, his relationship with his slave Sally Hemings is well-known (DNA documented), but during his life and for almost 200 years after it was hidden. When I asked if they had a relationship or if it was rape, Tom said we can’t know from the evidence, but that Sally did not have “agency” (choice in the matter) and that if she was pregnant when they returned from Paris it constituted statutory rape.

In fact, our visit to Monticello was a lesson in slavery and the culture of a slave-run plantation – something that is relatively new in the history of the place. Better late than never? That Jefferson, who we want to acknowledge for his inspiration, guidance, and Renaissance Man qualities, was in fact a raging hypocrite is hard to ignore. The pix below show some of Monticello and the surrounding gardens as well as many displays depicting the slavery that went on there…

Most of this set of pix is from a visit to the pedestrian mall in downtown Charlottesville. There was a concert in the Pavilion, and after strolling it’s length we had dinner outside. (The pano with double-Veronica is at the Monticello visitor’s center.)

While it was nice to be able to stroll and dine with the relatives of slaves on an equal footing in sometimes – but not always – charming Charlottesville, our tour guide David acknowledged the horribleĀ rally of white supremacists last August. (Another article about that incident.)

After a nice night at the Holiday in and before driving up to Washington DC, we stopped by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville to visit the campus, see the rotunda, and have a long chat (incidentally) with two nice “ambassadors” there.

Round the Rotunda…

The Historic Triangle

From North Carolina we drove up to Williamsburg, Virginia for three days in the historical triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Be prepared for a vast post! Even so these are just of few of my pix.

Apparently, the renovation of colonial Williamsburg was begun by the Rockefellers and continues to this day. The extra special bits are the people in period costumes reenacting the past as artisans and historical figures. We went to two great talks by Thomas Jefferson and James Armistead (Lafayette’s African-American spy) and experience numerous folks in shops and around town. We participated in a mock trial and explored part of the town…

Jamestown involves both the museum and reconstructed settlement as well as the historical area and an Archaearium. There are models of a Powhatan village, the Jamestown Fort, the ships that brought the colonists, and numerous displays. In addition, there was an outstanding glass making and glass blowing presentation. Take your time…

Yorktown, while nearby, is more about events over 150 years after the Jamestown settlement – the American Revolution. The focus is on the last battle of the Revolution in which Washington defeats Cornwallis. Of course there are many more details in the museums, movies, driving tours, etc. We experienced them all, including the actual town and a more local and much smaller museum & art gallery. Favorite? You decide…

Back to Williamsburg. Yes, we had to, there is so much to see and do. This set includes more of the town, the five o’clock military march (two days – two different uniforms), and the vast decorative arts museum the vastness of which is rather hidden as part of it is underground. Also, there’s a pic in here of Karen, our waitress at the Shield Tavern, and one of the best promoters and interpreters of Williamsburg (and the food was great)…

Next up, we’re heading to Monticello to learn some stuff about TJ…

 

EC18: North Carolina

After the splendor of Mansfield Plantation in South Carolina, we headed for the southern outer banks of North Carolina. Morehead City seemed like an interesting spot on the map, between a lot of other interesting spots, but we cut our two-night stay down to one. Nonetheless, two interesting things happened there. First, I embarked on a swim to a little island that seemed very outer-banksyish. It was great until I sliced my foot up on barnacles trying to climb up on the dock. Second, when we left our hotel (the Bask – large building below), a magnificent storm cloud swept over us, then came the lightning & rain. In this set of pix you can see those clouds, along with part of drive up, a sunset, and a view from the hotel that shows where I swam…

While we had driven up Emerald Island, we waited ’til the next day to go back and check out Fort Macon, site of a Civil War battle and an long rich history of wars among people and with nature…

After Fort Macon, we drove by two more Civil War battlefields, one at Newport Barracks, another at New Bern. Both featured interpretive displays, the former a little encampment, the latter a walking tour into the forest. The New Bern Battlefield had a pretty good presentation of where, when and how the fighting went down. We also stopped at Edenton and explored their very nice visitor’s center in an historic home…

When we decided to cut one night in Morehead City, mostly to eventually shorten our drive to Williamsburg (’cause we gotta turn in the rental car before noon), we found a B&B called “The Teacherage.” Funky website, odd reservation process, but well-located for our purposes. Funnily enough, we stopped by another “Teacherage” containing a museum next to the Newport Barracks Civil War display. (I guess it was a thing to have the teachers housed next to the school, kind of like a “Parsonage” next to a church.) The brave owners of this place also purchased the boarded up school with plans for ecotourism which have evolved into apartments. In addition to those pics, you can see Squeeza’s Country Kitchen where we had dinner (after a long and adventurous drive looking for another place that was closed on Mondays). Welcome to the countryside…

Part of that dinner adventure involved checking out Merchant’s Millpond State Park and the Great Dismal Swamp, two beautiful nature spots featuring wetlands ecosystems. Here ya go…

EC18: South Carolina

One of the highlights of our trip will be discovering the Mansfield Plantation B&B in South Carolina. While googling plantations in the hope of teaching the kids some of the hard lessons of American slavery and the Civil War, I happened upon Mansfield (please check the website link, there’s a lot there), and it was all that and more.

