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Presidents Obama, Hollande Have 'Wonderful Visit' to Monticello


February 10, 2014

Two sitting presidents spent Monday afternoon at the home of a former U.S. president who has historic ties to France.

President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande took a tour of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello.

Jefferson served as ambassador to France from 1785-1789.

Monday's visit was the first time Obama has been to Monticello and also marked the first time a French president has visited the French-inspired home.

Air Force One touched down at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport around 4 p.m. before the presidential motorcade made its way from the airport to Monticello.

The crowds lined the path hours before the plane touched down.

"We heard on the news that President Obama was going to be out at Monticello," said Pauline Dalton, who was visiting the area from Maine. "We've been out here for two or three hours now waiting so I can see my president."

Dalton and a friend were camped out ready to snap photos of the motorcade outside of Michie Tavern.

Charlene Rode was there, too.

"I'm a big historian and a big fan of Thomas Jefferson, so the fact that the president of France is coming to see Monticello is pretty cool," said Rode.

The procession of vehicles, surrounded by security, zipped up the winding Thomas Jefferson Parkway around 4:30 p.m.

"It was exciting. I was smiling the whole entire time," Charlottesville resident Leora Payne said after spotting the motorcade. "It was just exciting to see that in action and all the work that goes into it."

Obama and Hollande spent more than an hour touring Monticello's rooms and west lawn. The duo even went off the scheduled tour for a moment so Obama could point out the Rotunda in the distance. Jefferson was the architect of the Rotunda, as well as Monticello.

Back inside, Obama took the time to speak about what the visit means for the two nations and Hollande's state visit.

"Our hope in starting our visit this way is that, just as we can extend back through generations to see the links between the United States and France, tomorrow we'll have an opportunity to talk about not only our current bonds and alliance but also ways that we can strengthen our cooperation in the future," said Obama.

Hollande called the home a historic symbol.

"Why is this house symbolic? Because here Lafayette was welcomed. Together, Lafayette and Jefferson imagined something that sounded impossible -- American independence," he said via translator.

It's a bond Hollande said has sustained over time.

"We were allies in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette. We are still allies today. We were friends in the time of Jefferson and Lafayette, and we will remain friends forever," said Hollande.

After the tour, Obama said they had a "wonderful visit."

By 6:05 p.m. it was wheels up and the pair of presidents were back in Air Force One and heading back to Washington, D.C.

Monday's visit to Monticello was the first stop of Hollande's three-day visit to the United States.


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