My weekend with Thomas Jefferson

love-opera-victoria-bakerThomas Jefferson and I go way back, so to speak.

When I first read about his four year sojourn in Paris on the eve of the French Revolution, we bonded over our love of all things Francophile. Then, when I started to read his works, I began to admire the audacity of his mind. And when I found myself at Monticello, his beloved home in Charlottesville, Va. on a research fellowship, I fell in love with the same green hills he had ridden on, the beautiful vegetable gardens he had planted and the lush countryside he had so admired.

Truthfully, Washington D.C. has never really been my favorite city. I guess I just kept catching it on the wrong day. So when my best friend and traveling buddy suggested we hop over for a few days I immediately refused.

However, I changed my mind a few days later when an advertisement for a place in D.C., aptly named The Jefferson popped up on my screen. And, wouldn’t you know it, their available dates coincided perfectly with mine and by this time I was starting to find the Jeffersonian string of coincidences that keep showing up mildly uncanny.

Staying at The Jefferson, a unique Relais & Chateaux property that defies the generic definition of hotel, is like being personally invited in the great man’s home…only better.

The sumptuous décor is 1780 meets 2013 with all the intricate detailing of a classical structure and all the modern amenities to make it worthwhile. Framed letters in the founding father’s own hand are elegantly displayed along the walls along with white marble busts of the man himself. Delicate drawings of Monticello are woven into the crisp décor, modern luxury and history at the service of one another.

Jefferson’s spirit reigns supreme throughout the hotel that bears his name but nowhere is his presence more acutely felt than at their award-winning restaurant aptly named Plume. The mural of the gardens at Monticello immediately caught my eye, I remember going for long walks along those hills during my sojourn there.

I didn’t get to dine at Plume, but their infamous wine list contains vintages that date back to a rare 1780 Borges Madeira Bual and others that Jefferson himself enjoyed. In the Private Cellar, a dumbwaiter inspired by Jefferson’s own which he designed for Monticello’s daytime study, conveys vintages to the dining room.

The lobby features the most stunning portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, busts of Jefferson by Jean-Antoine Houdon and rare museum quality documents signed by Jefferson himself. By that description alone it might sound museum-ish…dusty, a little passé. But, au contraire, everything is displayed with consummate elegance, classical sobriety with cutting edge modernity.

I fell in love with Monticello and then with Jefferson’s legacy some years ago but I’m falling for it all over again in D.C. The Jefferson isn’t an homage to a great man, it’s where his very essence comes to visit in modern day dress. Refined, courteous, gentle and ever the perfect gentleman…he is the perfect host.

 

Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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