Jefferson and France. Fall 2019.
Three days in Paris, two in Bordeaux, two in Arles. 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. Time and 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. To Arles for time among Roman antiquities. 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.
Add On Tour: For those who wish it, five days 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.
Clay’s Notes: 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.
If you are interested in this tour, sign up as soon as possible. A very large number of people have expressed interest in this trip in the last few years and now, thanks to new associations, we are able to make it happen.
Our journey will take us to places important to the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. These include Athens, Delphi, the Mycenaean palace cultures of the Peloponnese; and several of the Greek islands, Crete and Chios, which is traditionally said to be the birthplace of Homer. We will then visit the coast of Asia Minor, including Ephesus and Troy. Greece is magnificent no matter what takes you there, but a journey through Homeric sites is particularly delightful. We will have extensive discussions of the Homeric epics (I prefer Lattimore on the Iliad and Fagles on the Odyssey), and also the pioneering work of Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890), who revolutionized our understanding of Homer because he, virtually alone in his time, believed that the epics are based on actual historical events. The journey will take about twelve days. Watch for pricing and more specific details soon.
Clay’s Notes: I’ve done versions of this trip twice before. In fact, in a previous visit to Troy I emulated Achilles in “running three times around Troy walls.” If I were wealthy I would spend a month per year in Greece, which is my favorite European country (excepting only Britain). At Oxford long ago I read Homer in the original Greek. We’ll discuss various translations of Homer, beginning with Chapman’s version in the Age of Shakespeare and culminating in the new postmodern slang translation by John Dolan. You should expect to be overwhelmed by the Acropolis museum in Athens and the National Museum where the “Mask of Agamemnon” is kept. We will consult the Oracle at Delphi. I don’t know that I have ever seen anything more purely impressive than the Cyclopean walls at Mycenae, traditionally the home of the Greek war leader Agamemnon. But for all of that, much of our time will be spent gazing at the wine-dark sea, eating Greek salads and fresh seafood, and exploring the foundation culture of secular western civilization.
Four days in London, with several plays at the reconstructed Globe Theater, three days in Stratford, with several plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company theaters. Of course there will be plenty of talk about Shakespeare, but we won’t fail to explore the larger theater of the English Renaissance, with emphasis on Clay’s favorite English poet John Donne, and also Christopher Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, and much more.
Clay’s Notes: I lived in Britain for four years, where I studied at Oxford and explored the British Isles as often as possible. During my time at Oxford I was able to see 34 of the 37 Shakespeare plays, including Hamlet nine times. Although I spend a great deal of time studying history, my actual fields are English literature and classical culture. My daughter Catherine recently completed a degree in early modern history at St. Andrews University. My favorite English authors include Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dr. Johnson, James Boswell, Dickens, John Donne, John Keats, and of course Milton.
Cuba with Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemmingway. A full week in Cuba before it gets destroyed by American-style development. We start at Key West visiting Hemingway’s house there, then fly to Havana, where our Cuban explorations begin. Part of the time we will tour Hemingway’s Cuba, and the rest of the time we will re-live the Spanish American War, including, of course, Theodore Roosevelt’s heroic assault of San Juan Hill in July 1898.
Clay’s Notes: I’ve never been to Cuba, but my friend Wayne Fairchild, the outfitter of my Lewis and Clark cultural tours, has been several times and he is most eager to take care of our hospitality needs there. Roosevelt is one of my principal historical interests. I so want to see Cuba before the Costco imperialists take over. And Hemingway? What could be better than that?
Robert Oppenheimer’s Desert Southwest
My favorite historical character is J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the Atomic Bomb. He’s truly a tragic figure, the one who built the bomb (flawlessly, on time, under budget, in time to affect the outcome of the war) but said, at the first test, “I am become Death, shatterer of worlds.” Los Alamos is endlessly interesting, but we will also visit Alamagordo, where on July 16, 1945, the first atomic device in human history was detonated. Much of our exploration will be Oppenheimer’s desert world (he said his two great loves were deserts and physics, pity they could not be combined!), but we will also talk about morality and technology, appropriate technology, and the world of weapons of mass destruction. This journey will require about six days.
Rome and Italy
Clay has been spending approximately six weeks per year in Rome teaching for a Catholic liberal arts university. This trip will require about 11 days: four in Rome (ancient Rome, Renaissance and Baroque Rome, Enlightenment Rome, Mussolini’s Rome), three in Florence and surrounding territory, two days in Naples (including, of course, Pompeii), and two more days in north central Italy where we will visit several of the Palladian villas in Vincenzo. Wine, pasta, architecture, history, music, and more. Clay will be joined by his Italian-speaking friend Thomas Schulzetenberg, who spent four full years in Rome for the University of Mary.
Clay’s Notes: I’ve fallen in love with Italy in the last few years. Jefferson only saw a bit of northern Italy, but he would have been so smitten with the Pantheon (in my view, the world’s most beautiful building) that he might never have returned to Virginia. I cannot get enough of Bernini’s sculpture or Caravaggio’s painting, but these are just a couple of my Rome passions. My intellectual passions include the classical world, the emergence of Christianity as a world culture, the Renaissance and Enlightenment, and more; and I have a strange special fascination with Mussolini, whose “footprint” in Rome is huge. We’ll read Vergil’s Aeneid together and some of the lives of Plutarch. Mostly we will just luxuriate in a world that never ceases to intrigue us.