Jefferson in France
With an add-on tour for the Canal du Midi
Join Clay Jenkinson on a guided tour through Jefferson’s France. After exploring Jefferson’s Paris, we’ll visit Bordeaux, where Jefferson devised a wine classification system that was adopted by the region fifty years later. Enjoy tastings at vineyards with a family memory of Jefferson’s visit in 1787 and a visit to Montaigne’s castle, where the first great essays of modern history were written. Then to Nimes to see the Maison Quarree, what Jefferson called “the most precious morsel of antiguity,” the building that served as the model for the new state capitol in Richmond. We’ll visit Arles for time among Roman antiquities and make a brief stop at Aix-en-Provence, where Jefferson took the mineral waters to ease the pain in his wrist, damaged in a romantic escapade with Maria Cosway in Paris.
For those who wish it, spend five additional days afloat on the Canal du Midi (Canal Languedoc), where Jefferson in 1787 spent more than a week in his quest to learn the best technologies for canal development in America. Space for this canal trip is very limited!
I have done this trip twice before, with my friend Michele Basta of the University of Nevada libraries. It’s a fabulous trip. We know a great deal about Jefferson’s time in France, and it’s possible to visit sites that were important to him. Don’t let your lack of French intimidate you. We’ll have good local interpreters to smooth our way. Jefferson said every man’s first country is of course his own, but every rational man’s second country must be France. If you are interested in the aesthetic side of Jefferson, this is your trip: music, architecture, painting, sculpture, gardens, and French salon culture. We’ll also talk about Jefferson and the French Revolution, which he (at first) thought of as the next logical step in the liberation of the world after the American Revolution. The Hotel de Salm in Paris became the template for Jefferson’s rebuild of Monticello (with the dome), and the Maison Quarree became the template for the capitol at Richmond. We’ll spend a good deal of time discussing Jefferson’s last love affair, with Maria Cosway, and visit places where their platonic romance unfolded.
I did the canal trip many years ago. It’s pure magic. It’s maybe the finest canal trip in Europe. You can walk along the tow path or ride a bicycle. The French essentially invented the farm to table movement. This is pure Enlightenment luxury.