The Omni Charlottesville Hotel accurately bills itself as providing “Charlottesville luxury, southern splendor.” We came a few weeks too late for optimal leaf peeping, but we enjoyed a great visit to Monticello among sunny blue skies. With the Omni as our base of operations, we knew visitors from earlier eras were not as pampered.
Upon arrival at the Omni, we were greeted with flutes of champagne and strawberries. The lobby flows into the vaulted garden atrium.
The Omni is adjacent to the town’s historic downtown Pedestrian Mall, providing easy access to a range of choices. With so many options nearby, we were unable to avail ourselves of the Omni’s fitness center or swimming pools. We will make plans for a return visit.
Starting the day with the Omni’s robust buffet breakfast, we enjoyed a range of southern fare. Grits, biscuits and blueberry sausages provided unique gustatory flavors. Also featured were a traditional omelet bar and muffins from the nearby Albemarle Bakery. The hotel’s restaurant is The Pointe and overlooks the downtown pedestrian mall and ice skating rink. The rooms were spacious and gracious. We slept solidly after a day of sightseeing. The beds were comfortable, and the amenities were modern and plentiful.
A brief 13 minute drive away is Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. I had forgotten the breadth of Jefferson’s influence. Despite his decades of public service (delegate to Virginia General Assembly and to Congress, governor of Virginia, minister to France, secretary of state, vice-president and two term third president), Jefferson found time to teach himself architecture and design his home. Overseeing every aspect of the building and its grounds, his was a project constantly in development. Recognized today as a World Heritage site, Monticello is a spellbinding aspect of American culture.
Jefferson was far from a dilettante; he made significant contributions to the fields of horticulture, paleontology, astronomy and archeology. Indeed centuries later when John F. Kennedy hosted a gathering of Nobel prize winners, the president noted it was the most impressive gathering of intelligence at the White House “since Jefferson dined here alone.”
Standing in Jefferson’s study put me in awe of the magnitude of his intellect.
The issue of race and slavery is not sidestepped at Monticello. Despite his abhorrence of slavery, Jefferson owned many slaves. Having recently attended the A&E concert Shining a Light about race relations, it was a timely coincidence.
The introductory film places Jefferson and Monticello in context, noting “little mountain” was where Jefferson explored as a boy. The film and the tour guide fully emphasize that Jefferson believed that human reason and knowledge could improve the condition of mankind. When he finally retired, Jefferson founded and designed the University of Virginia, one of the best public universities in the world.
The film at Monticello stirringly concludes by reminding us that Jefferson’s authorship of the Declaration of Independence was not only the sturdy foundation of the United States, but a fundamental inspiration for the inexorable march toward freedom globally. There may be no words more cherished by mankind than “all men are created equal” and all people have a right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”