Visiting Charlottesville

We went to Charlottesville in April to see Amy’s friend Heidi get married. I rarely go south of the DC area and was interested in seeing that part of historic Virginia, so this was something of an adventure.

Passing Monticello

The drive down was a personal milestone for me: first time actually driving the car farther than a mile from home; in this case, 110 miles. It all went smoothly, with not much traffic since it was fairly late. Our lodging was Sleep Inn, a decent enough place midway between downtown Charlottesville and historic Monticello. We made the mistake of driving through the local Burger King at 10PM and ended up waiting out front for some pretty awful burgers.

In the morning I admired my first real daylight look at Charlottesville out the window. My first impression was that the parking spaces sure are narrow.

Hotel Parking

Okay, okay, it was just the hotel parking lot. Stunning view.

The wedding was to be at Ashlawn-Highland, estate of fifth US president James Monroe, but first we had breakfast at the local Waffle House, a place I’ve wanted to eat since Homestar Runner Main Page 5. It was amazing. Best hash browns ever.

Waffle House Breakfast

Ashlawn was up a winding road that passed by Monticello, then continued deeper into the hills of Virginia past rolling green fields and vineyards, till a tree-lined driveway leading to a humble but elegant litte country estate. It was sunny and warm, perfect for an outdoor wedding. The bride and groom, both evangelical Christians active in ministry work, had arranged a ceremony with a strong missional focus, the groom’s minister father presiding. Reception afterwards featured a light buffet and a formidable cream puff Croquemboche, plus free run of the estate (including peacocks, sheep, and guided house tours).

Wedding Croquembouche
Peacocks Merino Wool Sheep
Amy at James Monroe's House

For dinner that night we drove into Charlottesville proper to check out the Downtown Mall, an open-air pedestrian promenade in the heart of the city, lined with restaurants and retail. For dinner: Petit Pois, a pricy but quite delicious French Bistro. (Next time we’re there I intend to try Himalayan Fusion, the Nepalese buffet place.)

Sunday morning, we checked out of the Sleep Inn and headed to Monticello, famed home of third US President Thomas Jefferson. After learning a bit about Jefferson and his estate at the Visitor Center, we skipped the shuttle bus and walked an easy uphill trail to the mansion, stopping to view Jefferson’s grave along the way. For some reason there are people who throw coins at it.

Amy and Thomas Jefferson Walking Trail to Monticello
Jefferson Obelisk

At the top was the mansion, surrounded by picturesque gardens overlooking sloping vineyards, with more somber graves and remains of old slaves’ quarters along the roadways circling the grounds.

Monticello Vineyard Panorama
Amy at the Joinery Rachel Levy Grave and Garden Pavilion
Monticello House

We also did a Mansion tour, but no photos from within, as both in Monticello and Ashlawn, photos were not allowed inside the houses. When all was done, we hiked back down to the entrance through a light drizzle, then drove around to Michie Tavern for an absolutely wonderful buffet lunch, consisting of authentic colonial-style food. (Although it seems fried chicken has stayed pretty much the same through the centuries.)

Amy drove us home. I close my account of a very happy Charlottesville weekend with this short video of a Merino wool sheep at Ashlawn:

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