Before arriving however, we drove through Charleston and stopped at the Fort Sumter National Monument. While it would have taken a ferry boat ride to get out to the actual fort, the park service does a great job in presenting the particulars in the museum (or visitor’s center). Just a taste…

In addition to the classic lines of mossy old oaks and interiors speaking of antebellum aspirations to European gentility, they provide beach cruisers to use to explore the former rice plantation. (The rice paddies have turned into wetlands, and Miss Catherine regaled us with tales of alligators, fish, birds, snakes, and other aspects of the South Carolina ecology. Here’s just sample of Mansfield…

Here’s another sample (sorry for the randomness, but this is randomvail.com!) of pix from Mansfield Plantation. This set features the “slave village,” a collection of cabins, including a church, that one passes through before arriving at the “big house.” I also rode into the forest and found a hunter’s hide up in a tree. Enjoy…

Vid clips of the dirt road in…

The plantation is near Georgetown, South Carolina. We had a nice dinner on the waterfront, but as it was Sunday we weren’t able to visit the Gullah Museum (but you can). The one pic through the window is of an art class being given nearby…

EC18: Georgia

On the way out of St. Augustine, we stopped by an old Spanish fort which looked just like the one in Cadiz, Spain. There were a couple of people in costume, not sure if they were Spanish soldiers or pirates…

Then we drove across the Georgian Atlantic coast to Savannah. Famous for it’s charming squares, tree-lined streets, and beautiful old architecture, Savannah was infamous for the heat – oppressive. So, we drove in our air-conditioned car around the city checking out the cemetery, churches, the riverfront, and several of the more notable buildings. We stayed at the Savannah B&B in old brick row houses on Chatham Square. There’s a pic of an antique antique store, and we went to dinner at the Chromatic Dragon, a game & gaming restaurant that the kids loved! On the way out of town the next day, heading for the Carolinas, a turtle wanted a portrait…

 

EC18 (East Coast Road Trip): Florida

For this summer’s vacation we’re doing the east coast of the US, from Miami to Boston. Our kids did not get to do the classic 8th grade field trip to Washington DC, so we’re making up for that, learning some lessons about the south, do some college visits, and have some beach & NYC fun, etc…

First up, here’s Miami where we spent one great beach/pool day…

From Miami, we drove by Mar-a-Lago, the Kennedy Space Center, and the Cape Canaveral Nature Area (including a cool Visitor’s Center & a wild manatee wallow) on the way to St. Augustine…

In St. Augustine, we stayed in a great Airbnb in the old Lincolnsville neighborhood. The oldest city in the USA, St. Augustine was originally a Spanish fort town, home to Flagler College, and some beautiful old Spanish architecture…

Not long enough in a great town, we’ll have to come back! But our itinerary took us up to Georgia and the Carolinas. Stay tuned…

School’s Out 2018, Part 2: Vids

In no particular order, here are some super-short clips from the aforementioned events.

First up, the HMB Marching Band featuring Charlie on trombone…

 

 

Next, Veronica playing trumpet in the HMB Concert Band…

 

 

Charlie reading his “Ekphrasis” (based on an art work) poetry…

 

 

Following yet another school shooting, here are the students of Pescadero walking silently in protest of gun violence…

 

 

Time lapse sunset…

 

 

Tennis son…

 

 

Time lapse poppies poppin’…

 

 

Seals at the Santa Cruz wharf…

 

 

More flowers…

 

 

A very little of the Little Mermaid…

 

 

More time lapse action in Redwood City…

 

 

Another concert courtesy of “Mr. Banderson”…

 

 

Charlie accompanying his mother and the LHE choir at their spring concert…

 

 

Lucas rockin’ Tracy Chapman…

 

 

Bob Deacon and his band (on his porch) rockin’ some James Gang…

 

 

Them gophers are gettin’ bold! Or, bringing down a strawberry gopher hole cover…

 

School’s Out 2018, Part 1: Pix

Spring semester done sprung! Here’re some pix, mostly family & school events over the last few months. Rather miscellaneous, but good times!

First up, Charlie was on the Tennis Team (with doubles partner & good buddy Thomas and others) and played violin in the pit for the HMB High Musical (The Little Mermaid).

Charlie also was selected to read a poem he wrote for the San Mateo County Poet Laureate (Lisa Rosenburg) Ekphrasis Poetry Contest. I took a workshop at Stanford with author Marguerite Engle (withie). Saw Black Panther in Redwood City, kids had facials, Veronica ended the basketball season with coach Martin Dioli, and one time at least Charlie mowed the lawn…

And yeah, it seems I get out in nature frequently enough. Big hikes from above Cuesta, to Hidden Valley Ranch, and in Pescadero Creek County Park. Spring flowers, not-very-sluggish banana slugs, a sunset, big trees, old wood, cool rocks, sweet Sugar Pie, and a Super Blue Moon…

We had a few great family visits. First, cousin Steve & Christina brought baby Freya, 2nd cousin (?) Elayna & friend up to Santa Cruz. Then, brother Ron & Heather brought their whole clan (Laleyna & Daniel, Julian & Livi – with a bun in the oven) on a stop from Europe back to New Zealand. They came for Mary Lynn’s LH spring concert, and we had a wonderful dinner at Nancy & Jered’s new house! (And Christina brought Elayna & Freya back for more family fun!)

Pretty sunset from our backyard, the lil’ back deck I built while ML was in Mississippi, art shot, and two interesting buildings on Main Street in Half Moon Bay…

A couple interesting properties in HMB & Moss Beach. Lots of old wood, rusty metal bits, and some other stuff…

Various events! A silent walk around Pescadero protesting gun violence, watercolor painting in art class, Jose Perez et al. at the district end-of-year party, Kohei and his Godzilla at the HMB High art show, Sophie Mateja with our Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, and Henry Morris’ memorial gathering (his image in the that cool GMC truck and with friends & family)…

Finally, some of the kids’ events, etc. Veronica got two class awards for her academic performance in Science & Spanish, her band concert, Charlie in Marching Band (and practicing in the bathroom), and a rockin’ party at Bob & Bridgette Deacon.

Couple projects: Mini back deck and a gutter clean-out cover.

Stay tuned for some videos, and a big summer road trip on the east coast…